Why was Episode 5 of “The Chosen” so controversial?

A week or two ago, I was chatting with a lovely friend–hi, Eva!–who asked me when my next blog post would be coming.

“I don’t know,” I told her. “I never really know when I’m going to write a post. Usually, I see something, I get mad, and I write a post about how mad I am.”

Well, surprise, surprise … I SAW SOMETHING, AND NOW I’M MAD, AND I’M HERE TO POST ABOUT HOW MAD I AM.

*facepalms @self*

But seriously. I have things to say, and I must say them forthwith. 😛 Buckle up, munchkins.

If you’ve been following this season of The Chosen (an amazing TV series about the life of Jesus and his disciples which I can’t recommend highly enough), you know the fifth and latest episode, “Spirit,” made some pretty big waves in the fandom. Some people loved it. Others hated it. In this post, I want to talk about one specific criticism leveled at Episode 5, because I think it illustrates common audience expectations for Christian media … and how those expectations hold Christian storytellers back.

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In the pilot episode of The Chosen, Mary Magdalen, a prostitute who struggles with alcoholism, PTSD, and demon possession, meets a preacher named Jesus. He calls her by her name–her real name, not the name she’s been going by for years, Lilith. Jesus drives the demons from Mary’s mind and spirit, choosing her as his first disciple. It’s an incredibly raw scene of both pain and hope, and instantly boosted The Chosen way, way above the level of most run-of-the-mill Christian fare.

Fast-forward to Season 2, Episode 5. Mary has stayed in the background for most of this season, quietly going about her business as the male disciples bicker and jockey for power. (Seriously, Simon Peter. Get your act together. :-P) By the fifth episode, though, Mary begins to show signs of strain. She has a disturbing encounter with a Roman soldier, bringing flashbacks of her rape by a Roman years ago. She also witnesses a man in the throes of demonic possession, another painful reminder of her past. The triggers pile up, it becomes too much, and Mary wanders off to a tavern to drink, gamble, and generally drown her sorrows. Cut to black. End of episode.

Dallas Jenkins sure packs a mean cliffhanger, doesn’t he? xD

The problem is … some Chosen fans are complaining that Mary struggling with addiction after encountering Jesus is unbiblical. Not “unbiblical” in the sense of “this particular story didn’t happen in the Gospels.” A LOT of the show’s plotlines weren’t included in the Gospels. That’s nothing new. If you’ve continued to watch beyond the pilot episode, you’ve pretty much accepted that this is a fictionalized story. No, people are saying the very concept of a Christian returning to their addictions is unbiblical.

In other words, even if Mary Magdalen was addicted to alcohol, she couldn’t have continued to drink once she had Jesus in her life. Because Christians, apparently, just don’t make mistakes like that.

The Dread Pirate Jaimie | John mulaney, Comedians, Hooked on a feeling

Just kidding! We do have time to unpack all of that! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post! Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify that this isn’t a matter of a few isolated YouTube commenters. Enough fans have complained to prompt Dallas Jenkins to post a video specifically responding to this criticism. Which is unusual for him, since he rarely engages with negative comments. So yeah, it’s a serious issue, and I’d like to explore it.

What’s really going on here? What’s so scandalous or “unbiblical” about a Christian character with ongoing addiction issues?

Let’s break it down.

First, I think this criticism is influenced by certain Evangelical Protestant notions about salvation … or more accurately, notions about salvation which happen to be found in some Evangelical circles. Because obviously, if Evangelicals were a monolith, and if all Evangelicals thought the same way, Dallas Jenkins wouldn’t be in hot water with his fellow conservative Christians over his portrayal of Mary Magdalen. But he is. Why?

Because … a number of Protestant Christians who subscribe to born-again theology (ie, saved through faith by means of a singular decision to trust in Jesus) also believe that failure to satisfactorily transform your life in the wake of the aforementioned decision to trust in Christ proves your salvation experience was inauthentic. You were never truly “born again.” In other words, you were never truly a Christian.

In this particular theological schematic, your sins, which were supposed to be completely irrelevant to your salvation, can instead “make or break” you in the eyes of your fellow Christians. You messed up? You’re no longer one of us. Worse, you were never one of Jesus’ flock in the first place.

Again, I AM WELL AWARE NOT ALL PROTESTANTS BELIEVE THIS. Not all Evangelicals believe this. Not all born-again Christians believe this. Dallas Jenkins explicitly told us he doesn’t believe this! But it’s still out there. I’m not making this stuff up. I’ve watched my fellow Christians turn on their brothers and sisters using these very words. “I don’t believe you were every really saved.” And now I’m watching them turn on Mary Magdalen in The Chosen.

#i’m not happy, bob #ask me why I’m not happy

Yes, Mary Magdalene struggled, too: Day 35 Recap - YouTube

Now, as I’ve said before, I’m a Catholic, so I don’t approach salvation in terms of being “born again.” I see the Christian life as an ongoing journey with Jesus where nothing is set in stone. Sometimes sin has the upper hand, and sometimes grace has the upper hand, but you don’t know what will happen to you after you die until you actually … y’know … die. 😛 Because your story isn’t over until that moment. (If you want to learn more about my personal beliefs regarding salvation, check out this post.) But regardless, even if I believed being a Christian meant being “born again,” I WOULDN’T ARGUE THAT REAL CHRISTIANS CAN NEVER STRUGGLE WITH ADDICTION.

BECAUSE THAT’S ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIC.

ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO YOURSELVES.

*deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep breath*

We are all sinners, whether or not we have Jesus in our lives. We all make mistakes. We all stumble. The grace of God gives us a way to (slowly, painfully) root out those stumbling blocks within our hearts, but it doesn’t transform us into perfect little angels. Mature Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, recognize this. Immature Christians, meanwhile, claim the authority to take away other people’s “Christian cards” the minute they display weakness or vulnerability. Especially if–God forbid–such weakness stems from a legitimate mental health issue like *gasp* addiction!!!

