The following is a guest post by the Rev Dr Peter Mullen, Hon. Chaplain of The Freedom Association.
The UK’s five Anglican Archbishops have pooled their brains to denounce our government’s revised Brexit policy. They have “issued a statement” or, as we speak in the street, they say:
“If carefully-negotiated terms are not honoured and laws can be ‘legally’ broken, on what foundations does our democracy stand?”
In these few words, the Archbishops show that they know as much about politics as the Jabberwock. Their statement is all of a piece with their warm embrace of secular authority in matters of ethical mores about which they have frequently repeated their mantra, “The Church has a lot of catching up to do with secular values.”
In their use of the word “democracy” to describe our res publica, they have revealed that their political ideals are those of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. And their idea of democracy is only a matter of counting heads every few years at election time. In fact, “democracy” is such a vague and catch-all expression that it can be made to mean almost anything anyone wants it to mean. But our political reality does not stand on something so ethereal as democracy in any of its myriad forms. It stands on that firmer ground, the Nation State. In passing, perhaps it is worth remarking that this is what Brexit is all about. The Archbishops are Remainers, so they will have nothing to do with this historical reality.
Samuel Coleridge had their measure two centuries ago:
“A national clerisy or church as an essential element of a rightly-constituted nation, without which it wants alike for its permanence and progression; and for which neither tract societies not conventicles, nor Lancastrian schools, nor mechanics’ institutions, nor lecture bazaars under the absurd name of universities, nor all those collectively, could be a substitute. For they are all marked with the same asterisk of spuriousness, show the same distemper-spot on the front, that they are useless medicines for morbid symptoms that help to feed and continue the disease.”
Being democratic Enlightenment men, the Archbishops have no use for the idea of permanence, for what endures; which is why, of course, they got rid of The King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. They should retrieve their Prayer Books from the dusty attics to which they have consigned them and read what the BCP and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion have to say about these waters in which the Archbishops so innocently paddle. There the Collect for the Queen asks:
“…that we and all her subjects, duly considering whose authority she hath, may faithfully serve, honour and humbly obey her.”
Our obedience to the Queen means our allegiance to our nation, because the Queen is the embodiment and living symbol of our nation. Her Majesty – and neither “democracy” nor the EU – has any authority over us. And, since the Archbishops are so enamoured of democracy, it is worth pointing out that it was the democratic vote of the people which emphatically re-affirmed our national sovereignty. And Article XXXVII states, “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.” Well, that particular historical quarrel is over now, and today the Pope is a benign ecumenical partner. His once powerful, domineering claim, backed by political muscle and military hardware, to authority over us was – until the democratic Referendum, ratified by Parliament – exercised by the EU. No longer.
Our country is an independent nation, and nations have a duty to act in the national interest. From this true and real perspective, Her Majesty’s ministers have understood that all along the EU has not been negotiating in good faith. So they have amended the Brexit Act accordingly.
The Archbishops’ intervention has not gone unnoticed as many MPs expressed their contempt for it. Former Brexit minister David Jones said their comments, “…betray a lack of understanding of the issues involved. This is a straightforward question of constitutional propriety. But once again, the Archbishops seem to have swallowed every scrap of Remain propaganda unquestioningly and are now regurgitating it. It makes my blood boil.”
Finally, the Archbishops should recognise the EU for what it is – a self-proclaimed secular State in which God is allowed no place. While our country is a National Sovereignty under God.
Towards the end of his great book On the Constitution of Church and State, Coleridge scorns the Bishops as “mitred atheists.”
Bang to rights.
All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.