This Week on Sleepy Hollow: Family Matters

Review of Sleepy Hollow, Episode 10

Did Ichabod Crane have a son? If so, why did his wife Katrina keep it secret? Can Denethor help him answer these questions? Will Ichabod survive the trip to Purgatory (or Limbo, I forget which) to confront his wife and ask for answers? And that’s just the first five minutes of the episode!

This week’s ‘Christmas’ episode was, appropriately enough, all about families. Ichabod’s family, Orlando Jones’s family, Abbie Mills’s family, and even the Sin Eater’s family. Each of these characters is trying to find out the truth about past relations, restore connections with living relatives, and even build up a new family to lean on in the face of the coming Armageddon.

Throughout the episode, we are reminded repeatedly of the importance of family both as a responsibility and as a delight. Failure in either is at least a result of sin, if not actually a sin itself. As Ichabod says about the son he never got to see (what with the time travelling and all), “when you have a child, he will follow your example more than your advice. My son had the benefit of neither, and while the choice was not mine, it brought his rage into the world.” (The “rage” in this case being the golem that Ichabod and Abbie have to fight.) The violation of the familial order is clearly presented as an evil. What’s more, it is not done in a way that is preachy or in-your-face; it’s rather simply accepted and integrated into the plot as a given.

There is an important point being made here, albeit one that shouldn’t be pushed too far. Families are wonderful things. They are communal gifts from God for the preservation of the species and the support of the state (some people have even said that families are the foundation of the state). And of course individually, families provide both support and continuity. They care for us when we need it (and give us people to care for—perhaps an equal human need), and give us an organic connection to the past and to the future.

Yet, while these are all good things, they are not the ultimate purpose of the family. At the end of the day, the family exists as a picture of the love of God for his people through the Gospel. When the relationship between husband and wife (and parent and child) exists as it should, we see a picture of the relationship that should exist between Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:21-6:4)

But we also don’t want to carry this picture to too much of an extreme. Families are good things in a number of ways, but we are not saved because of our family. Each of us individually will have to either account for our own sins, or believe that Christ has done so on the cross for us. The faith of our parents will not save us if we reject Christ ourselves. We see this not least in the fact that Jesus declares that in heaven the family as we know it has passed away, that (as John reminds us in Revelation) the true family of God will be established in the wedding between the Lamb and his church.

Again, this is not to belittle or demean the family. Frankly it’s delightful to see a well-made and entertaining show like Sleepy Hollow have such a high view of a traditional institution that has increasingly come under attack in the Western world. I for one very much look forward to seeing where they go not only with their ridiculous plots, but also with this important theme.

Dr. Coyle Neal is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO, where he hopes that his family will follow his advice far more than his example, and maybe not always his advice. 

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