Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Religious Symbolism of "The Office"

I recently discovered this little show called The Office which airs…well, almost around the clock in reruns. It apparently has a pretty loyal following. Which is reminiscent of another TV show that is popular these days, Lost.

Unlike Lost, however, The Office is rich in religious symbolism. Whereas Lost is about being lost, which is slang for not possessing faith, The Office is bursting with Biblical metaphor.

For example, the show revolves around the creation ordinances: work, rest, relationships, marriage, and family. All this is part of God’s created order, as we see in Genesis 1 and 2. For those who believe humor is a creation ordinance, there’s plenty of that too.

Not to point out the obvious, but those in the “office” sell paper. Get it? The paper clearly represents the written word, a nod to the Protestant Reformation and the mass production of Bibles in the language of the people.

Thus The Office is a metaphor for American evangelicalism. The leader of the “office” is a guy who wears a suit, much like your average evangelical pastor. The “employees” have diverse gifts and backgrounds, as 1 Corinthians 12 describes. They are supposed to work together (see Ephesians 4), but of course this is a challenge as it is in any church—oops, I mean “office.”

And the reason they have such strained relationships, as the Bible tells us, is the Fall. This goes back to the creation account once again, in which sin entered the world and made our relationships a mess. Even as believers, we struggle with our relationships to one another and even to God. And as The Office so profoundly illustrates, we even make the distribution of God’s word merely a means to make a buck. Yes, we do need a new Reformation! Thank you, Office, for this clarion call.

It’s exciting that a show of such striking religious commentary made it onto the air.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Insightful post, Ken. Don't forget that in the first few season's of The Office, the plot was driven by the constant threat of downsizing, and the goofiness that occured as a result of the "manager's" attempts to motivate the "employees" in an attempt to stay relevant.

commentary on the decline of evangelicalism?