Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (6:12) that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Theologian Walter Wink suggested that we should think of these "powers that be" in terms of structures of oppression and systems of domination created by humans. They are not supernatural demonic beings, but they do take on a life of their own. Given the oppressive structure of the Roman Empire, I tend to think that Wink interpreted Paul aptly.

This came to mind over the last few nights as Carla and I binge-watched the mini-series "The Night Of" on It is a beautifully gritty and sometimes graphic tale of a young man who is charged with the murder of a young woman, but is likely innocent. As the legal apparatus kicks in and begins to grind forward, we see its dehumanizing effect on those within the system: from defense attorneys to prosecutors to detectives to jail guards to inmates to the accused and his family.

John Turtorro is revelatory as a despised bottom-feeding defense lawyer--riddled with eczema, self-doubt and cynicism--who manages to maintain a genuine concern for other beings. At its heart, that's what "The Night Of" is about: the struggle to hold on to one's humanity and see the humanity in others while enmeshed in systems intent on stripping it away.


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