In fact, that’s a good segue. Let’s tackle the addiction angle next.

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Addiction is a heavily … mythologized … issue in Christian culture. Yes, there’s a lot of shame and stigma surrounding it, but there’s also a strange fascination with curing it. Going back to the 19th-century temperance movements, the various Great Awakenings, and frontier revival meetings, all of which left an indelible mark on American Christian culture, we have this collective cultural image of the alcoholic or gambler who calls on Jesus, finds his sinful urges instantly and painlessly removed, and never succumbs to them again.

That’s the story American Christians want to see. And that’s the story The Chosen is refusing to tell.

No wonder people are a little steamed, huh? 😛

There are absolutely real-life Christians who have experienced instant recovery from addiction through God’s grace. That’s a beautiful blessing! Our God is absolutely powerful enough to grant us instant healing from either mental or physical disease; and on occasion, he will do so.

But is it always that easy?

No.

Is it usually that easy?

No.

Is it okay for us to demand this type of instant, permanent, miraculous change in a person’s life before we believe their relationship with Jesus is real?

AGAIN, NO.

The fact of the matter is, addiction creates chemical pathways in the human brain which require hard work, patience, and often, quite a few stumbles and missteps before they can be fully dismantled. This story of a slow, painful recovery from addiction is something that’s very personal to Dallas Jenkins. Even though he’s a lifelong Christian, Dallas has struggled with multiple episodes of pornography addiction. According to the logic folks are using to attack Mary Magdalen–if Dallas were a “real Christian,” he would’ve a) never fallen into that sin in the first place, or b) instantly and triumphantly defeated it, then never returned to those bad habits.

But that’s not what happened.

Can we just … step away from our idealized images of how Jesus “should” save those struggling from addiction, and instead listen to the real stories of people Jesus has actually saved?

Because I’m pretty sure there will be as much joy in heaven over somebody who took months or even years to kick their alcoholism (or porn habit, or drug habit) to the curb, as there will be over somebody who simply quit cold turkey.

Elizabeth Tabish on Instagram: “The entire first season of The Chosen is  available! Visit thechosen.… | Interesting faces, People need the lord,  Best tv series ever

Like I said, following Jesus is a journey. Focus on the end goal. Don’t get caught up in the process.

I will say, too, the way some Chosen fans have reacted to Mary Magdalen’s battle with alcoholism and PTSD is, sadly, par for the course for the way Christians often react to mental health issues in real life. If you have some serious mental struggle which God hasn’t immediately lifted, some Christians will freak out and reject you completely, because you’re a living denial of their cozy image of perfect Christian peace.

It’s also VERY interesting to compare the conversation around Mary with the conversation around the the male disciples, who have clearly and openly been shown Sinning and Doing Bad Things throughout Season 2. For example, Simon Peter keeps bullying Matthew, because Simon Peter (at this point in the story) is a selfish, cruel, and domineering character. “Why isn’t Mary making better choices”–uhhhhhhhhhh, WHY ISN’T SIMON MAKING BETTER CHOICES? If showing the disciples as ordinary, human sinners is “wrong” and “unbiblical,” why haven’t Simon’s sins provoked the same outcry?

Well, since you asked, I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Simon is a man and Mary is a woman. 😉 Men in Christian culture are allowed a wide latitude to make mistakes, a la “boys will be boys,” while women are expected to be pure, spotless vessels, utterly submissive and utterly angelic, with no inconvenient struggles or needs of their own.

Instead, The Chosen is showing a Christian woman with serious, ongoing, self-destructive tendencies … and a lot of people just don’t know how to handle that.

