Olive Kitteridge and Larry David Are Popular for a Reason

Maybe the reason is that people who watch HBO are not sanctified.

But I do wonder why the Christian world seems to view niceness, friendliness, and optimism the way much of the network television audience does — as if people who are all the time happy, cooperative, and encouraging are the way we should really be.

Is it possible for Christians to like characters like — even find appealing — Olive Kitteridge, who shun pollyannaism, speak what’s on their mind, and mock human gullibility? Or is it possible for Christians to see in Larry David’s experience some of the real challenges that attend human interactions — such as an aversion to meet-and-greet chumminess, disdain for accommodating the in-laws wishes, calculation of the costs of going to the dentist’s home for a meal? The ideal believer in some parts of the Christian world is the one who is always giving, never sees mixed motives (or worse), and always wants everyone to be comfortable and happy blessed.

Of course, some Christians I know are incredibly positive and gracious in their disposition and interactions with others. I sometimes come away wondering what their secret is, wishing that I could find that part of my self. Just as often, I wonder what these folks are like when they get home to a private “safe” space. Do they then begin to unwind about the annoyance of my manners, the pretense of my bow tie, the folly of my claims? Keeping those thoughts to themselves does not make them hypocritical. Saying whatever is on your mind, being genuine or candid, can be just as unpleasant as the endlessly upbeat person. You have to know your audience if you are going to reveal some of your less than acceptable ideas or opinions.

Still, I have doubts about the humanity of a person who never entertains a critical or negative thought. Such a disposition is part and parcel of being fallen — you/we are inherently ornery. But it goes beyond sin and sanctity. Simply to observe and acknowledge the human condition, from the crabbiness of an Olive Kitteridge, to the immaturity of a Larry David, is to be human.

In which case, if Christians think that holiness leads to Mary Tyler Moore, does sanctification mean we become inhuman?

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37 thoughts on “Olive Kitteridge and Larry David Are Popular for a Reason

  1. answer: nope, ever human

    and so, then, this side of eternity, the choice: perpetually, some form of self-justification (including whatever, I’m just human after all) or 1 John 1:9

    The rest of mankind… did not repent of the works of their hands… and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts (eg even Matt 5:22-48). (Rev 9:20)

    love, partner-together-in-crime-against-God, the hypocritical ‘pietist’

    pietist…
    “The philosophy of ministry that led to the Pietist movement has been held by true believers from the very beginning. When Peter and John were forbidden by the Jewish religious leaders to speak in the name of Jesus, they responded, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). These brethren believed that every believer and every church must submit to the authority of God’s Word, and any practice or teaching that is in contradiction to God’s clear command must be surrendered. To that, let every believer today say a hearty “Amen.”” http://www.gotquestions.org/Pietism.html

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  2. “I wonder what these folks are like when they get home to a private “safe” space. Do they then begin to unwind about the annoyance of my manners, the pretense of my bow tie, the folly of my claims?”
    ***Yes. Do not walk on my side of the street. Bruce has been trained to attack any bow tie he sees. A Phillies cap will send him into a Cujo-like rage. You have been warned.

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  3. Would it be too gushy to say that one of these sorts of posts is seventy times more edifying than seven one might find at a place like TGC?

    But Strout’s short stories seem to be on an endless loop for me of late, and we’ve just discovered both “The Detectorists” and “Happy Valley” series. Haven’t started watching “Olive Kitteridge” yet, but here’s hoping it’s the screen version of the fiction (though it being McDormand seems a promising start).

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  4. Zrim, OK is entirely different from Detect. and Happy Valley. OK is the one that sticks with me longest.

    McDormand was exec. producer of OK and also used Carter Burwell (the Coens’ musician) for the soundtrack.

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  5. Several years ago my wife and I were attending a large non-denom church. The pastor called a middle aged couple on to the platform and proclaimed them to be an excellent example of what it means to be Christian. They certainly had a power presence with the spiked short hair, straight teeth, appearance of material wealth, career minded, operating a marriage ministry, singing in the worship team. I thought “wow, I can’t compare.” Many years later I still can’t compare. But I’m grateful for finding the OPC.

