Faith & Fandom
Dwight Schrute & Simon Peter
I've had a chapter on The Office in the rough drafts of every Faith & Fandom book since book 2. For some reason, I always end up scrapping it. In a non-nerdy book I published last year called “Flocked Up: Sheep Still Going Astray,” I used up the one Office Bible study idea I had been hanging on to for a few books now, and had no intentions of looking for something else to delve into. But as my oldest daughter turned 12 this year, we had “the talk,” and one of the outcomes of us having said talk was that now she was able to watch The Office.
We burned through all 9 seasons in just over 2 months. This was my 3rd time viewing the series in its entirety and I was sure I was leaving this fandom out of this book altogether. That’s when the tail end of season 9 hit me like Roy would have hit Jim if it wasn’t for Dwight. In fact, Dwight is the reason I’m even sitting here typing this. Here’s why–
Dwight’s character development by the end of the series became one of my favorite moments of the show. The first time I watched through season 9 as it originally aired, I was taking it in fresh, and Dwight’s growth got lost in the fact that the show was ending. The second time, I was honestly just emotionally dead to the world and exhausted. However, this time I sat back and actually took each moment for what it was worth, and the beauty of who Dwight became really sank in.
As Brad Meltzer stated that the Harry Potter books are really about Neville Longbottom, I finally saw that Dwight really became the focal point of The Office. I learned some serious lessons from that.
Dwight to me is the biblical equivalent of Simon Peter.
Roll with me here.
For the longest time, Dwight was simply a joke. He was the awkward foil to Jim’s leading man and the target for Michael’s humor to bounce off. No one took him seriously, and for the longest time he was simply a caricature. He was the one that you remembered for being an idiot.
When you look at the disciples of Christ, that’s easily Simon Peter. He’s the one that had a penchant for acting impulsively, doing stupid things, and putting his foot in his mouth. He, like Dwight, also lacked the understanding of when and what was appropriate and managed to be the only disciple to be called Satan to his face by Jesus.
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” - Matthew 16:21-23.
Peter’s ability to make a situation awkward for me oftentimes served as a discretionary disclaimer for what not to do. I didn’t want to be the one to say, act, or do anything that led me to the place where I was looked at as Peter. That was Dwight. Even in their moments of triumph, they often ended in shenanigans.
In the episode “Beach Games,” Michael is convinced he will be getting a promotion and leaving his branch behind. He takes the team on a beach vacation that is actually a series of tests to determine who is going to become the next branch manager. After Jim calls Michael out on asking the employees to do something he hasn’t himself done, Dwight rises to the challenge.
“No, it’s ok. I will do this Michael! I will walk and stand on these coals until you award me the position of regional manager,” he declares. He then boldly walks out on the coals to the shock and awe of everyone. He had the chance to walk away showing everyone that he had strength and more determination than Michael or any other contender at that point, but the prestige didn’t last long.
Instead of just walking across the coals and continuing to move, he stood there on the roasting rocks until his skin literally began to cook. He shouted out, “Give me the job!” as he then fell onto the coals in a humiliating manner, slowly roasting his own skin and filling the area with the stench of seared flesh. He did something no one else had the courage to do, and then undid his success with desperation and disgrace. As Michael stated after Dwight’s coal walk, “Being a boss is also about image. I have never looked like that. That was gross.”
Biblically, Peter had a similar undertaking. After a long day of feeding several thousand people with a happy meal, Jesus sent the disciples to go ahead of Him, and here’s how things played out–
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” - Matthew 14:22-29.
If the story had stopped there, Peter would have gone down as a legend in that moment. He was someone who trusted Jesus more than anything. He trusted Him to give him the strength to defy logic. His trust in Him was deep enough to walk on the waves through sheer obedience. None of the other disciples had the courage or audacity to say these things, just like no one else in the Dunder Mifflin crew in that moment had the courage to walk across the coals. These guys were the bold ones. The ones who were willing to step forward. But that’s the problem. When you step forward with distraction, or the wrong motives, you fall. Look at how it turned out for Peter,
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” - Matthew 14:30-31.
