January is a good time to look back over the last year at some superlatives in Christian media.
My first surprise this year was a television series, The Chosen, and my second surprise is a book, God’s Woman Revisited, by an unknown, yet eminently qualified theological author with an unusual perspective from scripture. Today I will discuss The Chosen and mention the book in a few weeks.
This year The Chosen concluded its second season. I missed seeing it last year. They make eight episodes a year. I watched all 16 episodes, twice. (And I never watch a movie twice, other than Christmas Vacation.) The target audience is Christians, some of whom found the series an effective way to reach outsiders.
I am not going to bury the lead: I don’t think I have ever seen anything outside of scripture that comes as close to giving such a realistic window into the world of Jesus.
Jonathan Roumie plays Jesus. And you are right, you have never heard of him. The writers have been extremely careful, prayerful I’d guess, about the words they put in his mouth. His demeanor, questions and answers are simple yet profound. Some responses are directly out of scripture, so that is easy. But most of what he says are everyday conversations not recorded in scripture. You listen to his words, reflect, and think, “I hadn’t thought about it that way — but that’s good”.
Many Christians, I included, are skeptical as they watch the first couple of episodes. For the same reason I don’t like historical fiction. I don’t want to confuse what might have happened with what did happen. So, my mind works overtime parsing every detail. After about three episodes I relaxed. The producers had won my trust.
My degree was in TV production and I worked for a television production company. The problem one has when producing a TV show about the life of Christ based on scripture is there is not enough background information (in scripture) required for the setup which is necessary for the mandatory payoff. The written word doesn’t have this challenge quite so severely.
Because we often don’t have in-depth backstories in scripture, scriptwriters must make it up out of thin air. Producers at that point have two guiding principles, make the backstory reasonably plausible and remind the audience that this is a television show. It is not the Bible. Dallas Jenkins, the producer and director has done both.
The Chosen actually held two surprises of equal proportion. First, to Marshall McLuhan, the message was not the medium. The message completely transcended the medium.
My second surprise is how few Christians I know have seen this program. I asked in a class I taught at church who had seen it and less than 15% said they had. I have recommended it to numerous friends. When I asked later if they had seen it, almost everyone said “no.”
The Chosen is not on commercial television. The producers wisely wanted to maintain editorial control. It can be streamed from the website, www.thechosen.tv/app, or cast to your TV, ordered on CD, and you might access it through Peacock or other sources.
It may take a little effort to access but it is more than worth it.
Come and see.