The Greater Good

I admit it, I’m a fan of The Walking Dead. So here’s a warning for anyone who hasn’t seen the episode “Slabtown” and wants to be surprised: this post will be full of spoilers. You will want to watch it and come back. Now if you aren’t a fan of the show, don’t worry and read on- you’ll get my point without knowing the ins an outs of TWD.

I’m not a big fan of gore or horror, but I really like exploring humans and how they might react in extreme situations. So while some might complain about episodes where zombies aren’t front and center, those stories are some of my favorites. In fact, zombies aren’t particularly interesting to me, but they provide a very interesting backdrop to study people. And Slabtown boasts maybe the most horrific scene of the entire show with nary a zombie in sight when a man uses a lollipop to suggest rape. It was so violating and convincing, my skin crawled.

For the quick rundown for those who missed it, this episode stars teenager-growing-up-fast Beth. Blond and pretty, she’s been largely uninteresting in the show, and maybe a bit weak. In a few previous episodes she started becoming stronger and more confident. Fair enough- she lost a mother and a father already to zombies- she’s due to be both weak and strong.

In this episode we find out she was “saved” from zombies by a group of folks who have made Grady Hospital their home. There is one doctor, some police officers, and a few other folks working lower on the totem pole to build a life. It’s revealed quite early on that Beth is not free to leave and that the leader of group, a female police officer, expects her to work off her debts (which is strongly hinted to be unending). The officer wields a tenuous leadership at best over the male officers, while the doctor enjoys a bit more freedom as the only one around who understands medicine.

While zombies infest the outside world, for the people lower in the hierarchy of “Slabtown” it’s the threat inside that is terrifying. One woman would rather flee and be killed by zombies than stay, and it isn’t too long until we find out why. She’s being raped by the male officers who are using their position of power to take whatever they want. Beth is revolted/scared by this, and she and the leader have a pretty serious talk. In that talk, the leader reveals she knows what’s going on and she allows it because of “the greater good”. In her reasoning, she needs to keep the male police officers happy because they are strong and they are the ones who will help the little community survive until help comes.

And then these words to Beth: “You are not the greater good.” The officer tells Beth that she is weak and cannot serve the way the men can, so her role is to be used and “play her part.” In fact, she should be happy that she has a role to play.

Is your stomach turning yet? I know mine was. The idea that any leader could force such a thing on someone is horrific, and yet the imaginary trials of Beth are very much a reality to many in the world today. In other countries under oppressive regimes, yes, but also in our churches.

There are women who are abused, emotionally, sexually, and physically, and are told that they are suffering for God’s glory- not so different from “the greater good.” But that’s something that happens only in fringe, crazy fundamentalist churches, right? Sadly, no. Take, for example, Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who, according to his own words, told an abused woman he was happy she was beaten because it led to her husband’s repentance. On A Cry For Justice you can read story after story (especially if you read the comments) about women (and sometimes men) coming from churches that held them in abusive marriages because they believed that the marriage was more important that the welfare of the individual. Some (not all) would graciously allow separation for a time, but always with the goal of eventual reconciliation, a truly untenable solution for someone who has been repeatedly violated by her spouse.

The lead officer in this episode is pursuing peace at any cost, much like many pastors do. Pastors are the shepherds of their flocks, positioned to protect and defend them. Yet I’ve heard woman after woman tell of going to her pastor for help only to be accused herself and told that the marriage is more important than she is. In fact, you can see this sentiment in extremely popular pastor John Piper’s views on divorce where he bluntly states, “In the New Testament the question about remarriage after divorce is not determined by . . . the ease or difficulty of living as a single parent for the rest of life on earth.” No, for Piper, and many like him, it is about the law, the “greater good.” If a single parent separated from her husband is struggling to survive, that’s not the primary concern of John Piper. In fact, he diminishes such struggles to “Temporal frustrations and disadvantages”.

In “Slabtown” we are given a graphic example of all that is wrong with this “greater good” leadership. Like the pastors who diminish abuse victims, the leader at the hospital reduces Beth to a tool for male entitlement. Her worth is found in the lewd desires of men who would abuse her. And sadly, even the “friendly male” in the show turns around and uses her, justifying his abuse in that it was necessary for his own survival. At least he was honest.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about how a good God can allow evil to exist. There is a lot to say on the subject and I certainly don’t have it all worked out. But one thing I do know is that WE are the greater good. How else can we understand “For God so loved the world”? We may go through struggles and pain and suffering, but God never tortures and uses us to bring him pleasure. The Bible says clearly that God works all things for good for believers, and my faith is in that statement, even if I don’t know how it all works out. Yes, evil happens, and yes God permits it. But we should never mistake God’s permission of evil as a deal with the devil. If we struggle, it is because there is greater to come FOR US.

