Note: View Discretion Advised
Backstrom, a new crime drama from FOX, follows a cynical, disgusting, somewhat comical, and brilliant detective in the city of Portland bearing the name of the show. My wife and I watched the pilot, one, because we enjoy crime shows and two, because the role of Backstrom is played by Rainn Wilson, better known as “Dwight” from The Office.
I don’t normally search for things that are very deep in a show like this, but a couple of quotes from Backstrom stood out to me as important from a Christian, Gospel-centered worldview. Clearly these quotes are significant to the character development of Backstrom and are meant to give the viewer an insight into his mind. There is one quote in particular that drew my attention. But before I get to it, I will give a little background….
Backstrom is cynical. He shows up at a crime scene and begins to make very confident and harsh judgments about people, much to the exasperation of his optimistic, psychology-major partner. And at one point after he makes a number of stinging accusations against a suspect prior to there being substantial evidence, his partner declares, “You see the worst in everyone!”
Backstrom responds flippantly, “I see the everyone in everyone.”
Such a line is meant to show just how deep his cynicism and negativity run, with hints of emotional baggage from his childhood. I am no prophet but I estimate that this is meant to be the beginning of his character trajectory. The writers will pull him over time out of his negative estimation of mankind to the point where he will have to admit that there is good in some, if not in everyone. Again, that is my guess, and considering how cliché network television tends to be, I would stake money on it.
As soon as those words escaped Backstrom’s mouth I thought of just how biblical what he said was. In fact, Jesus Christ himself would have agreed with this statement! For as the Apostle John records, when the crowds began to be attracted to Jesus,
“Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25 ESV)
Jesus did not see the worst in everyone, he saw “the everyone in everyone”. He knew that, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)
Was Jesus a cynic like Backstrom? The answer is no. Jesus is a realist. Jesus knows what is.
Furthermore, while Jesus saw “the everyone in everyone” and Backstrom saw “the everyone in everyone”, the trajectory of that truth is very different in the case of Jesus’ story.
Backstrom is being shown by his words to be an extreme cynic. This provides the foundation for his character to develop, growing in confidence in his fellow man, seeing that there are exceptions to his rule.
But Jesus came precisely because of “the everyone in everyone”. This truth is foundational to the trajectory of Jesus’ story, but that story moves in a completely different direction than Backstrom’s. Jesus story, the Gospel, has a trajectory marked by grace and redemption so that “the everyone in everyone” will not remain what it is.
Jesus came because of “the everyone in everyone” so that every one of his people could have in them that which is uniquely good, namely the unique goodness of Jesus himself. He did not come to draw out the good in mankind, but to give of his goodness so that “the everyone in everyone” would not have the last word.
Jesus is not a cynic. He is a realist. And the reality is that there is an “everyone in everyone” and it is called sin. But Jesus came and as a man was the exception to the norm, he died for those under that norm, and then he rose victorious over it. And by this he set the trajectory for the day when that reality would be no more.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” (Colossians 1:19-22 ESV)