Retelling the Story
Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Harry was a sad event, on so many fronts. It reflects poorly on the Royals, on the couple, on the media, and on us at large.
The Royals are coming out of this looking like fuddy-duddies. Out of touch, aloof, and disengaged. Racist? Perhaps. Having said that, I did like the line from the queen that “recollections may vary". There is a lesson here for the Anglican Church. Many will see us as out of touch.
Meghan and Harry do not escape critique. They stepped back from the spotlight, only to step back into it.
Over the past week, I have noted a story about a footballer, a surfer, and a swimmer, not to mention a litany of female staffers who were all victims of discrimination. The powerful, the popular, the machine somehow marginalised them. None of this was right. Some evils ought to be called out and opposed. The media is right to do this.
But what perplexes me is how victim after victim telling and retelling their story constitutes news. Does not this attention risk reinforcing a victim mentality or a victim identity? It reinforces a narrative where some are defined by the injustice done to them. This may, in turn, further disempower the victim’s ability to prevail.
In the past, we may have quoted maxims like ‘What does not kill you makes you stronger’. There is a kernel of truth here that has been lost. Life is not fair. It is hard for some, and harder for others. Turns out it's even hard for royalty!
I heard one commentator suggest that Harry and Meghan are unhelpful for each other, in that they reinforce the belief that they are victims of a great injustice. And that they ought to speak out against injustice. But they do so in ways that become unbalanced and represent less than the whole truth.
The media, who loves conflict, and scandal – particularly when tall poppies are in view – have a feeding frenzy around this. They look like carnivores.
And we love to watch. We look like voyeurists.
The Bible is a story, with many sub-plots. There is scandal and family breakdown. This is not exceptional, in a sad and broken world.
The gospel solution is not one of blame, or self-righteousness, or understanding yourself to be the victim. Rather it entails a recognition that sin taints us all. That in and through Jesus we can find forgiveness, and the power to forgive others. And yes – we have a responsibility to help others – the lame and the crippled. The path towards wholeness is a path towards holiness and helping others. It focuses on Jesus and becoming like him. That is our identity and our heritage.
Rev David Rietveld
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