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The Consistency of Dr House

At first viewing the TV show, House seems to be a formulaic doctor show about solving difficult medical problems. It is, on the surface, a combination of ER and CSI or Columbo and General Hospital, but in the characters lurks a far more compelling theme, which I think is what brings viewers coming back for more.

More than a scientific mystery show, House depicts a war of worldviews. It portrays the central character, Dr House played by English actor Hugh Laurie, defending a certain way to see the world and act within it. House's view of the world is based on what he experiences through his senses. If it is not there,then it does not exist. House is not a theist, for him, there is no God. He is not a humanist or an idealist because, for House, humans are things made of matter and naught else. Many would agree with House at this point, but what is unique about House is that he lives, acts and speaks with a unique consistently with what he believes. He disdains ideas such as love, charity, and genuine altruism which, although many find desirable, really cannot be mandated by a materialistic view of the universe. In other words, a materialist can try to understand why people aspire to these virtues, but they have precious little reason for saying that we ought to aspire to them. If we are just matter and we know this because that is all we can experience, then there is no basis for morality or some higher virtue. House, unlike many of his companions, does not borrow anything from the theist or the romanticist, but lives as if what he believes is real is all that is real. This explains his fascination with what he observes, his distrust of medical opinion based on humanistic care and his stance on abortion.

There is one reason why we like Dr House. He is not kind, loving, ethical, sensible or any other quality associated with people we might like. However, we admire him because he is consistent.

On top of solving diagnostic mysteries Dr House sets out to live what he believes despite the opposition from co-workers, friends and patients. Each show is like another battle between Dr House and a conflicting worldview, belief or way to live. Each character that enters the show conflicts with him in some way; some because they disagree with him and others because, although they agree with him, do not have the guts to live the way he does. A nun may enter his life to teach him about God, or a woman might tempt him to believe in love, but they are defeated by the maestro of materialism. Others who share his underlying belief find themselves holding on to unwieldy and illogical ethical systems which House helps topple through ridicule and stress. Foreman, one of Dr House's assistants, decides to leave because he realizes that he is becoming too much like House. Why? Because to believe like House means you should live like him – it makes sense, it is consistent. Foreman does not want to be consistent, because to be consistent is to become like Dr House. Perhaps this is why he is called Foreman—a job title for someone involved in a project not yet completed—and House is given a name which illustrates a completed structure. One thing is for certain, no one can blow this House down.

Some share the belief of our intrepid doctor. They do not trust what they cannot see. However, they do not live like him. Perhaps, we might say, the world would not work if everyone lived like House. If everyone was like him, society might collapse. Who would deffer others, open doors for old ladies, and offer a smile just for the sake of it? The problem is, although we might like all these societal niceties, if we deny everything but matter, we really have no reason to argue that we ought to live that way. In other words, it is inconsistent. Others might say that they believe in God and the angels, that they were created, and therefore should love, and serve and live courageously for the sake of others, but live as if they are materialistic.

So, the question becomes: is it possible to be consistent with our desire for something more than just material things? To this I reply: Yes, I think it is possible to believe in love, goodness and true altruism and be consistent. However, I don't believe that the unaided human can accomplish this on his or her own. This is why Jesus argued that we need to be born again, that we need a new life and a new power from God. When we believe in the gospel of Jesus our old, inconsistent selves are put to death. When Jesus hung in our place on the cross, he paid the price for our sin—the fact that we don't live up to the highest standards in other words, God's standards—and when Christ rose again, we are given a new life. This life is consistent because it has been made right with God. It is in right standing with God. It is consistent with the wants—not of human desire—but of God's.

And how do we test the consistency of this worldview? Simple. It is the same as the test applied to Dr House – pain. Dr House's continual battle with pain both lets him live like he does and tests his convictions (especially when deprived of Vikadin). Christians who have experienced pain know of a certain hope in suffering, a certain consistency. I leave you with the apostle Peter's comments to the suffering early church:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:3-9).