Should the Church stay out of Politics?
October 25, 2020
11am Sunday 25 Oct 2020: BBC TV
"Should the Church stay out of Politics?”
I note up front that Sunday has become a day on which the place of the Church in Britain is up for question. To all the laity who watched BBC TV this morning, this was the message being sent to them: “Should the Church stay out of Politics?”
This blanket question about The Church staying out of politics boiled down in fact to a debate about whether The Lords Spiritual should be privileged to sit in The House of Lords
In Britain the Bishops of The Church of England ‘sit’ in The House of Lords – I think the programme said 26 of them? They are ‘Lords Spiritual’ as opposed to ‘Lord Temporal’ - this latter being the remanants of the aristocracy plus those who have been honoured by The Queen with a lordship or ladyship in recognition of duties to the state accomplished.
The House of Lords, for information, is ‘The Upper House’ of the two Houses of Parliament, the other, Lower House, being The House of Commons, wherein most of the legislative powers are situated. Traditionally The House of Lords has been for over a century, perhaps the chief check and balance of the unwritten British Constitution to the legislative powers held by The Commons.
The Lords has been in debate for its very existence here in the UK for up to forty years now. One famous statement by a politician here was to the effect that s/he would ‘create a thousand Lords’ (and so dilute The House’s power so much and thus de facto abolish the House).
But The Lords has survived, and the arguments for its abolition are quieted somewhat presently. I do note that these arguments tend to get pressed – by the Commons and the press and media here – whenever the Lords is doing its job as it should be doing it, and on issues – such as Brexit, and others which in general see The Lords curbing or curtailing the enactment of laws by The Commons which are pernicious on the whole to the preservation of the constitution and of the health of society, and therefore of The State.
In other words, whenever it ‘gets in the way’ of The Commons passing laws which are on the whole aimed at consolidating its power too largely etc etc. This of course as I said is The Lord’s raison d'etre and traditional role.
This time around however the question at issue was about The Lords Spiritual, and whether they have due right to sit in The House of Lords and be a part of this traditional role it has.
The question was mixed up when debated, since issues such as, “should not other faiths also have seats?” which is sort of very much off the point of the question under debate; which was “Should religion keep out of politics?”
Here, in this proposal for other faiths also to sit in The Lords, rests a truer motivation for the debaters debating than simply to debar Lords Spiritual carte blanche – which truer motivation is simply - against Christianity - which solely is formally represented among faiths in The Lords and in government. The feeling of the debate shown then was not so much about religion needing being debarred from politics – from The House of Lords - but of antagonism at (formal) Christian representation being present there at all.
A truer title for the debate would have been:
“In UK should The Established and Christian Church (alone or at all) be represented via The Lords Spiritual in Parliamentary Government?”
I might add a codicil here that Christianity is perhaps formally only represented in both Houses by The Lords Spiritual in The House of Lords; but nonetheless Christianty and Christ will remain represented in both Houses nonetheless, even were Lords Spiritual debarred from The Lords, and by way of the personal Christian spirituality of those Members of both Houses who sit there regardless, and sit in a prima facie political role. Likewise will be variously representing spirtually those who sit who are Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and so on.
Further indication that Christianity – I shall leave The Lord Jesus Christ himself out of this discussion, because to dare even to suggest any person is speaking against Him is a calumny upon them and which I feel would grieve The Holy Spirit – is the target under attack in this debate was the charge raised in it that The Lords Spiritual sitting in Parliament are an ‘anachronism’.
Not the other Lords Temporal, only The Lords Spiritual are ‘anachronisms’ in them sitting in Parliament. The charge that The Lords Spiritual do not broadly represent the spectrum of various faiths present and alive in the UK is a separate charge to this which was made of ‘anachronism’.
