Patriotism and establishment

Paul Griffin shows a love of country and the Queen


‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,’ Boswell quotes Dr Johnson as saying. On the face of it, that is a bit of a body blow for patriotism; but make no mistake: Johnson was as patriotic as the next man. What he actually said, or meant to say, was that the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism. Put that way round, the saying condemns rascals, but not patriotism – only false patriotism. There was and is a lot of it about. How much of the true sort the Church needs is a question much debated.

One can say that all Churches owe a duty to the temporal power that governs them. Caesar has to have his due. Also a love of one’s country is a lovely thing. We turn our eyes to our own hills, and most of us are happy that our land and our Church are presided over by Queen Elizabeth, a faithful Christian of singular powers, herself a sharer in our joys.
Her Majesty, however, rules over Churches out of communion with each other, some in this country, and many overseas. The Prince of Wales has said that his ideal will be to defend ‘Faith’ not merely ‘the Faith’.

This statement has been much debated. I imagine he meant to say he was for religious toleration. His mother is also, but she is probably more acutely aware of the two horses she has to ride, temporal and spiritual. Both, I suppose, involve religious toleration. Her temporal self operates through laws made by her government, which prescribe her position as Governor of the Church. This, as we know, can pose a nasty problem. The manager of Manchester United cannot also be in charge of the Premier League.
To be specific, everyone may have an opinion of any imaginable sort, as long as they do not put that opinion into action against the State. Extremist Moslems must surely be permitted, for practical reasons, to believe they live among heretics who need severe punishment. The law prevents their doing anything about it. If they do, in the monarch’s temporal capacity they must be restrained or punished.

If Prince Charles means he will make sure his representatives do not invade men’s minds, it is hardly worth saying, because as matters are they cannot. He cannot mean he will defend any faith, however damaging its effects. How about Cannibalism?

As it stands, the Queen in her spiritual capacity is the defender of the Christian faith, as handed down by our forefathers. She has promised to uphold it, and splendidly she does. That this involves something called the Establishment brings us to that mighty complicated subject.

This could be a good time to thrash out its rights and wrongs because in future we could have a ruler not as gentle as Prince Charles, in whose reign the matter would become more prejudiced against than it is now prejudiced for.

Edward VIII put us in a pretty pickle, and Henry VIII and George IV might well have done so, if they had had a more powerful and vengeful Press. To them, we can apply the Article that the personal unworthiness of the Minister does not hinder the effectuality of his ministration.

Establishment is a subject I shrink from attempting, because so many better theologians and constitutionalists can hammer at it. Like many others, I want the Church self-governing. Our present attitude is ‘If it works, don’t fix it.’ The question is: ‘Does it work?’ How much of our present trouble is due to Establishment? Or has it perhaps made our position easier?

Return to Home Page of This Issue

Return to Trushare Home Page