Ethos Education

Good Omens: What’s wrong with the world?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Students reflect on their beliefs about what’s wrong with the world, and their reaction to the concept of sin.
  • Understand how Christmas fits into the biblical narrative of sin.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Communicate personal beliefs, feelings and questions about sin in the world.
  • Apply their ideas by responding to the questions and thoughts of the characters in a television clip.
  • Enquire into Christian beliefs about sin by exploring Bible verses to build an overview of the concept.
  • Contextualise Christian views by analysing the significance of Christmas within the big picture of the Bible.
  • Evaluate the Christian concept of sin by addressing an issue raised by the clip using the ideas they have explored.

Supporting Values Education:

The value of tolerance recognises that people are different, and diversity can offer new and helpful ideas. This lesson encourages students to understand other people’s views and feelings about a sometimes divisive subject, learning to listen and express their own thoughts respectfully.

STARTER:

Show the students a selection of headlines or pictures from the news. Ask them to consider the following two questions:

  1. What is the biggest problem in the world?
  2. If you were God, how would you fix that problem?

Take feedback from a few members of the class. Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about what Christians think the biggest problem in the world is, how they believe God plans to fix it, and where Christmas fits in with the big picture of this story.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Show the clip from Good Omens (Amazon / BBC Studios, 2019, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online. Explain that this clip shows an angel, Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and a demon Crawley/Crowley (David Tennant), meeting at significant points through human history. They discuss God’s plans and what humans are like, and find they share a surprising amount of common ground. The clip comes at the start of episode three of the show, which details Aziraphale and Crowley’s struggle to save the world, which they have grown fond of, from Armageddon. The action begins with the Garden of Eden, where Aziraphale has just lent his flaming sword to a banished Adam and Eve. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what the characters say about humans, the world, and God’s plan.

  • Start time: 0.00.00 (the start of chapter 1 of the DVD).
  • End time: 0.15.33.
  • Clip length: 15.33 minutes.

The clip starts with a sign saying The Garden of Eden. Aziraphale is hiding something in a big wall. The first line is the voice of God (Frances McDormand) saying ‘Aziraphale, Angel of the Eastern Gate.’ It ends with Aziraphale saying ‘what would you say to some crêpes?’.

Ask the students what different events were featured in the clip. What did they agree with about Aziraphale and Crowley’s analysis of people, the world and God? Ask the students to consider why humans do bad things: is it our nature, our choice, out of our control, or influenced by supernatural forces like angels, demons or God? Remind them that people have many different views about this subject, and it is important to listen respectfully to other opinions. These are questions that have been debated for centuries, and the students are unlikely to come up with a definitive answer during the lesson(!), but they might find new insights by having an open mind to those who have a different perspective to share.

Tell the students the story of the author G.K. Chesterton, who responded to an inquiry from The Times newspaper, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?”. Chesterton responded with a letter that simply read,

“Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

Ask the students what they think Chesterton meant by this. Explain that Chesterton was a Christian, and therefore believed in the concept of sin. Take some suggestions from the class about what they think sin means, then share with them the definition from the New City Catechism (www.newcitycatechism.com). This is a tool for teaching mainstream Christian views and terminology in modern language. It has abridged answers aimed for younger learners:

Q: What is sin?

A: Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, not being or doing what he requires in his law.

Explain to the students that sin is a concept that runs through the whole story of the Bible, from the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, to the future time when God promises he will make the world new. Sin is God’s answer to the question: ‘what’s wrong with the world?’, and the Bible tells the story of his solution to the problem. This is what Aziraphale and Crowley refer to as ‘the ineffable plan’, although their understanding of this plan appears hazy at best. Give out copies of The Ineffable Plan worksheet and explain listed in a table on the worksheet are several events in the Bible. The students should fill in the rest of the table by finding which verses describe the event, and choosing a summary that explains this event’s significance within God’s plan. If time is short, divide the class into six groups and have them investigate and fill in one row of the table each, then feedback their findings to the rest of the class to complete the sheets.

If there’s time, watch the clip again, stopping at the crucifixion scene (0.04.30). Explain to the students that, while this is obviously an important moment in the plan, another important moment has been missed out. Point out that before Jesus taught and died, he was born. Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas. They believe that this is the point in the story when God showed himself to the world, coming to live with sinful people in order to save them. Divide the class in two and ask the students to imagine they are the characters Aziraphale and Crowley, meeting at the stable that first Christmas. Half the class should take the role of the angel, and the other half take the role of the demon. Spend a few minutes discussing the event in character, trying to work out how it fits in to God’s plan to solve the problem of human sin. Structure the discussion so that a representative from the demon side speaks first, asking a question, then a representative from the angel side replied. Continue taking turns to explore the issue for a few minutes to allow different members of the class to participate and attempt to get to the heart of why Jesus’s birth matters to Christians. Write a summary together as a class to explain the significance of Christmas within God’s plan.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Give out copies of the Talking About Sin worksheet. Explain to the students that the sheet has four comments from the Good Omens clip to do with sin. Their task is to choose one of the comments and write a response to it. Their responses should show their understanding of the concept of sin and the importance of Christmas within God’s plan to deal with sin. They should try to include everything from the checklist on the sheet in their answers.

YOU WILL NEED:

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