It does conflict however – since it implies that other religions are ‘losing out’ in some way. I ask would it be ‘to the loss’ for other religions, for the Christian Lord’s Temporal to be debarred from their seats in The Lords? In other words, is it better to have some formal spiritual representation in government than none at all? These debaters seemed to desire nil formal representation, at least not as The Established Church, but perhaps were not be able to articulate this desire without exposing their prejudices?
And the fearful charge of saying anything about other religions partaking in ‘anachronism’ was sidestepped gingerly in the debate. Of course the fact of partaking in government by religious institutions might be considered that anachronism which the debaters spoke of; even so, would those same debaters dare to say, were there made provision for members of other faiths formally to sit alongside The Lords Spiritual, that those other faiths’ roles in their representative capacity was ‘anachronistic’?
Here we have exposed a double standard. We also have exposed one or two of those ‘topical issues’ one is not wise to, or will be closed down for, and made a pariah for, having broached in public, in our society at present. Conspicuous by their absence from the airwaves and the newsprint.
In passing, should Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, with its latest addition ‘Times Radio’, be debated upon whether it should have right and title to partake in the political life of the nation so deeply as it clearly does; it being able to offer conceptual leads to millions of people, leads coloured with its own prejudices and agendas? And owned by one man whose views are instrumental in what the empire is saying to the people? Is this not a greater concern than that of The Lords Spiritual; but Murdoch owns too much of the press and media and the issue is never seriously challenged therein therefore.
There is a question which arises about what harm or disadvantage might stem from having The Lords Spiritual representing UK citizens in the House of Lords? Not one word was spoken on this issue in the BBC debate. As far as a viewer listener was to take from the debate, the issue was apriori one of harm or redundancy or disadvantage; no evidence was put, nor any mention made of why an ‘anacronism’, or what harm do the Lord Spiritual do, or what deadweight expresses itself in their presence in The Lords? Four legs good two legs bad. Go with the flow.
That somehow spirituality, at least in the Christian sense, was irrelevant because an anachronism, was the case being made, and underlay the tenor of the conversations.
One debater pointed up the fact that only the UK and Iran are the two nations in the world which have spiritual leaders formally sitting in their governmental bodies. Here was some subtextual messaging going on. The British press and media habitually demonise Iran and all things Iranian. It is presented as being a ‘medieval’ type Theocracy, cutting off hands for theft etc etc – barbarous and aggressive and outside the pale. Why should Britain set herself beside Iran in anything she does?
Of course one might equally rationally make the argument that only in Egypt and South America does one find built pyramids – if you see what I mean? The message in the Iran/UK parallel is not rational, it is loaded so as to stir in hearers an automatic rise in ire and blood pressure, transferable by design to The Lords Spiritual in The House of Lords.
I ask, why is it, how is it, that our nation the UK has ravaged and spoiled its own backyard so ferociously, and continues to pursue a course of aggressive undermining of our Chrisitian heritage, which is in fact the very best thing we have, and need to hold fast to?
The Archbishop of Canterbury was brought up in the debate. He had apparently delivered a speech or discussion or report on the present situation here and much of his words were dedicated to criticising the political leaders of our nation; I presume and hope, attempting to hold them to account.
This action by The Archbishop also seemed to have given stimulus for the debate to be conceived to be shown on a Sunday on TV.
A side issue here. Sunday, once acknowledged, even if grudgingly, as The Lord’s Day, and almost by all, is now for television viewers and radio talk-show listeners in the UK the day wherein the political events and issues arisen during the past week are picked through for finding amongst them the rotten apples and mouldering sprouts to throw around with and at one another; politicians and commentators – Newspeak, Minilove, Mintruth, Minipeace etc etc
Politics as entertainment then has supplanted worship for Sunday occupation.
Has politics any foundational or core lifelong life-enhancement value? Has it any foundation upon which a person of any kind can securely depend and rest? Has it a lasting value? Does it address any last and first things? Has it any stability at all? Is there any person in politics one can absolutely be sure and secure upon?
