Support the Café

Search our Site

Co-opting the Church?

Co-opting the Church?

Like the author of a piece posted on Ekklesia, I too am finding myself more and more influenced by the anabaptist understandings of non-violence, the rejection of privatism of belief and the discomfort with the co-option of the Church to the Empire. And so as much as I reveled in the essential Anglicanism of the wedding events, I like Simon Barrow, the author of the essay, had a sort of disquiet as I watched the wedding yesterday.

Barrow describes his own feelings thusly:

“I write this without an ounce of ill-will towards any individuals within Britain’s royal family, and without in any way wishing to be churlish about anybody’s wedding – whether they are famous or not.

But for me, the idea and reality of monarchism is deeply offensive. It rests on nothing more nor less than absolute eugenic privilege and the reservation of power, wealth and status for the very few – in whatever attenuated ‘constitutional’ form. This is deeply unChristian. Yet most Christians, socialised into deference and mistaking the upside-down kingdom of God for earthly kingdoms, appear not to notice it. Even when it is pointed out. We have a massive amount of unlearning and relearning to do in the transition to post-Christendom.

That means, among other things, re-visiting our theological roots. In this sense, while remaining implacably at odds with the constraining (modernist) ideology of fundamentalism, I am not a ‘theological liberal’ either. It is the deep structure of the narratives, language, events, experiences, grammar (‘doctrine’) and communal inheritances of the tradition of Jesus and the dynamics of his movement in the world which I wish to be constitutive of my political orientation – not passing fads in culture or secular theory.

But for that structure to become usable – and resistant to the powers that be – we need a hermeneutic of new community (ekklesia), a recognition of the tension between monarchical / establishment and prophetic / dissenting religion (much more significant than the modern ‘conservative’ versus ‘liberal’ typology Christians have become captive to), and an ethic of demonstrative Gospel virtues – economic sharing, forgiveness, peacemaking, hospitality and more.”

Read the full essay here.

We are part of a historic denomination that has made an Erastrian compact with government. Is disestablishment the answer in England? Do we need something similar here in the States?


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
C. Wingate

The minute I see the phrase “new hermeneutic” I start to tune out. If you have one to offer, you just do it, and if it’s any good, people will heed it, and if not, the ideas go on the heap of discarded modernism. And given the establishment of modernist thought elsewhere, the monarchy is, in its way, an expression of dissent. I think the affection for royal ritual is in no small part an expression of the populace’s unhappiness with the gray, efficient, faux-egalitarian, graceless future which their modernist masters insist on planning for them.

Gary Paul Gilbert

I agree with the Pluralist that Simon Barrow’s rhetoric is ambiguous, making it hard to figure out what evidence he has, if any, for his approach..

Moving in a Wittgensteinian direction by emphasizing the so-called grammar of the tradition, Barrow still ventriloquizes God. An emphasis on grammar ought to privilege the doing of justice over dissecting an object called God.

He trashes fundamentalism but still assumes monarchy is against the will of God: “…monarchy (something established against the warning and will of God in the historical biblical tradition).” His argument seems to assume the need for a paper Pope, called scripture.

He seems to want both academic respectability and infallibility.

It recalls the notes in the Geneva Bible against monarchy. If the scripture were as plain as certain Calvinists claimed it was, the notes would have been unnecessary.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Phil Gentry

The liberal blogger Matt Yglesias often makes what I think is a good point that in parliamentary systems, you have a distinction between a symbolic head of state and a political head of state. The symbolic head of state is sometimes a “President” or sometimes a “Monarch,” but the real power is in the hands of a prime minister. Here in the US we conflate those two roles, which makes for awkward moments–if one is a political foe of the President, you’re expected to nevertheless rally around him for patriotic occasions. Most of us here probably found that difficult to do circa 2000-2008! As Matt says, there is something to be said for choosing the occupier of that symbolic role by a completely arbitrary process, as the British currently do, as long as the power truly is for symbolic and entertainment value.


Re “absolute eugenic privilege”:

In 2010, the British sci fi show “Doctor Who” showed a future Queen of England, Elizabeth X (or “Liz Ten”) played by the black British actress Sophie Okonedo . . . which begs the question (as science fiction is supposed to do!) of what would have happened, had Prince William brought home a black fiance’?

I know Britain in 2011 is very multiracial society (perhaps moreso than the USA). I can’t help but wonder, however, if the monarchy itself will be abandoned long before a black monarch would ever be enthroned in Westminster.

JC Fisher

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café