Damian McBride - you reap what you sow
Damian McBride stands accused of dragging British politics into the gutter, and he pleads guilty - unconditionally so. The opening words of Chapter 2 of his book Power Trip are: "I wasn't always a nasty bastard." But even being a bastard, he is aware that his actions aggravated, hurt, caused offence and took their toll on many innocent people.
And he is sorry. He is now trying to rebuild his life. Indeed, following his resignation as Gordon Brown's Special Adviser / Head of Communications, he became Business Liaison Officer at Finchley Catholic High School, and is now head of media at the Roman Catholic charity CAFOD, which works to alleviate poverty and suffering in developing countries.
This is sackcloth and ashes stuff. Right or wrong, good or bad, he is exposing wrongdoing and answering moral questions. The narrative elicited by his book - right in the middle of the Labour Party Conference - is concerned with matters of truth. He lied about so many and so much, but is now exploring an order of moral learning, surrounded by Roman Catholics in a context of charitable endeavour.
Repentance implies not only the acknowledgment of truth, but the admission of falsehood. The two are in conflict, and the moral mind distinguishes between the falsehood of one's own thoughts and actions and those which are endemic in the world. It is called taking responsibility, for we cannot repent of the falsehood of the world: we can only transform the self.
We ought not to judge too harshly that hazy line between self sacrifice and being 'caught out': it is like trying to distinguish between repentance and moral learning, or between justification and sanctification. We cannot know when Damian McBride was converted or even if he has been: but we can witness conversion and new instruction. And who has ever not had to repent while they learnt?
And when did obedience not go hand-in-hand with forgiveness?
Repentance is not the mere realignment of a will that retains a fundamental continuity with its past; it involves a moment of self-annihilation. In politics - as in much of life - you tend to reap what you sow. Those who operate in the darkness will live a life of shadows - whatever party they belong to. Sin has its own vain regrets, but those regrets become the foundation upon which the new life is built. There follows reconciliation - and the authentic Christian will focus on love over judgment, and on mercy over punishment.
Damian McBride was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
We should rejoice.