There has been much cyber chatter over the last few weeks, perhaps surprisingly, of the recent third series of the BBC’s hit comedy/drama, Rev. Some Christians love it, some hate it, some think that those who hate it, actually hate it for the wrong reason and just haven’t understood the genre it embodies as British television comedy.
Now, bear with me as I talk about how vicars respond – it will be relevant to all Christians, I promise.
Among the Church of England vicars, there is a stark dividing line that runs even deeper when it comes to Rev. There are those who suggest it validates a pernicious ‘failure’ of vicars to do their job well, or worse, promotes failure as a sort of ideal of suffering holiness. On the other side there’s an almost palpable relief at the portrayal of the realities of vicar-ly life which are so often found to be the case.
I want to suggest that these sets of feelings and the dividing line between vicars on Rev is a dividing line that all of us walk when we’re walking the line of discipleship.
Often there is a sense of failure as we fall short of what a Christian ‘should‘ be. And no matter how hard we try, it doesn’t necessarily seem to get any better. And as we look around us, church is just the same! (yes even the smiley, sparkly, happy ones)
I fail, you fail, we all fail together…just bloody terrific.
Is this how it should be; is this the reality of the walk of Christian life? It seems to be the reality a lot of the time, but what about the whole transformation thing? Isn’t that meant to happen somewhere along the line?
We laugh at Rev, because we recognise the truth in it and we’re relieved we’re not alone. We throw cushions at the telly, railing against it, because we secretly (or not so secretly) worry that it means Christianity is all b@##*£s.
We want Christianity to be a success, because that will prove it is true. We want our leaders to win and we want our congregations to be sparkly. We say that we don’t, because that helps us when they’re not.
But if we’re honest, this is because we haven’t really kicked the habit. We’re still addicted. To power. To control. To success.
In essence, nothing has changed since Jesus’ time. ‘Rome’ and all its glory still looks pretty great. Status, success, power and influence. In comparison the sticky, bloody failure of the cross is rather uninviting.
We’ve had Easter, the contemplation of the resurrection and all it means about how we are transformed. And Rev dealt with that in an excruciatingly sweet episode starring the honey-voiced, shell-suited Liam Neeson as God. ”I like your dancing” he says to the eponymous character, Adam Smallbone. Adam has hit rock bottom, been crucified by his friends and ‘resurrection’ comes. He dances and God joins him.
Of course transformation is the reality of the Christian life. We are to wait expectantly, knowing that change is possible, that victory over all evil really is the truth.
But true resurrection requires a crucifixion: a giving up of the desire for success, the claims to be in control, to look good, to be revered, to be ever capable, to epitomise the good Christian. We are to give it all up.
I know. I don’t like it either.