Skip to main content

This is England: The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome/understood it

(This is England '88, Channel 4 2011)

Whatever Meadows believes about Christmas he certainly seems to 'get it' in a way that the rest of the world (including lots of us 'in the church') have either missed or prefer to ignore.

His latest 3-part installment in the 'This is England' story had me gripped…with desperation for the plight of his characters, remembered pain from shared experiences*, fearful glimmers of hope as I dared to believe that they might make it through the darkness after all…

Although the redemptive plot elements primarily focus on human forgiveness and restoration of relationship, Meadows does not exalt this to the position of a be-all-and-end-all fix-it for his characters. Woody and Lol, in particular, end up poignantly reminiscent of Adam and Eve at the end of Paradise Lost: "hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow".

Moreover, he explicitly deals with the 'what if?' of Jesus - recognising the need, the darkness, the yearning of the world, recognising the implications of the Incarnation 'if true', unafraid to grapple with that 'if' and leave it as an open question. Wow. No nice, tidy, historically-edited Nativity in the corner of a TV 'Christmas special' - instead, an absolutely gut wrenching sequence in which scenes of Lol having her stomach pumped, accompanied by flashbacks of the absolute horror of the life she was trying to escape, were juxtaposed with crucifixion imagery and again with the steadfastness of her friend in prayer for her.

Meadows seems sympathetic to but not simplistic about the possiblity of 'divine intervention'. On the one hand we could infer that the prayers are answered; but to me there was an unmistakeable element of accusation/questioning towards God in the contrast between Lol's torment and the arguably overly simple solutions offered by 'faith' - why all this suffering in the first place? Even if Jesus was/is who he said he was/is, can that possibly make all this OK?

Watching this reminded me of the faithfulness of God in the darker and bleaker stretches of my own journey. I hardly ever saw it at the time, but I am utterly confident that the 'slow miracle' of the last few years is not something that happened by chance and it certainly wasn't the result of my own efforts…

Back to John 1 to conclude. Apparently (well, according to Don Carson), the word in verse 5 has two meanings, and that we should take them both: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it", and "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it". The two together rather nicely sum up "This is England '88"…anguish and searching and uncertainty on the one hand; at least the glimmers of triumphant hope on the other.

*Oops, just realised that's in danger of being interpreted too specifically/dramatically...I'm not suggesting my life bears comparison with the central themes.

Comments

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 …