Kingdom of Heaven and earth - Printable Version
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Kingdom of Heaven and earth - Mark Fletcher - 27-01-2007
I was interested to read in a couple of recent postings the apparent Monarchist sympathies within the Fellowhip. What 'causes' or political movements do British Orthodox people in general identify themselves with? Is Monarchy one of them? Are there any others? Abba Seraphim appears to associate himself with certain causes and ideals. What are these?
I don't know any Orthodox Christians of any label so am unable to ask them. Do you see the Kingship of God, the Transcendent Father, or the Lordship of Jesus Christ, best 'reflected' or 'demonstrated' in the Monarchic Ideal? "On earth as it is in heaven" springs to mind. Just as Christians want to obey the Holy Spirit as the Inner Ruler Immortal at the centre of the Kingdom of their beings, do they see the need for Kingship and a certain social order in the 'external' world? What is the general view of those guided by the Holy Spirit? Is the Monarchy seen as the living symbol of an unchanging yet ever fresh principle at the heart of national life? The living embodiment of a Spiritual Ideal perhaps?
While obviously politically 'conservative' on ethical issues, I imagine that most Orthodox would vote for the Conservative or United Kingdom Independence Party. Is that fair? Would they ever support the British National Party? With the drawing of all three mainstream parties into the soggy centre of democratic politics, how do Orthodox Christians demonstrate their discipleship in politics, in obedience to the commands of Christ? Or do they not vote at all like certain Protestant fundamentalists and support conscienscious objection and non-involvement with certain aspects of civil life? Do most of them read the Daily Telegraph?
This is an issue of crucial importance to Christian discipleship and is asked in a spirit of genuine enquiry. Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner MP call themselves practising Christians in the realm of politics, though both are ardent Republicans and socialists. Is there a consensus view in the British Orthodox Church? I want to obey the Holy Spirit, and am willing to accept that I have got this issue completely wrong in the past in my own life and am happy to accept the guidance of those for whom putting on the mind of Christ has become a living reality.
Re: Kingdom of Heaven and earth - John Charmley - 27-01-2007
An interesting question, to which I would be most interested to hear other answers; but in the spirit of transparency, let me attempt mine.
I have always been a monarchist, and for us, here and now, I think it the best form of government; but it is not the only form of government, and the Bible certainly provides us with enough examples of bad kings to make it clear that there is no single prescribed Christian form of government. Indeed, there is also plenty of evidence to suggest that when the Church's relationship with the State is too close, it can do damage to both parties.
At its best the monarch certainly is a spiritual symbol, and I happen to think that our Queen sets wonderful example of a sacrificial life, and that her Christian witness is a powerful example of obedience to duty, and placing His will above her own.
Speaking entirely personally, I am a Conservative, and have even acted as an election agent in the last two general elections (we won both seats, incidentally!), but I see many examples of Conservatives who are given over wholly to materialism, even as I see some Labour supporters who set a much better spiritual example; I am, for instance, a great admirer of the Labour MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field, whose Christian witness I find humbling. My Christianity leads me to try to find MPs who have a genuine belief in service, and I have been fortunate enough to work with two local Conservatives who give greatly to their communities. Of course they would like promotion, but their main aim is not personal gratification, and I have been proud to work with them not because of their political views (with which I happen to agree) but because they seem to me good men.
When MPs forget they are the servants of those who sent them there, and also the servants of their consciences, they tend to go wrong. Party politics will always be, to some extent, a conspiracy against the State, but as Churchill once put it, democracy is the worst form of government - except for all the others.
I think I would find it difficult to vote for the BNP because, from what I know of it, it seeks to play on some of our darker fears and prejudices, even whilst denying in public that it does so. We are the children of a loving God, and the politics of fear is not a good place from which to start along that path.
I am comfortable rendering unto Caesar those things that are his, but become increasingly worried about Caesar's growing difficulty in distinguishing those things which are God's. I don't feel that my Christianity can be linked to any political party as such, what it is linked to, as I suggested above, is to a set of attitudes towards politics which transcend party lines.
Mr. Benn and Mr. Skinner exemplify the historic link between Nonconformist Christianity and radical politics, and one can see where that formation originated; its applicability to modern politics comes through its adherents' belief in the importance of defending the individual against the State. Their conception of the monarchy is a non-sacral one, and since, for them, the monarchy is the at the apex of a class system they wish to destroy, they dislike it. This is a snare and a delusion. As the Communist countries, and as America all show, all societies develop social hierarchies; what matters is how people behave, not some spurious notion of equality. When we all equally obey the Ten Commandments and the Words of Our Lord, then we shall have a society in which differences do not matter - when!
The Church of England used to be called the Tory Party at prayer; that would be truer now, perhaps, of the Lib. Dems. (at least locally to me); historically Labour has been more linked to Nonconformity. Now, with the recession from Christianity in our society, these old ties are loosened to the point where they are little more than vestigial.
Our politics does throw up issues of conscience for Christians, and here, as current events show, there is no clear party political divide - nor can there be, I suspect.
The newspaper issue should be an interesting one. For nearly 30 years I have read the Telegraph, but recently switched to the Times, partly because the hedonistic emphasis of the DT began to wear on me; I am still assessing the differences, and the jury is out. I fear that the Guardian is bad for my blood pressure!
You've started what could be a very interesting discussion, Mark, let us see if others can be tempted in.
Frank Field - Mark Fletcher - 28-01-2007
Thank you for responding in such a thought-provoking way. Yes, I think that Frank Field is a wonderful example of Christian discipleship in political life. I think he's a national treasure, as is of course Her Majesty. I tend to agree with everything you have written.
Abba Seraphim's views on political issues - Severus - 28-01-2007
As the official spokesman for the BOC Church Secretariat, I would draw your attention to Abba Seraphim's lecture "Christians living in a Secular Society", which he gave at the Annual Reception in London of St. Mary & St. Shenouda Coptic Orthodox Church Church in Croydon on 26 September, 2004, and which was published in full in the "Glastonbury Review", No. 111 (December 2004), pages 102-110. Unfortunately the Glastonbury Review archive on the updated BOC website currently doesn't go beyond issue 112. However, copies can be obtained from the Church Secretariat, 10 Heathwoiod Gardens, London, SE7 8EP for ?3.00 (postage included).
Abba Seraphim is happy to confirm that he is a staunch Monarchist.
Glastonbury Review - John Charmley - 28-01-2007
I can see that I am going to have to get some of the back issues.
Would it, I wonder, be possible to have a selection of pieces from back issues on the website? I am mindful of the fact that as the Fellowship (and, one hopes the BOC membership) grows, there are those of us who would benefit greatly from some of the pieces in past issues of the Review, to which easy access is not always possible.
Splendid to have to confirmation from Abba Seraphim himself. Of course, we in the UK are very fortunate indeed in the character of Queen Elizabeth II, and the example she sets us all.
- admin - 29-01-2007
I am working (when I have a moment) on getting the complete archive restored to the new design of the website.
The article in question can be accessed here:
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but you will need to forgive the formatting.