Supernatural: An Absent God


“Hell […] is the absence of God and the presence of Time.” — Glen Duncan

At times, recent Supernatural episodes seem like they’re ticking off all of the Judeo-Christian boxes they can: Angels. Demons. Purgatory. Heaven. Hell. Cain and Abel. The only thing they haven’t done is resurrect St. Paul and the Thessalonians. (I admit; sometimes it makes me roll my eyes, which is why I don’t usually accept Supernatural-esque stories for Third Order unless they say something new.) Look behind the metaphysical trappings and CGI, however, and you might miss what I think is the most fascinating fact about the Supernatural universe:

God has left the building.

The God of Supernatural is alternatively characterized by the show to be the same Judeo-Christian greeting-card God we’re all familiar with — fatherly, kind, a divine Santa Claus — crossed with the stern teacher of the Old Testament. (There are other, smaller gods in Supernatural, but most are malevolent, and none seem to have the same creative power as the God of Heaven.) None of the angels know why he left, or when he’ll be back, or if he’ll even return. The God of Supernatural is a deserter for some reason, the Earth of Supernatural closer to Nietsczhe’s ideals than C.S. Lewis‘s. The angels of Supernatural are pining away with the loss of God, unable to come to terms with the gaping hole in their lives without the free will given to humans; the fallen angels are using it as an opportunity to get what they wanted the entire time (souls, evil, etc., etc). Of course, our heroes Sam and Dean Winchester find themselves in the center of it all. Without God, chaos reigns. God is still a character even though they cannot see him, feel him, speak with him, or more.

Angels are apparently Goa’uld. Tee hee.

The absence of God is a very interesting narrative choice for the series, and it mirrors both the absence and abandonment felt by Sam and Dean and capitalizes, I think, on the sense of the “absent God” many see in the world today. God used to speak through signs and prophets; now, in a time with natural disasters, wars, terrorism, blood shed on beaches and churches and mosques assaulted and burned, it’s not always easy for believers to see the presence of God in their lives — so important to a believer! — in times of sickness or suffering. But they’re not the only ones who feel it. Jesus asked why God had abandoned him on the cross; Mother Teresa did not feel God’s presence for the last 40 years of her life, despite her devotion; St. John of the Cross coined the term “dark night of the soul.” But even in his silence, God is still a major influence in all their lives; they keep writing, praying, believing in hope, just like Sam and Dean continue “on the road.” Perhaps God’s absence is something a believer needs at some point in his or her life.

Over one hour of the poetry of St. John of the Cross. Cheers for YouTube.

I think, at this point, Supernatural‘s endgame has to be the return of God, an explanation of sorts for his absence with some kind of confrontation or answers for Sam and Dean. Let’s continue to hope that everyone out there faced with a silent Divine (and hating it!) finds some sort of measure of comfort and answers.

(Of course, if you’re a Supernatural super-fan, you might have your own ideas as to the identity of God and his purpose in the world… only click on that link if you enjoy spoilers! We’ll get into that down the line!)

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