"Bringer of Light"

A review by Jenni:

This has been a trying week just with personal stuff.  I'm exhausted and should probly wait to do this review til I've slept some but... here's the paradox: I watch these TBAA episodes and feel some nervousness that any lil thing in them will make me sad.  And this episode, featuring a character who faces death while far too young, seems like it could be especially troubling.  And yet it's also watching and reviewing these that I feel the most at peace.  I feel like I'm once again in a safer, warmer place.  So...  Here I go.

What I love about this episode:

It's a beautiful opening shot!  I wish we could see the stars better where I am.

It's nice to think that Andrew and Monica had some special moments together just the two of em, as suggested by Monica telling Tess that Andrew taught her about the stars.

This episode seems rather perfectly timed for me.  I've been thinking a lot lately about how sometimes nature itself can serve as God's messenger.  A butterfly lands near you at a moment you most need hope.  Flowers appear just when you need the reminder of Spring.  The wind that raises up and sends a cascade of leaves floating around you, like a caress from Heaven. 

So this dad kinda annoys me but I'm glad to see a parent who wants to be a parent and not a friend to their kid.  Lucy should not have been wearing that top.

I love it whenever TBAA goes literary.  Granted, I prefer it when Andrew does the poetry reading but it's nice to hear Monica's lilting voice recite part of Walt Whitman's "When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer."   Kinda odd that they cut one line, though.  I wonder if that was TBAA's or THC's decision?  (ETA: The line is cut in the CBS version, as well.)  A bit later she goes on to say the opening line of William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence," too.

Hee.  I pulled the ol' one set of research, multiple papers thing in college at least once.  I'm glad Monica approves.  I also did one term paper, one JABB newsletter with one set of research, too.  :-)  My lovely lil essay on Andrew's hair was based off an Anthropology paper I wrote.

The scene of Lucy learning about ovarian cancer from her friend is so sad and so well done.  It's also a bit relatable to me.  My parents, God love em, didn't tell me when my grandpa was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  What they apparently hadn't counted on was that my grandpa was something of a public figure and, thus, it made the local paper.  And I, too, found out about his condition at school.  I think loving parents want to protect their children from painful truths but... they can't.

"How am I supposed to live without my mom?"  That line from Lucy to Monica is so wretched.  And yet, even though I still have both my parents, I hear myself in it.  One of the more difficult things, for me, in dealing with JD's untimely passing is the realization
that, unless I die young, virtually every person who inspired me and helped me cope with life will die before me... including my parents.  And I don't know how to live with that.  I honestly can't imagine existing without my parents.  It's a very real, relatable line.

"Just because you can't see the light doesn't mean it's not there."  From Monica to Lucy.  I can relate.

I really like that Lucy ends up finding more of relevance in her English paper.  Because while I admire Andrew's efforts, Intelligent Design has never meant a whole lot to me.  It's a nice theory but there's nothing of warmth in it.  Maybe I'm just a sap but my faith is built more on tradition and experience and emotion than scientific ideas.  That being said, I think it's a personality thing.  I've no doubt some people can come to an intense belief in God through scientific discovery.

I really like that Monica stresses that you can be a scientist and a believer.  Learning about creation can and does inspire a sense of awe for the Creator.  I'm sure many scientists feel that way. 
Heck, National Geographic's In the Womb was more faith-building for me than some Jesus movies.  I'm also sure scientists are sometimes upset by those who demonize science as anti-God and anti-religion.  Certainly, some of what's done in the name of science is bad.  But so is some of what's done in the name of religion. 

"God promises that if you take one step out of the darkness into the light, no matter how small the step, the light will shine brighter."  Monica to John.  Sometimes that first step is really hard but at least we don't take it alone.

I am really glad of the fact that Monica only lit up after John called out to God.  Having a faith based solely on the fact that your conversation partner became bathed in light seems questionable.

I like the closing shots of the three humans and the three angels both taking a moment to simply admire God's heavens.

What I didn't love about this episode:
These first three are not at all gripes about the writing, acting, or anything.  I believe they're in keeping with John's character and people like him (my way or the highway folks)... which is what made these aspects difficult to see...

