Before meeting my husband, I had never heard of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Since we’ve gotten married, we’ve read some of the books and watched several films based on Pratchett and Gaiman’s work. We’re also huge fans of Doctor Who.
When Good Omens was officially announced by Amazon — not Netflix, sorry Return to Order — we were excited beyond belief. One of the most comical stories by the duo, starring two brilliant actors, there was nothing to do but wait in tingling anticipation for May 31.
We had every good intention of watching a single episode per day. Twelve hours after we remembered what day it was, however, we had finished the series.
The mini-series lived up to its promise. David Tennant: Brilliant. Michael Sheen: Fantastic. Supporting cast: Splendid.
We watched the show with utter delight. We discussed theology and doctrine about the End Times for hours after each installment of the six-part series. We felt the depth of the questions surrounding afterlife, death, Tribulation, Armageddon, and more.
We laughed our tushies off at the many dazzling, ridiculous lines throughout the whole thing. And we were delighted to finally know of a good use for the Queen song, “I’m in Love with My Car.” Hats off to you, Mr. Gaiman.
Today, when I got home from a walk, my husband mentioned the news piece that an uber religious group was protesting and demanding that Netflix remove Good Omens from viewing.
“Uh, it’s on Amazon.”
Needless to say, I laughed heartily and looked up the protest to see what the heck was going on with these people.
I quickly discovered a short article on the protest, which linked to the religious group’s page. On the page, I read their demands, which started off with stating that “Due to an oversight…” they had gotten the streaming service wrong.
If that wasn’t enough to stop their argument, they had more to offer.
“This series presents devils and Satanists as normal and even good…”
Is it bad that a piece of art presents Christians and non-Christians as humans with needs, fears, and hopes? Is it so strange to imply that people who don’t follow Jesus could be among the masses? Or even working for evil?
When we forget that those with different beliefs and convictions are just as human as we are, we run the risk of committing one of the greatest sins of all: not loving and respecting our neighbors as we are commanded to love and respect ourselves.
It’s possible that the people in this religious group have watched Good Omens but it feels as though they either didn’t see anything beyond a trailer or that they went into the film series with presuppositions that this show would be evil and ungodly.
The fact that they publicly demonstrated against Netflix for producing this series says a lot about their approach. A knee-jerk reaction for publicity is what this feels like, rather than an actual truth-seeking mission and call to be like Jesus.
As Christians — that is people who follow Jesus Christ of Nazareth — we are called to live a life that demonstrates mercy, grace, and love. Not judgment as though we are God. In fact, the book of Matthew in the Bible specifically talks about getting rid of the giant plank in your own eye before going after the speck of dust in your neighbor’s. Of course, this is about one Christian to another, not a Christian judging a non-Christian for acting like “the world.”
We cannot expect non-Christians to adhere to Christian standards. And truthfully, people who are outside of the Church are often the most insightful into the behavior of the Church. They happen to be our target audience. And if we’re not meeting the needs of those who need Jesus, then why does the Church as an institution exist?
What is the point of protesting? What is the point of petitions? What is the point of all this advocating if the end result isn’t practical service driven by the love and compassion of Jesus, demonstrated with humility?
One of the key things that Return to Order appears to miss is that Good Omens is intended as a satire and comedy. The writers have not demonstrated a background of Biblical theology and have not claimed that this is a theological look at the End Times. Instead, this is a work of fiction. A satirical work of fiction.
One of the main points Return to Order seems to have issues with is how both heaven and hell are portrayed as being led by groups that want to have war for the sake of war:
“…an arbitrary struggle devoid of meaning and truth.”
Which reflects the mindset of a number of Christian groups who seem to have forgotten about mercy. Good Omens’ point is that there are Christian and non-Christian groups arbitrarily fighting for the sake of fighting.
Fear mongering, a staple of the conservative church that I grew up in, is still alive and well. Petitions like this continue feeding a long line of B.S. to marginalized people who are sheltered and kept from religious and political freedom through sermons preached by folks with an agenda. These folks often tell abused women that they’re at fault for the abuse and insist children should be taught that they don’t deserve love.
This culture of argument and divisiveness completely ignores the fact that “True love drives out all fear.”
How is biased, angry rhetoric godly? How can fire and brimstone sermons that condemn the already forgiven be a righteous demonstration of love?
The perpetuation of endless conflict for the sake of pride and ‘being right’ isn’t what I consider Christianity at all. A work of fiction is a work of fiction. A good story is a good story. A demon hell-bent on stopping Satan while driving a car aflame blaring Queen on the radio is a damn good production.
This Christian’s interpretation of Good Omens is that it’s a great work of fiction worth enjoying as such. It’s not a theology textbook, and it doesn’t claim to examine orthodox Christianity. It’s a satire that pokes fun at the end result of well-intentioned religious extremists.
The best way for us to put away the sword of the “Culture war” is to watch, read, listen, and interact with pop-culture that isn’t just made by Christians for Christians. And when we engage with non-Christian materials, it’s imperative to employ critical thinking skills to recognize the middle ground where we can connect with people in conversation — which involves both listening and speaking.
Because, let’s be honest. When have you ever heard that an angry protest or knee-jerk petition was the reason a non-Christian found peace, love, and acceptance in Jesus Christ?
What does an angry mob with pitchforks and torches have to do with the love of God?
When Armageddon does happen, whether there’s Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, or Post-Trib celebration at who’s right, I want to look Jesus in the eyes and hear Him say, “You loved the people I love. Well done, good and faithful servant.” I don’t want to have Him shake his head at me for judging people for using satire and humor to express themselves and their struggle with reconciling the mission of Jesus with the life “Christians” today.
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Thank you, Neil Gaiman and the late and great Terry Pratchett, for calling out the fallacies and foibles — and truth be told the hysterical nature that the Church is sometimes guilty of. Return to Order might not care much for you, Mr. Gaiman, but there’s always a place on our pew for you, anytime you want.