Then Came Bronson . . . the movie has ended. Jim Bronson has just bid farewell to an unexpected love interest in the person of Temple Brooks. He left New Orleans and has now returned to his ole� stomping grounds in the great American west. Having returned to the coast for a time, he now decides to pop in on an old girlfriend whom he believes he will find at a summer campsite in western Wyoming. While stopping for gas and a bite to eat he gets lucky and runs into the very person he is searching for -- Doris Hanrahan (played by actress Karen Huston). After a warm greeting, she invites him to follow the school bus in which she is riding in to the camp at Lake Jackson.
We learn a lot about the television version of Then Came Bronson when we see the writers and producers tackle some of the really important issues of the day. In the very first episode entitled� The Runner, they deal with the issue of Autistic children. I am not even sure most of us knew the word �Autism� back in 1969, but the producers of Then Came Bronson definitely wanted to enlighten us.
The pilot movie has informed us that Jim Bronson is on a quest to find a savior and he wants to see a better side of life than he saw as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. He must know that this old girlfriend�s father, Dr. Charles Hanrahan, is one of the chief experts on Autism in America. Jim�s search now brings him face to face with a young boy whom he will grow to love, a boy referred to as �the Runner.�
Jim Bronson needs a job and this old flame�s father (played by Jack Klugman), hires him. Because the Runner has taken an interest in Jim�s motorcycle, Jim is given the task of working with the Runner. It has been reported that the actor, Michael Parks, was often seen entertaining the children who were extras in the programs while the cameras were not rolling. This love for, or interest in children, really shines through in this particular episode as he seemed to genuinely care for the young actor who played the roll of the Runner. Of course the Scriptures tell us that Jesus had a special love for children. Believing, in fact, that Jesus of Nazareth was their long awaited Messiah, the Jewish mothers often brought their children to meet Him and receive a blessing from Him. When His disciples viewed these visits as an annoyance to the more significant work of reaching the generation of adults of their day with the gospel, Jesus rebuked them and insisted that the mothers be allowed to bring their children unto Him. He said, �Do not hinder them from coming to Me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these� (Matthew 19:14). The Scriptures are clear that we all have a sinful nature. We are all inclined to rebel against God�s laws. But of little children, Jesus makes it clear, that they would all come to God if it were not for the corrupting influences of adults (Matthew 18:6). Jesus is implying that there is a certain innocence that all children have that gives them special favor in the eyes of God.
Jack Klugman�s character agrees that the Autistic children he is working with have turned away from the fearful world of adults and have turned inward in order to find comfort in an imaginary world of their own making. He has tried to bring them back to the real world through compassionate love and has found that technique to be unsuccessful, so now he is practicing a form of tough love which he calls �Aversive Stimulation Therapy.� Although Jim agrees that it may work on some of the children, he tells the Doc Hanrahan, �I don�t like what you did to him. I can�t do that.� So, Jim spends hours with the Runner trying to love him back into the real world. Whenever Johnny (the Runner) becomes self-destructive in his behavior, Jim restrains him with compassionate hugs. Johnny also wants to flee these adults whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The Runner is an interesting picture of most of us. Deep inside we know there is a God, a Creator, the One who gave us life and sustains our lives through His supernatural power and grace, and yet most of us attempt to flee from Him. We have been convinced by adults who raised us or by other cultural influences, that the destructive pleasures of this world are better than the joy and contentment we can find in the very One who created us and breathed life into us. The Scriptures warn us that the pleasures of this world last for only a very short season (1 John 2:17).
Finally, Johnny outwits our hero and makes his escape in a motorboat. Jim hops on his trusty Sportster and begins his search by following the water�s edge as best he can. Presumably, some hours later, Jim finds Johnny stretched out in a wooded area with his head propped up against a downed tree. The Runner leaps up and takes off with Bronson in chase. After a minute or so Jim then stops, he is making no gains on the fast moving boy. Johnny also stops and looks for the best escape route in the woods. But then, Jim changes the dynamics of the entire relationship. He turns and walks away from the Runner. He does not stop to look back at the boy, not even once. Johnny is stunned by this turn of events. He knows deep in his heart that this strange motorcycle riding adult really does care for him. He may also realize that he is lost in the woods with no food or drink. Maybe that scary adult world is better than what awaits him in these unknown woods.
Jim is back on his motorcycle slowly moving away from the area. Just in case the viewer may have missed the point here... Jim changed his tactic, and tried Dr. Hanrahan�s method of Aversive Stimulation Therapy. He did not give the boy the anticipated attention he longed for, but instead, he turned and walked away. A shocked Johnny poured on the �after-burners,� came flying out of the woods and began running as fast as he could after the slow moving Jim who is now back on his bike. Here is a great lesson for all of us. We are all like little children lost in the woods, we are all just tiny little specks in a humongous universe. We are at the mercy of God and the natural forces that He has employed all around us. Instead of running away from our Savior, we should all be running to Him as fast as we can. It makes me wonder... Did Jim recognize this truth in his own life? What did he make of Johnny running as fast as he could toward the one who demonstrated such undeniable love?
Jesus Himself used tough love on the nation He came into the world to save. After three years of doing all He could to convince the nation as a whole that He was their long awaited Messiah, He turned toward Jerusalem and cried out in a loud voice, �O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, �Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!�� (Matthew 23:37-39). But Jesus also told the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke�s gospel chapter 15. When the wayward son repented of his riotous living and returned home, not only did his father welcome him back, but the father, seeing his son from a long distance, dropped what he was doing and ran to his son. He also hugged him and kissed him. Jesus was telling us that this is how our Heavenly Father responds to us when we come to our senses, repent and turn to Him for a truly abundant life.
It is interesting that when young Johnny cried out to Jim, �Stop, stop!� that Jim hits the brakes, drops that beautiful motorcycle of his and runs back to a desperate young lad who has suddenly repented of his ways. And, can you think of any more memorable scene in all of the TCB programs than that of Michael Parks rocking that fallen boy in his arms? Truly breath taking! If I did not know better, I would think that entire segment was inspired by the Spirit of God. For those of you who are running from your Savior, dear Bronsonite friend, I beg you, come on home to your Maker. In Him and Him alone will you find love, peace and true contentment.
Until next time, hang in there.