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...
It’s hard to reconcile pictures of a smiling young woman, out with her friends, together with this week’s chilling headlines: ‘Britain’s most prolific child-killer’.
After 10 months, Lucy Letby has been sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison, for horrific crimes against the most vulnerable. Alongside headlines of the trial are the puzzled questions: how could she get away with it for so long? Why weren’t warnings heeded earlier? How could she? Why?
A harrowing interview with one of the consultants reports the day when he and other colleagues first realised that Lucy Letby was the common factor between unexplained deaths and near collapses. One of them exclaimed, ‘not nice Lucy!’
Dealing with the reality of evil in our midst is something we all struggle with. It’s easier when those who perpetrate evil are visibly different, or ‘other’. We can demonise them, call them monsters, and doubt their humanity. It’s harder when they’re friends, family, or colleagues – people on our frontlines, who look and sound just like us. Then, we’re tempted to look aside and go into denial, with potentially horrendous consequences.
I am always moved by the account of the last supper and the washing of feet. Jesus washes all his disciples’ feet – including Judas. He treats the betrayer with the same respect and love as the others. And yet equally, Jesus also points to the terrible consequences of the choice Judas makes: ‘woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’ (Matthew 26:24)
Somehow, the challenge is to hold together both the humanity of the one who commits evil, and their difference. It is only by both facing the horror of their actions and seeing them as human, with free will, that they can be held fully responsible for their actions. It is because we still consider the most evil killers fully human that the sentencing judge was able to thank the mental health team that supported Lucy Letby. Deeply Christian values have shaped our justice system: both holding people accountable, and treating them humanely, in ways they denied those they hurt.
There are many in our churches called to walk on these complex frontlines, in the criminal justice system, in healthcare, in chaplaincy, in volunteer roles with multiple charities. Now is a good time to thank them for facing what most of us prefer to look away from, and pray for them.
Revd Prebendary Dr Isabelle Hamley
Secretary for Theology and Theological Adviser to the House of Bishops