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Just Judgement? - Louis - 20-12-2007 01:40 PM
This will perhaps sound a little confused but I thought I would bring up a couple of areas to do with Britains current situation, socially and politically, and Christianity as well as my own political views. This is merely out of interest, it would be good to see what others think and get guidance in reconciling secular views with Christianity.
The first query I thought of was when reading about Anglo Saxon kings and their Christian laws. I wonder how right is it to judge others when Christ told us to be wary of such judgement. For instance it is my opinion that the British nation needs a renewed, Christian based morality as currently (especially amongst the youth) ideas of right and wrong are dissapearing. You could say Britain was becoming an amoral society in some respects. What right have I got to judge and wish for a renewal, is this a Chrisitan position? Most Christians believe in order, the state, and just laws, most also completly oppose the evils of Anarhcism and Communism. For intance, I would favour tougher penalities in law on criminals for instance and I would favour using the states power and local gov. power to encourage marriage, family values, the Church, etc. Is this the unwise judgement Christ warned of, or is this the activity of a good Christian and patriot?
The second area is how far should the state be 'religious'. I have in a way formed my own opinion of the states duty (in terms of secular reasoning) that reconciles itself with my Christianity. Namely that the state should reflect its nation (i.e. the ethnic groups of the English, Welsh, Scottish and N.Irish collectively known as the British) and Christianity still maintains an important role in our ethnicity. Thus the state still should support our Chrisitian institutions, festivals, church etc in a way that it wouldnt do for other religions. The instrusion of Islam into the public sphere is something I am opposed to whilst the pushing away of Christianity is something that concerns me - the reasoning however is secular (let me clear I support religious freedom for all, both in terms of Christianity and secular reasoning. I am purely talking about the public sphere/the states role, or the local councils role in promoting and defending the religion of our nation).
What is the religious justification for this beyond the reasoning that God empowers a nation-state, a monarch, a leader etc. I assume it is simply that God is true, Christianity is correct and therefore it must be so, but such reasoning does not bode well in the liberal democracies of Europe. On the other hand the above secular reasoning really has nothing religious about it, on the assumtion that God is true one does not need anymore reason than that for the state to defend His Church (whilst, of course, maintaining Christian values in the Church's treatment of all humans). From this perspective is there any real religious argument against not preserving the Christian institutions, celebrations, festivals, attitudes and values, states-role that are in the British nation-state?
This is perhaps a rather confused posting without any direct questions. Just thought it would be an interesting point of discussion. I realise that some of the above will refer to Anglican institutions but this post really refers to Christianity as a whole but I welcome, obviously, Orthodox views on it.
Good questions - John Charmley - 20-12-2007 02:44 PM
Not at all confused, and some good clear questions for us to discuss.
When you write:
Quote:What is the religious justification for this beyond the reasoning that God empowers a nation-state, a monarch, a leader etc. I assume it is simply that God is true, Christianity is correct and therefore it must be so, but such reasoning does not bode well in the liberal democracies of Europethis is where caution is needed.
The justification for thinking that God sanctions any particular form of government of type of polity has a tendency to be circular and self-referential. This is in part because there is no scriptural or patristic evidence that God cares what type of polity of government we adopt - as long as it is one that allows the practice of the True Faith and does not encourage evil to prosper; the evidence that democracy is particularly good at either of these things seems wanting. But because, from Constantine's time onwards the Church has been heavily involved with the State in the Eastern Empire, Russia, Greece and the UK, as well as in European politics before Napoleon, Christian apologists have tended to praise what is as what should be; to take their own situation as the ideal. This certainly flatters rulers, and it has tended to be good for the status and safety of senior ecclesiastics; that it has been good for the propagation of the True Faith seems, again, a proposition more easily made than verified.
Our Lord Himself was happy that we should render to Caesar those things which are his, and to God what is rightly His; that, perhaps, ought to be a guiding principle for us in this realm?