First, it's absolutely awful how John so pointedly makes it clear that Lucy's friend did well on the Geology test and Lucy did not.  Highly unprofessional.  But I've seen teachers do it.  It just sets the kids up for hurt.  Both students could wind up teased and mocked either as teacher's pet or a failure.  I can understand John not wanting to give Lucy special treatment and applaud that.  But here he seems to be taking advantage of the fact that he can talk down to her and not worry about a parent complaining since he's the parent.  He is giving her special treatment: just not the good kind.

John seems a lil too high and mighty.  Granted, I can understand how a person might come to that point when they're in a minority (as I'm sure atheists often feel they are) and in the midst of a crisis.  However, it seems a lil out of line to accuse Monica of being unethical for talking to Lucy about her paper for his class.  It's not like she was undermining his authority by, say, suggesting Lucy should spend more time on her lit homework rather than her science homework.  At my high school, the teachers saw each other as resources if not friends... they weren't this territorial.  Teachers ought not to be.  Education requires all disciplines and sometimes disciplines overlap.  One of my greatest psychology lessons came from my Chem teacher.

I'm also a lil concerned about John based on the fact that his wife admits to curiosity about God but is afraid "to rock the boat."  One's definitely entitled to one's own beliefs but if those beliefs make one's loved ones afraid to explore their own... maybe something's wrong.  Zealots of all types need to chill out.  I've seen people of faith get rude to atheists who were cheerfully minding their own business.  And I've seen atheists seek out  people of faith to say nasty things to.  Neither person helps their cause.

This is my only actual gripe: I have a lil bit of a problem with Monica telling Lucy she needs to be strong for her mother.  A very similar line was told to me when my family faced a crisis when I was Lucy's age.  And I did my best to be the strong one.  I internalized a lot and, honestly, it's only been with JD's death that I feel like I've really let that stored up pain out... 13 years later.  (A final lesson and gift, I guess... but one I wish could have been given in some other way.  I'm so grateful to him and still sad that he's gone from our world but I know he's loving the one he's in now.)  That I carried all that responsibility around for years is not healthy.  I don't disagree that Lucy will need to be strong but I wish Monica would have followed it up with "But you'll need to take care of yourself, too.  I'll be here when you need to talk."  Kids can't be the last in the line of strong people.

Lingering questions:
Holy cow.  Research papers in high school science?!?  Praise God that I never had to write one of those in my high school.  I'd still be there.  Do most high schools have those?

Parts that made me feel swoony:
Just the idea of Andrew lecturing me about the stars makes me swoony.  Thankfully, it does not have the same effect on Monica.

And I just misheard John as saying that Andrew was from the "Handsome Planetarium."  ::giggle::  I love this guy.  No matter what's going on,  he connects me with my younger, geekier, giddier self.  And that name would be very apt.  But, for the record, I think it was actually the Hansen Planetarium or something.  But Andrew is most assuredly handsome.  How come we never got guest lecturers like him?  Then again... at my all-girls high school that may have been scary.  For him.

Aww.  He said *our* galaxy.  Like he considers himself part of us...

Why do I have the feeling I might have actually got really good science grades had Andrew been my teacher?

OMG.  I love the button up shirt with sweater vest look Andrew has when Lucy first visits him.  Too bad that scene is so short...

Andrew using his pocket watch to explain Intelligent Design reminds me of his "Ultimate Reality" talk in MDWA.  I love how he strives to make what he knows to be true understandable in whatever way he needs to.  His body language in that part is really good, too.  Did you ever notice how often Andrew will move seemingly just to ensure he's eye level with the person he's speaking to?  Andrew's like the opposite of the King in The King and I.

Andrew is really good at playing the devil's advocate.  Ironic for an angel!  When he's talking about how there's a chance that all the gears, wheels, etc. for the pocket watch just happened to come together, it reminds me of his confrontation with the father in "An Angel on My Tree."  He voices the exact opposite of what he feels to make his point clear.  Groovy.

"Forever."  Gotta love Andrew's last line.  For those who don't remember, that's his answer when Monica asks how long the family has together.  When I get to feeling low about how short JD's life ended up being, I'm going to remember that moment and that he has forever.  And so do we.  In those first few terrible days, I felt like he'd given me means to cope with every loss I'd faced but not his own death.  That was wrong.  And not fair to him.  The message of hope and peace and God's eternal love that he helped to spread are all I need.

