Thanks are due for this to my friend, Paul Carter, the-pastor-with-his-eye-on-the-pulse (if you can have eyes on pulses) over there in Virginia. Last week’s ER episode (I was a devotee when it started in the mid-90s but have rather fallen out of the habit) shown in the USA is intriguingly called Atonement. Seems to be a bit of a trend (see earlier post). I’ve obviously not seen the whole episode, but this clip is just fascinating.
The guy in the bed is a former prison doctor, Dr Truman, who is dying of cancer. He is gripped by guilt over his involvement in the execution of an innocent framed for murder (I think, on the basis of this short clip). Reiko Aylesworth (recognisable to all 24 fans) is Julia Dupree, a chaplain in postmodern mould. Truman’s fury exposes the absurdity and cruelty of relativist platitudes when confronted with our mortality. Of course, much more needs to be said about whether or not there is even the possibility of knowing truth and having confidence of forgiveness or atonement. But what this clip shows very shockingly is that the spirit of our age simply will not do. We’re no doubt meant to feel acutely sorry for Julia Dupree – but in the end, Truman is surely right.
Here is some of the script (courtesy of TV.com)
Dr. Truman: I don’t want to go on. Can’t you see? I’m old. I have cancer. I’ve had enough. The only thing that is holding me back is that I am afraid. I am afraid of what comes next.
Julia: What do you think that is?
Dr. Truman: No, you tell me. Is atonement even possible? What does God want from me?
Julia: I think it’s up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.
Dr. Truman: So people can do anything? They can rape, murder, they can steal, all in the name of God, and it’s okay?
Julia: No. That’s not what I’m saying.
Dr. Truman: (voice rising to a shout) Well, what are you saying? Because all I’m hearing is some new age, God is love, one size fits all crap!
The classic bit though is just before this:
Dr. Truman: God tried to stop me from killing an innocent man, and I ignored the sign. How can I even hope for forgiveness?Julia: I think … sometimes it’s easier to feel guilty than forgiven.
That may well be the case – but her crucial omission in all of this, which Truman is ruthlessly and rightly clear about, is that there IS SUCH A THING as objective guilt… For which forgiveness is the onlyhope. While our take on reality is always flawed, partial, provisional, or even misguided, we cannot avoid the simple truth that reality is a reality (if I can put it like that!) and that things can be and are objectively true.