CBS announced last week that it was pulling its faith-themed sitcom, Living Biblically, off the air and replacing it with repeats from The Big Bang Theory. For television experts, the move probably wasn’t much of a surprise. The show was the network’s lowest-rated programs, pulling around 4.2 million viewers a week.
Which, I think, is a shame all the way around. Living Biblically sure wasn’t perfect, as you can see from our review, but it was still one of the most heartening shows on TV. It’s the sort of thing we need more of, not less.
The premise of the show was taken from A.J. Jacobs’ book The Year of Living Biblically, where Jacobs attempts to live as closely to how the Bible says we should—word-for-word, Leviticus included—as possible. That means sporting a long beard (from Leviticus 19:27), wearing clothes made from all the same type of cloth (Leviticus 19:19), following tons of commandments and a lot of trial and error. It was an interesting read.
While Jacobs’ book focuses primarily on the Old Testament CBS incorporated more of both Old and New. And while Jacobs undertook his experiment to, well, write a book, the main character of Living Biblically, Chip, decides to live by the Bible because his life has become messy. And he needs help.
After his best friend passes unexpectedly, Chip digs into the Bible to try and discover what it is about this special book that has helped so many. And what he finds surprises him. He learns that false idols aren’t just statues of Baal, but anything you place above God—and that each person’s “idol” can be different. He reads that stealing is not OK—even when it’s just office supplies. He struggles with loving his neighbor, but he also learns that everyone is your neighbor and everyone deserves to be loved, not just tolerated. He battles with honoring his parents, which can get real tough if, like Chip, your father can be a pain. He vows to go an entire day without lying, and he wrestles with the white lies that often slip out to protect others’ feelings. He even defends prayer and faith.
I think it’s pretty neat that CBS would want to dive into these topics, if even for a short while. I know that as I watched the episode about false idols, I had to think about how often I use my phone, and how it can be a distraction and waste of time. And when Chip struggles to love his neighbor, well, I too ask for patience and wisdom on how to love others well. Because, let’s be honest, people are difficult.
You won’t find these sorts of Bible-based lessons anywhere else on mainstream television, as far as I’m aware. Sure, language, drinking and sexual jokes sometimes show up on Living Biblically, but so do relatable life lessons. I mean, I can’t be the only one who gets distracted while praying or finds it difficult to love others well.
The thing is, we’re all human. And even when we choose to follow Jesus, we will mess up. It’s inevitable. I think that’s why I like this show so much. And I’ll miss it. People mess up and they have to figure out how to move on in forgiveness when they do. In a world where a lot of Christians strive to look squeaky clean, Living Biblically felt surprisingly refreshing. And it’s a shame to lose it and return to our regularly stale, scheduled programming.