Line of Duty, bent coppers, guilt and God
Ian Goodson suggests the BBC's Line of Duty shows we all carry a sense of guilt. But the modern world, unlike Christianity, gives us no way of dealing with it.
There’s a good chance you’ve watched BBC’s Line of Duty. After all, 13 million of us did. Were you as disappointed with the revelation of ‘The Fourth Man’ as my wife and I were? (Though, frankly, I was just confused!).
Line of Duty - if you haven’t seen it - centres on a fictional police ‘anti-corruption unit’ (AC-12) who sniff out ‘bent coppers’. Over the course of six series the storyline gets increasingly complicated as the team, led by Superintendent Ted Hastings and DIs Steve Arnott and Kate Flemming, uncover a tangled web of organised crime.
The final episode of series six claims to tie all the various strands, loose-ends and questions together.
And one such question concerned the head of the unit himself, Supt. Ted Hastings.
Hastings had, in a previous series, revealed information to organised crime that he knew may well lead to the death of a police officer (and indeed did).
So even the top anti-corruption man himself is tarnished. A bit bent, even.
Interesting word, bent. We get it from Christianity. ‘Bent’, or ‘crooked’ or ‘twisted’, are one of the ways the Bible uses to describe the human condition. It’s another word for ‘sin’.
Our human nature, originally created to be perfect, has been distorted.
We were made, Christianity says, in the likeness of God. But in our rebellion against God we have become distorted, twisted, bent human beings. Even the best of us. Even the Teds amongst us.
In our rebellion against God we have become distorted, twisted, bent human beings. Even the best of us. Even the Teds amongst us.
Indeed, whilst explaining to his colleagues (Steve and Kate) why he had given some dodgy money to the wife of the dead police officer, a remorseful Ted sighs, “Giving that money to that young woman was my way of atonement, what little there was of it.”
Atonement. Making everything right again. That’s religious language.
Steve and Kate ask Ted what the widow would say if she knew the cash was dodgy. Ted responds, “And if she did, what would she make of it? Who’s going to judge what I did? Her? The law? My colleagues? God?”
Our society thinks it has effectively seen off God. We’re not supposed to really worry about feeling guilty any more.
But all the evidence points to the reality that such a thing as a ‘soul’ does exist, accountable ultimately to God. We cheer AC-12 on - “go on, flush out the bent coppers” - but we also carry around with us our own sense of guilt about our own actions, our own bent-ness.
Which is a very strange thing, if there is no God.
In one of the closing scenes, Ted enters the office of Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael (well, it’s Ted’s office really - yes, it’s complicated) and confesses his wrong doing to his superior officer.
He needn’t have. But it’s as if he needs to. He needs to get his guilt off his chest. And after he does, it looks as if he has grown two inches (brilliantly acted by Adrian Dunbar).
Christianity makes much better sense of our experience of life than the secular ideas we’ve been force-fed since our youth.
We know we are all guilty people - even the best of us - and we so want to get it off our chest. Guilt, sin (‘bent’) and forgiveness are not old fashioned concepts. Not really. They are alive and kicking.
But our modern world gives us no way to think about them. And no way to deal with them - or have them dealt with.
Our modern world gives us no way to think about guilt and forgiveness, and no way to deal with them.
In one famous line, the apostle Paul says “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans chapter 8, verse 1).
The promise of authentic Christianity (not the sandals-and-summer-fête version you perhaps grew up with) is that Jesus Christ can truly deal with our guilt.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, the only one who was never crooked but died in the place of his crooked people, we can be truly forgiven by God: deeply, thoroughly, forever.
And then we can, humbly, stand two inches taller.
Would you like to explore the real Christian claims about Jesus Christ in a relaxed way without any pressure? Join us on 18th May 2021 (online, using Zoom.us) for the first taster session of Christianity Explored. Find out more here.
PHOTO: STEFFAN HILL/BBC