Lessons for the church from Louis C.K.’s latest.

This week America’s editors reviewed “Horace and Pete,” the new show written by, directed and starring Louis C.K. and sold through his website. The show is about a pair of bar owners and their families. It’s a strange show, written and shot like a play, but with no studio audience, and not a lot of laughs. Think “Sad Cheers”—a place where everyone knows your name because you’re such a mess you’re here way too often.

The third episode, which dropped on Saturday, is all about infidelity—how it happens, what it feels like, the terrible consequences we absolutely positively know will come of it and that still don’t deter us.

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I won’t say more about it, because it’s such a unique piece of writing it deserves to be experienced on its own. But it’s the kind of 45 minutes I wish everyone who works in the church would watch. It’s such an honest and realistic portrait of our human struggles—the strange and primal things that run deep within us, surfacing at unexpected moments; the tangled and beautiful messiness of the human heart; our capacity to be self-destructive, know it, and still be unable to stop.

Sometimes people in the church speak of our lives in the most simplistic of terms—there is right and there is wrong. Do or do not. There is no try. (Okay, that last bit is Yoda. You get my point.)

It’s never wrong to call us to our best selves, to kindness and fidelity and hope and courage. But it’s also so important to appreciate that we are not neat, clean packages or programmable robots; we are joy and hunger and gratitude and confusion all mixed together—even when we don’t want to be.  

Watching “Horace and Pete” is a great reminder that in the face of that, real mercy usually begins with silence and wonder.

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