Youth Culture Window
Television has had its fair share of faith-themed programming over the years. CBS ran Touched by an Angel…and later Angel From Hell. FOX’s gift was Lucifer while TV LAND offered us Impastor.
Now NBC is jumping on the spiritual bandwagon…but the theology smells as bad as last Easter’s eggs.
The Gospel of Good Deeds
The new show, The Good Place, has a very simple premise: an attractive, young blonde named Eleanor (played by Kristen Bell) is told that, though she’s dead, she has no need to worry because she’s made it to “the good place.” Further, she’s in the good place because of all the good deeds she performed during her life on Earth. There’s just one problem: The Good Place has made a big mistake. Eleanor wasn’t “good” on Earth – not by a long shot! Even in the afterlife, she’s got a potty mouth and a strong proclivity for drinking waaaaay too much alcohol. (The show’s trailer – which has already been viewed on YouTube 2.5 million times – gives potential viewers a sense of direction for where the series will be headed.)
The show fuses some wildly talented players on one set. In addition to Kristen Bell, who’s been a part of popular TV shows like Gossip Girl, Parks and Recreation, and Heroes, Ted Danson (of Cheers renown) plays Michael, Eleanor’s tour guide and mentor. William Jackson Harper (who’s made appearances on Person of Interest, Law & Order, and 30 Rock) plays Eleanor’s “soul mate” Chris, an eternal optimist who will do anything he can to help her. And one of NBC’s most-beloved writers, Mike Schur (of Saturday Night Live, The Office, and Parks and Recreation fame), is at the helm of this new series.
The series will premier on Monday, September 19th at 10/9 Central on NBC. However, it will then move to the 8:30pm time slot on Thursday evenings on September 22nd. This move puts the show squarely in the middle of what the FCC calls “the family viewing hour.” Interestingly, the regular date/time will pit the show against ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and CBS’ Thursday Night Football.
Executives aren’t willing to take any chances with their new baby. So, in a ploy to connect the TV show to real life, producers have launched The Good Place 30-Day Do Good Challenge to help promote their new show. “What’s that?” you ask. In their own words:
Basically, this is your call to action to help make the world a better place, whether that means being kind to animals or finding a way to help clean up the environment. The sky is the limit when it comes to selecting your good deeds. And what does the winner get? Eternal salvation, of course!Entertainment…Not Eternal Life
While only time will tell if The Good Place turns out to be good TV, it can be said right now that the show promotes theology that’s as bad as it is dangerous. The Good Place – like much of our culture’s teaching on faith – drips with the completely unbiblical doctrine of “salvation by works.” (This false notion teaches that a person can be saved, or earn eternal life, by doing good deeds. This “heresy” is denounced many times in Scripture, namely Romans 3:21-24, Galatians 2:16, and Ephesians 2:4-9. Bottom line: Jesus is the only way to Heaven, not living a good or moral life.)
Furthermore, the show’s storyline also implies that God – or whoever is running Heaven – is capable of making terrible mistakes concerning who gets into the good place…and who gets sent to “the bad place.” (Again, this teaching is woefully unbiblical. Passages such as Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 23:39-43, and John 10:10 make it crystal clear that God knows exactly who has eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ…and who doesn’t.)
So, what can youth workers and parents do when confronted by The Gospel According to TV?
- Don’t trust your teenagers’ spiritual growth to TV. Or the Internet. Or movies. Or music. Or magazines. None of those sources can be trusted for timeless truth. Only God’s Word – the Bible – can teach us what He has done on our behalf and what He expects of us in response. It’s not that those forms of media entertainment are necessarily evil; it’s just that they were crafted for entertainment, not eternal life. As adults, we must help our teenagers place their faith in Jesus, and then help them nurture that life-changing faith. A very steady diet of God’s Word is crucial in this task.
- Supply them with compelling and biblically-accurate resources. The Source for Youth Ministry has tons of great tools for helping teenagers grow in their faith – and they’re all free! For example, we provide youth workers (and parents) with resources like MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS, MUSIC DISCUSSIONS, and YOUTUBE DISCUSSION STARTERS to help teens foster spiritual growth. In addition to those resources, we also provide tools geared specifically to teenagers’ own study. Christianity…It’s Like This is a powerful book that explains the Christian faith in easy-to-understand terms. The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers is a fun book that shows teens how to live a Christian life. No matter which you choose get your kids the resources they need to grow in their faith.
In the end, you’ll have to decide what to do when The Good Place comes on, but here’s a humble suggestion: grab the remote, turn off the TV, and circle your loved ones around God’s Word for some family Bible study.
That’s “the good place.”
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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