Fans of the landmark TV show 24 have their hearts all a’flutter this week as the newest season’of half-season as it were’of the blockbuster show hits the airwaves. Instead of the usual 24 episodes depicting real-time events in the day of the life of action hero Jack Bauer (played with cold-blooded efficiency by Kiefer Sutherland), this newest season of the show is labeled as a 12-episode special event. The conceit is the same: the entire season of episodes covers one 24-hour day. This time, apparently, the storytelling will be streamlined and whole chunks of time will be passed over (bathroom breaks, hair primping, meals) so Jack can save the day, preserve world peace, and exhaust every last nuance of the line Dammit! in 12 hours.
I have been a fan of 24 ever since the first season debuted back in 2001. I was hooked from the beginning. There was nothing else on TV quite like it. Back then, we had programmable VCRs still but DVRs were still on the horizon. When I watched those first few seasons of 24, it was during its original prime time slot; I even had to suffer through commercials. Can you imagine?
After my conversion to Christianity, I saw the world in an entirely new and different way. I realized that it was duty and privilege as a follower of Jesus Christ to think God’s thoughts after Him. That necessarily means that there is not one single area of thought about anything in this entire universe that I am not to bring under the submission of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities’all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
(Colossians 1:16-18 ESV)
(Jesus) Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
(Colossians 2:3 ESV)
As a thinker of God’s thoughts after Him, I am quite certain that I am think a certain way about everything, including a television show. I am to think a certain way about 24.
How am I to think about 24? How am I to think about Jack Bauer? Should I think’as some have stated’that Jack Bauer is some sort of Christ figure? Should I look at Jack Bauer as the personification of the scapegoat who has the sins of the country laid upon Him? A scapegoat was the object upon which all of God’s peoples sins were placed and was always meant to point to Jesus Christ, upon whom was all of the sins of God’s people laid. Jesus never justified the sins of His people. Jack Bauer, in the other hand, does plenty of justifying.’ He justifies the killing and tortures he carries out in the name of national security, and’here’s the kicker’we applaud him for his “heroism.” Jack does what we as respectable law-abiding citizens could never do’only, actually, we do those things every day. We show that we’re more than willing to murder when we send a murderer out to do our murdering for us. I wouldn’t think the producers would see it this way. If cornered in a dark alley, they would never affirm the morality of Jack’s violent antics. That being said, they have created an entire fictional universe around this individual and have featured him as the hero of a action/adventure series for a grand total of 9 seasons (counting the current crop of shows).
I don’t think I should look at the shootings, the stabbings, the neck-snappings, the tortures, the fornicating (he doesn’t just kill women, he sleeps with some of them, too), the theft, and the general hateful attitude of Jack Bauer and conclude that he is any way, shape, or form a Christ figure. He isn’t a scapegoat for national sins; He is a committer of personal sins on behalf of a sinful cause. I’m reminded of a line from Loki in the Avengers movie, when he is speaking to government operative Black Widow, who herself has done some things that might make Jack Bauer blush’
You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers.
While there can be cases made for various fictional characters whose character arcs have some things in common with the life and death of Jesus Christ, I would never for a moment confuse Jack Bauer with one of those characters. The Lord Jesus Christ did much more than have the sins of His people placed on Himself; He and only He was able to fully satisfy the wrath of God that such sin deserved. When John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), he was making a declaration of Jesus as sin-bearer, as a perfect sin-bearer. God didn’t demand just any lamb for a sacrifice; He demanded a spotless lamb without blemish. Jesus’in this 33 years on this earth’accomplished what none of us (including Jack if he really existed) could ever do or would even want to do: earn a perfect righteousness before a holy God. Jack hasn’t earned anything except condemnation for his criminal actions. The fact that some of his actions have been authorized by our governing authorities doesn’t make them any less criminal.
Ideally, a nation should never have dirty work that needs doing in the first place. When God sent His men to go to war, the cause was always just. The killing that took place’when it took place under the direct command of our Lord’was always justified and never dirty in the sense that it needed to be hidden from the gaze of the general populace. Jack Bauer is romanticized as an action hero who is willing to do our dirty work on behalf of preserving peace, liberty, and prosperity; any nation, however, that carries out ungodly activity to serve its own interests will eventually lose the benefits that God provides by granting peace, liberty, and prosperity. Do we find that we are less peaceful as a nation? Do we find that we have fewer and fewer liberties? Are we prospering less and less? Perhaps we need to remember that the good that our governing authorities are to be our servants for (Romans 13:4) can only be defined according to God and His law.
So Jack is not only the servant of a wicked government, he serves actively and willingly. Nobody has to point a gun at him to make him shoot, stab, drown, torture, assault, and insult people (Heck, even if you did point a gun at him to do those things, he would kung-fu’ the gun out of your hand, shoot you with it ten times, and then proceed with shooting, stabbing, drowning, etc.) Jack’like everybody else’loves his sin and’by being a counter-terrorist operative’he gets to indulge in murder and deceit all he wants. Sure he gets hurt a bit. But, hey, he never dies (at least not yet) and his injuries never knock him out longer than a commercial break. Even worse, he shows cynicism over the wicked government that authorizes him to do these things and’interestingly enough’does their bidding anyway. Is that what a “patriot” does? Serve a wicked government by carrying out their wickedness for them? If that’s the case…yikes.
And we would view his actions with something resembling heroism? It’s not like Jack is some sort of flawed hero, it’s that Jack is just plain flawed and we’re showing our fundamentally flawed we are by labeling him as a hero.
So what am I left to think about 24? Is it worth my time? Storytelling that continually turns out focus back to Christ and His thoughts is always worthy of our time. One doesn’t need to just watch Paul Washer sermons on YouTube to be edified. Art can edify us as well as long as it points us’in whatever fashion’to our Creator and to His holiness. I’m left with mixed feelings about this latest incarnation of 24. Will Jack Bauer find redemption for his sins? Or will he’as he has done faithfully for 8 seasons’murder in the service of murderers and then scowl his way out of the final frame? I, for one, am ready for Jack Bauer to defeat that one enemy that has continually plagued him for almost a decade: himself.