Joan of Arcadia on Miracles

At the library on Thursday, I checked out volumes 1-3 of Joan of Arcadia: Season 1. It’s an awesome show! I’m not really in the mood to write all of my reactions to it right now, so I’ll comment on one subject it discusses: miracles.

Joan is a 16 year-old girl who gets revelations from God, who appears to her in many guises (cute guy, cafeteria lady, little girl, post-mistress, garbage man, Mrs. Landingham from the West Wing, etc.). Her older brother Kevin–played by the guy who depicted Jeb Bush in Oliver Stone’s W–became a paraplegic after a car accident, thus losing out on his athletic scholarship. He has a lot of self-pity, which makes me want to chant “whine, whine, whine,” especially after the sixth episode. Then, I remember my own self-pity.

Joan asks God why he won’t heal her brother, and God essentially says that he doesn’t do miracles. Sure, he’ll use Joan to make her brother’s life better, which is what he’s done so far–by reconciling Kevin with his dad, by encouraging him to get a job, etc. But God won’t make him walk again. In God’s words, he made rules to benefit all creation, and, if he heals one person, then he has to heal everyone.

That should settle the matter, since it’s God’s word. But the show seems to convey other messages. A psychic, who astutely recognizes that Joan is “in touch with the universe,” whispers in Kevin’s ear that he’ll dance at his wedding. And the mom, played by Mary Steenburgen, keeps up her hope that God will heal her son, notwithstanding her husband’s skepticism.

I wonder if the show is unthinkingly contradicting itself, which happens in a lot of shows. (I’ve read about some Waltons whoppers. Old John-Boy says Grandma died before Grandpa, but that’s not what happened!). Or maybe it’s trying to say something: God ordinarily follows set-rules, but people can persuade him to change his mind and to make an exception.

Personally, I don’t think it would be so horrible if God healed everyone. Won’t he do that when he sets up his kingdom? The fact is that he doesn’t right now, for whatever reason. But he does heal some people, so it’s not as if he’s bound by a rule that says “Thou shalt not heal.” And he doesn’t just heal to confirm the Gospel. He also does so out of compassion (Matthew 20:34; Luke 7:13).

So “God” on Joan of Arcadia tried to come up with a consistent theodicy, but it’s not exactly biblical. I’m not saying “Burn the show”–I just don’t agree with what God the little kid said about miracles.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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