Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
‘Who are you?’
‘I’m a Whitehouse.’
‘And what is it about Whitehouses?’
‘They always come out on top!’
That is the refrain echoed between father and son in almost every episode of Anatomy of a Scandal, a Netflix-produced dramatisation of the 2018 novel of the same name.
It tells the story of a wealthy and attractive politician, James Whitehouse, who is accused of raping one of his staff members… who also happens to be his former mistress. The show takes place mainly in a courtroom, and is rated 18 – for good reason, as it contains sexual content, drug use, and graphic descriptions of sexual assault. You may choose not to watch it for that reason.
The show tackles several controversial and complicated issues: consent, he said/she said, infidelity – with mixed success. But what stuck with me from my six-hour binge-watching fest on Monday (don’t judge me) is this: power.
The refrain we hear between James and his son starts off as a cute motivational call-and-response. But the more we learn about James’ history and attitude to life and truth, the more chilling it becomes. There is an assumption of power, of privilege, of always winning no matter the cost, and this has repercussions far beyond games of Monopoly around the kitchen table. It felt poignant to watch this programme as similar discussions are taking place in and about our own government and leadership.
As a society, we are acutely aware of the ‘wrongness’ of ‘hard’ power, of physically forcing people to do stuff they do not wish to.
But what about soft power? What about the place of privilege and assumptions we make about ourselves and our ‘rightful’ place in the world? Whether we realise it or not, we all hold ‘soft’ power. It can be emotional, financial, relational, or cultural, and the way that we choose to use – and potentially abuse – our power is an important aspect of our discipleship (Philippians 2:1-11).
Jesus is clear in his teaching that ‘the last will be first, and the first will be last’ (Matthew 20:20-28). In Anatomy of a Scandal, James ‘coming out on top’ meant that others were trampled on, silenced, misled, or misrepresented.
In the upside-down kingdom of God, however, ‘coming out on top’ looks like humbling yourself, making yourself lesser, serving others’ needs over and above your own. It looks – more than anything – like loving your neighbour as yourself.
Alianore is an Associate Speaker for LICC and Church & Theology Executive at International Justice Mission