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The Rise of the Cynical TV 'Hero'

A new type of character has emerged in popular television—the hardened, cynical investigator who sees through everything and everyone and then speaks his version of the truth with raw honesty. He's called Gregory House in the television series House, M.D., or Sherlock Holmes, or the detective Rustin (Rust for short) Cohle in HBO's True Detective.

Here's a brief summary of Rust's worldview: He calls the world "a giant gutter in outer space." We are merely things that labor under the illusion of having a self. We're "programmed" to believe we're special somebodies when, according to Rust, "everybody's nobody." Hence, Rust argues, "The honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing. Walk hand-in-hand into extinction [and] … opting out of a raw deal." When Rust's colleague asks how he manages to get out of bed in the morning, Rust says, "I tell myself I bear witness. But the real answer is that it's obviously my programming, and I lack the constitution for suicide."

As is often the case with this kind of character, Rust's worldview leads to misery. Like Dr. House, Rust is an addict who abuses drugs in order to keep up his workaholism. His marriage crumbled beneath the weight of a tragedy that took his daughter's life. His worldview doesn't provide any hope after death. Despite his brilliance, few people are inspired by his conclusion that "everybody's nobody," and fewer still feel compelled to "deny our programming" and waltz headlong into extinction.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Atheism; Worldviews—Worldviews do matter. Ideas about how life works will lead to logical conclusions. (2) Dignity; Human Worth—The biblical worldview upholds the dignity and sanctity of each person as made in God's image. In God's eyes everybody is a special somebody.

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