What’s the Deal With Serial?


Image: http://serialpodcast.org

I have been a long and faithful listener to the WBEZ Chicago podcast, This American Life. So, when I heard that they were doing a spinoff program called Serial hosted by one of my favorite This American Life contributors, Sarah Koenig, I was immediately interested. What I wasn’t prepared for was the addictive nature of Koenig’s new program, or the massive popularity that her podcast would receive. In Serial, Koenig is reinvestigating the murder of a Baltimore teenager named Hae Min Lee. The murder took place on January 13, 1999 and Lee’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was eventually convicted of killing her in February of 2000. There have always been major doubts of Syed’s involvement in the murder due to a lack of evidence, several holes in the prosecution’s case, and most of all because of his good reputation before his arrest. In Serial, Koenig is basically reinvestigating the case from a journalistic perspective, looking closely at the events of January 13, 1999, and asking great questions.

Here in the past few weeks millions of people have been catching up with Koenig’s investigation by “binge-listening” to the first 11 episodes in anticipation for the final episode of Serial that will be available for download on Thursday morning. Several people in my office were able to listen to all 11 episodes in just a matter of two days. One friend of mine, amazed at the appeal of the program asked me the other day, “So what’s the deal with Serial? Why is it so addicting?” That is an interesting question that many have guessed at, but I think there is actually a good answer. There is something in the heart of every person that wants the answers, we want to know the truth, and we want to know what really happened. This is why there are so many detective books, movies, and even podcasts. We all kind of want to be a detective, because we all want to know. People recognize that they live in a dark world, and there is something in every heart that is looking for a light to shine in the darkness and for the mysteries to be revealed. These mysteries may be something distant as in the podcast Serial, or what happened in the Kennedy assassination, but most of these mysteries are something profoundly close. Our hearts are always asking questions like, “Did she really love me? Can I really trust him? Am I going to be secure in the future? Is that really the truth?” These questions are going on right now in the heart of every man and woman. This is why one of the most comforting truths of Christianity is that Jesus is the light and one day in his presence there will be no darkness, and all truth will be known. We want the answers, and God has the answers, he is the great detective, he knows, and nothing is hidden from him. And if you are in Christ you have the hope of experiencing his light in his eternal kingdom, you will know what really happened in Baltimore on January 13, 1999. More importantly you will know all truth, the truth about those you were closest to, and the truth about your own heart.

Another question that I have been asked about Serial is “How is it going to end?” I don’t want to give any spoilers in case you have not been listening to the podcast, but to be honest I am fully expecting a disappointing ending. Koenig has done a masterful job of telling this story but it is so difficult to tie a story like this together in a satisfying way, especially if you are dealing with a true story. Koenig of course doesn’t have the liberty to create a fanciful ending where everyone involved “lives happily ever after,” she has to tell the truth. But the question also appeals to something in the heart of every person, and that is that we all desperately want a satisfying ending. We want a satisfying ending to our careers, to all of our different ventures, but most especially to our own life. And once again, this speaks to the glory of the Gospel. For people in Christ, God is preparing a never ending Kingdom, a Kingdom with no sin, with no evil, where all truth is known, where all accounts are settled, and where every tear is wiped from every eye. What could be more satisfying than that? People desire satisfaction in the end, because they know that it is the end that really matters. We’ll all find out how Serial ends on Thursday, but do you know how your story will end?

I’m Jason Dees, encouraging you to Think Through It.

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