There have been times when Christian Socialists have used the former to justify the latter, just as Christian democrats have done likewise; there is not much sign that Christianity has benefited from this connection. Indeed, in this world, marred as it is by sin, the notion that a Christian politics is possible was tested close to destruction by Gladstone in the nineteenth century. There has seldom, if ever, been a more devout Christian Prime Minister, and he certainly saw politics as a mission-field; but the compromises and shifts needed by the world of politics sat uneasily alongside his own Christian world-view. That was in an era when the Church of England commanded a respect and a membership which it could not dream of today; now Mr. Blair, another devout Christian, has admitted he didn't often mention his faith because 'people would have thought I was a nutter'; and they would have done so, I fear.
The question of the relationship between Church, State and those outside the Church was a vexed one in the UK between 1688 and 1828-29. During that period the Anglican Church and the political nation (i.e. the electorate and the ruling class) were identical. But the difficult was what to do about the Nonconformists and the Catholics. For a long while annual bills of exemption were passed, but they allowed only those non-conscientious Protestants and Catholics to vote; those who held their religious convictions from the heart were excluded. In the end the political nation gave in and enfranchised both dissenters and then Catholics. To favour one Church now would not only be impossible - it wouldn't be too good I suspect for the BOC!
I don't know that Christianity suggests any particular form of politics: I am a monarchist of a liberal-conservative political bent, but all my faith suggests politically is that we should exercise love and compassion towards our fellows; it doesn't suggest what the bank-rate might be!
Does the experience of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, none of them heavily involved with the State, suggest another way in which the Church can be in this world? It is perhaps worth pondering.
just judgement - kirk yacoub - 21-12-2007 09:54 AM
Dear Louis and John,
It is impossible for any state to be religious if we regard religion as our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings in the way that God requires of us. A state is a secular organisation which is based on coercion, but religion, particularly Christianity, must be based on love and must acquiesce to God's gift of free will. No particular political system or ideology can be religious because it is based on human reason, which is very imperfect.
There is no such thing as a British nation. As someone with Irish blood I understand that very well. Nor can a modern state reflect a nation because narrow ethnicity is not the basis for many nation states. In fact the Roman Empire could not reflect a nation. The idea of nation states is very backward in the sense that St Paul teaches us that their is neither Jew nor Gentile.
There is no intrusion of Islam into British society. What is intruding is the double-headed false coin minted and put into circulation by both terrorists (who have nothing to do with Islam - see a previous post by me on this)
and the British state who seem to work in collusion on this, supported by the ignorant media. Anti-Islamic thoughts and utterances are anti-Christian because we must love and pray for everyone.
The use of laws to enforce a particular set of beliefs is not Christian because it means Christian involvement in the state, which is wrong because Christianity is not about a political programme but the spreading of God's love to everyone, regardless. The use of laws is against God's love because it is a use of coercion, denying God's love and mercy. God never uses coercion.
Love and mercy cannot be forced onto anyone, neither individuals nor groups. it is something that can only be given by us to others through God's grace. Prison sentences are irrelevant because they are merely human tools which have never worked. A marriage and family life can only be based on love, not what someone outside of any relationship demands.
Perhaps all this sounds too harsh, but in reality it is the opposite. The
human race has never tried God's love and mercy because of our sinful state. The Christian Eucharistic community endeavours to put God's love and mercy into practice, filled by God's spirit, which is the new wine which cannot fit into the old skin of the worldly state and laws.
- Louis - 21-12-2007 11:01 AM
Thank you for your reply. Some interesting points. I agree that Christianity doesnt really endorse any form of politics, and yes it is between the individual, the Church and God. I wouldnt want to live in a theocracy!
I just feel there are some aspects in the public sphere and good government that could assist in protecting and celebrating our Christian cultural aspects in the nation as opposed to its current dismantling of our Christian traditions. Surely the current political correct liberalism of the states of Western Europe is doing vast damage to the Christian faith and thus to the salvation of individuals souls? Im afraid although we may not all like it but surely the secular, consumerist craved, divided Britain of tommorow is not as healthy for the faith as the strong Christian, family based nation of the past. Perhaps a bit idealistic but these words contain some truth i think.