*le shrug*

~~~~

I’ve noticed a trend in Christian storytelling toward “before and after” stories. By “before and after” stories, I mean picture-perfect conversion stories, starring someone who was completely ignorant of Jesus, whose life was a complete mess … and then whoops, they found Jesus, they dropped every single bad habit like a hot potato, and now their life is squeaky-clean enough to grace the cover of a Bible college promotional brochure! Night and day, just like that! Hallelujah!

You know what’s funny, though? I look around at my life, the lives of my family members, and the lives of my lifelong Christian friends, and I don’t see squeaky-clean perfection. I don’t think MOST Christians ever experience that kind of sanitized, elevated existence, either.

So why do we cling to it in story form?

I think the answer is simple. Because we’re afraid.

We’re afraid Jesus isn’t everything we say he is. We’re afraid he can’t really save us. We stumble, and we fall … and we worry that maybe this time, Jesus is finally tired of picking us back up. So we point to stories of mythical people for whom Jesus obligingly fixed everything, right away, boom, shazam, and we say, “Look what God can do!”

Do you want to see what God can do?

Go read the Gospels again. And this time, pay special attention to the part where Peter denies Jesus THREE TIMES, after being his best friend for THREE YEARS, like a STINKIN’ COWARD. And then, think about Jesus choosing a guy like that to lead his church. Really think about that.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

I don’t think we need more stories of perfect Christians. I think we need more stories about people like us. And that’s exactly what The Chosen has to offer.

Mary Magdalene's Encounter With Jesus Left Her Completely Different — Seele

Have you seen Episode 5?

What did you think?

Let me know in the comments!

54 thoughts on “Why was Episode 5 of “The Chosen” so controversial?

Add yours

  1. I love this post so much! We do seem to have this idea that once we choose to follow Jesus, we’ll never go back to our sinful habits and addictions, which is just . . . not true. We’re human. We’re going to mess up! That’s why a relationship with Jesus is a lifelong one.

    Although I haven’t seen the Chosen, what happens with Mary Magdalene sounds very similar to something in a TV show I was recently watching. A devout Christian character is revealed to have had a terrible addiction to alcohol in the past. Towards the end of the season, as things get more stressful and tense, he has a relapse and begins to go back to his old alcohol habits. And I thought that was a very realistic way of showing that although he believes in and follows Jesus, he still struggles with vices, like we all do. (I don’t think there was any controversy around that, although it definitely wasn’t a Christian show. XD)

    Anyways, awesome post (as always)!

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    1. AMEN. A LIFELONG journey with ups and downs. THANK YE.

      Ooooh. That sounds like a wonderful and honest show! It wasn’t Daredevil, by any chance? (Not sure why Daredevil just randomly popped into my mind, but I seem to remember something about the MC being both a Catholic and having an addiction to alcohol?)

      Thanks, buddy! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooo, I haven’t seen Daredevil, but that’s interesting! It was actually a k-drama called Sweet Home. XD Very heavy on the horror and gore, but there were some really touching character moments in there. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a most interesting blog post with some provocative points! Somebody sent me the DVD of Chosen (I haven’t watched it yet) so it’s been quite interesting to hear your thoughts on it (though I haven’t had a chance to comment until now!) Soooo, I have loooots of thoughts. (not trying to argue with you! And me using all caps isn’t passive aggression, I get really excited talking about Jesus. XD

    Everything slides into context once we believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God!

    About being born again:

    Being born again isn’t something Evangelicals / Protestants made up for grins. 🙂 Jesus HIMSELF states that we MUST be born again: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3 And if we’re gonna doubt the words of Jesus, well, then we’re sunk. 😀

    To not be sure of our destination after Death is one of the very things that Jesus came to save us FROM. Religion has always been in fear of God, relying on works, on the intermediary of priests and hoping that they’d just squeak into Eternity. Jesus came to settle the question. If we believe in Him, follow Him, worship Him, and obey His word—we’re saved and we know where we’re going. God WANTS us to have that certainty, He wanted us to know that we were made for Eternity with Him—He doesn’t want us to be in the perpetual torture of not knowing where we’re going. John 10:27-30 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” How wonderful is that assurance??? 😍

    About the “YOU SINNED SO YOU’RE NOT SAVED” issue:

    Toooootallly agree that we are all sinners, every last one of us. What you said about the some acting as if they can take away our “Christian cards” the minute we display weakness made me laugh! So true!

    I think where the line is blurred sometime is this. Everybody messes up and God makes it clear that if we repent He will forgive us. Where people have a legitimate cause to suspect someone of not being a genuine believer is when they make absolutely no effort to dedicate their life to Christ, to discipline the flesh, or change their habits and lifestyle. If they’re FLAUNTING their weakness / sin and denying they need to repent.

    1 John 1:8–10: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    The one who is born of God does not make peace with sin. Walking in the light is not sinlessness, it is walking in a way that you have eyes to see the ugliness of what you just did, and you are sorry for it.

    About the addiction issue:

    Struggling against our weakness or our sin or fallen nature is something every single one of us will do every day till the day we die—God knows our weakness, and if we repent of it, He forgives us. But the Bible says you cannot willfully indulge the flesh or follow a sinful lifestyle (like continually abusing your body, which is a violation of God’s creation) – that is when you’re in danger of losing your salvation. “since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Hebrews 6:4-6

    Scripture makes it plan that we CAN escape from habitual sin or addiction. Sure we mess up, but when we mess up there was always a way were we didn’t HAVE to. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

    I’ve struggled with some really damaging habits and it’s possible I’ll always struggle with them, but because of my faith, I experience seasons of success, it’s not always perpetual low points of messing up. Because of my faith, it’s allowed me to get better, slowly but surely. These small but marked improvements are evidence of Christ Jesus working in me and evidence that I am indeed working out my salvation. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

