Am I the last person in the world to know that CBS is planning a remake of the 1958 black & white television series, The Rifleman? And why the heck would I post about this on our Parish blog?
The Rifleman, in case you are not familiar with the show, takes place in the 1880s and follows a widowed Civil War hero, Lucas McCain, as he builds a new life for himself and his young son, Mark, in the wilds of New Mexico Territory. He got his nickname because of his amazing skills with his specially modified rifle, an 1892 Winchester.
In case you are wondering how I know these things, let me explain that I am a die hard fan of this fictional hero. And, yes, I own the DVD version of the series. All 168 episodes. I can now watch hours of uninterrupted Rifleman. At least in theory I could, if I actually had hours of uninterrupted time. But I digress.
Unlike its contemporaries, such as Gunsmoke, where a strong but unemotional Matt Dillon maintains law and order with a firm hand and a fast gun; or Bonanza, with Ben Cartwright, father and figurehead, issuing an occasional edict, but leaving most of the action to his sons, there is a much greater appeal to the Rifleman, at least in my opinion
While Lucas McCain is indeed a hero of epic proportions, he is also a loving father. One who is not ashamed to grab his son and plant a big kiss on him after a harrowing experience. A father who is wise and uses his wisdom to convey decent human values to his son. He allows his son to make decisions, and to make mistakes; but he is always available to provide guidance and support. He is strong and powerful, but never uses violence to prove a point, even when it would be easy, even when it would bring a quick end to the problem. And when the Rifleman does bust a move on the bad guys? He takes care of the problem, once and for all. Plus, he’s not afraid to quote the Bible during teaching moments.
I had a friend who once told me she couldn’t identify with a loving God, a Father who cherished her beyond all measure, because she had never experienced that type of love as a child. Her own father had abandoned the family, and she often felt the sting of her stepfather’s cruel sense of humor. Thus, her image of Father was closer to one of stern king, pitching lightning bolts as punishment for insignificant transgressions.
I have often pondered the possibilities of using an image of the Rifleman as a tangible figure of our loving Father in Heaven. Our God is all-powerful, easily able to vanquish His enemies, and yet he prefers to turn our hearts to Him in love, rather than to force submission through fear. He loves us with a love that surpasses human understanding. We all know that the Lord has the power to destroy His enemies, but how much more does he love to win our hearts. His love for us is unconditional.
Will CBS remain true to the original Rifleman? Or will this become simply another casualty to the bloody, violent television programming some people consider more realistic? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m happy to watch my 168 episodes, in black and white and free of commercial interruption, and be grateful for my own loving Father in Heaven. And while I’m at it, maybe I’ll buy my friend a copy of the old DVDs
Have you ever experienced something that helped you better understand some aspect of your faith? I’d love to hear about it.