Chernobyl on my mind


I have been watching HBO’s Chernobyl and have been quietly horrified by the show. Throughout the first three episodes there have been these unsettling scenes showing countless unnamed people who are affected by the disaster. Most of the time they are totally oblivious to what is going on. There’s a haunting slow motion scene of children dancing and spinning and running around as radioactive ash falls like snow all around them.

The viewer wants to yell, “No! Don’t do that! It’s radioactive!”

The show tugs on your humanity. It yanks on it, actually.

All these kids. What will happen to them?

There is a scene in the third episode with dozens of dazed people lining up in an old gymnasium, having their papers checked so they can be evacuated from their town. All these nameless people with names. All of them just going about their lives in small towns in Russia, totally upended by the disaster.

All these people. What will happen to them?


I think this show is powerful for me because it causes me to ask so many questions.

About existence.
About humanity.
About God.
About good and evil.
About the value of a human life.
About power.
About truth and lies.
About politics.
About technology.
About science and advancement.
About innocence and guilt.
About duty.
About heroism.
About pragmatism.
About history.

It’s powerful because we are drawn into specific individual lives within this story, while constantly being reminded of the sheer number of human beings that exist. The show lets us sit with the uncomfortable reality that there are a few individuals with incredible amounts of power that determine the fate of millions of people, potentially all of humanity’s existence. We are always one disaster away from living in a total wasteland of a planet.

This show is both humanizing and dehumanizing.

We are constantly being shown examples of individuals making the hard decisions, even at the cost of their own lives. We root for these people and the courage they embody in the face of a nuclear hell.

We want to believe that people are this good. But once again as I watch I think to myself:

Are people this good?
Did this really happen?
Am I that good?


I’ve always thought that the best told stories have people to root for, and often people to root against. And boy, does this show have that. There’s the constant use of the literary device of dramatic irony that this show masterfully uses; we generally know what is going on in the show because this is an actual historical event. I’m guessing most of the viewers know the basic details of what happened, but not much else.

One of the characters in the show is pregnant. My mom was pregnant with me during this disaster, granted over 5000 miles away. I was born in August of that year, so as I see pregnant women or small babies in this show it causes me to identify with them in a unique way.


There’s so much more I could still say that is on my mind about this show. I probably could write a whole post about how I think this show gives us all the elements of storytelling we were hoping for in the last season of Game of Thrones but didn’t get. Maybe the strength of this show is a bit inflated because of how much of a letdown the last couple episodes of Game of Thrones were. Game of Thrones ended this past Sunday.

And as the last few episodes of this show air, maybe I’ll write again about it with some thoughts. Or maybe some conclusions I’ve drawn from all the questions the show causes me to ask.

What I’m Into These Days

Outside of talking to my closest friends, books, podcasts, TV shows, and movies are the tools that help me slow down and process my life. It’s not that they help me escape my life, but rather quite the opposite. They help me work through my own story and narrative with more clarity and insight.

Here are some of the resources that have helped me recently:

  1. The Robcast
    Hands down the most helpful resource I turn to in my life is Rob Bell’s podcast. Just a few years ago if I would be afraid to say such a thing. The circles that I have come from view him as a heretic and dangerous. I heard so much about Rob Bell when I was in seminary. I made the mistake back then of hearing about Rob Bell rather than hearing from Rob Bell.His podcast is life-giving to me. His attitude and personality are so encouraging to me. His interviews and insights are insightful. His sermons bring clarity to my sometimes fuzzy faith.
    There was a recent documentary that came out about him that I liked called “The Heretic.” It’s on iTunes and Amazon if you want to watch it.
  2. Tell me More
    This book by Kelly Corrigan was one of the most truly authentic books I’ve ever read. It had an incredible balance of being vulnerable and honest about the messes while also not coming off smug about being vulnerable and authentic. It’s a fine line, and Kelly is incredible at telling her stories of struggle and mishaps in a way that doesn’t come off as “Oh look at how authentic I’m being by telling you this messy element of my life and personality!”
    I found her book incredibly validating and helpful as I’m processing through a number of things myself.
  3. Frederick Buechner
    Another author whose transparency is life-giving. I’ve read a couple of his books, and am currently reading another. He reflects on his life a lot, but how he handles the events of his life impacting his thoughts about faith and God are extremely honest and helpful. He challenges me to truly be honest about my own faith.
  4. Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) 
    I’m not a fan of empty platitudes. And neither is Kate Bowler, the author of this book I read in one day. A day in which I was extremely stressed and upset about my children destroying my kitchen one morning. It was timely and helpful in my processing of the elements of my life these days, and how I process God’s involvement and goodness.
  5. Lady Bird 
    I’ve now seen this movie twice. Once in the theater, and once with my wife a few days before the Oscars. Living with teenage girls, this was a fun one to watch, yet it was hard to see how her mom talked with her. It seems very similar to many of the moms of our girls that we work with.
  6. Sci-Fi shows
    For whatever reason I’ve been really into sci-fi shows and a few movies recently. And there seems to be more and more coming out. I must not be the only one. Sci-fi shows are usually dark, though. It must resonate with the elements in my psyche that maybe can’t deal with the fact that Donald Trump is our president and I don’t really understand the world around me that would continue to defend his behaviors.
  7. Love
    This show on Netflix is funny and frustrating. But Sarah and I just binged the final season this week. And it’s sad to say goodbye to characters I’ve learned to frustratingly root for. But I love a story which makes you root for people, and Love definitely capitalized on that. The show is now done, and I already miss it.