    I think what God is looking for is a WILLINGNESS to let go of our addiction / mental health pain / struggles. Do you know what I mean? I mean, we have to accept that, if we are saved and going to Heaven, we WON’T have those struggles THERE. Another words: God has a version of you that does NOT include those struggles. God has a plan for you that does not include that kind of sin/pain – does that make sense? What we often see nowadays is Christians (or non-Christians) make our shortcomings / struggles / sins OUR ENTIRE IDENTITY. We ought to make CHRIST the center of our identity. Yes, we know that we might not get rid of these struggles in our life time (maybe a few people will), BUT, we have to want to, someday, live a life without it—even if we only get to do that in Heaven. Does that make sense? Jesus always asked people if they WANTED to be healed before He actually preformed any miracles. C.S. Lewis had an interesting bit about this in THE GREAT DIVORCE, where he showed some people CHOOSING to go to Hell because they weren’t willing to let go of their addictions because it was the most important part of their identity.

    ANYWAY, that was my blog post for the day, lol. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts with you because I thiiiiink that some of the sources you often site for Protestantism / Evangelical Christians are (hopefully!) a minority. 😛 Anytime any of us strays from the Bible, we’re gonna come up with weird ideas!

    In summary: As you know, I also INTENSELY dislike those Christian “before and after” stories. 😛 We’ve had some good rants (er, I mean conversations!) about this in the past. They don’t ring true, and often trivialize what it means to walk out our life as a Christian! I really want to write stories that show REAL people who don’t get a halo and wings the minute they’re saved.

    Last thing. …. I’m sorry, my Highly Accurate Brain won’t shut up here *whispers” – the Scripture about the stone the builders rejected is actually about Jesus, not Peter. Just sayin! It tells us that God’s Church is built on Christ – the only Human Being who has never sinned or totally blown it. 😛

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Alli! I know we don’t fully agree about salvation, and never will, and that’s okay. 🙂 But I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts! (Also, I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts about The Chosen–I have no idea if you’d enjoy it or agree with it, but it would be super interesting to talk about it with you!)

      I definitely agree that sinking into despair and not even TRYING to overcome our negative, self-destructive habits, is NOT what we’re supposed to do. 😉 But there’s still a wide range of recovery stories and redemption stories, and they often involve (in my own personal experience) incremental / uneven change over time. Which is what I think The Chosen is trying to show, and it makes me happy to see that kind of realistic representation. ❤

      Oh yes!! I was actually thinking of some of our conversations when I said we needed more stories about Christians who have been Christians for a long time and are still facing real struggles and real problems! I'm glad to have you as an ally in that department!

      I hope those particular voices are a numerical minority as well–and I was certainly encouraged by Dallas Jenkins (as an Evangelical) explicitly rejecting that mindset! I've still run into it too often to be comfortable, however. As sad as that is.

      Oh, yeah, I know the original context of that verse 😉 "The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone." But I also think it has a wider application, ie, God can and DOES use those rejected or passed over by the world to accomplish great things for his kingdom.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, friend!

      Like

  3. *sees post by Katie Hanna* — MUST READ NOW
    *sees it’s about episode 5* — OH NO I’M ON EPISODE 3 WHAT DO I DO
    *comments on post and saves for later reading* — perfect plan 😉

    Like

  4. I thought it was odd that they would go this route for Mary and initially I didn’t get it (why would she run back to a tavern when literally she has Jesus in the flesh to talk to in the way none of us do?), but then I remembered… Dallas isn’t telling a story about JUST Mary. He is telling a story deliberately in a way so that a lot of people can “relate” to these characters / see themselves reflected in their struggles. And a lot of believers struggle with addictions, with PTSD, and with doing what they wish they wouldn’t. Even Paul wrote something about he knows better, but still falls into the same sins all the time. You can always relate it back to yourself: why would Mary run back to the tavern? I dunno. Why would I do a lot of things rather than pray and meditate? Cuz we are human, and we have addictions, and we have coping mechanisms, and we don’t rely on Jesus. That is the point.

    Jesus knows where Mary is. He sent Matthew and Simon to find her. And Matthew’s verse (“down in the depths, you are there”) is going to be important. I just… really need the next episode right away. Like Inigo says in The Princess Bride, “I hate wait.” xD

    Poor Dallas gets abuse from every quarter. If it’s not Evangelicals whining about Mary, it’s legalistic believers saying he has no right to make up stuff and add it to scripture (Matthew being autistic), or Catholics complaining about his treatment of Mother Mary (some of them got mad because when asked what she remembers about his birth, she said it was “messy” — like, Baby Jesus came out of her clean and there was no blood or stuff). I wonder if he knew he was going to get abuse from everyone when he started this project. 😛

    To be honest, I think some people are always going to complain about SOMETHING. Doesn’t matter what it is, they will find some reason to be offended. That’s, frankly, what’s wrong with the world today.

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    1. Right! Intuitively, we assume that the disciples must’ve had an EASIER time not sinning since Jesus was right there with them, 24-hour access … but that’s not what the Gospels seem to show when we really look at them. Peter, Paul, etc. Which serves to connect them further to us ordinary Christians living ordinary lives: we ALL have the means to call on Jesus and receive his grace, and we ALL fail to do so from time to time.

      I absolutely need that episode pronto. This is Matthew’s turn to shine, and I know he’s going to do a wonderful job helping Mary, like the sweet, precious boy he is. ❤ (And maybe Simon will FINALLY learn to value Matthew's contributions … we can hope, anyway. ;))

      I think it's really interesting to watch Jesus slowly preparing Simon for his leadership position later on, trying to show him that a good leader must be humble, must respect others, must value his team members' good qualities instead of berating them, etc. I feel like this rescue mission for Mary is part of Simon's "training program."

      You're absolutely right. I've seen some pretty ridiculous complaints even before this. OMG, THE CATHOLICS SAYING THAT JESUS' BIRTH COULDN'T POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN MESSY–I would like to take my broom and bash some sense into them. xD How do they think babies are born???

      As a Catholic myself, I have literally no problem with the way they're portraying Mother Mary. She's delightful. ❤

      Yeah. Pipe down, silly people. 😛

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      1. I haven’t seen the show yet (would very much like to start soon), but I am going to pipe up and say that it’s Catholic theology that Mary did not suffer labor pains when birthing Jesus. I don’t know if there’s an official position on whether the birth was “messy” (there are mystics whose visions say that it very much wasn’t), but people aren’t wrong for objecting to the idea that Jesus had a normal human birth. Again, I haven’t seen the show, so I don’t know exactly what the show is suggesting, or whether it’s necessarily incorrect. Even if it is, it doesn’t really bother me, since they’re making a show for a wider Christian audience rather than writing a Catholic sermon.

