Sunday, May 1, 2011

What was good about the royal wedding?

Some internet grumpiness about the royal wedding can be found at Ekklesia: grrr, growl, grizzle, grinch (H/T Clayboy and EChurch Blog both of whom direct us to good things in the wedding). One of the Ekklesia grumps is by a Kiwi correspondent, Sande Ramage. Well, each makes a point, and each point is part of needed ongoing debate in any democratic society where church and state collide, whether in formal establishment mode or otherwise. But are some points being missed by these e-correspondents?

It's all very well having a bash at monied, titled people, for example, especially if in military attire, but has any society ever escaped having an elite and a portion of that elite tied up in its armed forces? I do not recall Soviet Russia getting on top of the problem (remember those special shops for Communist Party hierarchy and the dachas ("second homes") the leadership class enjoyed?). My understanding of Mao's China is that he attempted to get on top of the problem with periodic purges ("class cleansing" we could call it) which involving slaughtering the odd million or three of real live human beings. But, the reply might be made, couldn't the UK be more egalitarian like, say the USA or Australia or New Zealand? To which the answer is 'Yes, of course, come and join us!' Lots of people have left the UK to forge a new and egalitarian life in new lands. Presumably most of those who have not left are comfortable with the class structure in the UK. Certainly the great throng of flag waving Brits who crowded the Mall and pressed against the gates of Buckingham Palace did not look like they were uncomfortable with the nature of British society (let alone forced to offer mass support for the current regime by state apparatchiks)!

It is possible, is it not, that it is a good thing if the very top of the social tree of a society is tied into the church, embued with an ethic of community service, and constrained by constitutional law to exercise power with gentle discretion? Even better if that social tree tip is wealthy enough not to be tempted by bribery and corruption?

The wedding in one aspect was a re-visioning of the tie between sovereign and God. The power of the sovereign (such as it is in a constitutional monarchy) is not absolute power but a gift from God. To that same God the future sovereign came with his future wife (and, conversely, an ordinary citizen of a state with an established church but no compulsion to worship came with her future husband) to seek God's blessing, not to command it. The splendour of the occasion was tinged with humility, not tainted with tyranny.

The way this re-visioning took place happened also to be a marvellous witness to the word and power of Christ expressed through the genius of Anglican liturgy. In a truly egalitarian society in a republican state there would never be a wedding broadcast to two billion people. Would Christ be pleased with this event as a testimony to him?

Would Christ be disappointed that it has turned out that the plainness of Cranmer's approach to liturgy is particularly well suited to colourful pageantry, the varied tonality of English accents, and the splendour of English musical composition (Parry, Rutter, etc)?

(And, noticing this post at Cranmer's Curate, would St Paul be disappointed?)

You be the judge!


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, for once, I find myself in perfect agreement with your take on the propriety of what was going on in Westminster Abbey at the Royal Wedding. On the human level, Royalty was being tempered with the ordinary charism of our common humanity - something akin (though not to quite the same level) to divinity being mixed with humanity *in Christ*. This can only be good for both the Royal Family and the rest of us.

On another level, what Cranmerian liturgical arrangements - together with the language of the KJB - has done for a bit of gravitas being experienced by a big proportion of the world's population, can only be good for the image of basic Anglicanism on the world stage.

The obvious committment of these two young people - at this stage in their lives - can only bear witness to the benefits of being married, in a world where public commitment is often seen as uncool.
May God richly bless them!

Paul Powers said...

Since I'm not a citizen of the UK or one of the other Commonwealth realms, I don't think I should express
an opinion about monarchy vs. republic. But if you're going
to have a monarchy, you need to do it right, and that costs money. A Mr. William Mountbatten could get away with a simple service at a small parish church (or even a registry office) followed by a small gathering at the local pub. The number two person in the order of succession can't. There has to be a certain amount of pomp and pageantry. Otherwise, what's the point?

However, if you strip off the pageantry, you're left with the celebration of a marriage between two likable, yet in many ways ordinary, people, an embodiment of the ideal expressed by +London that every wedding is (or should be) a royal wedding. That's a good thing. That it was done in the context of an unabashedly Christian service is even better.


Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Did enjoy the Bible reading and parts of the Bishop of London's address. Great music on the whole, too.
Have to say I would have preferred more modern language than even the 1928 liturgy. Not sure what modern options are available in the Church of England, but "thereto I give thee my troth" is pretty incomprehensible to most of us these days.

Anonymous said...

You are right to call Ekklesia Britain's premier religious think tank, as you are clearly New Zealand’s premier Anglican Evangelical site. It is always good to see what Sande Ramage, who was a military chaplain recently, gives as a perspective on that without acknowledging her position. As you don’t. Very premier. Both of you.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve
I am not sure what I am not acknowledging ...?

I acknowledge that I am an evangelical ...

I do not acknowledge that Sande Ramage is/was a military chaplain because I did not know that ...

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter
I am not sure what you “do not acknowledge”. If you are unaware that Sande was a military chaplain, you can check that in the Clerical Directory. It’s not my place, but it might have been wise to have made that check if you did not know what position she holds. You write, “we have a fair share of the chaplaincies which are funded by government money (health, military, prisons).” What might be the effect on this church funding if internationally it is seen to bite the hand that feeds it?