“These fragments I have shored against my ruin”
Of course it is a matter for faith and belief; but what are we doing throwing away our means to belief, our guide to attempting the best conduct for life, for our personal living, and for societies and society, the world? Why are we treading on our best and only hope, why have we turned away our faces from The Face that is there for us always, waiting, inviting, with every Good Grace?
And for politics!! Which in the UK, almost universally, on the one hand, is scorned and upbraided and ridiculed, along with everyone in it; and on the other is the pastime, the aunt-sally amusement, the plat de jour, for almost all universally!
Contradiction. To follow faithfully and religiously something you ostensibly value as worthless? Or a reality show of live entertainment, and thereby we are partaking in and contributing to the increasing demise of our nation and its civilization? Be careful what you wish for.
The Archbishop of Canterbury.
He was criticised, castigated, for his interference in politics in his words issued. His ‘moral authority’ was considered, and charged with taint because of the recent publicity been given to child abuse cases in regard to priests in the Anglican Church here. Those child abuses in the cloth it was argued had devoid the Archbishop of any moral authority to speak out.
Other men’s crimes being imputed to another. Familiar to Christians? The rotten items in the shopping basket causing the whole food supply to be considered contaminated, so demolished.
Indeed such bad behaviour in the cloth cannot but cast a shadow upon the institution itself; and there was found by Public Inquiry that The Church has dragged its feet and been far too lenient on child abusers historically.
And there is a thing called corporate blame and accountability and responsibility.
The fact remains that: “Christ came into the world to save sinners” and that “He loved us though we hated Him, and beforehand when we were yet sinners”
Can anyone expect: especially those who deny Divinity among us, and whoso imply mutability and fracture and imperfection is all; can anyone expect righteousness to be found anywhere amongst the things of the world – in any man (but One) who has lived, is alive and shall live?
The example to be set by The Church remains – but do we send the whole family to prison when one parent commits a serious evil? Do we not do this in general when culling flies or mice in our kitchens - but not to men? Do we not kill in the name of culling nature – deer, seals, badgers, - and solely for the sake of local and short term economic gains? Is not our own moral compass utterly untrustworthy.
“Take the plank out of your own eye before you presume to take the splinter out of your brother’s”
Christ remains unimpeached and unimpeachable; despite what is said to be done in his name that is odious.
“Let all men disbelieve, God is still God”
The Archbishop has seen his appointed authority as a (nonetheless flawed) spokesperson for The Lord and His Kingdom, sought debased, and deliberately so, by way of aspersion and deliberate arousal of animosities, broadcast at the convenient time and concerning (truly) pernicious deeds, but committed by others and for the most part historically and not under his watch.
Some things, crimes, events, even though well-known and historical, become, especially in media, clubs to be drawn out whenever it is apposite to cause harm to others, to beat those others over the head with. I cannot name examples here without fear of myself by their mention stirring up sudden inbuilt antipathies which would mar any effect I might be having by writing, and for what I firmly believe is the general good.
But in your family isn’t there always a set of issues which whenever serious disagreements arise, are sure to be ‘draged up’ as milestone signposts in the ‘history’ of that family? To be reused again and again as clubs to beat one another with ad hoc?
Who has moral authority but Christ Himself? Whom should we look to, and seek, on earth, but to go to those whose life and vocation has been – at least on the face of things – given over entirely to attempting interpretation of Christ’s authority as this applies to contemporary life and events?
Should we instead go to the politicians themselves for a moral lead on and about their own misconducts? Or to the local plumber? Or to counsellors and social services and the medical profession and so on? Someone necessarily has to be in this role, some strata or line of profession in our society
Instead we have politics as entertainment on Sundays. Debates with a clear aim further to malign (established) religion (Christianity) with an aim further to marginalise its influence and scope in our land.
We are the people who (would) have cut off our noses to spite our faces. We do not know our own best interests. “All we like sheep have gone astray” BUT, take away hope at the last:
“I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
………. .promises Our Lord..