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      2. @Ashley–That’s really interesting! I had heard the “no labor pains” idea before, I was always under the impression it was an ancient tradition rather than an official teaching. But, yeah, regardless, it would be kind of silly for folks to be mad at The Chosen for not including it, since it’s such a highly “niche” Catholic thing.

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      3. I think rather than rushing to judge things because they don’t exactly line up with what we assume to be true about Jesus, Mary M., etc…. it would be wise to ask, “Why is Dallas doing it this way?” Once you shift your perspective and consider his potential reasons, it’s way easier to accept that he isn’t trying to be strictly obedient to scripture (which btw doesn’t go in-depth on everything), but is making a story to which modern people can relate. He’s essentially saying — come and meet Jesus. He interacted with people just like you. And they had your struggles. They were Human, too. Mary M. is out there for all the raped women who can’t magically cure their PTSD with becoming a Christian. She is out there for all the people who struggle with addictions and relapse into things — and every single one of us does.

        I think people get too lofty sometimes. Mary M. going to a tavern is sinning, which is bad. But gluttony is also sinning, and we are a nation of increasingly obese people. Being a Christian doesn’t mean people automatically know when to stop overeating, does it? So why would being a Christian automatically fix people from being alcoholics, drug addicts, having a gambling problem, etc?

        Answer? It doesn’t. 😛

        I like what he said in the full 43 minute video on Facebook: if you don’t like what I’m doing that much, you don’t *have* to watch it.

        Christians get saddled with so much subpar film material and stories, I think we should be grateful for one that is well-acted, well-produced, thought-provoking, and well-written. And also remember, Dallas isn’t doing this for believers. He’s doing it so people who have had bad experiences in churches, who may not know who Jesus is… can “come and see.”

        Liked by 1 person

  5. *claps loudly*
    Fabulous post, Katie.
    I have not seen The Chosen yet (I think I’ll have to add it to my to-be-watched list, because it looks like such a great show), but I totally agree with you here.
    I really, really, really don’t like “before and after” stories either (whether they’re about Christianity or not) because they just seem so fake. Like, “If you do this, all of your problems will go away” when, most of the time, that’s not true. Being a Christian does not mean that I have no flaws or things that I need to work on. Because I do. I am not perfect. And nobody is.
    And it kind of…..bothers me when TV shows/movies/books show Christians as perfect humans who never struggle. Because…..we’re not.
    One again, great post. Lots to think about.

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    1. Thanks, McKayla!! So glad you liked the post!!

      Ooh, I HIGHLY recommend The Chosen. I think you would really like it! It’s rich, detailed, honest, and deeply emotional. It shows the disciples as real, three-dimensional characters.

      Right!!! I’m not perfect by any means, and neither are any of the Christians I know!! My life isn’t problem-free, and neither is anybody else’s! So why would we write stories about something that doesn’t really exist?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post!! I haven’t seen this show (I just heard of it right now lol, and I watched the trailer which looks awesome, so I’d probably watch it one day) but this is a very interesting question! I don’t consume Catholic media in general, unless you count classics like Anne of green gables which I love, but I think I have a big aversion to literally anything that sounds too preachy. And I totally agree with everything you said here! But then, I don’t live in the US and the ‘born again’ concept is an entirely new one to me, I’d only heard of it vaguely. So this was an interesting discussion, and you’ve written it so well!

    Like

    1. Thanks, friend!! It’s soooooooooooo good, I think you would love it! I’ve never really been into Biblical fiction, but this captured me right away.

      See, your perspective is really important and interesting! I live in the Bible Belt of the US, so even though I’m not a born-again Christian, that’s the type of Christianity that heavily dominates the culture here (and has a lot of sway over American Christianity as a whole). So I’m always trying to analyze how it influences our expectations and standards for Christian storytelling. I’m so glad you liked the post! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve first got to admit that I’ve never seen The Chosen… but I thoroughly enjoyed this post anyways!

    First, the comments about Peter. LOL, girl! When I read the Gospels, I feel like Peter was a bit of a jerk until the very end. 😂 I mean, he’s totally awesome after Jesus’ resurrection. But before then, he seems pretty bossy, controlling, a know-it-all, and just kind of jerk-ish! In my opinion, it’s pretty funny and relatable that the apostles were clearly sinners. Think that Peter was certainly domineering, a coward, and a Judas-type betrayer in his own right; James and John thought they deserved the highest spots in heaven; Paul was a serial killer… the list goes on. Want to see examples of imperfect people, look no further. XD

    Second, I think people who say “Oh, if you’re a true Christian you shouldn’t even have that problem with sinning anymore” are SO WRONG. That’s the most damaging thing you can say to someone who is struggling with sin and already hurting in their heart, feeling so guilty, wondering how much longer until forgiveness and mercy run dry. Pain and shame are two of Satan’s most powerful weapons, and he uses them to drive people back to darkness. After all, Satan is the father of lies, and he loves to tell that lie that God will never take you back.

    Third, I’m reminded of a powerful true story I heard about two years ago. It’s stayed with me. One of my mentors had just lost his brother. His brother was in the hospital, having had a stroke, and the whole family went to his side. None of them thought that this brother knew Jesus, so they prayed for a miracle – that he would wake up just one moment so they could share the gospel with him. He didn’t wake up, and he died. The family experienced heavy grief until they went to the brother’s house and found it filled with crosses. They were amazed because they knew he had always been addicted to drugs and was a regular at the local bar. They went to the bar, where the alcoholics there told them that “drunk or sober, all your brother talked about was Jesus. Because of him, we’re all Christians.” God uses broken people to witness for him. That broken man, whom everyone else saw as just an alcoholic, reached people for the Kingdom that other Christians are too high-and-mighty to associate with. I think that story is such a powerful example of how God uses and rejoices over witnesses who may not even shake their habits in this life. He is such a merciful God.

    Sorry for leaving you such a long comment! XD I often don’t realize how much I’ve written until I’ve finished. Have a great day, and this was an awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right! I think we have wayyyyyyy sanitized and romanticized our image of the original disciples over time … when actually, if you read the Gospels, it’s pretty clear to see they were often Hot Messes. 😛 Like all of us! Like all human beings! And that’s one of my favorite things about The Chosen, it’s showing that Jesus chose these “hot messes” to be his top lieutenants in this grand project of sharing the good news with the world, BECAUSE WE ARE ALL HOT MESSES. There are no perfect, un-messy humans anywhere. God chooses to work through human beings knowing our shortcomings.

