This show’s title is so on the nose that I wonder if any discerning viewer would actually watch because the title is so … obvious. But Brandon Michael Hall is a dynamic actor and as it turns out, through God Friended Me, mainstream television may have delivered the rare gem: faith-based story that actually wrestles with the world we live in.
Hall’s character Miles Finer is the voice behind the Millennial Prophet, set out to debunk his audience’s “false theories” about God and any belief in a bigger plan. In the opening episode, Finer receives a friend request from God on social media, sees a burning bush, and begins a series of encounters that connect him with strangers in New York City who are also considering the deeper meanings in their lives.
Creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt are veterans of television, but this production provides us with something fresh. Finer is wrestling with his purpose, and his relationship with his estranged pastor father. His podcast isn’t paying his bills. His deep hurt, a complicated childhood experience, has driven him to cynicism and doubt, breaking those relationships and cutting him free from the faith he once knew. His father’s anniversary sermon quotes James 1:12, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” We can see that Finer has lost everything and replaced it with something that isn’t filling him up.
But just in case this might persuade you to think the show is dour and heavy, let me be clear: it is often hysterically funny, from the burning bush experience to Finer’s hacker buddy Rakesh’s attempt to find true love while fighting off his mother’s arranged marriage expectations, and even the music choices that provide interesting nuance to the story. Lilien and Wynbrandt have captured a great mix of real life, faithful questioning, emotional stories, and humor, plus a very talented cast.
For Christians, the show has nice connections to Sunday morning messages, but they don’t overwhelm us with church language. Yes, there’s a reference to Finer as the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), but there are clues to the prodigal father as well. We can laugh along that they’ve found God’s IP address in New Jersey and we see Finer’s eyes open to new possibilities. In God Friended Me the problem of evil is worked out through community, so that the holiness of God becomes clearer. What a great message!
We realize it’s early in the season. It’s possible that God Friended Me could devolve into trite episodic patterns, or confusion over who God is from a cultural perspective. But so far the show has remained true to a Christian understanding of God and portrays how God works good in the world through ordinary people with their own problems. That’s empowering, entertaining, and frankly, cheer-worthy. Unfortunately, due to some language and sexuality, we’re giving the show a Dove Approved for 18+, with the caveat that we’ve only seen the first couple of episodes. Please feel free to write in with your point of view.
THE DOVE TAKE: Finer’s wrestling match with God can remind us why faith is the belief in things not seen, and that God is not done with any of us yet.