OK, OK, as an Anglican Cleric I confess that I watch Grantchester, that intoxicating mashup of crime mystery, bromance, soap opera and a dash of increasingly potent theology thrown in.
The third season sports an agonizing slow motion collision as emerging liberal Christianity accelerates and traditional faith and morals gets in the way.
The theological issues all locate around (tell me you didn’t guess) S_X. People want to “love” who they want, marital status, gender, age or social status be, well, darned!
It’s presented with some welcome complexity. In episode 3, the Vicar of Grantchester preaches an ueber liberal homily about being ourselves and grabbing onto this life rather than heavenly hopes. I can’t find a video clip but a UK source quotes a line,
“This is the life we are here for, we owe it to ourselves to live it.”
Seriously, that’s the triumphant theology that claimed my denomination and several others over the decades and you can become a priest or pastor by memorizing and spouting fortune cookie stuff like that. I’m guessing that many of you reading this will wonder why I seem to question it at all.
But the show doesn’t shy away from the reality that what follows the sermon, as key characters act on it, is folly and disaster. Families are threatened (the writers go so far as to show a little girl’s mounting trauma as divorce stalks her parents), a spot of December-May adultery gets obsessive, lies abound and along comes all the real stuff that happens when we poo poo the Gospel and take “what we owe to ourselves.”
But the liberal critique of “conservative” hypocrisy is not ignored. The Vicar tries to change course in episode 4, preaching a moralistic harangue about how giving in to temptation leads to suffering, then going off to his lover for more, well, must-be-love.
There is a closeted gay cleric in the series, and we watch in agony as he tries to “be good” on the church’s terms and proposes to a vulnerable woman, only to break her heart.
The bottom line is that when it comes to S_X (why is that the only aspect of life we debate theologically?), we can’t “live the life we owe to ourselves.”
Grantchester illustrates all too well what liberal Christianity does to people – not just the participants in the act but a whole lot of others who become collateral damage.
It also shows how traditional Christians who try to “have it both ways,” preaching Biblical morality while living carnally, generate the same result, harming themselves and all kinds of innocent bystanders in the process.
I’m old fashioned in the sense that I believe we should preach what the Scriptures say, try to live by them and deal with failures as failures, but with gentleness intended to restore the fallen (which includes each and every one of us, all the time),
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. (Galatians 6:1 NLT)
And I believe that people are free to reject Christianity and go do something else – the dice are ours to roll, to be flip about it. If a person thinks the Bible’s plain teaching is nonsense, then don’t claim to live by and represent it. The Vicar of Grantchester seems to have learned that much from the mayhem, taking off his clergy collar and walking away from the church, at least temporarily.