      That is such an amazing story!! That’s such an important lesson to remember, too, you never truly KNOW somebody’s heart … and you especially won’t learn somebody’s heart or their real relationship with God if you just “assume” they’re a depraved sinner who’s not worth your time. If you act like they have to become more like you, instead of maybe sitting down and listening to what they have to teach YOU.

      No, no, never apologize for long comments! I love them!! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve seen a lot about the Chosen recently, I wasn’t sure about watching shows about Jesus and the Bible because 1) I was brought up in the belief that this violated the 2nd commandment (which I don’t necessarily disagree with, I just haven’t professed since I was a child) and 2) It is almost physical pain when something is literary and historically inaccurate to me, and then when you add that this is the Word of God (again, I’m not a Christian, but by that I mean I’m not saved, regenerate, born again, more on that, not that I just threw everything out, I can’t do that), its just, I don’t know if I could handle it, but I’m getting quite curious.

    The formal doctrine of regeneration is not a new doctrine, the term born again is I believe modern jargon. The formal doctrine of sanctification is not new either and is also held by evangelicals. I’m not an apologist, so I’m not going more in depth, but my point is, I understand we will disagree, I just think that in expressing disagreement, it is important to be accurate about the other person’s position. Researching various religions, sects, and denominations is on my to-dos, its just a daunting task.

    I don’t know about this particular issue, but I do think there can be an issue of people making a false profession (there are social benefits in the country at least in certain states and areas and families etc. sensitive subject for that I’ve been thinking of) whether intentionally or not and then claiming that they are “struggling” with sin, when they really aren’t struggling, but indulging (again, personal familial experience with huge consequences for the “collateral” damage people). Perhaps that is what some of these people are thinking of, the excusing of sin as struggle.

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    1. Also, I apologize for all my grammatical and syntax errors, I looked back over and wow, there are quite a few. I hope this is understandable.

      Like

    2. Oh, no, no worries! I got what you were saying just fine!

      The Chosen isn’t trying to be 100% historically accurate, so that might be a frustrating issue for you if you did choose to explore it. In my opinion, it’s quite good and well worth a watch, but that’s just, like, MY opinion, man. 😉 Especially since I get sooooooo annoyed and steamed up whenever anybody pressures me to watch something I’m not interested in. So only jump in if you want to!

      Yep, “born again” is newer language for sure (expressing an older idea that’s been around since … the early 1800s? ish?)

      And my intention with this post isn’t to focus on the fact that I disagree with born-again Christianity or the idea of “being saved,” even though I DO–but rather, to express disagreement with the very specific idea that a “saved” Christian can’t subsequently struggle with addiction. Which is something the creators of The Chosen, themselves born-again Christians, have been very adamant in arguing against, and I applaud them for it.

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  9. After reading through all these comments and then looking back on our texts from yesterday (*grins*), I’m not sure there’s much more I can add! So I think I’ll just repeat two of the points I touched on in our conversation yesterday afternoon…

    NUMBER ONE: It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that while American Evangelicals will rail up and down against “Prosperity Gospel,” they WANT it in the stories they consume. Heaven forbid that a Christian write a book or make a movie/TV show where the Christians don’t experience total earthly bliss and all the loose ends of their lives get tied up with a nice little bow at the end! FOLKS, THAT IS NOT HOW THE CHRISTIAN LIFE WORKS. We have mountains and valleys, and there are some heartbreaks and temptations that’ll never be completely alleviated this side of Heaven.

    NUMBER TWO: I think these critics of “The Chosen” are showing a profound lack of honesty and compassion when they rail against Mary Magdalene’s portrayal. Have THEY never given in to a sinful temptation? Have THEY never wrestled with “dark nights of the soul” where it feels like all your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? If they insist that no, they’ve never experienced these things, then I say they’re lying–and I have 1 John 1:8 to back me up.

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    1. I loved our conversation yesterday so much! ❤

      And you're absolutely right about the prosperity gospel. I hadn't even thought of that angle, but it exactly expresses the attitude cropping up here: "I'm going to use simplistic external benchmarks of material success and worldly thriving to judge whether you are 'saved' or not." Oh, Jesus didn't cure your addictions immediately? He didn't heal your depression? He didn't give you a big house, a fancy car, a flourishing business, a hot wife, and a bunch of (problem-free) kids? WELL THEN, I GUESS HE MUST NTO LOVE YOU AS MUCH AS HE LOVES ME.

      *gags*

      And seriously, what kind of message we sending to our readers, what kind of false expectations are we creating, if we're constantly feeding them stories where being a Christian means getting all the shiny things you asked for, right now, no delays, like a little kid on Christmas morning? That’s always fun, but it’s by no means a guarantee!!! And it’s NOT what following Jesus is all about.

      *applauds, then applauds some more* Absolutely. We’ve all been there. We’ve all succumbed to our personal demons. We’ve all drifted away from God when we felt like God wasn’t enough. But that doesn’t have to mean the end of our story as His chosen.

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      1. I just want to comment — it’s not like only Christians are doing this. Fairy tales end at the wedding. Romantic comedies have everything all “fixed” after a misunderstanding. Stories in general set us up to have greater expectations than we can expect in life. Most people want escapism in their fiction (I know I do) and for it to have a “happy ending.” I just think in some sense, people aren’t being realistic in dividing a “inspirational story” (no struggles) from “real life” (struggles).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, that’s true. And you know I love me some happy endings. 😉

        I think, though, that Christian fiction specifically has the issue of linking easily obtained, unrealistic happy endings with following Christ. Aka, “this is not just a fairy tale, this is what your real life is guaranteed to look like as long as you follow Jesus! Don’t you wanna do that now? Don’t you? DON’T YOU–”

        Liked by 1 person

  10. This is true, Charity–and I freely admit that I love my happy endings, too! (Why else would I write fix-it fanfic?) I think there’s a difference, though, between a happy ending that is FOUGHT for by people who may still deal with physical/emotional/mental scars for the rest of their lives, and a happy ending that leaves everything perfect and tidy, with no room for future realistic struggles. Which is basically what you were saying about “inspirational” vs. “real life” stories.

