A new series of House starts this month. Sadly, those of us without access to subscription TV, will have to wait until one of the free-to-air channels picks it up as Sky have bought the rights to this very popular hospital drama. House stars Hugh Laurie as a deeply flawed, but brilliant doctor working in an American teaching hospital. The initial interest in the programme was to see the Hugh Laurie, with whom we have become familiar playing an upper class twit in Jeeves and Wooster and Blackadder, playing an American. Laurie is generally thought to have done that bit well enough, but he has also helped to a create a character who has become one of the best-known in American homes.
TV doctors, from Ben Casey and Doctor Findlay, through Marcus Welby to Doctors Carter and Greene in ER, are usually warmed-hearted, hard-working and devoted to their patients. Gregory House has none of these traits … but if you have an unusual disease, House will likely as not be able to diagnose and treat it. In a recent interview Hugh Laurie speculated whether as a member of the public he would prefer to be treated by the brilliant, but obnoxious House or by a lesser mortal with a charming bedside manner. Or, try this for size: Would you prefer to be ruled by a government who handled the economy well and made us all rich, but whose members were squirreling away money for themselves, or by a group of people who were squeaky clean, but were pretty poor at running the country? One may feel that this is a false dichotomy and that we would love to have the option of either of these choices, but the point remains, do we expect too much from our politicians?
A few weeks ago we were looking in our church at the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. We wondered whether the press and the public might be guilty of the sin of worrying about the mote – or perhaps in this case 'moat' – in our brother’s eye, while ignoring the beam in our own. After all, isn’t Lord Black, former owner of The Daily Telegraph serving a jail term for financial crimes? Is it not considered acceptable for any of us to claim all the tax benefits that they can, regardless of need?
It seems that there is a double standard here and it is part of a wider malaise in which the public wants to see ‘celebrities’, including politicians, brought down to size. The means is either voting someone off in a talent competition having previously built them up, or forcing them to eat bugs in the jungle, or hounding them through the press over matters that may be perfectly legitimate.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has entered the debate and warns that, “The continuing systematic humiliation of politicians itself threatens to carry a heavy price in terms of our ability to salvage some confidence in our democracy.”
Bullying is heavily frowned upon in schools, in the NHS and on public transport. Perhaps this is the reason that it is still alive and 'putting the boot in' in the Media – it’s the only place where people can go to lash out. But that doesn’t mean that it’s OK.
There is a rather scary line in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive the sins of others’. If God forgives us as we forgive others, then we are in deep trouble. I suspect that the intention of these words is an encouragement on us to be merciful, because God has been merciful to us, but this parable must put a question mark against this. This parable suggests that how we are received by God is related to how we receive others. But we know that we will all fail in this. If our salvation is dependent on how we forgive others, who then would be saved? We will all fall short of God’s forgiveness, which is why we must continue to rely on his grace.
There is a connection between our forgiving and being forgiven, and the important point to remember is that the way in which we forgive others must be motivated by the way that we have been forgiven by God. So, we need to worry less about the moats, chandeliers, flat screen TVs in our MPs eyes and more about the things that are wrong in our lives. If we do that, we might find that forgiving others will come more readily to us.