Monday, January 17, 2011

The Baby Swap

The current storyline in Eastenders has generated a lot of controversy. Following the birth of two baby boys around Christmas, and the sudden cot death of her baby, Ronnie Branning swapped her dead baby for the son of Alfie and Kat Moon. The consequences have been compelling viewing - the sense of terrible grief and regret on the part of Kat towards her 'dead' baby; the ongoing effect on Ronnie; and the rising tension of the inevitable realisation of what has happened.

There have been lots of negative comments on how grieving parents are portrayed, with the suggestion that anyone in that position would seek to swap children and put others into the place of grief. It must be remembered, though, that Eastenders isn't real life - it's a long-running TV soap opera, which needs ongoing shocking stories to draw in and keep viewers.

However, I've been reminded of the original baby swap story, as found in 1 Kings 3. Two prostitutes, each with a child, have been caught up in a real life drama. One of the children has died in the night, and the grieving mother swaps her dead child for the live one. The mother of the live child realises what has happened, and brings her case to the King, Solomon.

Earlier in the chapter, we see how the young ruler asks God for wisdom to rule wisely, and here in his judgement we see that wisdom in action:

And the king said, "Bring me a sword." So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him." Then the king answered and said, "Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother." And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Kings 3:24-28)

At this stage we don't know how things will turn out in Eastenders. Perhaps the writers and director of the show need the wisdom of Solomon to deal with such a controversial subject. It's probably good that it is being raised in the public domain, yet the sudden death of one so young can leave more questions than answers.

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