Dear Friends,

I have been studiously trying to avoid any reference to ‘party gate’. I have never hidden my political preferences. It is no secret that in over 40 years I have never voted for the party presently in Govt and so any comment I might make could easily be interpreted as reflecting my inherent political bias. A charge to which I have no choice but to plead guilty. However, with what we have heard this week I feel I have to say something. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were relatively junior reporters on the Washington Post back in 1972 when they stumbled across the story surrounding the politically motivated break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Subsequently ‘immortalised’ in the film, ‘All the President’s Men’, the story ultimately led to the resignation of the then President, Richard Nixon. Nixon’s crime? Denying his involvement and seeking to cover it up. And so, back to ‘Party Gate.’ In the light of the evidence produced it would seem that the Prime Minister had to make a choice, ‘Own up’ or ‘Cover up’. For many people their criticism of the PM is that he is seeking to deny the obvious. Rather than coming clean and admitting his involvement in what went on in Downing St these last two years, he is using every ‘parliamentary trick in the book’ to evade the inevitable. It may be that in acting in this way, the PM has put himself beyond forgiveness as far as the British public is concerned. He may ‘hang on’ to office for a while, at least until the next set of elections – the local elections this coming May – but then he may find that ‘revenge – the revenge of the electorate – is indeed  a dish best served cold.’ But before we all assume the moral high ground, I’m sure that if we are to be honest with ourselves, owning up is not something that comes easily, even naturally to many of us. In that respect, the Christian Gospel is entirely counter-cultural. It is predicated on our being prepared to ‘own up’. Our being willing to have brought out into the open that which we would otherwise rather keep covered up. Or as the Bible puts it, ‘to confess our sins’. And with confession comes a promise that, ‘anyone of us who confesses our sin before God, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Of course, that is God’s promise to us. We are not so forgiving, not so prepared to forgive. That is why so often we are reluctant to ‘own up’ – we fear the consequences – the judgement of our peers is often disproportionate, harsh, unbending. More intent on retribution than restoration. We all want our proverbial ‘pound of flesh’. Indeed, if we were to be honest, even if the PM had ‘fessed up, would any of us have been prepared to forgive him. If I am honest, I’m not sure I would have been. To be prepared to forgive is costly – The Gospel makes that plain – Jesus dies on the Cross and demands of us that we be prepared to ‘take up our Cross daily.’ I’ve often talked of the mission of the Church being to ‘keep alive the death of Jesus’, i.e., to remind the world that forgiveness costs, but that without forgiveness we will have a much higher price to pay. Meanwhile the soap opera that is ‘party gate’ will continue to play itself out in the public eye, a truly sorry saga, which might have been so different if at least someone had been prepared to say, ‘sorry.’

‘Own up’ or ‘Cover up’