Breaking Bad, Biblical
In an age driven be the consumption of media, it's a generally acknowledged fact that from time to time our society's attention becomes more engrossed in the fictions found in media, rather than the challenge of dealing with real life. We get more caught up in the stories we tell, than in the human dramas working themselves out around us. Case in point: this past weekend an episode of "Breaking Bad," a television series about the moral destruction of a man's world as he becomes enmeshed in manufacturing methamphetamine to the detriment of all around him, got more media air time in terms of commentary than a Civil War being fought in the Middle East in which chemical weapons are being used to kill non-combatants.
People's comments on social media with regard to the television series, and the particular episode that was aired, spoke to both the intensity of the writing, staging and acting involved and the overwhelming impact of the total depravity one human being can get up to in life...people are still processing what they saw. In other quarters of human existence, people are struggling to address the real-life depravities of our human existence, even as we-like the writers of that television series-keep working up new ways to insult the human body, the ecology of our planet and God's creation.
As I reflect on these events, both real and imagined, in context with today's readings I am not so much dismayed as reminded in James' words of how in the midst of being our worst God sees and calls out from us the best that we can offer. Even as tongues spit poisonous vitriol, great poetry is formed. Even as killing words are spoken, words still give life and hope. Fig trees can't bear olives, but our minds, hearts and imaginations can form both the worst and the best humanity can offer up.
James is someone whose wisdom I am coming to respect more and more as I get older and as I see the world through eyes that have accumulated their share of images that both wound and heal, and a heart that bears scars both from wounding and being wounded. He labors continuously to name the tensions we live in as human beings with free choice, invested with the potential to perpetrate the very best that God has formed for us as well as the potential to "break bad" over and over again in new and frightening ways. His prescription for reform is simple...harness the tongue and find right speed; harness the heart and find right feeling and thought; harness the self and guide it into right pathways. What good faith, if we are not willing to live it? Instead of breaking bad, James asks, why not forge good?