What lies behind the drama that has somehow managed to envelope not only Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson, and Church of England bishops – but even the front page of that sage political journal, the Daily Star?
The answer is anger. There are many people right now very angry with Dominic Cummings, feeling that he has flouted lockdown rules that he helped draw up. And there are quite a few people who are angry with those who are angry about him, feeling he was merely looking after his family and didn't actually break any rules. He may (or may not) have resigned by the time you read this, no doubt prompting more anger either way.
There are quite a few people who right now are very angry about Church of England bishops speaking out en masse about Dominic Cummings, believing they are embracing some trendy left-wing politically correct agenda. And there are quite a few people who are angry with those who are angry with the bishops, believing that the bishops are rightly speaking prophetically into a life-and-death situation which touches on major issues of justice.
The shocking truth that lies underneath all these threads is our human tendency to anger – and much of it in all of us seems very far from being righteous.
Anger and blame are engrained in all our hearts – yours and mine. How easily anger towards others flares up – and a desire to blame. We see this tendency in all humanity in the primeval narratives of Genesis. Adam sins, and immediately seeks to blame someone else: 'The woman made me do it,' (Genesis 3v12-13) he asserts. Their son Cain murders his brother Abel and is described as 'very incensed' (Genesis 4v5).
Anger and blame: the two things we have all been doing since the earliest times, and which now continue to this present day, magnified by 24-hour rolling news channels (there is too much news sometimes!) and by social media.
Anger and blame, exacerbated by the long, hot UK spring, and by the subconscious ongoing stress of the pandemic. With the additional physical heat of the weather and the emotional heat of the virus, it seems though it has been festering away in all of us, growing like a silent malignancy. And now it has burst out – like one of the creatures in the film Alien.
All of us like to think our anger is justified. And all of us like to think those we blame are, truly, those who deserve condemnation. Our anger speaks to a deep desire within all of us for justice – true justice – and for something to be done – even if we scarcely know not what, how, or by whom. We must punish others, or even ourselves. Someone must carry the can.
But for a Christian, all this anger and blame changes because of the cross. Someone has carried the can. The ultimate demands of justice – divine justice – have been satisfied. On the cross, Jesus has taken the blame we deserve for our failings. On the cross, Jesus has been 'punished for what we did,' (Isaiah 53v5). As Tim Keller has been quoted as saying: 'God came and as soon as he was in human form within our grasp, we killed Him with our anger. And what did He do? He absorbed it, to save us.'
So how does all this change us now? The writer Nathan Millican puts it so well when he says: 'Jesus died to absorb the wrath of God that I deserved (Galatians 3:13). Being shielded from God's wrath is the reason for my peace, and it compels me to shield others from mine.' We do not need to lash out.
There is such a thing as righteous anger. It may be right to speak out. But the Bible also tells us to be 'quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,' (James 1v19). You will have your own opinions on Dominic Cummings, and bishops – and (for that matter) on Brexit, Trump, global warming and so on. And that's fine.
But when we feel angry and want to blame, and are just tempted to lash out, let's first pause. Let's be so grateful that God does not treat us as we deserve. I for one would be in serious trouble if he did. I am constantly amazed by grace. On the cross, Jesus has absorbed and dealt with the anger that God might, truly and righteously, level at you and me. He has taken the blame – even though he did not deserve to.
In the light of the cross, then, how does that affect how we handle our own sense of anger and blame towards others – and how and when we speak?
David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister @Baker_David_A