The Chosen - A Religious TV Show Without Religion

A great work of art is never a means to an end. It arises out of wonder at something that turned your world upside down.
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When I first started watching The Chosen, I had no idea that I was in for a treat. Generally, I don’t trust “Christian” movies, most of which tend to be manipulative, didactic, or implicitly coercive.

More often than not, Christian movies — at least those I have seen over the past 20 years — are a means to an end. They seem to have an agenda beyond just telling a story. It often feels like they are made with a goal in mind — to get you to do something.


How The Chosen show began

According to Dallas Jenkens, the director of the show, The Chosen started when his world crumbled to pieces. He had huge plans to shoot several faith-based movies as a Hollywood producer but at the last moment, the people who had promised to finance the projects bailed out.

"In two hours I went from being a director with a bright future, who had finally made it in Hollywood, to a director with no future."

And then, when he and his wife were at their lowest point, his friend, who didn't know anything about the situation, sent him a message on Facebook saying: "Your job is not to feed five thousand but to provide five loaves and two fish."

That moment Dallas knew in his heart that it was a call from God to keep doing "his little thing." The rest would be provided. 

A great work of art is never a means to an end. It is an end in itself. It arises from some encounter with the supernatural and is fed by the sense of wonder at something that turned your world upside down.

When an artist uses art to achieve something else, it’s no longer art but technology. The Chosen is NOT technology. It is pure art.


Why is there no explicit religion in J.R.R. Tolkien's works?

A mysterious forest
Image from Pixabay

When J.R.R. Tolkien was asked why The Lord of the Rings did not contain any explicit religion, he replied that it was intentional. He wanted to avoid the two cheap ways of delivering a message — an allegory and moralism.

In his essay "On Fairy Stories," he explained the difference between technology and art by making an important distinction between the “magic” of the Elves and the magic of the Enemy. The magic of the Enemy is the “machine,” an external technique used to subdue other wills. 

The magic of the Elves is art — “development of inherent inner powers and talents.” This magic is internal — it grows from inside out, not from outside in. It doesn’t force anything on anybody but invites us to participate in the mystery of beauty.


What is the true function of art?

True art is a spontaneous response to beauty. It’s an end in itself. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than to share what it encountered. It is humble — it doesn’t impose itself in any way. It just says: “Please take a look at what I saw. Isn’t it amazing?”

You are free not to see, free to turn away. True art will never mind. It hopes that you will recognize the beauty and share in the joy of seeing. 

According to Plato, all cognition is re-cognition. Seeing again. He calls it anamnesis, recollection. What we call learning is actually the soul remembering something it always knew. It is the soul’s response to an inner call.

You hear the bell ringing and suddenly you say: “Yes, I see!” I recall, remember, recognize. My soul responds to a call it was hearing for a long time.

Incidentally, the Greek word for “beauty” —  kalos — has the same root as the verb “to call” — kaleo. Beauty calls. It is the function of beauty. And the function of true art. There’s nothing to add to it. True beauty will always call.

The Chosen is about people waking up to the call.


Why was it important for Jesus to be recognized?

The Last Supper Abstract Illustration
Image from Pixabay

Interestingly, the Gospel says: “He came into the very world… but the world didn’t recognize him.” Why did Jesus want to be recognized in the first place? If he was God, he could have announced it loud and clear: “I am God.”

Yet, he wants us to recognize him because he is the ultimate beauty. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty needs to be recognized. Kalos kaleo. Beauty calls — and waits for a response.


 
That’s why he is interested in whether the disciples recognize him: “Who do you think I am”?

That’s why he speaks in hints and riddles, saying: “He who has an ear, let him hear.”

That’s why he tells parables — so “some won’t understand.” 

That’s why he plays hide and seek with Mary Magdalene in the Garden by appearing as a gardener. She only recognizes him when he calls her by name.

That’s why he keeps the eyes of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus from recognizing him right away. They only recognized him as an aftertaste of their talk: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?”

