Skip to main content

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)


Popular posts from this blog

An autobiographical poem about walking on water

A decade ago, give or take – feeling at crisis point in my mental health and desperately socially disconnected – I "went up for prayer" at a church I was visiting. (I find it hard to do this at my own church when I feel desperately socially disconnected. It's hard enough even to be at my own church at such times). And the gentle, kindly woman who placed her hand on my shoulder and prayed some simple, general, healing words to suit my simple, general, hurting plea looked thoughtfully at me afterwards and said "just, if and when you can, keep taking each next step towards Jesus, whatever that looks like," or words to that effect. It seemed as good a plan as any, so I did. (Not instead of getting medical and professional help, I hasten to add; seeking out and receiving whatever support is available has always felt more like an action of faith than a compromise of it).

Since then, stepping towards Jesus has taken me (slowly, often painfully, and usually the long w…

The Sin of Onan

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. (Genesis 38:6-10) According to Google's answer to what (let's face it) must be right up there among the most-asked questions since the invention of the search engine, this story is the closest the Bible comes to saying anything directly about masturbation.

And it isn't a story about masturbation. It's not even a story, not really, about birth control methods – although they feature. It's a story about the denial of ju…

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.  (T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land, part I: The Burial of the Dead,1922) These lines have lingered in my mind the past few days. Eliot wrote The Waste Land in the years following the First World War, when the landscape of humanity seemed perhaps particularly stark and bleak. The poem resounds with disquiet and despair: all glimpsed respite turns out to be illusory or faltering; it seems improbable that any grounds for real hope exist at all. Eliot …