Fox-Eye View

October 15th, 2013
Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Television/NBC

In the 1980’s and 1990’s Michael J. Fox was one of the world’s biggest stars. After becoming a household name as Alex P. Keaton on the sitcom Family Ties, Fox starred in hit films such as Back to the Future (and all its sequels), Teen Wolf, and Doc Hollywood before returning to TV as the star of the hit sitcom Spin City. In 1999 Fox revealed that he had Parkinson’s disease. The next year he left the Hollywood spotlight as symptoms of his condition became difficult to manage. Since then he has made occasional guest appearances on television, but has been mostly retired from acting and has spent much of his time raising awareness for his illness through his Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Yet, after years away from the camera, Fox has returned to prime-time TV as the star of The Michael J. Fox Show on NBC. The show, which debuted on September 26, 2013, follows the story of former New York City news anchor Mike Henry (Fox) who left his high-profile job after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease—a plot that shares more than a few parallels with Fox’s own personal experiences. The show takes place five years into Henry’s retirement, when his wife Annie (Betsy Brandt) and former boss Harris Green (Wendell Pierce) conspire to get the beloved anchor back on TV.

An Alternate Perspective

The Michael J. Fox Show, which provides a unique perspective on Parkinson’s disease along with an honest look at the challenges of everyday family life, debuted to solid ratings and critical praise. While Henry’s Parkinson’s disease is a major component of the show, as well as a jumping-off point for some of its most entertaining moments, his condition doesn’t overshadow the challenges faced by his family. Henry’s teenage daughter Eve (Juliette Goglia) and young adult son Ian (Conor Romero) have worries of their own.

The Michael J. Fox Show isn’t a show about Parkinson’s disease, but it does give viewers a better sense of what it is like to live with the condition or to have a family member who does. It gives us a glimpse into the life of someone suffering from a chronic ailment that many of us have not experienced firsthand. As God’s people—people who are called to have compassion toward and serve those who are poor, hungry, sick, and imprisoned (see Matthew 25:31-40)—it is important that we empathize with the struggles of God’s children.

Speak Mercy, Show Empathy

Every Christian is a part of Christ’s body and is called to carry out Christ’s work here on earth. Being the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of Christ means seeing the world with new perspectives, hearing the stories and cries of those who suffer and struggle, and reaching beyond our comfort zones to better understand and support our neighbors. While we cannot trade places with another person, we can approach that person with love and compassion instead of with judgment. The Epistle of James tells us: “In every way, then, speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment” (James 2:12-13). We all come from different backgrounds and have different stories and different struggles. God didn’t put us on earth together to judge or ridicule one another but to learn and grow by relating to one another. We must step outside of ourselves and consider the unique challenges that others face in their daily lives.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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