Today’s blog post is written by my friend and esteemed colleague, Blake Atwood. Blake is an editor at FaithVillage.com and the author of The Gospel According to Breaking Bad, so he’s predisposed toward liking the show and
forcing urging others to watch it. Connect with him on Twitter at @batwood.
Take it away, Blake!
The Gospel According to Breaking Bad?
I get it. I really do.
You’re tired of hearing about Breaking Bad and how it’s the world’s most amazing show. You’re weary of the mountains of blogposts about how there are so many “Christian” themes in a show that kills people without remorse, proffers drugs to all willing buyers, and makes ample use of a derogatory term that we somehow overlook every time because we know that Jesse’s essentially a good guy trapped in a stoner’s body.
Your soul twinges just a bit every time you see yet another social media post about Breaking Bad and morality and the gospel and Christianity. You want us to just sit back and enjoy a well-told story without overanalyzing it or baptizing it or diluting it with trite, pseudo-spiritual interpretations.
I get it, but I don’t agree with it.
Breaking Bad is a legitimate cultural phenomenon, a story so well-crafted, so gripping, so visceral, and so smart that the premiere episode for Season 5b had double the audience from Season 5a’s final episode, from approximately three million to six million viewers. If you watch TV or use the Internet at all, there’s no escaping Heisenberg’s territory. (Even if you did, he’d still find you).
And it’s not as if you have to dive deep beneath the surface of the show before inherently universal (and I would argue Christian) themes emerge. A foundational touchstone for the series is a quote that show creator Vince Gilligan appropriated from his girlfriend: “I want to believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that falls in the realm of “Christian themes,” not to mention Hank’s stalwart pursuit of justice, Jesse’s visible search for redemption, and the mind-boggling and brilliant way the series portrays the rippling consequences of errant, selfish choices.
Author David Dark has said, “There is not a single secular molecule in the universe.” In an adapted excerpt of his book Gray Matters, Brett McCracken continues that thread:
I once heard the Eastern Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware define the Christian as ‘the one who, wherever he looks, sees Christ everywhere.’ I don’t think he meant the Christian sees Jesus’ face on tortillas. Rather, I think the bishop was getting at the same thing C.S. Lewis was expressing when he famously said ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’ It’s what Abraham Kuyper was getting at when he said ‘there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ It’s the idea that Christ illuminates and animates all things; that our enjoyment of culture is both justified and amplified by His Incarnation.
I’m writing this before the last four episodes have aired. I believe Jesse will sacrifice himself to save Walter’s family by the time Breaking Bad has run its course, a last act of a morally awakened former junkie as he claws toward redemption. Every epic story involves such sacrifice and redemption. For the Christian, after all, this is the foundational narrative of the universe, a story that’s told and retold in a thousand different ways all the time, if only we had ears to hear and eyes to see.
Let’s end with two wholly different questions:
1. How do you think Breaking Bad will end?
2. What do you make of David Dark’s assessment that there are no secular molecules in the universe?