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How Does ‘Law & Order’ Bear a Resemblance to the Bible?

While watching reruns of this long-running TV drama, some insights about justice and mercy

Edward Grinnan

My wife is a seductress. No, not that. Don’t go there! I’m talking about something else—specifically, perpetual reruns of the long-running TV drama Law & Order

It is on almost constantly, usually in a “marathon” format where you have a dozen episodes back-to-back. I’ve teased Julee for years about her addiction to this show since she’s seen every episode multiple times. 

The other night I happened to wander past the TV—the show was on, of course—when I noticed one of the guest spots was being played by an actor I went to school with. I sat down next to Julee and watched the show. I mean, I had a good excuse. Since the network deviously runs the end of the last episode into the opening of the next sans a commercial break, I innocently continued watching. I stayed for a third. Julee nudged me. “See, I knew I could get you addicted.”

Because it is on constantly, apparently all over the world, I couldn’t help pondering the secret of the show’s success. There’s no religion in it but there is something religious about it. Creator Dick Wolf understood that audiences loved cop shows, and they also loved courtroom dramas. So, he put the two together. Typically, the first half of an episode is the pursuit and arrest of an alleged perp, and the second half is the trial. Usually, though not always, justice is done, though sometimes in a nuanced and not entirely satisfying fashion. Life, even on TV, is messy.

I concluded Law & Order bears a resemblance to the Bible. Bear with me. The Old Testament establishes the strictures of Judeo-Christian life most notably through the Ten Commandments to say nothing of Leviticus and Proverbs. These are the rules the faithful are held to and the penalties imposed when they are defied. In other words, when crimes are committed. 

The New Testament is all about justice and mercy, the recognition and forgiveness of sin through redemption. We are all sinners—lawbreakers—but Jesus forgives our sins if we repent. He is both our judge and our redeemer. We are held accountable but at the same time life eternal is revealed. 

All right, maybe I am rationalizing my newfound addiction now that Julee has seduced me into watching Law & Order reruns with her. But I think people are yearning for justice and mercy in this troubled world of ours. They crave both law and order but tempered by mercy and understanding and redemption. I want that, and I imagine you do too.   

I have the Yankees game—don’t hate me—muted in the background as I write this, but maybe I should just check if Law & Order is on. How ‘bout you?

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