On 24, Maccabees and Martyrs

Note: Brad and I tape 24 and watch it on Wednesday nights. This entry has been rattling around in my brain since last week, but I didn’t watch tonight’s episode. It’s current as of last Monday. Also, don’t comment and give anything away from this week, please!

Some say in this season, 24 has “jumped the shark”.  With that in mind, I have been watching closely.  I don’t think it has.  Sure, there’s the unpredictably-predictable plot conventions, and the minimal suspention of disbelief needed to enjoy the show, but what 24 continues to do (and the reason why I still watch) is make me think.  Previously in this season, as in others, I have been wrestling with the issue of torture.  Obviously, I agree with the Church that torture is an offense against human dignity.  But the show raises some good questions that I am trying to reconcile.  Until that’s settled, I want to focus on one new aspect that struck me during the White House hostage thing: how single-minded Jack is in the pursuit of his goal.

Okay, maybe that’s not new. (Taylor: “Mr. Bauer, you are on trial for committing atrocities. How can I be sure of your loyalties?” Bauer: “With all do respect, Madam President, ask around”.)  We all know that Jack is willing to do whatever it takes to save innocent lives. That’s what’s gotten him in trouble for every season since the first, and why people keep watching.  But I had never looked at his determination in light of the Faith before.  In the last episode, Bill Buchanan is the only one who has access to the prisoner who can tell them the target of the attack, but he is unwilling to “do what is necessary” to get the info.  Now, again, forget for a moment the the moral implications of torture.  Bill’s unwillingness or inability cost them the warning they needed to secure the White House and save lives.  Later, President Taylor, who previously refused to give in to terrorist demands to save her husband, is unable to put her last healthy family member at risk, and gives in to terrorists threatening to torture her daughter.  Jack calls them out to do what needs to be done to accomplish the goal: save lives. To no avail.

Especially the scene with Taylor brought to mind the mother from the book of Maccabees who encouraged all of her sons to keep their faith as they were one by one tortured and murdered before her.  She did not waiver in her belief that the God of Israel alone should be worshiped and the reward she and her sons would receive in Heaven for their sacrifice.  This past week I thought of all the trauma Jack’s character has undergone in the long days of the show– both in acts he has committed and have been committed against him, and how unwavering he is as well in the pursuit of saving innocent lives.  Of course, Jack is a fictional character with questionable moral issues.  But this past week made me think of all those who are very real, worshiping underground wondering when someone will turn them in to the authorities for evangelizing, those whose lives are constantly in danger for the practice of the Faith which we take for granted. Would I have the guts to stand strong? I don’t know.

And further, those who by their faith in God put their loved ones on the line as well.  One of the plot conventions of 24 is the involvement of the families of those characters involved in either terrorism or the defense against.  Hostages are taken to bend the will of those involved.  This is understandably excruitating even to watch in a ficitional setting.  Yet, again, the story of the mother in Maccabees I’m sure is being played out all over the world.  How do we react when it is our loved ones who may be hurt by our practice of the faith?

This was a painful reality for me this summer, watching our families suffer the loss of another baby, this time one we “chose” to have, knowing the risks.  I even missed my sister’s wedding– a wedding I had hoped would go a long way in patching up our relationship.  Needless to say it did not.  Jesus never claimed to bring peace, but the sword, setting father against son, and in my case, sister against sister. Although I will not alter decisions I know in the depths of my heart to be correct, it is a cross I continue to bear.

I always end an episode of 24 grateful that I am not in charge of keeping any cities from getting blown up.  It’s a job I am clearly not cut out for!  But as a baptized Christian, I am called to spread and defend the Faith, whatever the cost.  May I (and all of us), join in the example of the Saints- our own legion of Jack Bauers- in being single minded not in saving lives, but souls.


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