Beliefnet
Idol Chatter

For fans of “Crossing Jordan” (a CSI-meets-grown up-Nancy Drew weekly drama), the tantalizing question on Sunday night’s episode was: Who Would Kill a Saint? A woman’s body–wearing a silver cross–is discovered buried in a forest. As the crime-scene photographer leans in to take her photo, he suddenly steps back and makes the sign of the cross. In a surprising revelation, the photographer identifies the dead woman as a member of his church, a woman “touched by God” and possessing the gift of raising the dead to life.

As Jordan Cavanaugh investigates the murder, a motley crew of characters are introduced: (a) A teenage boy who “dies” after being hit by a car and who “comes back to life” 20 days after Isabel prays for him; (b) a Vatican priest with diplomatic immunity who is caught in Isabel’s apartment looking for evidence of sainthood; and (c) an embittered father who questions his faith after his daughter dies.

Despite the religious premise, the writers of the rationale-centered show aimed to please the non-religious audience at the expense of the religious among us. In subtle twists, Isabel’s “gift” and the Vatican priest’s credibility are both chipped away. Crackpot theorist and forensics expert Nigel excitedly explains how the teen boy never really died (due to a combination of flat-fronted car impact and sub-zero weather)–only to discover the boy overhearing his theory and losing faith in Isabel. While the Vatican priest’s investigation is noble, his motives are questioned when he is discovered having “broken” into Isabel’s apartment in the middle of the night and rummaging for evidence in her underwear drawer. Nigel also questions whether the priest killed Isabel in order to make her a legend and propel the Vatican into national news.

While the embittered father’s plotline is the most convincing, his pain most palpable, the discovery of his murderous crime cements the destruction of any religious audience’s credibility. The religious are caricatured and stripped down: A boy of blind faith believes too readily in miracles and loses his faith at the first hint of science, a Vatican priest is questioned as being sneaky and evasive, and a father’s rage is channeled into committing the ultimate sin of murder.

Science is exalted and ultimately overtakes faith, leaving it stale, clichéd, and unbelievable.

Advertisement

Can lifelong friendships be torn apart by money when some of your friends have lots of it but others don’t? Are the age old proverbs “Money is the root of all evil” and “Money can’t buy happiness” actually true? Jennifer Aniston’s latest movie, “Friends With Money”–if you believe all the commercials and reviews out there–is supposed to ask those exact questions. The movie follows the lives of four women in Los Angeles who navigate their relationships with each other, with the men in their lives, and with money. Olivia ( Aniston) is a former schoolteacher who smokes pot, dates the wrong men, and scrubs people’s toilets for a living, while her three best friends all have successful careers, affluent lifestyles, and–on the surface–happy families. The movie is slightly unpredictable–the humor comes out of the most unlikely moments–and there are some brilliant performances to be enjoyed ( Frances Mc Dormand in particular), yet in many ways, “Friends with Money” doesn’t quite, well, pay off in the end.

While watching these four women talk… and talk… and talk… about how unhappy they are, I slowly began to realize that “Friends With Money” is not about money at all. Not really. The root of their unhappiness–with jobs, with spouses, with themselves–is directly linked to the lies they have been telling themselves for years. Christine (Catherine Keener) lies to herself abut many things, including that her husband is a swell guy and that she and her husband’s lavish lifestyle in the form of a remodeling project is not impacting their neighbors’ lives. Fashion designer Jane (McDormand) lies to herself about why she is depressed and hasn’t washed he hair in months , while her husband lies to himself about not really being gay. Meanwhile, Franny (Joan Cusack), who is the richest of the friends, lies to herself every time she doesn’t tell her husband that she thinks he is being too extravagant in the way he spends their money on their child.

And then there’s Olivia. She lies to herself by telling herself it’s easier, and better, to not care about anything.

