Thursday 11 October 2012

Anvil 28, 2 (2012) on Englishness and Britishness

The August 2012 issue of Anvil is available online, with essays on Englishness and Britishness:

Stephen Backhouse
Benign Indifference: Patriotism, Protest and the Theological Politics of Romans 13:1-7
Christians on all sides of the debate regarding place of patriotic affection and national allegiance invariably find themselves wrestling with Paul’s injunction to submit to the governing authorities in Romans 13:1-7. Patriots read in this passage a clarion call to civic participation in the best interests of their nation. Radicals see instead a moral judgement on all states and an ethic of suffering submission to evil that effectively pits Christians against their countries. The paper argues that when it comes to the question of the earliest Christian attitude towards nations and states as found in Romans a controlling motif can be discerned, and that motif is best described as benign indifference. As such Romans (and the indeed the wider New Testament) does not endorse the family of feelings best known as patriotism (love for country). At the same time, neither does it endorse a radical attack on national forms of life (hatred of country). The political ethos of Romans is socially subversive. However, this subversion is not the goal, but a secondary by-product of the sweeping re-orientation of values and Christian identity that Paul works out in Romans. Both the patriotic and the radical approaches to 13:1-7 make much of the passage as a guide to government and to the citizen’s towards their countries, yet both camps fail to consider the wider context of Romans and the Pauline corpus, which is remarkably sanguine about these things. The paper reads Paul’s treatment of submission to authority in light of his treatment of submission to evil and to the weaker brother. In each case, Paul is far less concerned with those on the receiving end of right Christian action than he is with the Christians themselves. Christians are to submit to state authority, but this submission derives from priorities other than those of the life of the state itself. Any reading of this text that focuses on states and nations distorts the ethical injunction of the passage, which is only secondarily concerned with the effect that submission might have on a country (positively or negatively), and primarily concerned with the attitude of Christ-like submission in its own right. Christian submission springs not from the supposed superiority of the state and its natural created function, as the patriots would maintain; rather the reverse is true. No longer bound by the old cultural and national markers, in effect Paul is telling the Christians that they can condescend to abide by the old system for a time, because these things are ultimately a matter of indifference. Yet this newfound ‘Christian superiority’ is not directed against the state either. Paul is not seeking to eliminate one’s country any more than he wants to wipe out one’s weaker brother. A theo-political ethos of benign indifference charts a new course between the traditional forms of protest and patriotism.

Sam Jackson & Charlie Pemberton
Patriotism? A Set of Questions...
This paper presents patriotism as a set of stories about national identity and loyalty rather than as something with an essential substance. Utilising presentations from a conference on patriotism, we provide three divergent understandings of patriotism and consider their theological basis. We then consider the issue of otherness as it relates to the theoretical construction of patriotism and in the creation of a political other, questioning the effect of simplistic patriotic sentiment on international conflict.

Doug Gay
On Englishness
In this article, Scottish practical theologian Doug Gay offers a personal and theological perspective on Englishness, tracking his own changing knowledges of it since childhood, before reading it in terms of a theological case for celebrating and protecting cultural diversity. The article offers trenchant criticisms of how Englishness is performed in public rituals and popular culture, while appreciating the dilemmas posed in the necessary work of reclaiming and decontaminating English identity. It challenges English theologians and churchpeople, in particular those within the Church of England, to accept responsibility for forging a new ‘ethical’ English nationalism, which can promote the common good internally and generate external relations of peace, respect and co-operation.

Martyn Percy
Ministering to the English? Sketching Some Challenges for Mission and Ministry
This article explores the interface between spirituality, religion and Christianity in England with particular reference to the Church of England. Martyn Percy argues that the secularisation thesis is more nuanced than we are often led to believe and that there never was a Golden Age of church attendance. He claims that religious observance is part of the ‘English cultural DNA’, that the clerical ministry is enduring and necessary and that religion continues to provide ‘enchantment’ for our contemporary world.

Hugh Kemp: Book Review
Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, by Kate Fox

Hugh Kemp: Book Review
The Faith of the English: Integrating Christ and Culture, by Nigel Rooms

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