Nationalism, Denominationalism and Idolatry
What follows is a "Thought for the Day" that was "banned" by the BBC... Actually, that's a bit of an exaggeration. It is a revised version of one that I pre-recorded during Holy Week to go out today, but I had only gotten home from the studio when I got a call from the producer to say that there had been a mix-up and the script that I had submitted for approval would not, unfortunately, be suitable for broadcast because of its political tone, given the upcoming local elections and the Scottish referendum... I have to say I wasn't that surprised... indeed I had been more surprised not to have received a phone call BEFORE the recording, especially given that the original script was much more partisan than this one (I'll leave you to guess in which direction)... Anyway, even after a swift revision that produced the following it was decided that I needed to avoid politics in general and the Scottish referendum in particular, so I had to go and write something else much more anodyne, which I then recorded on Good Friday (what else had I to do that day?). It was broadcast today, but I'll post it in the next day or two... Meanwhile here's the one that (almost) got away... It specifically refers to today and I don't have to be as politically circumspect as the BBC...
This year is significant for Scotland with September’s referendum on independence… But today is also significant on those terms, given that on May 1st 1328 the Wars of Scottish Independence ended with a treaty between Robert the Bruce and the English Parliament, where the latter recognised Scotland as an independent state. Ironically however, on May 1st 1707 the Act of Union joined England and Scotland in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. So today might be trumpeted or mourned in both Yes and No camps…
My wife is Scottish and feelings are running high among her family regarding the referendum… She and other Scottish expats don’t have a vote however… And neither do I… Although the lack of a vote doesn’t stop me having an opinion… But this is neither the time nor place for me to be pushing it... (even that unusually cautious line didn't allow me to smuggle this past the powers that be...)
But whatever political jurisdiction we find ourselves living under Christians are instructed by Paul to “be subject to the governing authorities” and Jesus famously told those trying to trip him up politically that we should "give to Caesar what is Caesar’s." Despite that instruction, the early church understood that our ultimate loyalty to God means that, at times, we might find ourselves at odds with the established government. In the story of Good Friday, when Pilate, the local representative of Caesar, asked Jesus whether he was King of the Jews, he replied: “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Christ’s Kingdom is not run on the same principles as the Kingdoms, Republics and Dictatorships of this world, nor should it be identified uniquely with any of them. It should never be dressed up in red, white and blue, green white and gold or tartan of any hue. Because the first loyalties of Christ’s people should never be to a nation state, be it the United Kingdom, a United Ireland, the United States of America, or the United Arab Emirates, nor to supra-national bodies like the United Nations or the European Union. All earthly institutions are fallible and potentially idolatrous… be they local, national, international or the multi-national corporations where some would argue that real earthly power now lies. Even denominational structures are flawed and their thinking can run contrary to the rule of God’s Kingdom.
Our loyalty should not primarily be to an earthly prince or president or political ideology, not to a lump of land or to a flag… But to a King who was only ever crowned with thorns, a Kingdom that has outlasted empires and will outlast the earth on which we live.
Christ’s is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever.