Unexpectedly to members of his own party, predictably to the bookies, Jeremy Corbyn, an old fashioned left wing MP was elected leader of the UK Labour Party a few days ago, since when our national media have been stunned by a man who hasn’t been and doesn’t want to be, packaged for public consumption. They are terrified at the prospect of someone who might want to go home for supper at the end of the day rather than give a series of bland sound bites to satisfy the ridiculous appetite of news media for 24 hour information. You only need to look at the various news bulletins of the BBC throughout the day to realise that there is simply not enough information of the right kind to satisfy its feeding frenzy. Of course there are plenty real stories from all round the world that actually matter, but it doesn’t want them. The news media only favour politicians who bow to their power to determine which politicians the public will be allowed to like. It is often said the the Murdoch press is like this, but in fact the neutral BBC in all its dignity is just as guilty of this childish self-importance as the Sun. Or maybe it’s not so childish. Maybe if the public rejected this nonsense, some journalists would be out of a job.
In any case, the press has of course subjected Mr. Corbyn to as much scrutiny as it could devise, much of it utterly trivial. Will he wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day? ( He’s a pacifist) Will he sing the national anthem? (He’s a republican) I have to remind my non- British readers that our national song does not praise our nation but prays for our Queen, that she may be glorious and victorious, especially, in the verse we never sing, over the uppity Scots. In fact, at a ceremony remembering the Pilots of the Battle of Britain he simply kept a respectful silence during the anthem.
This has raised a ridiculous howl of condemnation even from members of his own party. How could he have respect for the dead if he didn’t have respect for the Monarch?
People really have to grow up. Basic lack of education may have something to do with these people not having heard of republicanism, nor ever asked whether they would not prefer to be citizens rather than, as they are, subjects of the Queen. It also seems likely that they will be ignorant of the history of the Royal Family before the second world war, showing all manner of admiration for Hitler and interest in fascism. They headed a class of Britons whose blindness to the dangers of Nazism, meant that the nation was so unprepared for war, it had to sacrifice young pilots with a few day’s training to halt Hitler’s offensive.
The compliance of the established churches, namely the Church of England and my own Church of Scotland who perpetuate various forms of servile grovelling to the monarchy in the name of Christ, is in my view, regrettable. The story of Jesus shows little respect for monarchs. Right from his birth Jesus’ life is threatened by the muderous King Herod, according to Matthew. Given that there is no contemporary corroboration for the terrible massacre alleged by Matthew, we may be inclined to disregard his story, but true or false it expresses no respect for the royal family. Mark tells the reader that early in Jesus’ ministry the religious leaders were conspiring with Herod’s party ( a different Herod) to eliminate him. Mark also gives a lengthy comparison between King Herod, who almost literally consumes his people ( the head of John the Baptist in a dish) and King Jesus who feeds his people ( the feeding of the 5000). Luke notes that when Jesus was warned that Herod was trying to catch him he replied, calling Herod, “that old fox”. Faced with the question of recognising Caesar Jesus reminds people that whereas the Roman coinage may bear Caesar’s image, every human being bears the image of God. Finally John tells us that Jesus was courteous to Pilate but did not give way to him, claiming that the source of his authority was greater than Rome.
This brief survey suggests that in Jesus’ view, as recorded in the Gospels, monarchs and rulers were entitled to no more respect than others, and like others, were accountable to the one true king. But we should also note that even when dealing with Pilate who had shed the blood of his countrymen, he remained open and courteous.
I think Jesus would have been unimpressed by the medieval trappings of royalty in the UK but would have recognised Elizabeth as a modest, dutiful and very hard-working head of state. As such she would have had his respect. I do not think he would have respected our national anthem.
Although the Church of Scotland has not put itself in the abysmally servile relation to the crown accepted by the Church of England, I believe it should be disestablished, as I’m sure it would have to be in an independent Scotland. Church people should offer to monarchs the respect they offer to all women, men and children, but not more.
The latest news on this issue tells me that Mr. Corbyn has been bullied into agreeing to sing the anthem next time. If so, he will have lost a tiny bit of my respect for him.
This obsession with flags and national anthems is sickening. I have been living in the US since 1980 (when I left Canada to go to Seminary in New York) and I could have become a citizen any time since 1984 when I married my wife, who is US-born citizen. I took my “green card” (giving me legal, permanent residence) after my marriage, but have refused to become a citizen in all these years. Why? Is it because I hate the US or some other “radical” reason? No. I have refused it because part of the rite of citizenship is to recite the oath of allegiance to the flag of the US. That I cannot do, I refuse allegiance to any flag! I don’t worship the flag of any nation. It’s a beautiful flag, and so are the Greek and the Canadian flags, but I don’t owe allegiance to those flags either. I maintain my Canadian citizenship, and I’m happy with my green card, knowing that I benefit from living in this country and the country benefits from my priestly ministry and my taxes, which I pay ungrudgingly.
The criticism aimed at Corbyn reminds me of the early days of Obama’s candidacy for president. He was daily and relentlessly attacked by all conservative politicians, media and citizens for not wearing a US flag pin on his jacket! Recently, Prime Minister Tsipras of Greece was attacked by the media and his opponents for standing respectfully enough during the playing of national anthems. You see, he dared to have his legs spread apart during the national anthems! But my favorite image is of Pope Francis at the White House lawn when he was received by President Obama. Two national anthems were played, the Vatican and the US anthems. During both anthems, Obama stood proudly upright and right next to him, Francis bowed his head and remained absolutely still during both anthems. For me, that was the most memorable image of his entire visit to the US. As I watched the live coverage that morning I couldn’t help but think that he was praying for the day when all national anthems, and all oaths of allegiance to a flag or to a queen or king would be eliminated. The picture in the link below shows Obama, proudly upright, with hand over his heart and US flag pin on his jacket, and Pope Francis in his meditative pose. Pictures often speak thousands of words. This is one of them.