Entries with tag ancient faith radio .

3 Reasons I Keep Rewatching Parks and Recreation

A few weeks ago, Steve and Emma took on Game of Thrones after our summer hiatus from Y2AM’s weekly podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour. The episode raised a bit of controversy as some perceived that Y2AM was offering a whole-hearted endorsement of the show, and while we were quick to suggest that it’s worth watching “if you have the stomach for it,” Steve and Emma nonetheless continued with the stated purpose of PCCH, which is simply looking for Christ even in the darkest of places. For those caught in the middle of the controversy, Steve issued an apology, which you can read here.

 

This week, however, Christina and I teamed up for what will doubtless be a remarkably less controversial episode of PCCH, wherein we discuss one our mutual favorite shows: Parks and Recreation.  I’ve seen all seven seasons at least three times each, and honestly, I keep wanting to go back for more. Christina and I dive into some of the finer points of what makes Parks and Rec such a great show (you can listen to the full episode here), but for now, here’s three reasons why I keep coming back to the show.

  1. The Writing

I was an English major in college, and after graduating, I had the lofty idea that I was going to apply to screenwriting school. Needless to say, I didn’t get in, and so I instead pursued a life in counseling and ministry (I’m gonna go ahead and chalk that up to God having a different plan for me than I did). Regardless, I have remained a junky for great writing, particularly in television. This is the reason I love shows like Arrested Development, The Office, and 30 Rock. While AD might be my favorite of all time, Parks and Rec comes in a very close second.

It’s hard to talk about this show without noting the genius lines that each character has. As Christina and I chatted, we couldn’t help but quote the show at every opportunity we got. It’s truly amazing to me that human beings would be so creative, that they would have the potential to put together such a flawless story while also making it impeccably hilarious. If you’re going to stop and watch Parks and Rec, you can’t stop listening for two seconds, otherwise you might miss a joke.

The writing is truly a testament to the creative power of creative people, and I can’t help but sit back and marvel that God could make people so capable of making something so wonderful.

2) The Characters

This show is full of amazing humans. Actually, it’s pretty silly. The people are ridiculous. But somehow Parks and Rec takes a random group of people, throws them together in a local government job, and magic happens. Each of them is a misfit, but somehow, they belong together. When I watch, I can’t help but feel that maybe this is in someway an image of what the Church ought to be.

Everyone is unique and have plenty of disagreements, yet somehow, they are able to stick together, to be (for the most part) unwavering for one another. Too often, however, it seems the Church is not a place for such celebration of communion amidst diversity, but rather becomes yet one more place in this divided where we are all too willing to cast the first stone at people who aren’t like us. Rather than working toward the Kingdom together, we become distracted by arguments that defame other persons.

Generally speaking, in Parks and Rec, we don’t see people who disagree with one another calling into question one another’s moral standing. Of course, there are some characters in the show who are portrayed as despicable (and rightly so), but the core crew is a group of people devoted to working together not only in spite of their differences, but through their differences. It is not uniformity that makes them strong, but unity amidst diversity. If only we could learn this lesson, too.

3) The Light

Finally, I continue to come back to Parks because it’s just so darn pleasant. It’s happy. I don’t think you have to look very far to find Christ because He radiates through the warmth and love of the people who run the Pawnee Parks Department. It’s a very silly show, but doggonit, I’m so happy to find something that I know will cheer me up when I’m faced by the realities of today’s world. It’s not that such a show distracts me from the horrors of reality, but rather it gives me hope to face the horrors of today.

Parks and Rec paints a fun, joyful, light-filled vision for the possibility of communal life together. It is my hope that you’ll listen to our podcast, watch the show, and find as much hope for the future as Christina and I did.

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, homebrewer, and CrossFitter. Christian has an MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary and is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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3 Things "Game of Thrones" Gets Right

After a short summer break, we’re happy to announce that our podcast, Pop Culture Coffee Hour, is back (with a new logo, too)!

To kick off our new season, Emma and I discussed Game of Thrones, which recently concluded its seventh season. You can listen to our conversation here.

Though incredibly popular, Game of Thrones can rub a lot of Christians the wrong way. Its episodes often include violent, sexual, or downright disturbing scenes. And it can seem that there’s no moral compass in the GoT universe: good characters die, bad characters thrive, and any good vs evil narrative seems cloudy, if not completely absent.

Emma and I push back on this take in our episode. Though GoT isn't appropriate for everyone (Christian and I talked about how to deal with things that are difficult or inappropriate to watch back in episode 6), we can find Christ at work even in the mixed-up world of Westeros. And we can identify some important themes that can offer a bit of encouragement and inspiration for every Christian who seeks the Kingdom.

