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“Good Omens”: The Spiritual-Religious Zeitgeist

June 21, 2019


Amazon released the hit mini-series Good Omens this year to the rave reviews it deserves. Good Omens proves itself well acted, cinematically sizzling, and entertainingly both frivolous and deep. Good artistry captures the prevailing spirit of its age, and Good Omens does unveil Western society’s spiritual-religious zeitgeist. Caught literally between heaven and hell, Aziraphale (the posh angel) and Crowley (the troubled demon) stage a plot to prevent the Last Days from ending. Strewn throughout both their actions and banter bubbles up a telling anthropological question: Does humanity need the admixture of both virtue and sin in order to be, well, free and human?

Good Omens situates the viewer into a cosmic worldview that presents both heaven and hell in telling caricatures. Scenes in Heaven lead us to something of an Apple store, with tattooed and flannel-wearing hipsters replaced by stuffy squares; it’s pure in its sterility, like an invitation to a party in a surgical room. Scenes in hell lead the viewer into an industrial, underground wasteland of buffoonish devils; it’s dungy, with the added negative of vile violence and unsavory creatures. The world, on the other hand, rustles with witches foretelling prophecies, religious zealots ruining all the fun, and Aziraphale and Crowley strolling through history with charm and mischief. With each episode the show craftily forces us to the only habitable zone left with breathing room: sidelessness, choosing neither heaven nor hell, but stuck eating sushi in an imperfect world that allows for a little unobtrusive goodness and some excusable evils. Would a “good planactually entail ending this world for either absolute sterility or damning barrenness?

The devout disciple of Jesus will no doubt (hopefully) realize the incomplete picture of the cosmos that Good Omens projects upon our screens. And yet this disciple will hopefully (no doubt) realize the launchpad for evangelization written into each new episode. If the Church desires to evangelize the many sideless ones, she will need to present the richness of the Gospel life without fear of the world’s imperfections. Do we proclaim the Good News through a cast of sterile characters rattling their sabers against the simple delights of life? Do we prick the world’s faults with a silver pin in search of its witches to burn, always suspicious of others’ intentions only to call ourselves “discerning”? In other words: When we present the Gospel, do we force the sideless inch by inch into: (1) that comfortable zone of free undecidedness, or (2) the daring, powerful, and mysteriously exciting zone of the kingdom Jesus revealed?

In the World of Good Omens, evil carries the power while virtue wields the naive politeness (both disastrous weapons). In the world Jesus reveals, evil powers cower before him, his quick wit stampedes his detractors, and love’s power can change hearts, raise the dead, quicken minds, and heal every illness. The muddied boots of purity at war terrify Jesus’ followers, captures their imaginations, and throws his weapons in their hands. In this Christian life (the one Jesus reveals) the weak grow daring, the uneventful moment flashes with lightning, and we join a mirthful army equally comfortable at a wedding party or walking on the sea. Jesus opens the faithful to the compelling beauty of broken bearers of the infinite and makes them bearers of divine fire. Do we challenge ourselves to live this life, the full Gospel life, and summon others to its trenches? Or, do we pat ourselves on the back for standing on platitudes only we care about, and force the sideless to choose with ever more discerning conviction their own sane sidelessness?