    Mary Magdalene is going to get her happy ending; indeed, I truly believe that everyone who loves and follows Jesus will share in His final, joyous victory! But her happy ending–and ours–won’t look like the “you came to Jesus and now you’ll have no problems” earthly happiness that people seem to expect her–and us–to have.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. “Usually, I see something, I get mad, and I write a post about how mad I am.” 🤣

    (No, I get that.) 😉

    “Instead, The Chosen is showing a Christian woman with serious, ongoing, self-destructive tendencies … and a lot of people just don’t know how to handle that.”

    THIS.

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    1. #my life xD

      RIGHT??? This isn’t just an issue with Christian audiences. There’s a reason “antiheroes” of all stripes are usually male (not saying Mary M is an antihero, she’s not, but springboarding into a wider topic). People accept male characters with messy, un-admirable tendencies and qualities FAR more readily than they accept female characters with the same issues.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. YES! I totally agree. (Also, I had actually never seen The Chosen. I watched the first episode last night and LOVE it so far.) x

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  12. The grace of God gives us a way to (slowly, painfully) root out those stumbling blocks within our hearts, but it doesn’t transform us into perfect little angels.

    Oh my gosh. THIS.

    I have no words with which to applaud your arguments in this post, Katie. Honestly, I am so glad I popped on your blog today to check this out. I actually had no idea people were losing their poop over this last episode (I loved it lol), and I’m so glad I was able to hear your thoughts.

    I feel like there’s just something real about the disciples, and this show has reminded me that they were people too. They struggled, they argued, and the women in Jesus’s circle had to deal with the men—things that obviously happened that the Bible doesn’t always show. Even in scripture, Mary is shown as a demoniac, alcoholic, and an adulteress/prostitute, and it would make sense that she would struggle with past trauma or temptation following her encounter with Christ. Why? Because she’s human. Plain and simple. That’s exactly what Christ is all about: taking imperfect people and drawing them to himself.

    Also, it was interesting how you pointed out that Mary’s a woman and is getting more criticism for her vices than Simon Peter and the other disciples who actually get on my nerves a LOT (especially in episode three, I think it was, where they were all fighting around the campfire). All of them except Matthew, of course. Matthew has a lot to learn, but Matthew is baby 🥺🥺.

    In short, thank you for this marvelous post! So glad I got to read it. 😉

    Emily

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Emily, thank you so much! *blushes profusely* I’m so happy you liked my post!

      Yes!! The Bible is very clear that Mary had had an extremely traumatic past. True, it doesn’t explicitly say “and she still had some problems even after she met Jesus,” but given what the Gospels show of the OTHER disciples’ stumbles and shortcomings, and given what we know about how trauma and addiction actually work in the real world … it’s reasonable to assume she did struggle. And there should be no shame in that. Rather, there should be grace and compassion. ❤

      Literally, yes. Simon Peter annoyed me So Much in that episode. I know we're all trash humans sometimes and I know he's gonna get better (eventually), but IF YOU WANNA POINT FINGERS AT SOMEBODY … THE LOCAL BULLY IS SITTING RIGHT THERE.

      Thank YOU for reading, friend!

      Like

    2. If you are going to be strictly Biblical, you can’t portray Mary M. as a prostitute, because she wasn’t. The myth of her being an adulterer and a prostitute is unsubstantiated. No one knows why Pope Gregory associated her with the reluctant sinner in Luke and with Mary of Bethany in the Middle Ages. Most modern scholars believe she was only freed of demons and was independently wealthy enough to travel around among Jesus’ disciples; she clearly had no “man” in authority over her who could forbid it.

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      1. Oh yeah, I remember something about that, now that you mention it. There’s a lot of “wait, who is really who??” because the women aren’t always identified clearly in the Gospels.

        I’m curious to meet Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in The Chosen, since they haven’t shown up yet, but I assume they have to at some point … ?

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for this post. I agree with you. The picture perfect Christians actually are a hinderance to new and struggling Christians. I thank God for the Holy Spirit who wouldn’t let me go. Watching Mary struggle and go back to some of her old ways reminded me of my beginnings in my walk with Jesus. I love Chosen ♥️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you! I’m so glad you liked my post!!

      And YES, I fully agree! Setting up an unattainable, unrealistic ideal of “immediate and perfect peace with no slip-ups or mistakes” will only discourage people from sticking with Jesus long enough to let him really change them.

      It’s a marvelous show, isn’t it? ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I did watch episode 5. What is interesting to me, is that Mary is shown to have pain and struggles. We can look at this and realize that every one of us does! By God’s Grace, He saves us through faith, when we believe. It is an ongoing process of growth and becoming more like Christ. We will stumble! The apostle Paul wrote about how he stumbled and wished that he didn’t do certain things. I think that people need to stop being critical and realize that every believer still has a sin nature. We continue hopefully to grow. Mary Magdalene stumbled at this one point in the story. She was never perfect. She did stumble in this episode and we will in our life too. We have to accept God’s Grace for ourselves and others.

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    1. I’m glad you loved the episode! I did, too! ❤

      Exactly. I think it's very humbling to realize how much we have in common with Mary–with all the disciples, really. The show isn't shying away from showing them as "hot messes." But so are we all, in one way or another. We're all a mess, and Jesus calls us anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We surely are all hot messes! We are broken and we need Jesus daily! He loves us enough to have a relationship with us and He does call us too! Thank you for your comments! I can’t wait for episode 6😄

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for this! I have personally in my life experienced stigma in the church regarding mental illness. I and my brother in law have both struggled with it and people had no idea what to believe about us, and some still struggle. It is exactly because they want to believe Jesus should always be in control of keeping our minds in perfect peace. So it is automatically your fault if you don’t keep your mind upon Him and submit every thought to Him. It is impossible to do when the mind is imbalanced, and I believe God allows it the same way He allows people to go though other illnesses and diseases. He has a purpose in everything. And definitely women get the harsher treatment, because if a man has mental illness and even ends up sinning in the midst of it, it is because he works too hard and took too much upon himself. On the other hand, the woman is just a homemaker and there is no reason a baby should be that stressful… she must have been really weak and selfish. 🙄