A very minor example is Nativity plays in state schools. I would wish for them to remain, as we are after all still a Christian nation. (or nations as Kirk points out)
Your words of caution are heeded though, our true spiritual leaders must and will remain the Church. Having a seperate Church hierachy definately helps solve this problem, it prevents the massive involvement like in Islamic countries of the state where any powerful Iman can interpretate and practice Islam as they see it!
While I dont want to argue about secular politics which Im sure we all have different views I shall just state some brief replies. I do believe there is a general British culture however I also recognise that in reality the nations are that of the Irish, Scottish, English and Welsh, they are the national ethnic groups, whilst Britain as a nation is a dubious question. In terms of the nation-state I would still very much endorse this idea as the most happy and healthy form of a country, I believe God has blesses all the different peoples in the world and this blessed diversity across the world should not be a bad thing.
In regards to coercing others, I wasnt proposing a theocracy like the papal states or Iran, such systems I utterly oppose. I was only suggesting that the state should promote and protect religious instituions, festivals, traditions etc. of the nation. One small example may be the christmas lights that some councils have in the past few years not put up, I believe this is wrong of them. In terms of marriage for example, I did not mean forcing it upon people but encouraging family values, perhaps with economic benefits for those who marry etc. Again this rather pushes into the secular area of reasoning, this is why I was worried about posting such a difficult topic!
I would, im afraid, argue the point on Islam. Christians must show love to all man as individuals which I strive to do, however I dont wish to muddle a system of beliefs with individuals. I extend my Christian ethic in my treatment of all humans but Islam as a system of belief, as a theory, is something I cannot endorse. Islamic terrorists as far as I am aware are quite in line in terms of Islamic teaching, the Koran is the apparent literal word of Allah after all and Mohhamed spread his religion by the sword.
Does the Church not warn of evil doctrines and false prophets?
I will heed your words below, as a Christian I recognise that however the state behaves my salvation is between myself and God.
'The human race has never tried God's love and mercy because of our sinful state. The Christian Eucharistic community endeavours to put God's love and mercy into practice, filled by God's spirit, which is the new wine which cannot fit into the old skin of the worldly state and laws.'
just judgement - kirk yacoub - 22-12-2007 09:52 AM
Regarding Islam please read my post in the 'General Conversation'
section under the heading 'O England, My Country', dated Sat June 09.
You will see that I base everything on the writings of His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatios Zaka I Iwas, the present Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who was born in Iraq and resides in Syria.
A thought to ponder on is that one of the greatest of the Desert Fathers,
Abba Poeman, explained that we should not be legislators for other people, we should be examples.
- John Charmley - 22-12-2007 03:48 PM
Dear Louis, Dear Kirk,
An interesting and stimulating exchange which raises very important questions.
We in the West are at an interesting point in history. The culture we inherited in the UK was largely influenced by the Christian history of this country, and its laws and morality (which were once closer together than they are now) reflected that. The culture we live in now has large sections which are driven by a secular - and secularising - agenda. The way for this was in part paved by Protestant Christianity.
The large area allowed for private judgement, the neglect of the claims of antiquity and the contesting of the claims of authority are not, in origin, secular phenomena; but they have helped light the way to a secular liberalism which depends upon private judgement and substitutes the authority of a revealed Truth with that of an elected government: vox dei replaced by vox populi. Antiquity is, literally, the past, and as a 'young country' what matters is the here and now. It starts by questioning parts of the Faith and ends by questioning all faith in everything. Since we are here once only, all morality should relate to oneself and the getting of happiness here and now.
But mankind is a worshipping animal, and deprived of God, it will revert to the worship of Mammon.
How do we, as believers in a revealed Truth live in that society? Perhaps the way our first Christian ancestors did in Pagan Rome. When one reads St. Irenaeus on heresies and St. Jerome on the morality of his society, we are not, after all, in territory unfamiliar to Christians.
Of course we may feel that it would be good if some of the symbols of our faith remain in society; but emptied of their significance they can become totems rather than icons. I am almost persuaded that I'd rather have 'winterval' than Christ's mass parodied in the way it is in so much of our society; almost, but not!