That’s why he says, “No one can come to me unless he is first drawn by the Father.”

His mother did not recognize who he was right away, thinking he was crazy.

Interestingly, Jesus only appears at the end of Episode 1 of Season 1 — and as usual at the “fullness of time.” 


What did Jesus do for Mary Magdalene?

Illustration of a human eye
Image from Pixabay

Like all of the characters in the show, Mary goes through anamnesis, “remembering,” when she first meets Jesus.

When she is about to get numbed out on her next drug dose, he stops her and says: “It’s not for you.” After a moment or two, it happens. The anamnesis. When he calls her by name: “Mary, Mary,” she recognizes him — through a couple of verses she memorized a long time ago.


How was Peter called by Jesus?

The Apostles in the boat
Image from Pixabay

Peter is an impetuous control-freak, as in: “I am going to get it done no matter what.” He believes in power. His own power. He will pull his family out of poverty by the bootstraps. Well, he comes to the end of himself when he realizes he is totally powerless.

Peter experiences surrender — “at your word I will let down the net” —and then,  the miraculous catch happens. He is overwhelmed! He thought it was the end. But he recognized that the end of his human powers was the beginning of God’s omnipotence. 

He who leaves everything in the hand of God, one day will see God’s hand in everything.


What kind of person was Matthew?

Matthew, the tax collector, also called Levi, was waiting to be called his entire life. He had been rejected by everyone, including his family, for serving the Romans. Young, rich, and lonely, he would have given away everything for the privilege of being called by at least one person.

And again, at the fullness of time, he heard a voice calling: “Matthew!” He recognized it right away! It was the call he was waiting for.


Why did Jesus choose Doubting Thomas?

Illustration of scientific equasions
Image from Pixabay

Doubting Thomas is a scientist. He only believes in what he can see and touch. Yet, as is often the case with scientists, there is a doubt in his heart whether this visible world is the only thing there is. When you intentionally limit your vision only to what you can see, your soul starts screaming: “Is it all there is? If so, this is a dismal world!”

If Thomas had not been drawn by the Father out of his skepticism, he never would have watched so intently the other guests at the wedding, scurrying around in response to Jesus’ command to bring the empty jars. At this point, he doubted his own doubts...

When he saw the water turned into wine, his rational world shattered. He says: “I don’t know what to think!” His partner at the wedding answers: “So don’t.” 

For Thomas, anamnesis happened when he heard the call of the Father to stop thinking. 


What did Jesus say to Nicodemus?

Night sky and a tree in the wind
Image from Pixabay

Nicodemus is a man of the law. He knows the Torah like the palm of his hand. But for a long time, he has this strange longing — that there should be something else beyond the law that Scriptures only point to. There should be something more than the letter of the law. 

He is a man of authority yet he has no authority in the face of the demon-possessed Mary Magdalene. When he tries to exorcise them, the demons laugh at him and refuse to come out. But one day, he gets the news that Mary is completely healed. What?

That moment, he has his anamnesis. Who could have done it? Can he be the One? He must be the One. He goes to meet him under the cover of night. His question is: "Are you the One?"

Of course, Jesus' answer to Nicodemus is indirect: “The wind bloweth where it wills, and you hear its voice.” 

“Don’t you hear it, Nicodemus?”

Nicodemus knows the answer: “Yes, I do.”


“The wind bloweth where it wills, and you hear its voice…so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”


As I am waiting for Season 2, launching on this Easter day, April 4, 2021, I know what I am in for. I will see the journeys of those who will hear the call. They will all remember something they always knew.

It will be the call of beauty, kaleo. Beauty doesn’t force, doesn’t coerce, doesn’t subdue. You can ignore it if you like. You can turn away, but there's something that draws you in. You hear the call, and suddenly you wake up — to what you have always wanted to see.

I am a translator and blogger who believes that all change comes from inside out, not from outside in.

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