No King but Caesar
We just finished the Feast of Jesus Christ the King and now on into a new liturgical year. We are moving out of the gospel of Luke. As the missal points out, Luke locates the life of Jesus within Salvation history. He highlights God’s designs as a reversal of human values and expectations.
We seem to have the opposite arrangement in Canadian politics these days, the much lauded separation of Church and state. The sniff test for politicians, being that they park their suspect religious beliefs at the door, and fall into lockstep with the state project which has its own clearly defined ideologies, all the while claiming to be untainted by anything so narrow-minded as religion.
The present Conservative leader, of whom I am not a fan, has been declared persona non grata even by his own party, on the suspicion that he might harbour personal religious beliefs. My complaint is that his beliefs are so personal that he does not clearly express them even when asked. No religion other than Christianity is set aside for such prodding and poking, but all seem to think this is in order. We must push those Christians into line lest we end up with a theocratic state. God forbid that personal ethics should enter into the vicissitudes of rule.
It makes me think of the portion of the passion story...
And Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” At this, they shouted, “Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!”
“Shall I crucify your King?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” replied the chief priests.
John 19: 14–15
And when they took Jesus away, Pilate made a sign which said in Greek, Hebrew and Latin, “Jesus, King of the Jews”. The chief priests argued that he should change the wording. “This man said he was king of the Jews”. But Pilate disagreed. “What I have written will stay written”.
Jesus, King of the Jews. Pilate knew that in their mean-spirited desire for influence, they would get into bed with the most unsavoury of companions. They would laud Caesar, as long as he hated the “right kind of people”. The ones who must be put in their place.
And so we have it, a state ever-more filled with ideologies, and sniff-tests for those ideologies, and increasing danger for anyone who would stand outside of those ideologies, especially those who cite Christian religious belief. Activists from the left, seek to give teeth to laws which prosecute those who refuse to kneel and kiss the ring. If they hate you enough, they will accuse you of hate speech, and shut you up for good. As Jesus said in the sixteenth chaper of John’s gospel, “a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are doing God a favour”. Viva la revolution.
What activists seem to miss, is that their ideologies have become another religion, and such nihilistic ardour is far more dangerous than any statement of religous belief. George Grant has noted that the ethical assumptions which gave Marxism its life came through Eastern Orthodox Christianity, deeply embedded in the Russian psyche long before the Revolution. Beware of a religion however, which excludes God. As Dostoevsky suggests in The Brothers Karamazov, once God has been pushed aside, anything is permitted. This is silently evidenced in the the mass graves which have propped up communist regimes everywhere.
And so it is, that politics has become a godless, and frightening religion, one without a soul. It merely requires allegiance to the “right” kind of ideas, the kind which are pragmatic and mutable on command.
Personally, I wish that one man, anyone, would get up and confound the state project with a clearly articulated statement of religious belief that is fed by conviction, rather than the exigencies of political ambition. He may not get far in politics, but I will respect him just the same. He will also get my vote, if only because I would like to support the truly democratic idea that matters of conscience can be discussed in the public forum.
As they say, be careful who you get into bed with. We all know the revolution eats its own. In this battle of ethics which separates Church and State, Jesus was merely the first victim.
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