Once when my eldest son was about five years old, we happened to be reading the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel when we came upon the account of a man with an unclean spirit. My son asked me what that meant. I didn’t know how to answer so I said: “What do you think?” He didn’t know. So we read it again. He noticed that the unclean spirit did not want to be near Jesus, and he knew that Jesus was God with us. I asked my son, “well, what do you think an unclean spirit is now?” And he replied: “I guess it is wanting to live in the world without God.”
My guest today on the show is not a five year old child, but rather Gary Anderson, the Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Thought in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. We are going to talk about his read of the show Breaking Bad and its central character, Walter White, whom Professor Anderson sees as a profile in the determined resolution to live in the world without God. But unlike the unclean spirit in Mark’s Gospel, Walter White doesn’t even acknowledge God or recognize the possibility of his presence. For him, “there is nothing but chemistry here.”
My conversation with Professor Anderson follows a lecture that he delivered for a conference on the shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul that was hosted at Notre Dame in May of 2023. His lecture at the conference bore the title “Science and Marriage in the Life of Walter White.”
Follow up Resources:
● Webpage for “Gilligan’s Archipelago” conference, where videos from each of the five lectures will be posted when available.
● “God Doesn’t Break Bad in the Old Testament,” essay by Gary Anderson in Church Life Journal
Church Life Today is a partnership between the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame and OSV Podcasts from Our Sunday Visitor. Discover more ways to live, learn, and love your Catholic faith at osvpodcasts.com. Sharing stories, starting conversations.