Breaking Bad

walter-whiteOne day, one of my fellow interns, Katie, told me she had a present for me. She handed me a shirt featuring the now iconic, mustachioed, scowling face of Walter White—the anti-hero of “Breaking Bad.” The caption read, “I am the danger,” one of White’s more famous, self-aggrandizing lines.

“Breaking Bad” is one of my favorite things and one of the few shows I’ve watched from beginning to end. The basic, now well-known story is introduced in the pilot and keeps snowballing with increased dread and drama for six seasons. The descent of an ordinary man into a world of drugs, murder, and a ruthless lust for power is unrelenting. The structure of the show’s moral order is inflexible. Throughout the series, characters reap what they sow, and in a story bereft of any blameless protagonist, the harvest is almost always destruction.

This was highly intentional on Vince Gilligan’s part, the show’s creator. He once summed up a personal philosophy of his by saying, “I want to believe there’s a heaven, but I can’t not believe there’s a hell.” As Gilligan views the world, he sees evil and the need for judgment as primary and inescapable. With all we hear these days of moral relativism, such staunch commitment to some semblance of justice is refreshing, even challenging, though I would say it’s a tad underdeveloped.

Even so, it’s easy to see how someone could have this take on the world. Creation decays and has devastating potential for corruption, and if our gaze is exclusively horizontal, it’s tempting to see that decay and evil as primary. True life, goodness, and beauty come only from God, and when we’re cut off from Him, it’s hard to account for any possibility for these things; though seemingly by nature, humans can’t help but long for them, as many Christians have observed before.

When God makes Himself known, though, when He begins to interfere with creation’s decay and the evil in the world, we begin to see something else as primary and inescapable. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

In the beginning…there was not evil, decay, or a world of twisted characters deserving retribution. In the beginning there was God with His Word and His Spirit. The fellowship and love of the persons of God with each other is primary.

That is the fundamental reality from which all else flows and to which all creation will be united again, according to God’s plan set forth in Jesus (Ephesians 1:10). It’s a reality whose glory will one day dwarf all the evil in the world, as large as it looms now (Romans 8:18). It is this perspective which makes life more livable, especially for the men we serve at Emmaus. The more we can get this truth in our heart and, by God’s grace, convey it to our men, the more hope we can impart for the otherwise hopeless realities in which we find ourselves.

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