Saturday, February 12, 2022

Old-fashioned but not out of date. . .

It is a wonder.  How the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth of various states keeps it all together.  The center of it all is, as always, in the Queen.  Where once it might have been said the monarchy itself transcended the current monarch, it seems as if the reverse has come true in our generation.  Indeed, there are those who cannot conceive how the monarchy will survive the death of this monarch.  Perhaps it will cease or, more likely, simply fade away.  But it is less about the monarchy than it is the state of things today.

It is England that is fading fast.  Not England as an economy but as a nation.  The monarchy was certainly a symbol of an age in which the king or queen was not simply the person on the throne but God's choice.  It was an ordination as well as a coronation into an office which had more than simply the title the head of the Church of England.  The monarchy brought together the diversity of a far flung empire under a common set of values marked by duty, dignity, and decency.  The Queen had her responsibility to God and to her people and the people returned that responsibility to the Queen (representing the nation) and to God.  And it seems to have worked marvelously well since she ascended to the throne (note the religious style of language) in 1953.  But although it seems she has changed less, the nation and the world has changed even more.  

The old virtues of duty, modesty, and devotion to a cause larger than self have been replaced by an individualistic notion of responsibility and the insistence upon displaying that individual self as largely as possible upon the canvas of life.  Underneath it all, there is a question about whether anything at all is worth the devotion of heart and soul except self and the pursuit of safety, security, sexuality, and sentiment (usually translated as happiness).  It is a mark of these times that the Queen has changed less than her people but nobody knows what shape either the monarchy or what remains of the once mighty empire will be in for the next one placed upon Edward's seat, presented with Bible, orb, and crown.

This might seem mere curiosity to a Yank except that what carved out the empire from underneath the Queen was not simply changing conditions in the world or colonies throwing off the weight of servitude.  It was the demise of a Christian identity, whether actually true among all the peoples yet the binding truth that united a culture and a people under the monarch assigned them by divine choice.  In this we are not so different.  Without a king (thanks to George Washington), we have had royal families among those with money and power and with royal lineage to the Office of President (from the Adams to the Bushes).  Yet modern presidents find it harder than ever to govern in a land divided by the very diversity that we claim our founders fostered.  Perhaps they were wrong.  Or more likely, they did not foresee a time in which common virtue would become uncommon and the notion of a Christian nation (civic and religious) would not unite the vast geography and its inhabitants.

A great many things old-fashioned are not out of date.  They may seem quaint except to a culture in the throws of a mighty battle over the most basic of truths -- sex, gender, marriage, family, the value of life, etc...  We are no longer arguing over rights and wrongs but waging a war over values -- whether to have them as well as what values to have.  As with Britain's monarchy, this problem was not simply thrust upon by the passage of time and the addition of immigrants but by the loss of old-fashioned virtues and the consensus among the woke that religion is private and individual and mostly out of date.  In the great vacuum of a common sense of morality and identity greater than self, there is only the divvying up of the rights and privileges and giving the bill to the welfare state to occupy our attention.  

Across the world, the demise of Christianity has been followed by a chaos of conflicting ideas over who matters, what matters, and why things matter.  Death, which once brought us together to find hope, comfort, and meaning, has become merely an individual choice -- whether to the child in the womb or the person who decides that his or her life has become not worth living (and the state owes the person a painless exit).   Who needs God when sin is no longer sin and when death is no longer death?  Who needs man when he is an enemy to the pristine ideal of nature and a world which would be better off without him?  Yet as old-fashioned as God is, He is never out of date.  Ignoring or renaming sin and death cannot make either go away.  God will remain the necessity of those who are woke enough to find out that the removal of sin from our vocabulary, the individualization of morality, the personal definition of life as well as happiness, and the befriending of death (when we control some of the terms) are a game without any chance of winning.

Yes, the Triune God of the Scriptures and creeds is certainly an old-fashioned notion for a modern world that finds technology and science to be the oracles of our future but it is never out of date.  Let the Church be the beacon of this shining light as darkness encroaches evermore upon our world and our people.  Man was not created for the world but the world for man and both serve God's purpose.  Jesus did not come to erase that order but to perfect it.  His gift to us is not simply a personal and individual righteousness we wear but a place in that order -- restored to us with its own gift of identity, boundary, and purpose.

1 comment:

William Tighe said...

1952, not 1953, was the year of the queen's accession to the throne.