Sunday, 9 April 2017

Palm Sunday and crime fiction

Up bright and early to celebrate the eight o'clock Eucharist at St Catherine's, and Clare came too, so she could have the rest of the morning free to go to Riverside Market, and prepare lunch for an early afternoon visit to her study group in Bristol. I went on to St German's to celebrate Mass. Being Palm Sunday, we began with the blessing of Palms in the church's walled garden, and processed from there into the building. The sun shone and a wren tweeted a commentary during the the Palm Gospel reading. Again the sun streamed into the church wonderfully throughout the service.

Beforehand and afterwards, we had visits from people asking for baptism in the coming weeks. There are seven to baptise in four separate services, and all these will fall to me, as they'll happen before Fr Phelim is licensed and starts working full time in the Parish. I've done more while on different locum duty stints in St German's over the past five years, than I did in eight full years at St John's. There have been more this past years than previously, and the reason for that is not apparent. I wonder if it's a sign of resurgent interest in tradition and custom, after a long period of disinterest. It's certainly not unusual for faith concerns to wax and wane, and skip a generation.

I fully intended to go out for a walk after lunch, but indolence got the better of me, so I didn't. After a few phone calls and emails, I dozed off for a while, and then Clare was home again. I watched an NCIS episode not previously seen, while waiting for 'Line of Duty', which made compelling watching, with a shock ending yet again. So many twists and turns you don't see coming.

My regular diet of crime fiction watching when I have nothing better to do, has made me wonder lately about the significance of the character portrayal of crime investigators.

So many of them are mavericks, some are team players, sort of, but with brilliant bosses, as in the CSI and NCIS series, where the nature of leadership and its qualities is part of what's being explored. In other series, sleuths are sad people, loners, struggling socially, in pain, but all of them have the ability to think outside the box, to see and read evidence differently from others, obsessive as well as brave in chasing the truth, no matter how costly to themselves or others.

These seem like heroic cultural figures in the so called ‘age of reason and scientific evidence’, for they expose weaknesses and disabilities in the way well meaning people and those with vested interests in the status quo interpret, if not select evidence to work with, to suit themselves. The idea that the truth is out there, but hidden. Searching for the truth involves discipline, pain and self sacrifice, also intuition and inspiration as well as experience, learning and skill. Truth may not be what it seems at first sight. This is important, not just in forensic science, and law enforcement, but also in politics and commerce. Recent episodes of 'Line of Duty' and 'Follow the Money', both about uncovering corruption in policing and in the financial world, have made me think about the personal costliness of pursuing the truth.

If I may dare stretch the point, this is equally important in terms of religious truth too, filled as religion can be with hypocrisy, lies, bigotry and manipulation. Some say that’s all there is to religion, yet, there are outstanding people who see truth and reality beyond the superficial crap, who want to take us where we don’t think the evidence leads. The best and most inspiring spiritual and religious leaders and teachers resemble the maverick crime busting heroes I’m thinking of. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy the genre so much, even when it's weird and wonderful, or just super nasty. These detectives may be odd characters, and downright unholy in many aspects of their lives, yet they feel compelled to sacrifice themselves to uncover the truth the evidence really points to. 

There's something comparable to the story of Jesus in this, as it unfolds on Palm Sunday and during Holy Week, when we're reminded that the revelation of God in the midst of outrageous human iniquity and injustice occurs in a context of law enforcement and political expediency, secular and religious.

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