Most of the shows on HGTV offer a predictable plot. Home improvement experts tackle a big challenge. Unexpected problems emerge, creating a budget or timeline crisis. But solutions are found that leave everyone — hosts, homeowners, and viewers — satisfied at the end. Everything wraps up nice and neat by the conclusion of the episode.
Melanie Rainer, a Christian writer, finds more than superficial entertainment or idealistic escapism when she turns on HGTV. In these formulaic shows, she sees redemption.
“We love renovation stories because they echo the desire in all of us to be rediscovered and remade. We’re all a work in a progress, each of us a fixer-upper in our own right,” she suggested. “It’s our own story as a redeemed people, but played out in the four walls of a family home.”
We find ourselves in need of redemption. There is work to be done in renewing and reimagining our lives in ways that alter our paths. Instead of the past dictating what will happen in the future, we seek a radical break — a transformation that refuses to let what has been dictate what will be.
This conviction that tomorrow can be different from today is at the heart of the Christian story. Because of God, nothing is irredeemable. Everything can be rescued. It might take longer than 30 minutes (not even counting commercial breaks), and it certainly requires more than human effort, but the possibility is ever-present. And even if the house is torn down, Habitat for Humanity can take the scrap pieces from the demolition and build a new home for a new family. Redemption.
Yet, what we so easily watch on HGTV is harder to see in the people around us. Both our public policy choices and our cultural controversies reveal a surprising doubt about redemption. We might believe a house can be saved, but we are less sure people can be rescued — despite what the Gospel proclaims.
In this edition of A Public Witness we take this idea seriously enough to ask whether Christians still believe it. Does redemption need to be redeemed in our society? That is not a question you will find answered on cable TV.
NOTE: The rest of this piece is only available to paid subscribers of the Word&Way e-newsletter A Public Witness. Subscribe today to read this essay and all previous issues, and receive future ones in your inbox each Thursday morning.