The OA? For Lent?
“There will come a point when you’ll see why you’re here, what you might do together, how you could help people that you’ll never meet. But you will have to pretend to trust me until you actually do.” — The OA
Welcome to The OA for Lent! The Netflix hit show The OA is filled with spiritual themes and raises some really important questions around faith and meaning that we think are worth exploring in greater depth.
In the Christian tradition, the season of Lent—the forty days leading up to Easter—is a time of faith formation. While it may more colloquially be known as a time to give up eating chocolate; Lent has historically been a time to engage faith more seriously.
For many, this engagement focuses on the sacraments of the church, reflection on scripture or tradition, or a meditation on a symbol of Christian faith. These practices — thick or thin — are largely products of a culture that has historically exalted their value. For the purpose of this project we aren’t particularly interested in defending or refuting those practices. We are however invested in engaging resources that contribute to understanding faith more broadly as a living source of justice, love, and mercy.
We, two Lutheran pastors, naturally approach Netflix’s series with the Christian story as our lens. However, we also recognize that The OA incorporates other faiths as well as spirituality untethered by tradition. The show does so without providing easy or rote answers or defaulting to traditional frames of community, faith, callings, and the afterlife. We are profoundly inspired by this approach, as it resonates deeply with the changing American spiritual landscape. We tend to agree with the wisdom of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel when thinking about this changing landscape and the competition religion faces to be a primary source of identity and practice. He writes,
“Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion, its message becomes meaningless.”
We are trained as Divinity School and Seminary graduates. Yet, we’re not wearing academic or religious robes in the creation of this resource. We’re wearing sneakers. We approach The OA as people who value people, find power in the practice of faith, and as members of a tribe who are inspired by creativity that connects people by crossing boundaries.
That means we like to binge watch shows with multidimensional characters and themes that raise questions about faith and practice. We appreciate The OA in part because it’s themes feel relevant. It tells a story guided by love, which acts with an urgent need for transcendent connection. We hope this project will carry on the show’s vision and provide you with tools to more deeply engage your own spiritual practices.
Listen to our first conversation “Introducing the The OA for Lent” below about how we came up with The OA for Lent, what to expect, and some of the spiritual themes we’ll be exploring this Lent:
Finally, Some Things you Might Be Wondering
What Can I Expect?
Important! Avoid spoilers! Watch each episode first.
After you watch the episode, read the corresponding post and listen to the conversation for each one. They will follow a regular pattern. There will be a episode summary highlighting the spiritual themes, a podcast conversation between Martin and Keith and other friends (listen here on the site, or on-the-go with iTunes, or Soundcloud). There will also be Scriptural references, reflection questions, and suggested spiritual practices. We also hope to throw in a couple Facebook Live videos along the way.
How Do I Use This?
However you want. These resource can be used by individuals, small groups of friends, or faith communities. Faith leaders may want to use these resources for their own teaching and preaching preparation. You can just listen to the podcasts and forget the rest, or maybe you want to focus on the spiritual practices for each episode. It’s totally up to you.
How Can We Connect?
Who Created This?
Two friends, fellow pastors, and binge watchers: Martin Malzahn and Keith Anderson. Read more about us here.
Whom Does This Benefit?
Hopefully, you. We created this partly for fun, and partly as a free gift for those exploring questions of faith, spirituality, and meaning. If you’d like to make a donation to express your gratitude, please donate to Trinity Place Shelter. We think its in keeping with the spirit of The OA to support a community that helps the lost, abandoned, rejected, vulnerable, and offers them unconditional love, support, and hope.