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  • Ross Moughtin

When what should have happened didn't actually happen.


“If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.” So tweeted Ivanka Trump in quoting Albert Einstein. Except that Albert never said any such thing. That’s a fact, at least for most of us in the real world. We are now living in this postmodern age in which we can create our own facts. As you know Ivanka’s father is desperately trying to create a set of facts which allows him to remain in office. Facts, it seems, are no longer sacrosanct – and certainly never let them get in the way of a good story. Which leads me directly to the current Netflix series, the Crown. Currently Jacqui and I are on episode 4 in the fourth season, released last Sunday. The naval task force has just left Portsmouth. I must say that I am enjoying this high profile series but I have a nagging concern “Is this really what happened?” And often the answer is no. So the new season begins with Lord Mountbatten writing a directive and difficult letter to Prince Charles. For those of you yet to watch the show I won’t go into any more detail. Certainly writing the letter adds to the flow of the narrative. Except it never happened. The creator of the Crown, Peter Morgan, argues that while Lord Mountbatten never wrote such a letter, nevertheless the letter does represent what he thought, or at least what Morgan thought he thought! He reflects: “In my own head I thought that would have even greater impact on Charles if it were to come post-mortem, as it were. I think everything that’s in that letter that Mountbatten writes to Charles is what I really believe, based on everything I’ve read and people I’ve spoken to, that represents his view.” Basically, what Morgan is saying is that while the fact is that Mountbatten did not write any such letter, he should have written it. And that’s good enough for him. Sadly, for Prince Charles and other members of the Royal Family, already 73 million viewers around the world think is that this actually happened To protest otherwise is to deny what is there before your very eyes. And brilliant acting and set design doesn’t actually help. The problem is that this Netflix series is not some made-up Game of Thrones, from the realms of fiction, but a presentation of real people in real life. Without realising it, we start to think that Josh O’Connor is the heir to the throne and not an actor from Cheltenham who supports Southampton FC. Now I realise that on one level this is nothing new. Richard III never regained his reputation having been maligned by William Shakespeare. But in this digital age with high definition imagery we do need to be on our guard, to know the difference between what happened and what didn’t happen and even more importantly, between what happened and what we would have like to have happened. Facts are important: they constitute reality. Like the fact of Jesus of Nazareth. It is true to say that before Jesus no one had ever written a gospel, a unique blend of history and theology centred on the life of one person. Each of the four gospel writers handles the material differently but what holds them together is a determination to say what actually happened in and around the Roman province of Judea during the time of Caesar Augustus. So Luke tells us in his opening sentence “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” (Luke 1:1) But one fact above all stands out, a fact which makes sense of all the other facts: the resurrection of Jesus. The Christian faith stands or falls by this one event in history, as the apostle Paul explains “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (I Corinthians 15:14) The Christian faith is not so much a teaching of timeless truths but the outworking of this one, single event. And only the resurrection could make sense of the cruel and humiliating death of Jesus, a death so terrible that it should have discredited all his teaching. This resurrection of Jesus is so crucial that it has to be checked out. Writing just twenty years or so later, the apostle Paul invites his recalcitrant readers in Corinth to check it out for themselves, after all most of the witnesses are still around. So in this he refers to one resurrection appearance not mentioned in any of the gospels: “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep (i.e. died).” (1 Corinthians 15:6) Knowing Jesus is not a case of what should or could have happened. The fact of the matter is what did happen, an event in history. The implication are huge, above all that he calls each of us to lay down our arms (or alms) and follow him, in real time. #resurrection #truth #reality

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