The holy hustle

Hustle is a brilliant TV programme about a fictional group of con artists who each week scam someone out of a large sum of money. A huge theme of the program is morality, with each episode working on the basis of the hustlers being in the right morally, if not legally.

I should warn readers that this blog post is about last night’s episode of Hustle. I won’t be revealing any details of the hustle, but there is a spoiler for another plot point so don’t read this if you’re planning to watch Hustle later.

One of the hustlers, Emma, is an experienced and skilled con artist. She has long since stopped feeling guilt or shame at what she does for a living, justifying her actions on the grounds that the team only scam those people who deserve it – people who have made their money by oppressing others.

However, last night, Emma found something she loved more than the money and lifestyle which hustling people gave her. At first it seemed to be Joe, an ex-boyfriend from her school days. The reality was quite different though. She liked Joe, no doubt, but it wasn’t his friendship or sex appeal that attracted her. It was not so much the man as his integrity.

Emma finds out that Joe is facing huge financial difficulties, and both he and his young son are about to be evicted from their house. She plans to give him the money he needs, but he won’t accept any money illegally obtained. He challenges all her perceptions, saying that money can’t bring happiness, and that “real happiness comes from a family; from being around the ones you love.”

In the end the money problems are all sorted out, and Joe is even given an extra few hundred pounds by mistake. Emma is shocked that he kept the money. It wasn’t because she thought it was wrong, but because it showed he was not the man of integrity she thought he was. Her idol had feet of clay. It is finally shown her attraction is not to Joe, but to the ideal of integrity.

The episode was a fascinating one from the perspective of exploring whether breaking the law can be the morally right thing to do, but it put me in mind of a famous C. S. Lewis quote.

How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing … it is irresistible

C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady

Certainly this was true in Hustle. The one person who demonstrated complete holiness was irresistibly attractive, until he spoiled it. This is also true in reality. The one person who demonstrated complete holiness is irresistibly attractive, and He never spoiled His holiness. He remains holy in heaven, and will always be holy. And He will always be attractive.

For those interested, the Hustle episode is available on iPlayer until Friday the 25th of February 2011.

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