Line of Duty, trail of discovery

automobile-1850065_1920You may love it; you may loathe it; you may not even have seen it. But with series 4 in full swing, prime time TV police drama ‘Line of Duty’s ratings remain sky high. Its mix of jeopardy, nerve-shredding plot twists and beguiling characters keeps its devotees coming back for more (I should know – I’m one of them). No matter that new Met commissioner Cressida Dick doesn’t watch it – she has a beleaguered capital to protect. I’m sure she’ll catch up on the box set one day.

The drama focuses on the investigations of police anti-corruption unit ‘AC12’, which in this series revolve around the central ‘incident’ of DCI Roz Huntley killing a forensic officer (in self-defence apparently), then tampering with blood spatter evidence that links her to the crime.

Huntley is a slickly smart, reptilian character, played by black actress Thandie Newton. You can’t help but quietly applaud this masterstroke of diversity casting, especially as we watch her sparring with and skewering a host of hapless males. Our thrill at her performance is matched only by the ruthlessly sharp cut and thrust of the interrogation room scenes, where evidence, motive and circumstance are (quite literally) forensically scrutinised.

I’m reminded too of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in his ‘mind palace’ moments, observing, marshalling and processing minute evidence in that other BBC detective hit. TV writers are plainly tapping into a vein of public interest, at least in the crime domain (let’s hope it now extends to political parties pontificating from the stump!).

What I personally find intriguing right now though, are parallels with the historical investigations and ruminations in a book I’m reading about the resurrection of Christ. Yes, a bit left field, I grant you.

There’s an irony in our fascination with ‘evidence’ in TV drama, when contrasted with fairly widespread credulity about assessing the truth claims of faith – commonly perceived as arbitrary and subjective, or just groundless fantasy. There actually exist out there some very inviting ‘lines of enquiry’. I’m not a natural ‘believe without question’ type. I revere the gift of child-like trust, and love the promise and path of faith – but also have a sceptical, investigative streak, even a dose of doubt of sorts – so I enjoy exploring scholarship that helps me see more clearly actual grounds for belief – and indeed where questions and uncertainties may still lie.

I’m currently reading NT Wright’s monumental tome ‘The Resurrection of the Son of God’. A comprehensive examination of how faith in the bodily resurrection of Jesus arose in the early church, through an exhaustive study of the New Testament documents, within the broader matrices of ancient pagan beliefs about the hereafter, and the contemporary Jewish context. For a reader curious to find out, it’s a compulsive page-turner. For an introduction to this author, see his page

Unlike in Line of Duty, the evidence under Wright’s microscope is, from my reading so far, not primarily physical & forensic but historical & documentary. But no less powerful for that. It’s not a case of simple straightforward watertight controlled experiment type proof. Sorry peeps it’s not like that – but then few of life’s weightier matters are. Equally, it’s very hard to put down with any notion of ‘sky fairy fantasy’ intact. A quarter of the way in, it already looks like a compelling, detailed body of evidence. I think it’s possible for such evidence, fairly examined, to provide the springboard for a ‘step’ of faith; a glance toward God, simple, natural, you might even say logical. And, well who knows what world of spiritual life and colour that could lead to, or what fresh ‘evidences’ of grace might flourish and multiply daily there…

I grant you that takes us a long way from the dark machinations of ‘Line of Duty’. But in their openness to rigorous enquiry, the two may not be so far apart.

Easter: obscure beliefs – or life for the world?

easter-theme-2136054_1920What does the Easter weekend mean to you? A chance to get away perhaps? DIY? Chocolate eggs, and maybe a vague cultural awareness they have something to do with spring and new life? Perhaps an even vaguer awareness that it’s a ‘religious’ festival, celebrated harmlessly by the ‘Christian’ community, nice but a bit weird and irrelevant in a modern world where there are plenty of good things to enjoy without any of that strange intangible unprovable stuff.

Oh God… (to express both slight exasperation, and prayer…). If all that my hopes and longings truly amount to is an obscure set of narrow beliefs for a few people who are into that stuff, with no foundation in reality, utterly irrelevant to wider life and the world… well to quote Humphrey Bogart it’s just a ‘hill of beans’ – and I’m outta here.

It’s not that I don’t in some way ‘get’ the prevailing western view – at least in part. Church and Christianity may indeed have been part of my life and upbringing from age dot… but I’m also just a human being like everyone else living in our prosperous society, breathing the same air of widespread spiritual indifference or confusion. I could have jacked it in ages ago. And being ‘a believer’ doesn’t make you immune to the doubts and ‘thought obstacles’ that assail a spiritual apprehension of the world. Yes I’m sometimes bothered by the troubling niggle that my faith seems to be rooted in ancient texts talking of things in the distant past which are seemingly beyond any meaningful contemporary investigation – not least the conviction Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

But I can’t just dismiss these things as mere fantasy. Partly because I know that people with both a burning desire for truth and profound intellect have investigated, pondered, and unearthed weighty insights and discoveries that keep me hooked. Reading a tome like ‘The Resurrection of the Son of God’ by renowned New Testament scholar NT Wright, is for me like engaging in an engrossing piece of detective work – like The Da Vinci Code, but without all the nonsense. So much to discover…

It’s also that I retain a hunger for deep, satisfying ‘resources’ to tackle life’s profound questions that keeps me on the path of faith. And thirst for a deeper, more enduring kind of life than a mere ‘this life is all there is so make the most of it’ viewpoint offers (although I do believe in making the most of it!).

But what truly rescues Christian faith from being a mere fruitless reverie on ancient obscurities, is the possibility that Jesus is indeed risen from the dead, the mysterious presence of the ‘Holy Spirit’ is abroad in the world, and resurrection power is at work. That there’s a vast unseen but real spiritual landscape both ‘out there’ and ‘in here’ that awaits my eager exploration, and that I’m beckoned into… What’s not to like?

There’s no immediately obvious connection, but last night I caught up with tense police drama ‘Line of Duty’ on the BBC. Not hard to spot why it’s so popular: gripping plotlines; characters we care about; and an appeal to our intense human interest in justice – wanting truth to see the light of day, the innocent to be vindicated and the guilty to get their just desserts.

I believe the adventure of faith can be just as gripping. What will happen next? What lies round the corner? What fresh revelation or opportunity will come my way as I seek to dwell within and discover the wild strange mystery that is God? And how can I be involved in His pursuit of justice?

I pray that in this season of recollecting the resurrection, my and others’ hunger for fresh bubbling life from deep wells may be revived.