Radical or conforming?

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Things move fast in today’s world. The sad reflectiveness and genuine grief that engulfed our nation just a few weeks ago has now receded in the light of our current political and economic troubles … not to mention the terrible crises happening elsewhere (the horror of war, impending famine, climate change).

Many Christians wrote about the Queen’s death and the importance of her Christian faith, something I too appreciated about her and respected very much. I was moved by the beauty of the Queen's funeral service, and how faith-filled and uplifting it was.

I am also fascinated that so many British Christians seem to accept the political status quo of our constitutional monarchy and never question it, despite the fact that millions of other Christians around the world live under completely different political systems.

To be clear, I’m not a republican – yet. Neither am I seeking to convert anyone reading this to republicanism. But while I have been an Anglican lay minister for over 20 years, I can never forget that I grew up in a Nonconformist church (which was also deeply conformist in almost every other way) and something of that Dissenting tradition lives on in my spiritual DNA.

I wonder how many 21st century Christians are aware of how profoundly radical and threatening the Non-Conforming Christians of the 17th century appeared to the Church of England of their day? These included the radical, anti-monarchist Christian groups that arose out of the ashes of the English Civil War: such groups insisted on the equality of all men before God and fiercely refuted the power of an earthly monarchy. The relation between Church and State in our isles was often violent and bloody (and often the Church was the oppressor). Archbishops who challenged a Plantaganet or Tudor King would usually end up dead, eg brutally murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by zealous knights or sent to the Tower of London (strictly a one-way ticket). Not a threat that any current Archbishop is likely to face!

I am deeply thankful that we no longer live in such times, although the ugly shadow of sectarianism has cast long shadows over Ireland and Scotland, part of the package of the oppressive heritage of English colonialism.

I am proud of my country’s rich heritage but am not blind to its darker side. I think it’s healthy to question the Establishment, both political and religious. The Bible has much to say about power and privilege and the abuse of both. The Saviour we follow fell foul of the religious morality police of his day (of course He knew He would do so).

Do you consider yourself a conformist or a radical? Does that matter to you personally, and is it relevant to your writing? That of course may depend on what genre you write in. Even so, I think it’s an interesting question to ask ourselves as Christian writers, even if our writing is not directly political.

And there’s no right or wrong answer … how we choose to answer (or not) depends on so many different factors.

I am the administrator for the education and learning department of the United Reformed Church. I am also an Anglican lay minister. I wrote a devotional for the anthology Light for the Writer’s Soul published by Media Associates International, and my short story ‘Magnificat’ appears in the ACW Christmas anthology Merry Christmas Everyone.

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