In this season of “Justified,” there’s a new kid in town by the name of Billy St. Cyr (Joseph Mazzello), and he’s brought with him a little of that old-time religion, much to the consternation of local entrepreneur Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Of course, longtime viewers know that Boyd himself, despite his proclivities for drug dealing and all manner of other shady activities, is a born- again Christian his own self, though his faith has lapsed somewhat over the years.
It was a lot of fun seeing these two men of opposing sides of religion go up against one another in the aptly-titled episode “Truth and Consequences.” Boyd can quote scripture with the best of them, and Billy was none too shabby in that department as well, which bodes well for an ongoing feud over the course of the season, especially with the lines now clearly drawn in the proverbial sand. Though it remains to be seen whether Billy will fully recover from his somewhat misguided snake mishandling brought on by Boyd’s confrontation, I’m guessing these two are just getting warmed up.
One thing I really like about “Justified“- and there are many- is the way it handles religion in a broader sense. So many of the projects coming out of Hollywood and, in a more general sense in the United States, tend to approach religion with either complete disdain or as a punch line to a joke only they are in on. It’s a rare project, indeed, that isn’t funded by a religious organization- i.e. the “Left Behind” movies- that actually treats religion with a certain regard without resorting to the typical overt dismissal of the subject out of hand as a complete fallacy that is outmoded, outdated, and has outlived its usefulness on the whole. “Justified” is one of the rare projects that need not have been any different from the rest of the pack, yet, for whatever reason, has chosen to remove itself from the typical approach in favor of something.else.
It’s kind of hard to put exactly what I mean into words. It’s not as if I’m some card-carrying Bible thumper myself. I’m agnostic, in fact, and, though I was raised a Christian and probably have a little more invested there than in other religions, by my own admission, I still have long been fascinated by other religions and how they function in a given society. While the true hot-button religious topic seems to be Muslim these days, I would argue that, in the States at least, it’s Christianity that tends to be the go-to religion to lay blame at the feet of.
Oh, to be sure, a whole lot of atrocities have been done in the name of the Lord over the years, so Christianity isn’t much better off than Islam in that regard, even these days, though you might not want to make that declaration in front of a certain contingent of the US, particularly those who also cling tightly to a certain amendment- almost as tightly as they do to their weapons. Nonetheless, my point is that Christianity has come a long way in its portrayal in the media. It once was the norm that you never took aim at such things, at least not in a way that implied blame, such as that serial killer that claimed that “God told him to do it.” When those things happened before, it was always a given that God wasn’t truly to blame, but rather a misinterpretation of His Word by a misguided soul. Now that has changed, some would say irrevocably.
Nowadays, people certainly aren’t afraid to say that Christianity can cause as much trouble as it does good in the world. In fact, many would say that the glass once half full is now half empty. In short, Christianity ain’t what it used to be, and that’s fine. This is America, after all, where we’re all free to speak our minds and worship as we please, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Why shouldn’t there be some open-ended debate about the pros and cons of religion and its place in society?
All of that said, what makes “Justified” and the way it handles religion so impressive to me is the way it refuses to take sides. Nor does it claim to have all the answers. You see one person’s point of view, then another’s. You see one who has embraced religion, perhaps for his own selfish devices, perhaps not; but you also see those who believe and make no apologies for it. It allows the viewer to think for themselves, make their own choices as to who is right and who is wrong, or if anyone is. There’s no real judgment there, unless it comes from a character who feels a certain way, and even then, it makes sure to let you know that another viewpoint is just as valid. There are no easy answers given, just as there are no easy answers in reality. I like that.
By now, we all know that no religion is perfect, and that our religion, if any, may not be the end-all be-all answer to all our problems. That there may not be such a thing as a “meaning of life” or “ultimate answer” to all our questions. That we may well on our own- or we might not. You never know.
I feel that “Justified” gets that, and that a large part of its reason to exist is in exploring that quality of life and from both perspectives- or none at all, as the case may be. Wiish that more shows were brave enough to do the same thing.