THE Irreverend podcast is always worth listening to. For the uninitiated, picture three conservative-minded C of E vicars (no, seriously) wisely and whimsically debating faith and current affairs. The show has featured excellent guests, too, such as James Delingpole and Laura Dodsworth.
Recently it was the turn of cultural theologian Rev Dr Joseph Boot. With his ever-genial host, Rev Dr Jamie Franklin, Boot discussed his thought-provoking new book Ruler of Kings: Toward a Christian Vision of Government. The publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy.
I’m not much of a Christian, to be honest. A quiet Anglicanism – the occasional service – is the most I can manage, and the tea and biscuits afterwards (Covid risk-assessment allowing) are usually the highlight. I suspect I’m not alone in that. Anyway, does it really matter, when these days just being a Christian is a semi-revolutionary act?
As Boot observes, Christianity is the chief enemy of the utopian forces running amok in the West. Why? Look no further than the book’s heretical title. Need we be reminded (and perhaps we do), Scripture tells us total sovereignty in this world and the next belongs to one figure. Much to their chagrin, it isn’t Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates or any other Great Reset megalomaniac.
Given the current woke onslaught – seeded, according to the author, in the dogmatic rationalism of the Renaissance, Enlightenment and French Revolution – I’m warming anew to this man-delimiting notion. Any tradition which knocks today’s puffed-up globalist demigods off their perch is fine by me. As it happens, it’s one which most of us were born into. Did we take it for granted?
Small wonder, then, that the Church itself was a prime target for liberal infiltration. And alas, save for a few spirited outposts both Canterbury and Rome have fallen. A germane aside: in the 1980s my then vicar gave a prescient sermon warning of the dangers posed by a certain expansionist religion. Today, we all know what such muscular Christianity would meet with: a swift defrocking, a cringing apology by an imposter-Archbishop, and the dissenting cleric’s dog-collar felt by the police (who might also need to find him a safe house).
Why the incessant egalitarianism and cultural relativism? As the author notes, they’re the conceits of a power-mad, godless intelligentsia. The new secular priesthood believes the complete elimination of distinctions (preserved by artificial borders) will lead to total social justice in the name of ‘oneness’ and ‘unity’. Theirs is the euphoric vision of a new world government and a globally integrated world citizenry.
It won’t end well. When man plays God (who, in the Bible, repeatedly maintains the integrity of tribes and nation states) totalitarianism always ensues. No matter. Our allegedly intellectual – but wisdom-bereft – overlords prize a technocratic world ultimately beyond poverty and war. Trivial matters such as democracy and freedom of speech mustn’t imperil it.
A persuasive diagnosis, but what’s the prescription? An aggressive, theocratic approach is given the Boot: the author offers no revisionist refuge for history’s imperialist prelates. On the other hand, ‘there is no “secular arena” with diplomatic immunity from the rule of Christ and His Word’. This challenges the tendency of believers to accept a synthesised culture, to find a modus vivendi with the Regime and think they’re safe. They’re not.
The statist behemoth, unable to brook competition, will continue to drive Christianity into the private sphere, or remould it until it resembles more the worship of Mother Earth than that of the Great Redeemer. (We can scarcely expect tree-hugging Charles, would-be Defender of non-specific Faith, to ride to the rescue.)
Riffing on the politics-lies-downstream-of-culture dictum, Boot’s principal remedy is the development of numerous Christian institutions: hospitals, unions, charities, businesses, schools, political parties, news media and research platforms. In short, he proposes the re-Christianising of civil society, embracing the best aspects of the deregulated nineteenth century.
If this all sounds naively ambitious, the necessary first step, a recovery of cultural memory, offers a flicker of hope. Let’s remind ourselves, and the next generation, that ‘Biblical faith is deeply embedded in our language, literature, music, architecture, structures of government, and social life, laws and art, and cannot simply be flushed away by contemporary intellectuals’.
It probably won’t last, but I’ve dusted down my newly subversive Bible. Hold the tea and biscuits, would you?