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  6. Zrim: Would it be too gushy to say that one of these sorts of posts is seventy times more edifying than seven one might find at a place like TGC?

    No not too gushy, just your opinion Zrim; everyone has his opinion; sure, some people think the word ‘surrender’ should be removed from the Christian vocabulary so the flesh can reign, but His people believe the Lord, desiring His opinion to become their opinion, for all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Rom 8:14)

    let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near; let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds and to put on…
    -put on: the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust Romans 10:14
    -put on: the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth Ephesians 4:24
    -put on: the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Eph 6:11
    -put on: the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— Col 3:10
    -put on: a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; Col 3:12
    -put on: love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Col 3:14

    mrbfree: I thought “wow, I can’t compare.” Many years later I still can’t compare

    Dear mrbfree, be. free. then and stop comparing, just as instructed by the Lord.

    love, a ‘Sum of His word is truth’ lover

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  7. Mrbfree: I thought “wow, I can’t compare.” Many years later I still can’t compare. But I’m grateful for finding the OPC.

    And mrbfree (is that you Andrew?) not sure what you’re implying here – sure, one should commend their own church – why would they be there otherwise, but…

    “Is there one true church? Which one is it?”
    “When a person asks, “Which church is the true church?” he or she is often asking which denomination is correct. Is the true church Baptist? Episcopalian? Pentecostal? It’s a good question, but it’s important to understand that the church is not a visible building or organization. Rather, the true church is the family of all those who have faith in Jesus Christ and are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3).”

    “The New Testament defines the church in two distinct ways. First, the church comprises all believers. This is often called the universal church. Second, the New Testament also uses the word church in the sense of a local group of believers who meet together to worship God. For example, there is the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1), and the church which met in Nympha’s house (Colossians 4:15). Together, saved members of local churches are part of the universal church.”

    “The wide variety of churches today can make sorting out the truth difficult. The Roman Catholic Church claims to be the only true church. So does the Mormon Church. Protestants reject those claims of exclusivity and view the church as all people who have faith in Jesus Christ. Even among Protestant denominations, there is diversity regarding beliefs and practices.”

    “Does any one church or denomination possess all the truth in every detail? Probably not. But there are churches which have more of the truth than others. The Word of God is the basis for evaluation of any church or church group. Do the church’s teachings show fidelity to Scripture? Do the church’s leaders meet the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? Does the pastor “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9)? Are the church’s members devoted to the Word, to “the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42)? If these questions can be answered “yes,” then the church is most likely a “true” one.”

    “Of course, being a member of a Bible-teaching local church is important (Hebrews 10:25). But more important than joining a church is knowing you are born again (2 Corinthians 13:5). No church can save you. Only Jesus saves, by grace through faith in His death and resurrection (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9-10).”
    http://www.compellingtruth.org/true-church.html

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  8. Ali, and still others think surrender language is that of the hyper-spiritualists who are so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good–and unable to appreciate quality broadcasting.

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  9. Ali, it was a brief anecdote in a blog combox. I thought it was at least somewhat relevant to Dr. Hart’s post. No need to spray me with verse bullets from your Bible assault weapon.

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  10. Zrim:Ali, and still others think surrender language is that of the hyper-spiritualists who are so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good–and unable to appreciate quality broadcasting.

    cw l’unificateur:Nice, Ali. No one brings the congregationalist, vapid, evangelical ecclesial minimalism like you do. Can’t decide whether this is more piffle or twaddle. Leaning towards piffle.

    morning to you too guys! Hope all is well in the Zrim and cw households. your anticipated, predictable responses didn’t deter me as you can see!

    a new day is dawning …….have a great one

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  11. Zrim: Ali, you say that like it’s a bad thing but predictability is a Reformed virtue.

    funny. but not really; any kind of predictability?; you’re probably right, though, many will probably say on that day, was I not predictable

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  12. Larry David is popular because he has great insight into the human condition. You want an illustration of total depravity, watch an episode of Seinfeld. We laugh at the shenanigans and the shallowness, but that’s because we recognize ourselves and the way we act (at least some of the time). Easier to laugh at George Constanza than to look at how we are all George Constanza.