Peter stepped out in boldness, but allowed his circumstances and surroundings to cause him to fail. He went from being brave enough to step out to fearful enough to fall. He even had to face the reprimand of Jesus calling his faith “little.”
God wants us to move boldly, but boldness alone is not enough to be who we are meant to be. Their boldness not only led them to failure, but also to be dangerous.
Peter and Dwight both had incidents with dangerous weapons. They weren’t careful with what they wielded, nor how it impacted their situation.
Dwight always had weapons on hand. From defending Jim against Roy to the run up of dueling Andy, he always managed to be prepared for a skirmish. It didn’t get out of hand until he was interim regional manager. He had finally gotten a shot at his dream to make Regional Manager his own. When Dwight’s uncle Honk sent him a holster for his antique gun as a congratulatory gift, he had to show it off. Of course, this made everyone nervous, and as Dwight was playfully putting it away, the gun fired beside Andy’s ear, rupturing his eardrum and putting a bullet in the hardwood floor distastefully hidden beneath the carpet. As Kelly put it, “Dwight went on a shooting spree, and then he shot Andy in the head.”
This, of course, cost him the role of interim manager and would proceed to block his rise in leadership for a long time to come. He failed to think about how his actions could affect his circumstances or the people around him.
Peter had a similar situation as well, and like Dwight, it left a man with a wounded ear. This one spilled a good bit more blood, though. Check how this plays out across John & Luke–
“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him.” - John 18:10-12.
“When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. When Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” - Luke 22:49-53.
When you look at both accounts together, a large number of people came to arrest Jesus. Depending on the terminology used for “detachment,” it’s estimated they had anywhere from 50 up to a whopping 600 if they sent the detachment. Regardless of how many were actually there, the disciples were greatly outnumbered and out armed.
In Luke’s account, one disciple actually asks Jesus what to do. Before Jesus even replies, Peter goes full Leroy Jenkins. There was the boldness again. Peter acted brashly. He put everyone’s lives at risk. He could have single-handedly caused the entire movement of Christ to be wiped out because he didn’t wait for an answer. He wasn’t the only one with a sword, but he was the only one to start swinging.
I love that the story includes the fact that Jesus healed the man whose ear had been sliced off. Jesus knew he was about to die, yet took the time to heal this man’s ear. That’s the consideration that Jesus modeled. That’s what Jesus was showing them. That boldness without focus could be dangerous. But we would also see in these two that boldness without focus could lead to betrayal.
In the season 3, episode “The Coup,” under Angela’s tiny influence, Dwight betrays Michael by going to Jan to convince her that he should run the branch instead of Michael. Dwight had long pledged his loyalty and undying faithfulness to Michael time and time again, even giving up his integrity and role as a volunteer sheriff deputy just to make sure Michael goes unscathed in the drug testing episode. Literally, there was no one more loyal to Michael, but all it took was a little pride, self-seeking opportunism, and the nudging of a small fierce woman for Dwight to betray his closest friend.
When confronted with his betrayal, Dwight ended up face down on the ground groveling and begging, humiliated before the entire office. Even though Michael told him they just needed to hug it out, Dwight was still publicly shamed with a “Liar” sign and forced to do Michael’s laundry for a year. Even then Michael still didn’t fully trust that Dwight’s betrayal had been resolved. When Dwight later drove to corporate to turn in paperwork for Angela, Michael’s full distrust of Dwight showed that he never let go of the betrayal.
That same foolhardy boldness cost Dwight the depth of his friendship with Michael, and also his job.
Although we see several instances of the disciples scrapping for positions of power, that wasn’t Peter’s downfall. Peter just found himself boldly proclaiming faithfulness that he wasn’t fully equipped to carry out. During the last supper, there’s this discussion of loyalty between Peter and Jesus.
“Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.” - Matthew 26:31-35.
Literally Peter got in a dispute with Jesus. Jesus said they would all fall. Peter said, “nah fam.”
Jesus said Peter you specifically will deny me 3 times. Then Peter claps back with the fact he would die before betraying Jesus.
Think about this. Peter had already made a public proclamation that he KNEW Jesus was the son of God. He knew that Jesus was one with the Father, but still had the boldness to tell Jesus that He was wrong.
