The actress, Jodie Whitaker, is going to be the next Doctor when Peter Capaldi hands over the sonic screwdriver in the Christmas Special of Doctor Who. The announcement was important – the BBC interrupted its Wimbledon broadcast – and the WHOverse was definitely vocal. I’d say most were in favour of this regeneration from a man to a woman (it had been hinted enough over earlier series) but there were definitely voices against the change. Predictably the comments made news in themselves as people com-plained about the change, as others said the change should have happened a long time ago, and as others que-ried whether this was any sort of ‘victory’ for equality but just another superficial veneer that changes little in society. In the discussions about ‘cultural messaging’ one commen-tator made the point that how women are depicted on TV does matter because “it helps define what we consider normal”.
And that is so true. That isn’t a conspiracy but how the world works – how we work – how advertising, socialisa-tion, science, education, and so much more works. Many of the social changes of the last century had impetus in the cataclysms of war which were seen and experienced. There is a chicken and egg quality here – sometimes people play ‘catch up’ in their views about normality because of expediency and sometimes people’s views are changed by such things as media exposure but whatever the ‘direction’ the truth is that the world around us influences what is normal.
And that’s the big issue. What is normal? Or more to the point, what is normal for me and why do I say so? Adjacent to this question is ‘What is right?’ (And ‘what is wrong?’)
Of course governments, religion, philosophies, the person with the biggest club, the media (and that includes not just business but us with social media), people with a particular agenda, all want to shape perceptions and entrench their version of normality. They may do it for mate-rial gain or a sense of personal entitlement or because of their idea of justice or a philosophical stance and the change they are advocating is always ‘for the better’.
If I lived under Sharia Law what is normal includes polygamy. Here in the UK, adultery has been decriminalised for a long time but is it normal if you consider its apparent frequency? I recently read a BBC article entitled ‘Polyamorous marriage: Is there a future for three-way weddings?’ – which wondered whether this could be a new normal.
I’m not into the ‘culture war’ framework whereby the ‘evil’ world is trying to stamp underfoot ‘good’ Christian countries. I’m not into theocracies – I don’t think there is such a thing as a Christian country – good or otherwise – and any religion ‘in power’ in my view will ultimately create its own hell. I live in the tension that God’s world is good and loved and ordered by him and we are called to live as best we can in this world in which there is now also the Kingdom of God. So I live under a Queen here in the UK and under a Lord who is Lord no matter which country I’m in. I live in a body polluted by sin and in a world marred by sin. I see evil around
me yet believe God is still working good out of it all. I can applaud and support this or that worldly legislation or lifestyle while acknowledging that nothing is perfect. I live in the tension that peace and justice change over time on Earth and yet are permanent with God.
My ‘normal’ is trying to live the Gospel in a world that may support Christianity in one country while oppose it in another country. By trying to live the Gospel, I mean trying to follow Jesus where he – through his written word – guides me to see him and life here from his perspective, I can navigate my way through my relationships, situations, and behaviour. I can say and try to live what is ‘right’ and not live what is ‘wrong’ for me. I don’t expect the world to support me – though it mightn’t oppose or attack me – but that’s the point, the world changes and so does its normal. For me the one who doesn’t change is God in Jesus Christ – and working out what that means each day is what discipleship is all about – no matter where or when we live. GS