A friend and colleague of mine, the Rev. Scott McNeill, tweeted this intriguing question yesterday:
It didn’t take me long to find an answer. A couple of possibilities ran through my mind (The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter), but I soon realized that the one show that gets my theological wheels turning is Doctor Who. I’m talking about the reincarnated Doctor Who, of course. (No, wait a minute…all of the Doctors are reincarnated in a sense.) I mean the Russell T. Davies version that premiered half a decade ago. I really wasn’t planning on watching it, but after seeing and enjoying Steven Moffat’s retooling of Sherlock on PBS, I found out that Moffat had taken over the reins of the new Who for the fifth season. I definitely wanted to check it out, but I knew I’d need to start at the beginning. Not the William Hartnell beginning. The Christopher Eccleston beginning. And I have to confess that Eccleston’s one of my favorite actors (loved him in 28 Days Later), so getting through the first series was a breeze. Things only got better with David Tennant, of course, and Matt Smith is a blast. In other words, I’m hooked.
It’s curious that so many other Unitarian Universalists are hooked, too. I think there are a couple of reasons why. One, the Doctor continues to regenerate into younger and younger bodies, which I think is a metaphor for what needs to happen with our religious movement. It’s time for the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, and Rory Williams to run the show (and by show, I mean our congregations as well as the entire UUA). And two, the Doctor has turned into quite the Universalist. One of the most amazing scenes I’ve seen in the entire series was at the end of “Last of the Time Lords,” where the most powerful thing the Doctor can do to the Master, the very person who had worked so hard to destroy him, is to say, “I forgive you.”
It reminded me of the story I’ve heard from the Anabaptist tradition about Dirk Willems who, according to Wikipedia, “is most famous for turning around to rescue his pursuer, who had fallen through thin ice while chasing Willems after his escape from prison.” Willems was recaptured and eventually burnt at the stake. Of course, he had no way of knowing for sure that was going to happen when he saved his pursuer. And the Doctor had no way of knowing what might happen if the Master had accepted his forgiveness. (Indeed, the Master does return to threaten the Doctor once again.) In both cases, though, compassion and forgiveness are the driving forces behind their actions, not revenge or retribution. That’s the kind of television I want to watch. And the kind of theology I would believe in.