Pastors should take heed from an episode like this because it reveals the ugly truth of what happens when our leaders are weak and permit evil among them. We are not called to make peace at the expense of the weak. We are not called to preach at the expense of the weak. We are not called to have squeaky clean images at the expense of the weak. Because “the greater good” will always be the people of God whom he loves and calls his children.

About Jeff S

Programmer, musician, father, and lover of Jesus. I have a strong passion to see people free from abuse and religion misused so that they can find the ultimate empowered life in Jesus.
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6 Responses to The Greater Good

  1. dpersson7 says:

    I have read this twice now and a couple of things occurred to me. The first is more of a hope than a thought. As I have been wrestling with these same issues I keep thinking that God is more loving and better than I could possibly imagine, but the way that the “church” uses people clouds that reality. It is a real battle to overcome my daily experience and believe that he is really as good as I think he is. I wish I could speed up the process.
    The second is that I have been around long enough to watch all of the passing fads of counter culture reaction to whatever hot topic issue makes the headlines. Strictly defined gender roles, mental health issues, divorce and remarriage, abuse, and every other problem under the sun need to be handled differently than the “world.” The problem with this mentality is that different solutions are not necessarily better, and the “church” is missing the one point that is the most important, love for others. That is the one characteristic that is the defining factor for a disciple, his or her love for fellow believers, and even their enemies, not how differently they solve problems or that the “churches” way is the best way. Time has clearly shown that the “churches” way of dealing with serious problems has basically been to sweep them under the rug and hope nobody notices the ever growing lump under the carpet. Recognizing the value of each and every person should be the underlying motive of any believer and even more so, the leaders who are supposed to set the example. The marginalization of the weak and abused reveals an attitude that is as ungodly as the worst sinner, because it makes people objects, not human beings. The classification of “sinner” helps to justify that marginalization.
    On a different note, I do watch the Walking Dead occasionally. I am a horrible fan of any series, because I start off well, and then I loose interest after a couple of seasons. It is interesting and often disturbing to watch and can be instructive about the possibility of how bad human nature can be in a long term crises situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff S says:

      I’ve felt more and more that the church has been less about historical, time tested doctrine and more about life application, and the “life application” aspect stinks because it’s a bunch of people not trained in the subjects they are giving instruction about. So church becomes about following simplistic fads instead of the meat of faith.

      The “world” is doing a pretty good job at studying things like abusive mentalities, human psychology, emotional health, and other matters. Yet he world still has no good answer for dealing with the person of Jesus and dealing with his claims. So many of these “fads” do nothing but discredit us and give people excuses to mock the faith.

      This quote by Augustine sums up my thoughts perfectly:

      “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

      “Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show a vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

      “The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but the people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason.”


  2. dpersson7 says:

    I agree with you and the sad thing is that the application part only works for people that fit into a certain group. In the reformed circles the application seems to apply to young upper middle class couples with small children. Those that don’t fit that mold are left to fend for themselves and are quite welcome to come, serve, and give, but shouldn’t expect anything back.
    Modern Christianity seems to me to be more focused on outward appearance than a genuine understanding of scripture. Having a spotlessly clean home, a perfect marriage, with obedient cheerful children is more important than helping and encouraging those around us, especially if their problems take time to solve.
    I like that quote from Augustine, I am tempted to post it on a few church doors 🙂


  3. dpersson7 says:

    Hi Jeff, I’m not sure where else to put this, so I hope you have a great Christmas with your family! Denise

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff S says:

      Thanks so much- I actually got married Decenber 19 abd has a wonderful honemoon. Sadly, Christmas day was spent in the hospotal having my gall ballder removed 😦


      • dpersson7 says:

        Congrats! That is wonderful that you got married. Your anniversary will be close to mine on Dec. 16. We just celebrated 30 years. I am sorry to hear about your gall bladder surgery, I hope you recover quickly. I will be praying for you. Take care.


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