Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion [Jesus], my holy hill." I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son [Jesus]; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [Jesus], lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2, The Holy Bible)
Welcome to the Bible; a book about God’s dealings with nations, kings, queens, judges and rulers; a book which finds its ultimate denouement - as the psalmist above prophesies - in the person of Jesus Christ – King of Kings and Lord of Lords who, right now, sits enthroned at the right hand of God the Father as ruler of nations. It is in this context that the bible is presented to a British monarch at their coronation with the words:
Here is wisdom, this is the royal Law, these are the lively Oracles of God.'
The bible is certainly a book which non-Christians take issue with but it is, nevertheless, a book which doesn’t merely permit church leaders to engage with politicians on matters of state but compels them to.
Flick through the pages of the prophet Isaiah and see him address nation after nation not (contrary to popular belief) primarily on “sexual sins” but on issues of economic justice, care for widows, orphans and immigrants.
In short, Archbishop Rowan Williams acts squarely within his jurisdiction when he addresses the leaders of this nation on issues of economic justice. We might not agree with everything he says but there’s no question he has the duty to say it.
Exactly how Christians most effectively engage with political leaders is a different question – and I have more than my fair share of horror stories to tell. In fact many of them could be filed in a folder marked “How not to be an Effective Opposition”: a narrow agenda which fails to address the pressing concerns of the majority of people, a tendency to resort to carping negatively from the side-lines, a lack of positive and constructive personal engagement, a failure to find “common ground” and a shortage of community involvement are issues that bedevil unsuccessful political parties as much as they characterise some parts of the Church. Indeed, Rowan Williams’ intervention stands in contrast to much of this by directly addressing issues that affect millions of British people as the cuts start to bite. We should welcome it – and encourage other church leaders to do the same.
Rachel Stalker is Women’s Officer of Hertford & Stortford CLP and is active in the Christian Socialist Movement.
This article was first published here: http://paulburgin.blogspot.com/