By the end of the film, I wasn’t quite sure what the director wanted me to take away from this story, because there was no real resolution to the plot. But I will say that in spite of the movie’s flaws, I liked this examination of what causes the spiritual disconnect inside of ourselves. I just wish that sometimes Hollywood would realize that when it comes to storytelling, it is not always enough to raise important questions, but is also necessary to give some glimpses at some possible solutions as well.

Advertisement

In Wednesday night’s “Invasion” episode, “Re-Evolution” (the first new episode aired in over a month), Everglades park ranger Russell Varon theorizes that the hybrids (humans crossed with aliens) beginning to overrun the once-quiet town of Homestead, Fla., are a new link in the evolutionary chain. Russell’s speculation sparks brother Dave to wonder, albeit in a horrified manner, that if Russell’s right, regular humans might become the contemporary version of the Neanderthal in comparison to the higher functioning hybrids.

Meanwhile, Father Scanlon (the priest who unwittingly turned hybrid) is stuck on the remote island where all bad hybrids go. He put about five bullets into Sheriff Underlay’s chest after learning that Underlay lied to him about what it meant to be a hybrid. Underlay convinced Father Scanlon that their transformation was ordained by God, and when Scanlon learned it was really aliens who were behind his rebirth, he was a tad upset and worried that all hybrids–including himself–were devil’s spawn. Hence the shooting.

But when Father Scanlon hears of Russell’s evolution theory, he has an altogether different reaction than Dave. His response is almost relief, or gratitude–perhaps even a sense of sudden grace. He explains to Russell and Dave that just because he’s a priest doesn’t mean evolution is out for him. In fact, evolutionary theory as a way to understand his transformation may bring his belief back to the idea that his rebirth indeed was part of God’s plan after all.

Only the next episodes will tell….

Advertisement

The most recent Gilmore Girls opened with Rory and Lane helping Mrs. Kim carry a large, golden Buddha into her house/antique shop. “Take down the crucifixes!” she hollered at Lane. This was all in preparation for Lane and Zach’s traditional Buddhist home wedding.

What? Is the Chinese food at Jack’s Pancake World polluting their brains? The Korean Kims are decidedly Christian, much to Lane’s frequent chagrin and occasional pride. But as we soon learn, Lane’s grandmother is coming to town and Mrs. Kim has never told her mother of her conversion. As Lane stuffs the crucifixes under the same loose floorboards that hide her Elvis Costello CDs, she marvels that at least two generations of Kim women have lives totally hidden from their hyper-critical, dogmatic mothers. When the eldest Kim arrives, dressed in a Mao-collared peasant dress, she fusses over Lane, speed-yells in Korean, and when Lane and Rory leave, mother and daughter lay down a towel and begin wildly prostrating in front of the Buddha.

Shocking stuff for those of us who have watched Mrs. Kim send Lane to Korean Bible camp, preach about values, and melt down when her daughter had male roommates. This thread continues when, after the short Buddhist ceremony (in which Lane and Zach wear elaborate traditional garb), grandma leaves abruptly in a cab and everyone else runs to the church for a second, Christian wedding. Minus the cringe-inducing moment just before the ceremony in which Mrs. Kim gravely warns a lace-covered Lane that she’ll “have to do it,” it’s a sweet ceremony with a dove-and-rainbow banner hung behind the pastor.

Later, when Mrs. Kim apologizes for the double wedding, Lane says, sincerely, that it actually made the day more special. Back in his “silky” Buddhist wedding gown, Zach says, “This is so comfortable, no wonder Buddhists are so peaceful.” Then Lane’s notoriously fun-proof mom promises to go home and put in earplugs (hinting at a generational healing; don’t-ask-don’t-tell is a step from hiding under the floorboards), beginning the real, booze- and rock-fueled reception; Lorelei removes the long skirt on Lane’s dress to reveal a tulle mini. Zach whoops, “My wife has legs!”

So does this continually well-written, funny, fast-talking show, with its respect, mockery, and deft narration of a surprisingly wide and subtle variety of realities and belief systems.

Previous Posts