Two things I am known for: helping people prepare for baptism and watching tv dramas.
The Responder follows a police officer over several days, as his life falls apart. It is a fine performance from actor Martin Freeman, including the most convincing Scouse accent by a non-Scouser I have heard on tv. Indeed, this gritty, harrowing tale is full of fine performances from an excellent cast. And every single character, no matter what part they play in the story, is just about at breaking point.
It is easy to dismiss drama as exaggerating for dramatic effect. Or to rail against portrayals of corruption as unhelpful. If you work within an institution—the police force, for example, or the Church—it is easy to become defensive about portrayals of corruption (in fiction, or the news) as misrepresenting an overwhelming majority of good people. But, as The Responder sees with wide-eyed clarity, good people—or people who try to do good, or to do ‘the right thing’—make bad decisions when they feel forced into a corner. When they or their families are threatened with violence, or even loss of face. This is even more likely when we are under a more general stress pressure. And, like the full range of people from diverse backgrounds in The Responder, so many of the real people I know in real life are living with unbearable loads right now.
(This crisis response is as old as human nature: in the Old Testament reading set for Morning Prayer today, we see Sarah trying to cover herself when her eavesdropping is uncovered; and in the Gospel reading we see Pilate make successive and increasingly desperate attempts to save Jesus from a lynch mob, ultimately putting his own skin and that of his family ahead of the life of an innocent stranger.)
At the heart of Baptism are four questions and responses, made for ourselves or, in the case of an infant, by parents and godparents on their behalf. In their most simple form, these are:
Do you turn away from sin?
Do you reject evil?
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
Do you trust in him as Lord?
These questions and answers acknowledge the reality that The Responder depicts.
That there is a distance that grows between us—‘sin’—even between us and those we love the most, that must be turned away from if we are to close that gap, if we are not to vanish from our own lives.
That the refusal to love our neighbour—for that is the definition of ‘evil,’ an indifference towards others—must also be strongly, and communally, rejected. You cannot mitigate against indifference by indifference: this is not a vaccine scenario where a small dose of indifference immunises society against potentially fatal indifference.
But also that we find ourselves, from time to time, in a hole where to keep on digging would only make it deeper. We need saving, from those who would harm us, including our own actions. In Christ, God is with us and for us, not necessarily rescuing us from consequences, but rescuing us from the disaster we catastrophise by bringing life out of death.
For, in all things, he is at work to reconcile all things—relationships, conflict, pain, the good we fear losing but cannot hold on to however hard we try—to bring about not a neat resolution and a Happily Ever After fairy-tale ending, but fresh beginnings and a true peace even in the most complex and challenging of circumstances.
I would recommend The Responder to your viewing. But I would recommend baptism preparation—or, for those who have been baptised, a revisiting of the baptismal promises; and, for those christened as a child who have never made the rite your own through Confirmation—even more so.