10. Living with Uncertainty

8 11 2017

And so months have passed, a general election come and gone and now Parliament seems to be  taken up with with sexual misbehavior scandals and claims. For a moment there is a pause while the media get taken up with the results of a computer hacking that yet again reveals questionable activities in respect of overseas money handling, but no doubt the pendulum of the news cycle will swing back again and the unsavory behaviour of those who have been voted to rule over us comes under the spotlight yet again – with yet again unpleasant revelations. And all the while the Brexit process continues or appears not to continue.  That is the thing about negotiations; it is like playing poker and a hand is not revealed until the end and until then, doubt, questions, and all the time the media piranhas circle and watch and then dart in with acrid words. It is not a pretty sight.

It seems to me that this whole process is designed to reveal the worst of mankind. Observe the politicians from all sides, squabbling, jeering, sneering, jousting among themselves, out to capitalize on every slow move, every unwise word, every foolish misbehaviour. The absence of statesmanship appears rife and the very ordinariness of these people shines out and we are left wishing for a Churchill or his like who will stand like a rock in critical times and give us hope, but we seem to look in vain.

And then the media. I watched the other day the Governor of the Bank of England give a press conference as he explained why he was going to raise the bank rate by a quarter of a percent.  It was a clear and comprehensive explanation. And then the floor was thrown open to the media to ask questions. The first came from a BBC representative and then a journalist from the Times. I have a friend in America who says they used to trust the BBC but no longer. I felt the same about the Times. Bias and criticism that is self-serving seems to be the name of the day so often.  Both these two men as they asked their questions left me thinking, “Were you not listening? He explained that just now – very clearly! Why are you asking such questions?” I am still a subscriber to the Times which I often enjoy for it is still, I believe, one of the most clear cut papers and yet it appears so often to allow that snide, edgy writing that looks for the worst.

I have been an observer for a number of decades, of the state of the nation as far as ‘moral outlook’ is concerned and have commented more than once  that I believe the decline in moral standards, the undermining of ethical standards, can be directly related to the decline in belief in God in our nation. I have watched it and I think it is virtually measurable. It is a fact. It is also, therefore, not surprising.

On a good day, each of us would subscribe to a society that goes with the second half of the Ten Commandments. You would be an idiot to say that you think stealing or murder or adultery are good things and indeed you could take the argument much further and suggest there are many more things that do NOT make for a good, just, and harmonious society, things which we wish were not part of our national community, and which I have tagged in the first three paragraphs above.  Most of us agree to these things but we simply don’t have the power not to do them. Self-help is the name of the game and it fails us, and so we are left with this cycle of revelation; the behaviour never changes just the revelation of what is happening. And yes, we are glad that the media are there, pouncing on these people higher in the pile of society from whom we expect better than we are getting, but then we become saddened and jaded by the whole thing.

Is there hope? Oh yes, there has to be otherwise we might as well take a trip to a Swiss euthanasia expert and end it all now.  Oh yes, there is hope, the hope that perhaps prayers will be heard, perhaps a voice of sanity will arise in the public consciousness and perhaps a spirit of honesty and integrity will sweep through the corridors of power, whether they be in Westminster or any other instrument of society.  But it is not enough simply to analyse; there must also be endeavors, little ones and big ones to bring goodness in the midst of the darkness – overcome evil with good as the famous apostle once said.





Nativity – truth and fiction

24 12 2010

Nativity – truth and fiction

When I woke this morning I found last night’s last episode of the BBC’s four part series, The Nativity, still in my mind. It was memorable and it was different and we enjoyed it. It had more of a sense of reality about it than any other film we’ve ever seen about the events of Christmas two thousand years ago.

What were the good things about it? Well, as I’ve said the sense of reality, the feeling that this is how life might have been then – but the truth is that it may have been very different because it is difficult to judge from two thousand years distance. But it communicated well. What was also good was the fact that they didn’t fudge the central issue – Mary was a virgin and still conceived as a result of a divine encounter. What was also good was the supposition that the ‘star’ was actually three planets coming into alignment – just at the moment of Jesus’ birth. Although speculation, it certainly added to the sense that this was a cosmic event, and that sense of divine destiny was heightened by the sound of machinery like massive cogs moving the planets into place just for this supreme moment.  What was also excellent was the genuine worship brought by the wise men. What was intriguing was the ongoing saga in the background of a young man who was a shepherd suffering under the harsh regime of Herod, which eventually brought him to the stable where he saw the child and – we presume – was released from all his anger – a little too much unsaid at that point.

But then I felt myself feeling a little sad for the BBC because having done such a good job on so much of it, they altered it to suit their filming whims. The setting of Mary & Joseph’s betrothal was excellent but thereafter Joseph got the rough end of the plot which diverted from the Biblical text considerably.

For instance, to start with, Matthew tells us that, Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Mt 1:19) In the filming Mary’s ‘disgrace’ is a major issue and so it was not being kept under wraps.  Next in the text we find that shortly afterwards in a dream he gets the message from heaven – which he believes and “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Mt 1:24) In the film he rejects her story throughout and holds her at a distance until the birth in the stable. Not so! The text indicates they lived under one roof as husband and wife (without sexual relations) for at least five or six months (If Joseph had wanted to hide her disgrace she would have told him within the first two months of her pregnancy, the dream followed shortly afterwards and he took her home to appear as husband and wife before she really started really showing she was pregnant. One would assume that a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would take less that two weeks and so they didn’t start off until half way through her last month.)

The wise men skirting round Jerusalem also moves somewhat from the text. Again Matthew tells us they boldly (or naively) arrive in Jerusalem and start asking around. Herod eventually calls them in and gets details from them before sending them off again.

The timing of the wise men according to the text, and most interpreters understanding of it, was also astray. It was nice that they turn up just behind the shepherds but the text suggests it was different from that. Intriguingly the text says “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” (Mt 2:11)  What is intriguing about this is the reference to “the house” and the absence of any reference to Joseph. When you put this story together with the fact that Herod later ordered the death of baby boys under the age of two (Mt 2:16), it suggests that some time had passed before Herod acted and the fact that the little family escaped south to Egypt (and not north away from Nazareth) suggests they were still living in Bethlehem and to do that Joseph would have had to find work and would explain his absence from the home (which they presumably borrowed or rented) doing work for someone as a carpenter in their home. Everything points to the wise men coming months later to Bethlehem to this little family that appears settled there for the moment at least. But what’s the truth among film-makers; the story is the important thing!

So, an enjoyable story opening up new thoughts about the reality of it all, but nevertheless short on the truth as presented by the Gospels. But you can’t ask for everything can you? Or can you?