Random thoughts:

Music: I didn't catch any.

I would like to take a moment to plug a book I just finished reading yesterday.  It's called Creation or Evolution?  Do We Have to Choose by Dr. Denis Alexander.  He's a Christian and scientist who firmly believes both in evolution and the Bible.  The guy actually managed to get me to believe, once more, that Adam and Eve may have actually existed... all while making me think about chromosomes.  Not being at all scientifically minded, I sometimes had to reread the really science-based parts.  And sometimes I reread the more theological parts just cause they were beautiful.  I wish the family in this episode would have had access to the book.

I have an admiration of sorts for atheists.  When Lucy says that about how all the science in the world won't let her see her mother after she dies, that gets to the heart of it.  If I didn't strongly believe in Heaven, I think death would make me go insane.  As painful as it is, I can live with grief because I believe that one day I will see those I love again and never, ever be parted from them again.  Without that... I can't imagine keeping it together and facing day in and day out and losing more and more people.  And it's not even losses in my lifetime.  If I thought I'd never get to meet Jesus then I think anything connected to Him would just be unbearably painful.  So I have to kinda marvel at people who keep sane without that.  Of course, I also think it takes strength *to* believe in Heaven and yet remain here on Earth.

This episode is kinda like the movie Creation in bizarro universe.  In Creation, Darwin loses a child and writes a book that some feel threatens faith.  In this, a child begins to lose a parent and writes a paper that an atheist feels threatened by.

I was also left thinking about The Invention of Lying.  Now, I have no doubt that film was at least in some ways meant to be pro-atheism.  However, I enjoyed it as a Christian.  Because while it may have been suggesting that theism is a lie, for me a more apt title would have been The Invention of Imagination and/or Wonder.  As I watched the film, I got to thinking about how, even though I believe God is a fact and the Ultimate Truth, without imagination I would likely be an atheist.  If President Obama walks into this room right now, it requires no imagination on my part to believe the President exists.  I can see him, shake his hand, etc.  But I can't shake God's hand or see Him.  It takes some wonder and imagination.  Even if I was left with the Bible, if I couldn't imagine anything beyond it... would I feel any connection to this God that they keep talking about?  I'm not so sure.  So I think it's interesting that in this episode, we have Erica who imagined constellations and Lucy who so enjoys English and thinking about "what ifs."  Both have more of a propensity to believe in God than John who we never see engaging in anything creative.  He doesn't ever seem to ponder anything beyond what his 5 senses tell him.  This is, of course, not to say that atheists can't be creative.  Ricky Gervais certainly is.  John seems to have never really employed any thought to his atheism, though.  When Lucy questions him about it, his response is something to the effect of "well, it just is."  That's not a very compelling accounting for a belief from anyone, atheist or theist.  I guess what I'm saying is I wonder if, for many people, their belief in God is tied to their penchant for creative thought?  I will say that my faith is much more vital and comforting to me when I employ some imagination.  Reading about Heaven in the Bible is lovely.  Taking what I've read and extrapolating upon it brings me peace.

Scenes Hallmark cut:
 -After the scene, right after the commercial break, in which Lucy's parents finish telling her about her mom's diagnosis; there's a scene of the two parents in bed.  Erica asks John why he and Lucy were arguing.  Clearly still angry, he tells her that Lucy had the audacity to suggest writing a paper about God.  Erica smiles and says Lucy is trying to get his attention.  John ponders why his daughter thinks she can prove something like that.  Still smiling, Erica responds that Lucy doesn't have to prove it.  She "got your goat, mission accomplished."  John asks Erica is she was like that when she was 15.  She says that she was perfect.  They both smile and chuckle.  Then they spoon.  Aww.  John tells Erica they're gonna beat the cancer again.  She says "I know" but it's obvious by her face that she doesn't believe it.  John kisses her.  Then in the next scene, John confronts Monica which THC keeps.  It's a shame they cut this scene cause it's the first scene in which I actually like John.

