Beware unGodly Soapiness

I do not watch soap operas. I deliberately avoid serial media or literature that perpetuate irresolution. I love resolution; seeing all the loose ends tied up brings me great satisfaction and relief, plus it’s also an opportunity to admire the author’s foresight, resourceful creativity, and discipline. Resolution itself is inherently and uniquely Godly. The unrequited, the unresolved, and the unfinished are means for God, but ends of the Devil. Satan loves to torture us with the promise of satisfaction, only to disappoint and frustrate us with one more thing we don’t have. What happens when we apply this to television, movies, and literature? Lemme ‘splain.

My favorite TV shows are the episodic ones, the ones with predictable sequences, happy endings, enjoyable interaction between characters, and good winning over evil. Most action shows from the ’80s followed this pattern, but not the cartoons. Transformers and GIJoe never, ever showed a bad guy getting beaten or overcome , and never showed the good guys making any progress in their quest to overcome the bad guys. The best they could ever do was mitigate the effects of the latest plan to take over the world, and reset things for next time. They were never proactive, never resolved, and never really had a goal to work toward, and it drove me nuts.

Contrast this with CHiPs, Magnum PI, Dukes of Hazzard, and the A-Team, where there were certain predictable sequences and music, laughs based on character personalities, satisfying endings where good overcame evil, and only the occasional, limited sketch of a running subplot that had to remain unresolved for a time. The conflict resolved each episode, and everyone said “Ahhhh…” And we kept watching it, didn’t we?

Soap operas take an entirely different approach. Nothing is ever resolved in a soap opera; someone dies, or gets pregnant, or turns up suddenly, or something in order to continually stimulate the emotional drama and maintain interest. They are treadmills of emotional connection, bereft of any semblance of the mundane, normal, predictable elements of life that give us time to process the craziness, plan for the future, and reach decisions. As such, the viewer is constantly off-balance in their ability to process the story(?), and is kept from realizing how unrealistic the whole concept is. This makes the viewer very easy to keep hooked because they believe that something new and unexpected will be the source of satisfaction, rather than looking for the resolution of something already known. This is not the way God does things.

God keeps bringing us back to the same old things over and over again. WE ┬ákeep trying to add something new, unexpected, and fresh to a story that already has the best Writer in the universe. We don’t trust Him to give us a good ending, or even a way to get through today, so we look everywhere else for something only He can give: satisfaction. The Rolling Stones, in a rare moment of clarity, crystallized this in their famous line: “I can’t get no…sa-tis-fac-tion…” This is the strategy of Satan in a nutshell, and the point God wants us to grasp about this life. It’s not about giving up on satisfaction just because we have longings; it’s about finding it in the only place it can actually be found – in Christ.

Consider the new style of TV shows, in which no two episodes are remotely similar, the story is more running sub-plot than predictable sequences, and you never quite get to feel that things are completely resolved. Romantic tension is maintained at ridiculous lengths you would never see in real life; old enemies are resurrected, made undiscernable and invincible; origins and relatives are always kept at arm’s length; and personal demons are hinted at, but never completely dealt with. The soapiness is starting to get to me, folks.

So what to do? First, keep in mind that this world was not made to satisfy us completely, but it was made to remind us that satisfaction can be found through Christ, and all He requires from us. Second, a “good” story, one that lines up with the reality God created and maintains, will reflect His character – good winning over evil, resolution of conflict, and a limited, workable scope of information within which good decisions can be made with confidence. Not all characters will make good decisions, but the audience will be able to discern what the good decisions ought to be.

Yes, life is ugly and we all suffer from the cumulative, corporate effects of sin, but not all heroes are flawed, not all noble thoughts are marred by self-interest, and not all questions remain unanswered indefinitely. After all, God intends to fulfill all prophecy, administer consequences for all actions, develop all human character, and complete the good work He has begun in each of us, as well as in all of us together. He has already done much of this, and is doing more as we speak. And He has very definite goals toward which He intends us all to grow, day by day.

God loves moral cleanliness, and soap has many great uses, but the philosophy behind soap operas and the recent trends in serial media are inherently un-God-ly. Don’t get hooked on what isn’t good for you. Those stories of the enemy always get ugly, don’t they? There are consequences for feeding on the enemy’s food; you’ll get ugly, too. And no soap can wash that ugliness away. That kind of damage can only be removed with the blood of the Lamb. That’ll wash you cleaner than anything. And it’s only the beginning of the story, The Story, the one that resolves everything. Everything. I can hardly wait.

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