Friday, February 26, 2016

Christianity in Quantum Leap 1: “The Americanization of Machiko”


There are a lot of moments in QL that seem to indicate that Sam is a Christian. He takes the fact that he is “invading” others’ lives seriously and makes an effort not to lie while in their skin. For example, here in “Machiko” he avoids saying he loves Machiko, but instead awkwardly states, “Charlie loves Machiko.” Later he is nervous that he won’t leap out before it is time to make the wedding vows. In another episode, he is worried about the fact that he is on a man’s honeymoon, and that it would be wrong to consummate that man’s marriage. Those are all a bit indirect.

Then there are moments like the one at the end of “The Americanization of Machiko” where it becomes more explicitly about what it means to be Christian. Aside from the obvious racial message of the episode, there is another, secondary story-line, hinted about the death of Charlie’s sister. What Sam discovers is that she became pregnant out of wedlock and committed suicide due to the shame and rejection she felt from the town and her mother.

Sam call’s Charlie’s mom out on her Christianity. Her form of religion is not about a recognition of sin and a need for salvation and forgiveness. It is the more typical, religious, legalistic variety of Christianity. The one that gives the true faith a bad name. The mother is all about judging the shortcomings of others, and taking pride in her own self-righteousness. Therefore, when her daughter committed one of the “worst” (read shameful) sins of sex outside of marriage, and worse, got pregnant, she couldn’t love her anymore. It reflected poorly on her person, and her self-righteousness.

With Machiko, another prideful aspect of this form of Christianity is exposed. Machiko is different, and different is “bad” to these sorts of people. All because they see themselves as “good” so different equals “bad.” So, when Machiko ends up seriously injured due to the mother’s rejection, and in the same hospital room where her daughter died, she cannot bring herself to accept Machiko. The main reason is because she cannot forgive herself.

We don’t know what exactly brings about the change at the end of the episode, but Charlie’s mother needed to come to a realization about her faith and the lies she was embracing. Real Christianity is all about forgiveness, not righteousness. Christians may be declared righteous in God’s eyes, but what they really are is forgiven by Him. They are only able to be forgiven, and declared righteous, due to the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ who took on their sin and died in their place. We are not “good” we are forgiven. It is only when we realize this truth that we can be accepted, but that realization will also demand that we accept and forgive others.

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