CHRISTIAN COMMENT: Hide and seek

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‘Come out, come out – wherever you are’

That’s what we used to shout – having counted to twenty (slowly) or to a hundred (fast - probably with sections missed out). Then we‘d set off to find the ‘target’.

Great fun usually. Unless it was one of those times when your ‘friends’ knew where you were but decided to leave you there while they went off somewhere else.......

Hide-and-seek is one of the games that has lasted pretty well despite television and games consoles. It’s simple, has a clear objective and, especially in old houses or woodland, can be enjoyably scary.

It’s also about power.

Which is why we build ourselves power-structures. Like government departments, exclusive clubs or traditional churches. It’s not just that ‘corridors of power’ give access to influence: they are also tunnels into which we can vanish.

And that’s why, when some light is shone down these burrows, we should be glad.

I’m not qualified to comment on the defeat suffered by the LibDems on Sunday over secret hearings. But when a senior barrister quits the party over Nick Clegg’s support for the measure, it’s obviously quite crucial. Dinah Rose QC said, “The very first sentence of the Liberal Democrats’ constitution states that they exist to build a ‘fair, free, and open society’. The vote in favour of secret courts is an attack on the heart and soul of the party.”

That came a day after news about allegations of sexual misconduct by Catholic priests in Scotland. Alan Draper, the academic appointed in the ‘90’s to advise the church on the proper response to sexual abuse, says that he wrote to all the Scottish bishops and learnt from them of twenty allegations of abuse. He wanted independent experts to investigate further, but the bishops disagreed. He said: “I was very concerned about their unwillingness to actually expose individual priests who were leading double lives.”

So, why do we hide?

In games, it’s fun. In real life, it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe we’re afraid of the shame. Maybe we’re afraid of everyone knowing. Afraid of the consequences. Afraid of the truth. We want to keep the power, the control.

‘You can’t see me. You don’t know where I am. You don’t know who I am.’ Which is a summary of what Louis Theroux said was Jimmy Savile’s attitude, after Louis had tried hard to understand what made him tick.

By contrast, Jesus said to some people he’d just met, who wanted to know about him ‘Come and see where I live.’ He said to those who arrested him (in the dark in a remote place), ‘Why now? Why here? I’ve never hidden from you. You could have picked me up any day when I was teaching openly in the Temple courts.’

Most tellingly, he said to his disciples, shortly before that arrest, ‘The prince of this world (that is, the one has the spirit, the attitude, the mind-set of this world we live in) is coming to get me. But I’m at peace: I have nothing to hide. He can find nothing to threaten me with. He has no hold over me.’

That’s an amazing claim to be able to make. I’d love to be able to say that.

‘Come out, come out – wherever you are.’

Here I am.

By Nigel O’Dwyer, who leads Goring New Life Church, and lives and works in Worthing.