    Certainly there are people who by disposition are nicer than others. But behind closed doors I guarantee you that they are not as nice as they seem. It might be behind the closed doors of their mind as in they never speak any of the discouraging thoughts they are thinking, but they are there. We live in a fallen world. Even the RCs here are willing to admit at times that their church isn’t all roses and sunshine, though scandal and outright apostasy never seem to get the to question Rome’s authority. I digress, but my point is that there are few if any who can go through life and say everything is just grand. Because it isn’t.

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  13. Dr. Hart, I will definitely be watching the Olive Kitteridge mini-series. Sounds like a show my daughter is going to enjoy also.

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  14. D. G. Hart: Ornery with a prooftext.

    You should clarify DG, here at OL, the definition of ornery=Bible quoting

    Zrim: Ali, the sort of predictability that tells a visitor that there will be no predictable praise choruses here.

    Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:16-18
    ….oh except for Zrim, special dispensation – for him, only when he is ‘experiencing’ the sensation of feeling like it, and/or only when outward circumstances warrant it, or only when a prayer is properly answered according to Zrim’s will; otherwise …nope…withheld

    Sheesh

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  15. A second season of Happy Valley is on the way.

    DGH—The problem afflicting the evangelicals at the Gospel Coalition is one of sentimentality. That is, they value feelings more than doctrine. This is what Ken Myers called orthopathy instead of orthodoxy. This does not mean that the folks at TGC ignore doctrine. Obviously, they promote it. But they never let it function in a way that might make leaders, readers, or bloggers uncomfortable — that is, doctrine will never be offensive, especially to the co-allies. But they seem to have no problem patrolling the Christian world for incorrect emotions.

    https://oldlife.org/2011/09/the-problem-of-sappy-evangelicals/

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  16. McMark, that may be good news but Last Tango in Halifax should have stopped with 2 seasons. This is the problem with tv. Producers give in to the temptation for more episodes/money based more on viewer interest than on story. With a movie, you get limited time and if it’s good, never a sequel.

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  17. Taking responsibility to manage our own mood elevators, avoid conflict or manage the prickly personalities, avoiding dissent is absolutely prescriptive if one is to survive the corporate world. Many millennials are so fearful of even the inkling of face to face unpleasantness that they read blogs on how to deal with it and they being told to simply flee. Nice is what now covers all sins. This is the insipid vanilla middle to upper class evangelical world I live in. This is the reason I read your blog.

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  18. If only:

    Some people in the church seem to have the spiritual gift of discouragement. It’s all that guy can do – discourage others. Truthfully, we are all “that guy” far too often. We find it far easier to complain and view circumstances negatively than positively. So, when a person embodies encouragement, we notice. The apostles took note of a such a man named Joseph. They recognized that he was no ordinary Joe. They called him Barnabas instead, which translated means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).

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  19. If you blog about Roman Catholicism, accentuate the positive:

    Never attack the hierarchy directly. Even in those rare occasions you need to correct anyone in authority in the Church, be very careful about competence and keep it on ideas not persons.

    Avoid joining the dark side of the Catholic blogosphere: I can name at least three relatively popular Catholic blogs which I avoid like the plague, because the majority of their content is about what’s wrong with this parish, that Bishop, or such and such Catholic institution often on very flimsy grounds.

    Always look for the positive. The Church is being attacked by so many; we need to build her up. If your blog doesn’t build up the Church, don’t post it.

    The technical capacities to deliver news that have expanded over the the last 25 years have also increased how many people see each negative news story. The Church is meant to be a beacon of hope. Providing a positive perspective allows us to give people hope in this imperfect world.

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  20. @dgh

    …many people see each negative news story. The Church is meant to be a beacon of hope. Providing a positive perspective allows us to give people hope in this imperfect world.

    Because, like, honesty is so…ew

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