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Supplements » 60 Years of Faithful Constitutional Monarchy (June 2012)
60 Years of Faithful Constitutional Monarchy by David Holloway
St Paul tells us that in the church there ought not only to be “requests, prayers [and] intercessions” for “kings”, but also “thanksgiving” (1 Tim 2.1). So how we should thank God for our Queen and Constitutional Monarchy that she so faithfully has embodied for 60 years.
We, therefore, must first thank God that our Constitutional Monarchy is democratic but not merely democratic. There is a current common assumption that “democracy” is good in itself. But critics from Aristotle to those worried by possible outcomes from the “Arab Spring” have recognised that simple democracy can mean 51 percent of people enslaving the other 49 percent!
Secondly, we must thank God that our Constitutional Monarchy is liberal but not merely liberal. Sadly, where “liberty” becomes the absolute value as with the 19th century philosopher, J. S. Mill, it causes an unshackling from wise authority, cultural norms, communal traditions and faith in God. This usually leads to a level of social disorder and a decline of traditional social supports like marriage, the family and the church. The resulting problems, however, still have to be resolved. This is attempted by an impersonal, bureaucratic, ever expanding and costly state. Also, because the “state” is the one social cohesion alone entitled to use force, it can become a terrifying tyranny.
Thirdly, we must thank God that our Constitutional Monarchy is certainly not a secular liberal democracy. “Liberty, democracy and secularism” have been watch-words for modern tunnel-visioned Western elites as well as for earlier revolutionaries and for younger dissidents in today’s Muslim world, like in Iran. But godless secularism is powerless to nurture reasonable liberty and altruistic democracy. For such to be nurtured you need a culture and assumptions that certainly flow from a Christian world view. Its doctrine of the Fall stressing human corruption encourages democracy which, through elections, limits or removes corrupt leaders. Its doctrine of human creation in the image of God with man having an inherent dignity encourages a liberty that recognises “God-given rights” (not merely rights “voted” by Parliaments).
This doctrine also encourages a sane understanding of equality and so recognises legal equality (all subject to the same laws), political equality (all able to vote and having basic freedoms), social equality (all equally entitled to essential material support), and equality of opportunity (with a truly open society). But it denies a general equality of outcomes as normally “a man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6.7).
So, fourthly, we thank God that the Queen and our Constitutional Monarchy undergirds not a secular liberal democracy but a Christian liberal democracy. Having Christian roots, it involves a mixed and institutionally balanced government with a democratically elected House of Commons, an appointed House of Lords and a Sovereign who reigns not by simple hereditary right but on the basis of legal agreements and binding conventions. These are spelt out in the Coronation Oath where the Sovereign swears to uphold at one and the same time the laws of God and the laws of Parliament.
Our constitution, therefore, recognises that there is no such thing as a “naked public square”. All nations have to have some publicly preferred vision of the good life. We are thankful, therefore, that our monarchy symbolises the fact that the good life at least requires a “Christian canopy” and the government to be under a higher authority, namely that of Almighty God. Also the Queen is the “Supreme Governor” (not “Head”) of the Church of England; and she had to swear to maintain “the Protestant Reformed Religion” (the Anglican moderate Calvinism of Canon A5) and “the settlement of the Church of England”. Such a defined Christian commitment is in contrast to a non-doctrinal “mere Christianity” that too often slides into modern Gnostic new-age multifaith confusion or irrational secularism that pleases few.
Of course, the Queen is queen of those of other faiths or none. But this Christian canopy with a God of love (proved by the Cross of Christ) and a God who will not enforce belief (proved by the reality of final judgment) allows for pluralism in a way other faiths and philosophies do not. It is not surprising that other faith leaders do not want to see the disestablishment of the Church of England. Nor is it surprising that a poll for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by ComRes found that almost three-quarters of people in England think that the Queen and future monarchs should keep the titles of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and “Defender of the Faith”.
(This also appeared in the Diamond Jubilee edition of the Church of England Newspaper, 3rd June 2012)