Living in This World

The Good Place

We’ve had the date on the calendar for weeks. Tonight is the season premiere of the first show I’ve considered appointment television in many years. My family was late to “The Good Place,” but caught up about midway through last season. The show began its first episode with Eleanor (played by Kristen Bell) opening her eyes and learning she has died and is in The Good Place, but we quickly learn that she knows very well she doesn’t belong there.

The basis for this exploration of the afterlife is not religion. As Michael (Ted Danson), the architect of Bell’s Good Place neighborhood, tells her, no religion got it all right, but “every religion guessed about 5%.” Instead, the show explores moral philosophy – yes, it’s a comedy, but with content – and how some scholars have explained what makes our actions good or bad.

The show’s creator, Mike Schur, imagined a point system while stuck in Los Angeles traffic…

A screenshot from Michael’s explanation of the points system.

…and from there he built the concept of the show. (Don’t use “Facebook” as a verb, for instance; it’s -5.55.) The point system mostly revolves around the things we do in relationship to other people; it’s about consideration, respect, and awareness.

Or as Jesus put it,

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.“ (Matthew 7:12, NRSV)

Eleanor is pretty terrible, selfish and defensive and crass and injured and broken. Would she have been different with even so much as a nudge toward goodness?

I hope I’m aware when I get a nudge, but most of the time I fear I am even more aware of the people I think could use a nudge. I wonder why they don’t pay attention to guidance that seems so obvious to me. I resent that many of those people call themselves Christian while committing what I perceive as acts of destruction. And it’s just not satisfying to think they might end up with a negative score. I want something to happen now.

How do we avoid despair? Humor helps, I believe, and knowing there are some people who think it matters how we treat each other, and how we treat the world. Still, we could use some help.

Jesus, be a nudge.

Originally written for the RevGals Weekly e-Reader.

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