Racism, Domestic Violence and A Crisis of Faith

If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, maybe don’t read this yet. Or you’ll probably be mad at me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

Say what you want about Grey’s Anatomy, but I’m a big believer that it is more than a TV show simply about indulging fantasies and unrealistic storylines. Shonda Rhimes is a brilliant writer who continues to create thought-provoking and insightful narratives that transcend the screen and enter our hearts. She’s done it again this week in Personal Jesus. How is it possible to cover an accurate depiction of domestic violence, racism, police brutality, and a crisis of faith in all of 42 minutes?

Sarah Drew, who plays April Kepner, is the superstar this week, and man, is she giving her best work. We see her wrestling with the story of Job in the Bible. Where was God while Job was struggling? I know she’s not the only one who’s asked Why, God? before.

It’s an honest question, and we see it tucked away in the core of this plot-line.

1. Domestic Violence

If you know me at all, you’ve more than likely heard me talk about Big Little Lies and how phenomenal of a job I think they did showing the cycle of violence. Graphic at times. Hard to watch at times. But rings pretty true to stories I’ve heard. Ever since I interned counseling survivors and abusers of domestic violence, I’ve been extra sensitive and hyperaware of how it’s portrayed on TV. This storyline isn’t as expansive as Big Little Lies is, but all the same, I think there is much to be learned from what’s being portrayed here. I think many often struggle with the question of why someone would choose to stay if they’re being abused. Check out this scene between Jo and Jenny. Listen to the thought process that usually goes through one’s mind as they’re considering leaving.

Leaving is not that simple. There is a blanket and foundation of fear, shame, and uncertainty that usually exists in an abusive relationship. More than likely there is confusion at one’s own thoughts. Something else that is common in DV is isolation from friends and family, so when you only have your own voice and the abusers voice to gather reason from, it’s simply not that easy to leave. Everything that you’re being told, internally and externally says you can’t. It’s hard to uproot those seeds of doubt, low self-esteem, and a forced dependency on the abuser (emotionally, financially, relationally, etc.).

2. Racism / Bias / Police Brutality

Let me just say – I feel ill-equipped to write about any of these topics, but especially racism and police brutality. I’m white. I haven’t been personally affected by this, and so I tread lightly and humbly. Please hear that.

Just to recap what happens to spark these conversations in this episode: a 12 year-old boy is shot in the neck when he’s seen climbing into the window of his own house when he forgot his key.

Jackson, who is an African American doctor, makes a statement after the initial scene that breaks my heart. He says, “They took his childhood today. He’s never going to be the same.” Later on, after the boy dies, Jackson approaches the officers. The lead quickly states that is was a high-pressure situation and they made a judgement call. And Jackson says,

“No. There was no judgement in that call. It was a reaction. You see skin color. We all do. But the reaction that you give to a white kid, versus the reaction you gave to the brown kid in that split second is measurable; a fixable difference. Bias is human. You have guns. You’re using guns! So yours is lethal.”

At this point, an officer pipes in and says, “We aren’t racist. We just never know who has a gun.”

And Jackson says,

“I didn’t say anything about racist, I said biased. And lucky for us, bias is fixable. You have protocols in place. Those can be adjusted. You can fix it. Or you can keep pretending that those don’t exist at all. Kids are dying. This kid is dead. For what? So many people, that look just like him, are dying. For what?

What strikes me the most in this story is the conversation Dr. Bailey and Ben have with their 13 year-old son, Tucker. It’s powerful.

Like I said, I am white. There’s a chance that I may never have to have this conversation with my future kids. I acknowledge this and the unfairness of it. And I know that it’s not enough for me to be sorry about this. I don’t have the answer here and I’m surely not claiming to. But I am confidently saying that our unwillingness to listen is hindering us from moving forward. We must learn and we simply must listen.

3. Crisis of Faith

And then we circle back to this story of Job. And the crisis of faith that so, so many people experience. And we’re left with this narrative from April:

That’s what Jesus said on the cross before he died: My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? Job asked the question, too. But he kept the faith. And what did he get for it? Replacement children. PTSD. Was it worth it, to be a faithful servant? Or would it have been better to just curse God’s name from the beginning? Where was God throughout all of Job’s suffering and pain? He was winning a bet with Satan.

Makes you wonder where He is through all of the unfairness, and inequity, and cruelty in the world… Where is He now?

I think what she’s asking is valid. It’s hard to make sense of how injustices and a loving God could possibly fit together in the same world. It doesn’t make sense and I a lot of times fail to do this very thing well. Sarah Drew responded to a comment someone left on her Instagram, stating this:

“I think the story we were telling here is a story about a real human in pain trying to wrap her brain around the injustices she sees and the belief in a good God. She is in a crisis as many people of faith face. There has been no declaration made about whether God exists or not [In her character’s storyline]- just a real person in pain spiraling into doubt. Doubt isn’t the enemy of faith. And remember, this isn’t the end of the story.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t know how to end this. It’s not wrapped up pretty and I don’t have conclusions. I wanted to start conversation and also, I’d like to say that I don’t think God is afraid or shocked by our doubt. I think this life is hard and we see and experience a lot of pain that makes it really easy, — maybe even justified — to doubt. It’s unfair. You can say that, go ahead. It is unfair at times.

So I guess I don’t have a pretty bow to put on this. Maybe just a few questions I’d love your thoughts on:

How can we better listen to our brothers and sisters?
How can we learn from our mistakes, own up to them, and ask for forgiveness?
How can we support and love our friend who can’t seem to work up the courage to leave an abusive relationship? What do we do?
And how can we come before God and humbly share our doubt, and still find Him on the other side of it?

Doubt isn’t the enemy of faith. And this isn’t the end of your story.


p.s. If you made it to the end of this post, bless you.

p.p.s – that song you heard at the end? Yeah. I know. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. But so good? So good. Listen up.

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