Kings, part 2

Aland left a comment following my last entry about the NBC show Kings. He makes a good case for why it’s NOT worth watching. Take a moment and read it. Aland’s frustration makes sense. Kings co-opts the biblical account and twists it to its own ends. It turns the story into a reflection of 21st Century moral values and abandons those that are inconvenient or uncool. If I’m not misreading, I think Aland is lamenting a very real truth: Film and TV don’t understand evangelical Christianity. (There are possible exceptions to this--Walden Media and the “Tyler Perry Empire” among them.)

I’ll be watching with interest to see what they do with the “Jack” character. It’s possible that they’re not going to bother making him anything like the biblical Jonathan. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see what looks like a rivalry turn into a friendship between David and Jack. Characters develop.

Here’s why I’m going to keep watching Kings:

It’s entertaining. It would be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge that it’s just fun. It’s beautifully filmed. It’s dramatic. And there are some great cast members (Ian McShane as King Silas and Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose). I continue to love the scenes with the prophet, Reverend Samuel.

After watching episode 2, I’m actually thinking it’s more like Shakespeare than anything else--complete with two palace guards for clowns and a very King Lear-like scene where Silas stands on the palace roof while the rain pours down.

It’s (somewhat) biblical. While it will pick and choose, Kings does reflect some of the Bible’s ethics. The most prominent is the issue of power and what it does to us humans. The story of Silas/Saul is of a man who is corrupted by power. He takes what he wants by any means necessary. And once he has ascended to power, he will do anything to maintain his position. He refuses to acknowledge his dependence on God. He acts as though everything he has, he has gotten on his own. And, therefore, he is not to be bothered with what is right or wrong.

I’m assuming the same thing will happen with David Shepherd on the TV show. At least that’s what happens to the biblical David. He is just as good at abusing power as Saul is. The Bathsheba incident is the most prominent example. In addition, his family becomes a train wreck. Even his final words are of vengeance rather than of devotion to God.

In the TV show there's this quote from David Shepherd's mother that I love. She's explaining to the King's daughter why she hopes that David doesn't stay in Shiloh. She says that she knows that David has a destiny. Then she says:

“People with destinies, things don't go well for them. They die old and unhappy, or young and unfinished."

There is good evidence that the David of the Bible dies old and unhappy.

I have to say, I’m no longer sure that David is supposed to be a role model for us--at least not in any carte blanche way. I love how his relationship with God endures his flaws. I love his honesty in confession. I love his ability to maintain his respect for a corrupt king. But let’s be honest, the guy can be a real stinker. I actually love him less as a hero and more as a reminder of myself.

Maybe we make too much of this “man after God’s own heart” idea. Unless I’m missing some other example, this statement is made about David early on in his life and only as a comparison to the corruption of Saul. I wonder if the same thing can be said about him at the end of his life. It seems like, if you do, you have to qualify it significantly. Which is what ends up happening. After all, he may be a “man after God’s own heart,” but he’s not fit to build the temple, a house for that same God.

Whenever David is mentioned in the Christian scriptures, he is mentioned off-handedly as the author of a Psalm, or to make Jesus’ identity legitimate to the Jewish people, or (most importantly) as a foil for Jesus. The most common statement about him goes something like: “David was fine and everything, but he’s just rotting away in a tomb right now. Now let us show you how a real man/real King does it.” And then they point to Jesus.

It’s worth repeating. The true hero of scripture is God. All the rest have feet of clay.

But that’s why I like Kings. Hopefully (at least until NBC drops it), we’ll get to see our own humanity reflected back to us, for better and for worse. And, hopefully, they’ll continue to do it in a quality way.

What do you think? Leave a comment.