I’m in the stage of life when watching movies is difficult. It’s not just finding a block of uninterrupted time that’s long enough, it’s that I usually fall asleep in the middle. I guess I could try to watch standing up, but I’d probably still fall asleep and then hurt myself. So, I tend to watch what used to be called TV shows, but I have no idea what to call them now because most of them don’t air over network or cable television. So I’ll just call them “shows”. The best are the half hour shows – I make it through them no problem.

My search for a new show led me to Fleabag, a BBC production that now streams on Amazon. It’s about a woman in her thirties trying to cope with the death of a friend, a hostile quasi-step mother, and a sister trapped in a marriage and job that hold her back. The main character has no name–she’s referenced only with pronouns. She is a “fleabag”–a “dirty or unpleasant person”, which is demonstrated in her obsession with kinky sex and the disruptive tendencies of her personality.

The first season is framed by an encounter with a banker. Early in the show she is in his office trying to secure a loan to keep her cafe open. Having been forced to run in order to get to the meeting on time, and thinking she was wearing a t-shirt under her sweater, she lifts her shirt to take it off. As you can imagine, the meeting spins out of control. Unexpectedly, the banker returns toward the end of the show, engaging the main character in poignant conversations. One of the last things he says to her is, “Everyone makes mistakes.”

Every year I have students view the film Calvary. It begins with a line from Augustine: “Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.” Towards the end of the film, the priest says, “God is great. The limits of his mercy have not been set.” Ultimately, the film is about forgiveness. As I watched the end of season one, it dawned on me that Fleabag might be about forgiveness too.

I wonder if forgiveness is what we need most at this particular cultural moment. What if we acknowledge that people make mistakes, and sometimes people need a second chance? Maybe we all need to cut each other some slack, give each other a break, or just get over ourselves and give people opportunities to start again. Maybe this is what resurrection is really about–second chances. Maybe this is what the bible means when it talks about the hope of new creation–the opportunity to begin again.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

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