To get the conversation started, here are three things Game of Thrones definitely gets right:

[Needless to say, spoilers ahead.]
 
1. Death is the Real Enemy
 
The title of Game of Thrones perfectly captures how the series started out: it was a gritty medieval fantasy that focused on the conflict between the great families of the land of Westeros. After the death of King Robert Baratheon upsets the tentative stability of the realm, intrigue and outright war commence. Established noble families and upstart schemers alike begin to play the “game of thrones” as they maneuver for power and, ultimately, the Iron Throne.

Yet, from the very beginning of the series, it’s clear that a malevolent force lurks in the north, beyond the Wall. While lords and ladies vie for power, the dead prepare to destroy mankind. As the seasons progress, characters like Jon Snow realize that even the winner of the “game of thrones” will ultimately lose when the White Walkers sweep south, killing all in their path.

As season 7 concludes, the warring powers face a choice: will they realize that their machinations and strategies have been distractions from the existential crisis that threatens them all?

As Snow says, “There is only one war that matters. The Great War. And it is here.”

Christians have a similar insight. Our sinful desires for fame or wealth are vain. Even a moralistic desire for good conduct, on its own, misses the mark. Our enemy is death, the oblivion that results from separation from God. 

Yet the Son of God took on flesh and became human for us. He took on our pain and loneliness and anguish, even to the point of dying on the Cross, so that we could have the true life that is properly His.

God has already won the Great War. Christ is Risen!
 
2. Being Good Can Cost You Dearly, and That’s Okay
 
Many important characters have died in the last seven seasons. Yet Game of Thrones is haunted by the memory of one man in particular: Ned Stark. 

Stark was the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. A great man and the head of one of Westeros’ most important and historic families, Ned Stark was nonetheless grounded by a firm sense of truth and justice. He consistently tried to make choices, not because they would advance his position, but because they were right.

In a dramatic turn at the end of season 1, Ned Stark is executed.

Ned is not the only Stark who is injured as a consequence of trying to do what’s right. His son, Robb Stark, chose to marry for love rather than political advantage. And it cost him his head.

Jon Snow, whom Ned Stark raised as his own son, is cut from the same cloth. He tells the truth even when it will backfire on him, he refuses to make a false oath even though it will be politically advantageous. As Snow reasoned late in season 7, “I'm not going to swear an oath I can't uphold. When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.”

Christians take a similar stand. While others may tell lies, we speak God’s true word. While others may work violence, we resolve to turn the other cheek.

When faced with the ultimate choice, Christians will even choose death rather than deny their Lord. Because we have already died in the waters of baptism and risen into new life in Christ. Even the world’s worst is nothing to fear.

3. There's Hope for Everyone
  
In Game of Thrones, even a noble character like Ned Stark can have a tragic flaw that leads to his undoing. Similarly, even a villainous character can have a deeper complexity that leads to his redemption.

We meet many characters that are deeply unsympathetic. Tyrion Lannister, the despised son of a powerful nobleman, is a lecher and drunk. Sandor Clegane, a knight and bodyguard to royalty, is a violent and ruthless killer.

Yet, as the series progresses, we uncover the scars that shaped these broken men. Lannister, a man of short stature whose mother died while giving birth to him, is despised by his father. Clegane, a man who bears a terrible scar on his face, has also been psychologically scarred by the violence and depravity of his older brother. 

And we soon find opportunities for these men to channel their pain into noble conduct. Lannister, an outcast who was arrested and almost killed by his family, becomes an advisor for Danaerys Targaryen, the “Breaker of Chains” and liberator of slaves. Clegane, himself the victim of abuse, becomes a protector of the downtrodden and even risks his life to help Jon Snow awaken Westeros to the dangers of the White Walkers. 

There is hope for even the lost of Westeros. And often, this hope grows out of their deepest pain.

Christians have a similar hope. St. Paul the Apostles, once a zealous persecutor of the Church, became a zealous evangelist. St. Mary of Egypt, once overcome by her lust, developed a desire for the Lord that drove her into a lifetime of repentance. St. Moses the Black, once a violent thief, resolved to take the Kingdom of God by force as he threw himself into a life of ascetic struggle.

Game of Thrones may not be suitable for every viewer, but it does present us with a complex worldview that is not always found in fantasy stories or popular television series. Its complex worldview and unexpected twists have presented some powerful themes over the past seven seasons, themes which may even help us better appreciate the drama and power of the unfolding story of salvation.

If you’d like to listen to our podcast on Game of Thrones, click here.

 

Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM.

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