Do a Google search on Jack Bauer, and most of the images returned feature Jack holding a gun. Or Jack surrounded by an exploding fireball. Or perhaps most emblematic, a "Jack Bauer" action figure kicking down a door. Like Captain Kirk from a generation before, Jack is our vicarious stand-in for life's great dilemnas... should I/we follow the rules or save the busload of children (save the kids). Should we torture a man to extract a truth that may save the lives of countless thousands? (yes, with relish) Should one choose close family relations or national security? (national security over family security almost every time) Action Jack has busted through the doors of dozens of dilemnas over seven seasons, but now he faces his greatest dilemna yet... He's dying.
Jack's seizures, random twitches and grimaces have surfaced more often than uber-nerd Chloe's signature pout and squint. We're reminded how weak and powerless Jack is, even as he shoots his former friend and current traitor Tony before he can exact personal revenge. Our can-do post-modern MacGyver is reduced to reliance on his daughter to save his life. And then, just before he is placed in a morphine-induced coma, (say it ain't so Jack!) he calls for a single, solitary figure. An Imam--a Muslim holy man.
Not to ruin the plot for those of you (non-Hulu) folks who haven't watched the last few episodes, but some shadowy arch-conservative pseudo-patriots (let the reader understand they mean Blackwater aka Xe) have manipulated good, peace-loving Muslims into being the facade for a biological attack on Washington D.C. At first, Action Jack falls for this ruse, almost pulling out all his Guantanamo-esque skills of interrogation on the hapless Imam. But in a blinding flash of insight, our hero realizes that both the Muslims in question AND the Imam were innocent men, and that once again, he had been on the brink of doing something heinous. (torturing an innocent man--you'd think he'd have gotten used to it by now). Foreshadowing Jack's call for the Imam on his "deathbed" the Muslim holy man tells the man with the tortured conscience "“It’s never too late to turn to God, Mr. Bauer.”
Now let me get down to my thoughts. I certainly don't want to get into the debate about whether all Muslims are heaven-bent to take us poor infidels into the great beyond. Surely such over-generalizations belong to those who need life cut into convenient, cookie-cutter categories. Nor am I going to shout and scream that Christians are getting a poor shake because Jack called out for a mullah instead of a reverend. Frankly, a man with as much violence in his past as Action Jack is doing well to talk to anyone of a spiritual ilk. Nor am I offended at the writers' evident attempt to patch up hard feelings in the Muslim community for casting them as evil nasties in previous seasons. None of that bothers me; after all this is entertainment.
What concerns me, however, is that the TV Imam gives rather un-Muslim advice. And for that matter, the advice doesn't fit into Christianity's script either. The holy-man character repeats his previous statement to Jack, "I hope that you can forgive yourself.” Hello--when did Oprah become a guest on my kick-down the door, blow up the helicopter, shoot your former friend in the shoulder action show? But that's where this psycho babble advice comes from. No Muslim or Christian or Jew in their right theology would tell someone that the key issue to settle before you die is to forgive yourself.
I'm not saying that forgiving yourself isn't important. I've made some God-awful, searing mistakes that still wake me up some nights in chilling, sweating regret. Is it hard work to not beat myself up for all those past mistakes? (Even though I wouldn't count torture, murder or growing an ugly beard and hiding in Africa in my mea culpas) You bet. But before I die and face my maker, I think that it would be slightly more important to consider the ways that I have failed Him, sinned against Him and His design in my life and seek His forgiveness. A great king who blew it said it this way, "Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned..."
It's not my place to tell you that you must choose the Christian answer above the Muslim answer or the Buddhist answer, or the St. Oprah answer, for that matter. That's up to you. I'm merely clarifying according to the Bible, when life comes down to mono y Deo, just you and the Divine, the issue is worship failure. A life that fell short of it's divine intent. I reflect on God's purpose for my life, one He characterizes as "glorious" and realize with grim certainty that I have often fallen far short of it... Sure I need to forgive myself. But more importantly, I need to ask God's forgiveness. I was made for Him, and I lived for myself instead. The ultimate answer isn't more SELF, it's more G-d. After all, it's never too late to turn to God, Mr. Bauer.