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    1. Friend, I am so sorry you’ve had to experience that type of rejection and stigma from fellow Christians. I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s really rough. :/

      Both secular culture and religious culture have a long way to go towards being fully accepting and affirming of people who struggle with mental illness … but American Christian culture is SOOOOOOO far behind, it’s EMBARRASSING. “You have an anxiety disorder??? What??? Does that mean you don’t love Jesus anymore???? Wait, you see a tHERAPIST who isn’t even a cHRISTIAN COUNSELOR????? You take DRUGS????????” *flips table*

      Um, yeah. Not to make light of an incredibly serious issue, but yeah.

      I hope you and your brother-in-law can both find a Christian community which gives you the love and affirmation you deserve. ❤

      Like

  16. As someone who’s suffered with addiction most of my life, I can relate to this. I’m saved, but I still struggle with it some days. Addiction is no more or less a sin, than any other sin. Did the ppl criticizing this show suddenly become sinless after getting saved? Of course not, everyone sins in their own way, even after being saved and giving their life over to Jesus. Why single out the sin of addiction? What makes it any worse than any other sins that we all struggle with? Only those who are blind to their own sins and shortcomings would ever think this way. We’re all sinners, and we all need to ask for forgiveness every day.

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    1. Amen! ❤ We're all sinners, we're all flawed human beings, and we're all in need of God's constant grace.

      I'm really glad you can relate to the portrayal of ongoing struggle on The Chosen, and find it comforting! I find it really comforting myself in terms of my own mental health issues, seeing Christian characters who don't "have it all together." Whose issues weren't immediately cured the instant they met Jesus.

      Like

  17. *EYEROLLLLLL*

    *sigh*

    “This family makes me want to murder people.”

    This is exactly one of the issues that often bother me in Christian media: as I’ve said in one of my own posts, Christian storytelling seems fixated on ensuring that the trial always ends for the true believer. And I just . . . I JUST . . .

    I don’t mind some stories in which complete spiritual healing comes this side of heaven, or within a certain timeframe — but I SURE DO MIND people criticizing stories which acknowledge that spiritual healing is often a fatiguing, cyclical process.

    “We’re afraid Jesus isn’t everything we say he is. We’re afraid he can’t really save us. We stumble, and we fall … and we worry that maybe this time, Jesus is finally tired of picking us back up.”

    ^^ UM OKAY I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING

    Magnificent post, m’dear. 😉 ❤

    (Also: that picture of Mary under the tree is so prettyyyyyyyyyyy.)

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    1. “This family makes me want to murder people.” Same though. xD

      That’s exactly it!!! With Christian fiction, it’s way more than a generalized preference for happy endings, it’s a demand for a specific TYPE of happy ending where your struggles (particularly your spiritual and emotional struggles) are over for good … and then linking that type of happy ending to a guarantee or “proof” of salvation. “If Jesus didn’t grant you this type of peace, then you’re not really one of us, and we’re not gonna accept your story as proper Christian Fiction, because you’re not really one of us.”

      *seethes*

      Thank youuuuu! ❤ So glad you liked it! YES SHE IS VERY PRETTY

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  18. I have wanted to like the Chosen but it takes far too many artistic liberties in filling in missing or unknown information about key people in the scriptures. This episode is controversial not so much that it depicts Mary as a sinner who is repenting from a very radical life change (e.g. Paul) than that there is literally no scriptural basis for the content they artistically formulated for the story. I myself prefer reading the scriptures as they are recorded and visualizing the remarkable men and women that these were.

    Yes, they had numerous struggles discovering what it meant to follow their Lord. But I am of the strong opinion that once they committed in their hearts, they largely left behind the old life they once lived because of Whom they followed. They themselves committed to fulfill to help their Lord in His work and were chosen because of their ability to remain faithful, come what may.

    To address your post and one of the readers comments, no, Mary wasn’t “shown [in scripture] as a demoniac, alcoholic, and an adulteress/prostitute.” She was demoniac, but that’s all we know. Yes, I understand we all want to connect and say “hey, that’s me” so the scriptures come alive and are relatable to our struggles. But there is no scriptural mention of prostitution, alcoholism, and PTSD for Mary. However, here is what we do know about this remarkable woman:

    “The four canonical gospels do not say much about the saint: after Jesus casts seven demons out of her [Luke 8:2], she becomes one of his disciples and stays at his side during the crucifixion [Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25]. She is then the first person to see the resurrected Christ and to announce this to the other disciples [John 20:1-18]. ”

    This blog post I took this quote from offers a very thorough overview of Mary Magdalene based upon the historical records that have survived today:

    http://trivialdevotion.blogspot.com/2014/10/mary-magdalenes-demons-luke-82.html

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    1. I can understand not approving of the fictionalized version of the disciples which The Chosen presents. Because you’re right: this show is, and always will be, a fictionalized account. So someone who watches and enjoys the show (like myself) needs to do so with the clear understanding that this is an ARTISTIC IMPRESSION of what the disciples “might” have been like in their day-to-day lives. Not who they actually, definitely were … a question we’ll never have a full answer to in this world.

      “They … were chosen because of their ability to remain faithful, come what may.” This is a valid viewpoint, but I don’t personally agree with it. I’m glad you brought it up, though, because I think it succinctly expresses the issues at stake here. Do we believe the disciples were chosen because they were fundamentally faithful and unlikely to stray, or not?

      For my part, I would argue Peter’s betrayal of Jesus at the Crucifixion (and indeed, all the other disciples except John, who ran away and left Jesus as well), undermines this position. Yes, that was a momentary lapse which didn’t persist long … but so is Mary’s lapse as imagined by the showrunners. The fact remains, Peter stumbled and fell. Badly. Even after three years with Jesus, he denied his faith to save his own skin.

      You’re right, we don’t have evidence that the real Mary M was an alcoholic or a prostitute. However, I’m okay with that embellishment, because I figure somebody possessed by seven demons is going to be deeply troubled in some aspect in their lives, which may spill over into other mental health issues like addiction.

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate it!

      Like

  19. I would add that I absolutely believe that people can change from murderers and thieves to incredible people. And yes, they can struggle as they learn what that means, but again, my concerns are with the copious artistic liberty taken throughout the whole series.

    Liked by 1 person

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