The scene on the popular medical drama House was typical TV. One doctor, a woman, was explaining to a pregnant woman what was being done to save her baby. But Dr. House, the strongly atheistic hero, kept correcting his colleague with the term "fetus."
The mother was so sick that all the so-called "rational doctors" leaned toward aborting. The only doctor fighting for the child was a woman whose maternal instincts had clearly gone into overdrive, letting her emotions warp her judgment. As I said, this was typical TV.
But what happened after that was not-so-typical TV.
The mother would not abort, leading the medical team to perform risky fetal surgery. As Dr. House worked on the mother's uterus, a tiny hand emerged and took his finger.
It was literally a re-enactment of the famous moment when surgeon Joseph Bruner found himself holding the hand of tiny Samuel Armas while operating on Samuel's mother's womb. While there has been some debate over whether that little hand reached out or fell out, there is no denying that Bruner touched the hand of a living human being. The photographer who took the picture was converted on the spot.
But who would expect now such a picture to turn up on primetime television?
This is not even the first time it's happened. When one of our bloggers on The Point wrote about the House episode, another blogger noted that another primetime show, Scrubs, had already done a similar scene. And then a blog commenter chimed in with news about pro-life storylines on CSI: Miami.
Now, when you have watched Hollywood for a while, you learn that one praiseworthy moment does not mean everything is rosy. House and the other shows I have mentioned have more than their share of so-called "mature themes," and House adds to the mix a title character after atheist Richard Dawkins's own heart. Even in the episode in question, the mother had been impregnated via insemination by a gay donor.
And yet—doesn't that make what's happening all the more remarkable? I don't know whether any of these shows have Christian writers, directors, or actors. You certainly would not compare them with Touched by an Angel. But somebody working on each show still recognized that there are truths that can't be ignored, if only for the sake of creating good, realistic drama. If you're talking about life and death these days, you cannot escape the fact that what is in the womb is life. Science has made it obvious. When truth is breaking out even on primetime television, that's a real and important breakthrough.
And whatever the beliefs of those behind the scenes, they are making an impact. Even pro-choicers have marveled over the powerful moment on House. People who never thought twice about abortion will remember Dr. House telling his patient, "Don't thank me. I would have killed the kid"—the word fetus disappearing. People who would never listen to a sermon will remember the image of the unsentimental, rationalist, pro-choice doctor sitting alone, thoughtfully rubbing his fingers together where the little hand had touched them.
The Christian worldview acknowledges that we can't expect perfection from the dark world around us. But what it does teach is that when the light of truth shines into the darkness, unexpected and amazing things can happen—even in Hollywood.
From BreakPoint®, April 11, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries