(OPINION) Our friends started raving several years ago about “The Chosen,” the television drama that portrays the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The series streams on various platforms.
“You’ve got to watch this, it’s great!” said — well, said practically everybody we know, along with readers of my columns who in most cases I don’t know.
My wife Liz and I can’t remember exactly why we didn’t bite on those recommendations. I think we watched part of the first episode on Amazon Prime, shrugged and said, “Forget it, it’s just another hokey sword-and-sandal Bible treatment.” Liz doesn’t think we watched any of it. She says we just assumed it would be cheesy.
But anyway, we paid “The Chosen” no attention.
Then, about a week ago, Liz mentioned that after all this time she was still hearing about it from people, who were still raving about it. Maybe we ought to give it a chance, she said.
So we did. We immediately got hooked. “The Chosen” is proving itself a cut above other attempts to dramatize the Bible on screen.
It fleshes out the lives of the Gospels’ characters — Nicodemus, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Matthew and so on — with fictionalized backstories that add depth. And while I’m no authority on ancient history, the series’ depictions of first century politics, religion and social culture feel both realistic and revelatory.
Enjoying “The Chosen” has reminded me that good things often result when we reconsider our former judgments and open our minds, whether it’s on matters as small as which television series to watch or as consequential as where to live, how to vote or which god to worship.
When I started high school, I wasn’t the most engaged of students. I was, in fact, a dumb jock. One thing I kept hearing from my fellow students was how awful high school English classes were, in part because you had to read a play every year by William Shakespeare, this old British geezer who wrote in a funny language nobody today could decipher.
So I made up my mind to hate Shakespeare, too, and that being the case, to not read anything he wrote. I’d fake it. I’d slough and cover. I’d cheat if necessary.
And I did. I carried on like this for quite a while but still managed to pass my English classes.
Then, one night I was sitting at home in that pre-internet, pre-satellite era, bored out of my gourd. My literature textbook lay nearby, unexplored. Out of desperation I picked it up and leafed through it.
I came to a Shakespearean play and on a lark read a few lines. I think it was “Julius Caesar.” I read a few more lines. Then — you know what happened then. I devoured a chunk of it.
I discovered that I not only understood it but loved it. I loved it so much I eventually ended up with two degrees in English literature and a career as a more-or-less writerly guy. I got my mind changed, and along with it my life.
Here’s another example.
Liz and I used to be platonic friends. I met her in the 1990s when I wandered into a bookstore she owned. We discovered a shared taste for reading and writing — two nerds.
That friendship lasted into the 2000s. By then, she’d gone through a divorce and my wife had passed away.
I screwed up my courage and asked if she’d like to go on a date with me.
She shot me down flat. Not even a maybe. Just “no way.” She didn’t want to spoil a pleasant friendship, she said, and she for sure didn’t want to get hooked up with a preacher.
Over time, I coaxed her into reconsidering.
Luckily for her.
Seriously, it was lucky for both of us. We’ve been married 12 years, and things continue to go swimmingly.
An open mind is a good thing to develop. It’s unfortunate that so many of us close our minds often and easily. One bad or even mediocre experience and that’s it. We’re done.
There’s a key concept in Christianity called repentance. It’s probably common in other faiths as well.
In Christianity, though — at least in the low-church, evangelical branches I spring from — repentance conjures up images of melodramatics, of tear-sogged Kleenexes, shame and grief.
Those images, and the fire-and-brimstone preaching that creates them, distort the true idea of repentance.
The word translated from the Greek of the original New Testament into English as “repent” or “repentance” is a compound term. It means, literally, “change your mind.” That’s it.
This ancient spiritual concept tells us that progress comes from being willing to rethink, reconsider and alter all manner of things. An unwillingness to change our minds smacks of pettiness or hubris or insecurity, traits that lead to misfortune.
We rashly make up our minds. We stalk off in some direction we’re sure is dead right, only to realize an hour or a decade later we might have been dead wrong. Maybe we judged prematurely or too harshly. Maybe we dismissed out of hand something that would have been a blessing.
So we go back and give that rejected thing a fresh try. Frequently, miracles happen.