-Poor Erica really got it with the cuts.  After the scene of Andrew's watchmaker talk, there's another of Lucy going to the hospital to visit her mom.  Erica looks quite bad off.  But Lucy is smiling cause she thinks she's figured her paper out.  She quotes something (whether her paper or her research, I'm not sure) saying that several recent scientific discoveries support the idea of Intelligent Design.  Lucy is troubled when she looks over and it appears Erica is drifting to sleep.  Erica rouses and explains that she's having trouble focusing.  Tess enters and suggests Lucy do this another time.  But Lucy tells them that the paper is due tomorrow.  Erica asks her if she's happy with it.  Lucy says yes and that she put a lot of science into it so her dad should like that.  Erica smiles weakly and says "Good, turn it in."  Lucy looks at her gravely as she turns her head to sleep.  Then it briefly goes to a scene of John's students turning in their papers.  The camera zooms in on one: "Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design" by Lucy.  Looking ticked, John looks at the paper and then the departing Lucy.  *Then* it goes to Monica's classroom.  The bell rings.  The kids leave but Lucy approaches Monica.  She hands in her "When It Gets Dark, the Stars Come Out" paper.  The two exchange smiles.  Finally, the cut scenes end with John slapping the ID paper on the table and yelling at Lucy.

Further on down the road...
This is just one of those days when watching endless amounts of TV sounds like a good idea.  So here goes! 

Just yesterday a friend and I were talking about the importance of keeping an eye out for God's messages in nature.  Perfect episode to demonstrate that!

This episode is a prime example of why I believe atheists are not automatically hellbound.  Let's face it: there aren't many of us who have angels drop into our lives in obvious ways.  It probably happens fairly often that an atheist parent shoots down the beginnings of faith in their child.  Just think of how often it happens that a theist parent goes off the wall when their child questions a matter of faith.  Some people just can't deal with anything but easy agreement.  Anyway, let's say Lucy didn't have the revelation scene or maybe not any angels dropping into her school at all.  She'd have no one to balance her father.  True, she could come into contact with people of faith.  Likely she will.  But will any of them ever carry the weight of her father in determining her outlook?  Maybe.  But maybe not.  Regardless, I think it's gonna be far more difficult for her to build and maintain a faith with John as her major influence as opposed to me with my two Catholic parents.  I think God takes all of this into account when we come to Him when our lives end here.  Otherwise He'd be majorly disadvantaging certain people by having them born to parents who are either atheist or just pretty silent on the matter... or both as Lucy has.

Monica reading poetry just isn't the same as Andrew reading poetry...  Actually, I have Roma's "Healing Angel" CD and she's wonderful on that.  But there just doesn't seem to be much going on with her reading of Whitman.  Very little emotion in her voice.... which is, of course, beautiful.  But I just don't feel it.

So I'm quite adamantly Christian.  However... I still don't know that I think a science paper is an appropriate venue for trying to prove the existence of God.  I agree with Monica that the topic is worthy of discussion.  Absolutely!  But writing a paper really isn't discussion.  I guess I'd need to see the paper to see if, on top of arguing the God question, it actually demonstrated knowledge of science which is what should be the focus in a science class.  I've read some great books that blend the two.  But I just wonder about a high school class paper pulling that off.  I guess my concern would be that Lucy might just write "None of these scientific theories negate the possibly of God.  The end."  I agree that this is true.  But neither that nor even Andrew's lovely watch metaphor demonstrate any actual intellectual mastery of science.  It's a great exercise in philosophy and how to build an argument but it doesn't demonstrate that she knows what the theory of relativity states or what tectonic plates do.  Or I dunno.  Maybe I just think it's missing the point of faith.  God is both in science and beyond science.  I guess maybe Monica encouraging Lucy to show her mother the report for her own class kinda demonstrates this. 

I really don't think this marriage is healthy...  If you don't feel comfortable talking about something important to you because your husband might freak, I think that's a problem.

A pluses didn't exist at my high school.  A was the highest grade you could get.  Was my school weird or do A pluses not usually exist at the high school level but Monica just loved the paper that much?

This episode reminds me of this C.S. Lewis quote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”  I love that.  And the "C.S. Lewis Song" by Brooke Fraser that it inspired.

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