We know the rest (and if you don’t, just keep reading Matthew 26)/ Peter was approached after Jesus was arrested, and he denied him all 3 times, culminating here–
“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” - Matthew 26:75
Dwight and Peter’s brash arrogance both left them broken in tears. Thank God that Jesus is a better friend and forgiver than Michael Scott though. Peter and Jesus had a “hug it out” moment, but it was more powerful and encouraging. In John 21, Jesus found Peter and crew back at fishing, and not only gives them fishing advice, but makes them breakfast. But then Jesus gets down to business with Peter.
“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” - John 21:15-17.
Jesus didn’t make Peter wear a sign declaring his sin, or even make him do the laundry (although, who did their laundry?). He inquired of Peters authentic love, but not as punishment. Rather, Jesus purely understood for Peter’s sake. He restored him to a place of relationship and even more so tasked him with actually rising up to become more. He challenged him to truly feed the sheep. Real love always helps us grow into becoming more.
One of the things I noticed as I watched through this time is that honestly, Dwight carried the bulk of the show after Michael left. He basically single-handedly got season 9 to the finish line, and gave us a time of celebration that honestly rivaled Jim and Pam’s wedding (if not surpassing.) Dwight’s rise to becoming regional manager after all that time was so encouraging. He knew he had failed. He knew he had blown his chance. He knew that he didn’t deserve the chance to have what he had dreamed of, but he grew into the character of a leader.
As he told Dwight Jr, “I made too many mistakes. It’s out of my reach now.” It took a lot of humbling, and growth, but he got there. In the earlier seasons, when the idea of Dwight becoming manager was spoken of, people panicked. There was genuine fear and dread, but when it came to the end of season 9, everyone supported it unanimously. If you would have told me in season 1 that I would be rooting for Dwight by season 9, and even get teary eyed when he became manager, I would have slapped you like the KGB. But that’s what happened.
As David Wallace discussed with Jim:
David: I’m looking for a new manager, and with his performance this year, I have been considering Dwight. Am I crazy? Jim: Not at all. It should be Dwight. David: Uh..you sure? Jim: You’re going to want to invest in a lot more liability insurance, but if there’s someone who loves paper more than Dwight, I definitely don’t want to meet that person.
When Dwight climbed to the desk and announced his new title, literally everyone (except maybe Creed) cheered for him with genuine happiness. Dwight’s journey often left him despised and unlovable, but where he ended up was a place of genuine growth and change. The same can be seen in Peter’s life.
Just like Dwight Schrute, Regional Manager, was a different person, Peter the Apostle was a different person than Peter the disciple. The book of acts shows that while he wasn’t perfect, he grew leaps and bounds in his faith, leadership, and ministry.
After the Spirit came down at Pentecost, Peter rose up to speak. He had all 11 other disciples with him, but He was the one to speak what some consider to be one of the greatest sermons of all time.
“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” - Acts 2:40-41
Peter literally kickstarted the church with one message. A few months ago, this was the dude slicing off ears, now look at what God was doing in his life. In Acts 4, Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin and were questioned about a healing. Peter, who had betrayed Jesus over a handful of people by a fire, now stood boldly before the religious elite declaring the message of Jesus.
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:8-13.
We only got to see the beginning of what the new Dwight’s story was and who he could become with the life he had grown into. However, we get so much of Peter’s story. As we follow through the book of Acts and through both of Peter’s entries in the Bible (not to mention a metric ton of church history), it shows that there is redemption and even excellence for those with the roughest starts.
There are obviously some fun parallels between the two, but what’s more important is the application we can take from this for our lives as well. We should be bold, but also maintain focus. We should strive for faithfulness, but make sure we follow through. We should be fierce, but also not cause damage. We should also know that no matter how far we fall or how many mistakes we make, our stories aren’t over until the final chapter. Dwight didn’t become his best until season 9. Peter spent 3 years face-to-face with Jesus, and still didn’t start catching his stride until after Jesus had died. If you ever think you are just too big of a failure to live a life of excellence, don’t believe that lie. Identity theft is not a joke. Don’t let you past steal the hope of your future. Let Jesus show you exactly all you can be.