There’s something about seeing your world idealized on the television screen – in my case, the journalistic mayhem of my early career captured in the American series The Newsroom. I’m sure nurses, firefighters and detectives feel the same way. You see an environment that is as fictional as it is factual. But when a show as good as Aaron Sorkin’s creation turns up, you can’t help wishing you were staring at the real world.
Aaron Sorkin is the creator of such benchmark productions as The West Wing and The Social Network. In his hands politicians and journalists reach levels of insight and eloquence that we can generally only dream of. I’ve worked in enough newsrooms to know they’re rarely staffed by people as inspiring as the Atlantis Cable News team and their lead anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). But that’s not a problem. In fact, it’s the creation of such dedicated, moral champions that gives us something to aim for. Take the main plotline for Season 2 as an example…
Will McAvoy returns as the brilliant curmudgeon who can’t help express the truths he sees. The opening episode has him in front of his team of lawyers explaining how his program came to run a career-making expose on the US Department of Defense, only to withdraw it days later. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the drama. However it’s compelling to note that when the flashbacks begin Will is clearly not intending to rock the boat. In fact he’s become somewhat disheartened by how unpopular speaking his mind has made him. He may come off as opinionated and thick-skinned but he actually wants to be loved. As his executive producer MacKenzie McHale puts it,
“You’ve got to admit, for a guy who lives to be liked by the audience, he lets us put his life in danger a lot.”
Why? Why want to be liked, and why risk that appreciation? Now McAvoy is anything but a champion for the Christian perspective. In fact he smokes pot, drinks heavily and regularly locks horns with the ‘moral majority’ represented by the Republican Party’s splinter group, ‘The Tea Party’. However he shares this paradox with Christians. We love the people around us, and care about their opinions, especially where they relate to ourselves. But like Will, we pit this natural desire against a compulsion to tell the truth. And it’s the truth that will constantly get us into trouble.
Jesus warned His disciples that if we follow His instructions and proclaim what we know to be true about the God’s anger over sin, the judgment to come and the only way to avoid it, we will find ourselves regularly facing the strongest opposition:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
But does that hatred amount to a reason not to speak out? Many people, some Christian, think so. Not Will. If he were real, this champion of Liberalism might be surprised to learn that he and the Son of God share another common trait. You might have peace but you can’t prosper when the truth is suppressed. Or, as Jesus put it,
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
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