The reaction to the Downing Street parties scandal has been fascinating. I wrote a little bit about his here the other day but I wanted to pick up a bit further on one particular response. It’s best represented by this tweet from Owen Jones.
Obviously, Jones is driven in part by an assumption that punishment falling on the working classes and disadvantaged is unjust and discriminator already. However, there seems to be a peculiar type of logic here. You see, the law doesn’t work in the way that Jones suggests. Because one person finds a way to get out of things doesn’t mean that those who have been caught and punished previously can retrospectively get out of it.
Let’s think of two examples here. First of all, lots of people commit criminal damage each week and some are spotted, arrested and charged. Imagine the football hooligan who smashed up a car for displaying the wrong scarf arguing that as the Colston Four had escaped punishment that he should no longer have to serve time or pay a fine?
Moreover, over the years MPS have been accused of all kinds of criminal behaviour from road traffic offenses through to fraud and violent assault. Some times they are caught and some times punished but sometimes they are not convicted. Still, people remain suspicious arguing that there is no smoke without fire. Imagine then if those found guilty of the many and various crimes that politicians have been accused of were to argue that their sentence should be rescinded. No, the response to a situation where someone escapes justice shouldn’t be to seek to let everyone else off but to ensure that the guilty party is held accountable and justice served.
However, what we have also seen through those reactions is that the idea of representation and substitution isn’t as foreign to our culture as is sometimes assumed. Boris Johnson is looked to as a leader and his actions are seen as representative of others. He either brings shame or glory on the Government, the Conservative Party and the country. Furthermore, see how it is assumed that others should bear the consequences of his actions. We are not that far from Romans 5.
Like Adam, Boris is seen here as the sinner whose actions should bring consequences on himself and on others. However, unlike with Adam, because Boris is not punished, it is argued that we too should go unpunished. Boris is seen to receive some form of mercy which should be on our behalf.
Of course, both Adam and Boris are unlike Jesus because they are sinners and so it is always the consequences of shame and guilt that are experienced by others. With Jesus, Paul writes:
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.Romans 5:15