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Black Mirror: Through a glass darkly...

(Black Mirror, Channel 4 2011)

OK, last of the TV 'events': I'm really not a big TV watcher but I can't talk about Sherlock and This is England without mentioning Charlie Brooker, diagnostician extraordinaire. The prognosis he offers is pretty grim…though surely the only rational one within the worldview he presupposes (which is expressly atheist and, I would suspect, rather coherently so given his evident thoughtfulness).

I knew Black Mirror had got to me when I tried to watch a bit of Masterchef the other day and couldn't look at poor old 'John and Greg' without thinking of the excruciating reality TV-ruled dystopia of episode 2 ("15 Million Merits"). Boy was it bleak…and convincingly so. A particularly low point was watching the hero's impassioned and hard-won opportunity to 'tell it like it is', all the while anticipating the inevitable synthetic affirmation of 'the judges' and eventual compromise.

Brooker follows in a sound tradition of searing social commentary, obviously aware of those who have trod that path before him but (in my opinion) never lapsing into mere derivation. The strongest echoes were of 1984, what with the torture of the bedroom/cell video walls and with Bing's eventual 'betrayal' of Abi.

So, do I share his hopeless outlook? His assessment of the desperate mess we are in seemed pretty spot on; particularly in the resonant tension between communal guilt (even more keenly felt in 'The National Anthem') and hopeless enslavement. Neither does he exempt himself from that indictment - no-one familiar with his ranting articles and TV programs could fail to note the (surely?) autobiographical thread through Bing's vitriolic outburst and subsequent decision to sell-out.

In short, 'there is no-one who does good, not even one' (Romans 3:10-12). For 'the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick' (Jeremiah 17:9). I wholeheartedly agree with CB that we cannot fix ourselves. But, unlike him, I really do hold to a genuine hope, and it's because I believe God loves us enough to enter into history, to share in the pain and brokenness of this world and to action a plan of redemption and new creation. I admit that I haven't really found my feet on the whole massive topic of eternity and resurrection - bewilderment would best describe my mental state when I try to think about it. But I am prepared to trust Jesus' teaching on that (classic example) because everything else he said and did made so much sense, and made sense of so much.

I'm completely gonna cheat now and just quote N.T. Wright (from "The Challenge of Jesus"):

"…bearing God's image is not just a fact, it is a vocation. It means being called to reflect into the world the creative and redemptive love of God. It means being made for relationship, for stewardship, for worship - or, to put it more vividly, for sex, gardening and God. Human beings know in their bones that they are made for each other, made to look after and shape this world, made to worship the one in whose image they are made. But [...] we humans get it wrong. We worship other gods, and start to reflect their likeness instead. We distort our vocation to stewardship into the will to power, treating God's world as either a goldmine or an ashtray. And we distort our calling to beautiful, healing, creative many-sided human relationships into exploitation and abuse. Marx, Nietzsche and Freud described a fallen world, in which money, power and sex have become the norm, displacing relationship, stewardship and worship. Part of the point of postmodernity, under the strange providence of God, is to preach the Fall to arrogant modernity." (p141)

"The way of Christian witness is neither the way of quietist withdrawal, nor the way of Herodian compromise, nor the way of angry militant zeal. It is the way of being in Christ, in the Spirit, at the place where the world is in pain, so that the healing love of God may be brought to bear at that point. … The Christian vocation is to be in prayer, in the Spirit, at the place where the world is in pain, and as we embrace that vocation we discover it to be the way of following Christ, shaped according to his messianic vocation to the cross, with arms outstretched, holding on simultaneously to the pain of the world and to the love of God." (p146)