Mea Culpa

9 March 2014

I was accosted outside a Sydney train station yesterday by a man who accused me of being a miserable sinner.  I don’t think he’d picked me as being a particularly bad example – he appeared to be accusing everyone who passed by.

This reminded me of the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the 1960’s in the UK.  The prosecution had to show that the reading of this book would lead to depravity and immorality. 

The prosecution then brought into court a number of “expert” witnesses who all testified that this would indeed be the case.  One of the witnesses was the Reverend David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool (he may have been the Bishop of Woolwich at the time).  He was also a bit of a hero as he’d captained the English cricket team.  He was asked by the defence if he’d become depraved as a result of reading this book to which he rather surprisingly replied “Yes”.

I believe that the defence barrister turned to the jury and said words to the effect of  “if this Bishop you see before you is an example of a depraved and immoral man, the people of this country have little to worry about”.   

I’d like the people of Sydney to know that they needn’t worry too much about me either.  My sinning doesn’t run to murder or theft,  I honoured my father and mother, and have never coveted my neighbour’s ox (or, indeed, his leaf blower).  I open doors for elderly people, give up my seat on the train to pregnant women and knit hats for the homeless. I’ve even read Lady Chatterley without sinking into the depths of depravity. (As did the Judge and jury in the case and it hasn’t been recorded that it had any dire long-term effects on them either). 

I’m far from perfect of course.  But a miserable sinner? I think not. 



One comment

  1. Question: was that “he had become depraved…” or “he would become depraved…?”

    It seems a stretch to claim that a novel would lead to depravity yet some of the examples of “virtue” in scripture would not.

    I’m nowhere near finishing the Old Testament, but a few examples come to mind. Jephthah sacrificing his daughter is one, and there is also Lot’s offering of his daughters to the locals.

    Could somebody professionally required to present these as examples of virtue even come up with a coherent description of depravity? I have my doubts. While different people and ethical systems may consider different things depraved (atheism and homosexuality being two common examples), I submit that any system worth applying must at least be internally consistent.

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