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15 July 2011

State of Play: The Sequel

State of Play: The Sequel

The film State of Play is a fascinating tale of political twists and dogged journalism about wrongdoing at the heart of the establishment. Two seemingly unrelated incidents appear in fact to be two strands in a massive submerged pattern that links private lives and public events. A journalist and a police detective each pursue their own line of enquiry. As the reporter glimpses the enormity of the unfolding reality he remarks that they are on to a massive story. "It's not a story, it's a case," says the cop to the reporter.

Looking through different professional lenses, they uncover not so much a conspiracy as moral fallibility. Ultimately the film is an enquiry into the human condition.

We are in the midst of our own State of Play. Played out in real time. It's a story. It's a case. But at its core, it's about life. The death of schoolgirls and soldiers as well as the lives of bereaved families became the turning point from a scandal into a widespread outrage. Various lines of investigation in this myriad of wrongdoing constitute our own enquiry into the human condition, undoubtedly uncovering further human fallibility, whether corrupt, fearful, complicit, complacent, or greedy. Nasty networks of vested interests will surface.

In his Face to Faith column, Gordon Lynch writes: "The moral credibility of news media lies partly in their ability to work with the grain of sacred meanings shared with their audiences." The degree in which the News of the World profaned what many people take to be sacred triggered the public outrage and caused the demise of the paper itself.

The deputy prime minister reflected this week on the wider context. "The pillars of the British establishment are tumbling one after the other," he said, referring to News International, the banks, Parliament, and Scotland Yard. Adopting his own political lens, he considers this an opportune moment for the Liberal Democrats to permeate the "rotten establishment" with liberal values, harnessing the "sense of outrage to build something better for the future." Hmm…the storyline probably needs a better plot.

Adopting a theological lens, I suggest that more of our activity and character is evaluated by the lens of new creation. We must all combat "the rot", countering the corrosion of character, even those of us playing the role of "the audience". Several of the spectators are in fact spect-actors. Why does the Church of England have investments in the Murdoch empire? And closer to home, does our household need to change the quality of paper we buy? We are either complicit or our investments and consumer power reflect the ethics of the kingdom.

The Christian community needs to develop a critical theology of culture and invest in a pursuit of craftmanship that has its home in faith and virtue and is concerned with the wellbeing God intended for the wider community. Storyline, cast, plot, characters, and sequel can all reflect something of the new creation, transmitting rays of the sacred in our own state of play today.

Marijke Hoek, coordinator Forum for Change