Charlie Thomas interrupted Ruth and David’s discussion of important issues (the premature ejection of the English soccer team from the World Cup) to initiate a conversation about even more vital matters – the most appropriate use of agricultural land. With breath-taking arrogance and insensitivity, Charlie suggested that the proposal to construct a road through Brookfield ‘needn’t be the end of the world’. thing for the Archers. Food processing or energy generation might provide more profitable uses for land which will be distinct from the more traditional dairy farm on the house side of the road. Ruth articulated the difference in philosophy that this comments revealed. Charlie appears to believe that the purpose of farming is simply to make from the land all the money that he can. Ruth and David believe that other considerations may be of greater value – the preservation of the beauty of the countryside, the best interests of the village, the importance of inheritance.
It is, of course, impossible to either party to be dispassionate. Charlie is employed (as he said) ‘to optimize’ the Borchester Land estate. He is, as Adam as well as David and Ruth have noted, in his belief that that this optimization is a good as well as a necessary thing because is ultimately serves the end of feeding a growing world population. In the other corner, David and Ruth struggle to separate their reasoned approach to agriculture from their emotional attachment to the place they call home. Jill protested when she went to see Charlie that she was not being ‘a nimby’, but it is her back yard and a place that holds many memories for her that is under threat.
Can we see these questions in isolation from each other?
The debate throws up a number of theological questions and ‘God in Ambridge’ may well return to others of these in time. The one that the conversation in The Bull highlights is about the use of land. Where do human beings stand in relation to the ground on which we live and from which we draw our food? Is it simply, as Charlie seems to imply, there to serve our purposes? Or is it, as David and Ruth appear to believe, land with which we have a more complex relationship? The Biblical narrative would point us to the latter view. The use of the word ‘Adam’ for human beings suggests a relationship with the soil.