I finally got around to watching the much-praised BBC documentary “The Coronation.” In it, Her Majesty The Queen talks candidly about her memory of that day in 1953 and handles the Crown Jewels in a somewhat cavalier way (I wonder if that was for effect?). Of course, the narrator got the whole point of the Coronation wrong and I can’t recall that the words “Church of England” or “Christian” were even mentioned; but it’s the kind of documentary aimed at an ahistorical, secular modern audience anyway. Afterwards, I watched a Panorama special about racial/religious segregation in Blackburn and the contrast was incredible. On the one hand we have the self-adulation of a hubristic civilisation, disappearing up its own contradictions and unable to come to terms with its own demise; and on the other the grim reality which nobody wants to talk about. As a British subject (even if my passport no longer indicates this) and a Christian royalist, I admire The Queen for who she is, or rather what she represents, under God and for her personal qualities, but the documentary, despite its intention, brought home the fact that she is very much a part of the fantasy of modern Britain; a symbol of past national sovereignty thrust into the age of pooled sovereignty; an image of past (imperial!) greatness propelled into the time of present impotence. She is a living anachronism.
My mother watched the Blackburn documentary (which might just as well have been about Woolwich or Brixton, closer to home), trying to check a fast-rising wrath. She hates Muslims. She loathes the attitude of Muslim men towards her, a woman with uncovered hair and in trousers (very much my own attitude, I have to say), and she often says that the immigration of so many Asian and African Muslims to this country has caused the dilution of traditional Christian values in the national life. She isn’t wrong about this but it’s a simplistic and somewhat hypocritical position. This is shewn most clearly in a recent incident in which we had to get the bus somewhere. The bus was filled to capacity and we therefore stood perforce. When we alighted she did nothing but complain about the men who failed to offer her a seat. So what she really wants is all the equalities we hear so much about, in pay and job opportunities, but she also wants all the old chivalric norms we lived by in the days of inequality and Christian morality. It’s an interesting parallel. I often have cause to contrast my battleaxe mother in men’s clothes with a pretty young Muslim woman going about her business in a chiffon headscarf or hijab. Years ago, I remember lots of old British women wearing headscarves when they were out and about, and in church. Very few do so nowadays. Most “old” women now are “babyboomers,” pioneers of the sexual revolution. For these people, Christian values are private taboos, a burden we take on ourselves. They don’t go to church, they don’t read The Bible, and they think that people who do so are rather weird. So it is with my mother, who very often scolded my “obsession” with religion until she realised that I was not a creature that she had made anymore than she was Pygmalion. “You don’t have to go every Sunday,” she once said.
And yet, she resents the erosion of Christian values and blames this entirely on immigration. This amazes me! Can she not see that as the sunset of Christianity in this country has finally passed and the night of secularism has come, a state of things brought about by the apathy of people like her and the elitist, cultural ideas of Bloomsbury propelled into influence in the 1960’s, we have nothing substantial to offer anyone as a value system? Where before we had the values of the Gospel, now we have “British values,” vacuous precepts repugnant to right-believing Christians as well as Muslims. No wonder, as these subjective values have penetrated into all areas of public life over the years, Muslims have become more insular and reactionary. A friend of mine in Brighton witnessed a pair of homosexuals kissing in a public place some years ago, and a Muslim woman shielding the eyes of her two children as she passed them by. Similarly, a young Muslim man with whom I worked once told me that if he found out that his son was an homosexual he would probably kill him. So much for British values!
Paradoxically, whenever our government wishes to rouse hostility in us to an Islamist movement, whether Al Qaeda or most recently “Daesh,” they claim that “they hate our way of life.” Well, I also hate our way of life and reject British values! Like my mother, but for slightly different reasons, I resent the erosion of Christian values and the paganism of our contemporary culture. The difference is that I uphold Christ’s Gospel not as a tribal, reactionary recourse but as the very pulse of my daily life. I suppose the irony here is that rejecting British values for reasons of Christian faith puts me in remarkably similar moral position to our Muslim supplanters!
Herein lies the problem. This is the dilemma of a Christian who is also a patriot. It’s one thing to admit, truthfully, that the past fifty years or so have seen some of the worst social, political and economic mistakes ever visited upon this country (or indeed any country); it’s quite another to actually do something about it that is not illegal or immoral. And what would that be? Do we round up all the foreigners and repatriate them? Do we reintroduce bastardy laws? Do we lock up homosexuals? I think it’s too late for any of that and that such dead laws are inapplicable and hypocritical anyway. I am not a utopian and like the Lady Galadriel, I think we can only fight the long defeat in the hope and assurance that the Father’s Kingdom will come. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away, (Revelation 21:4).
What harm, then, if Her Majesty consents to make a little documentary about something as frivolous and fanciful as a coronation? I hope she enjoyed making it. But the ritual and symbolism of the Coronation bear no resemblance even to the Established church of this country, let alone the lives of most British people to-day with their credit cards and package holidays, people who only go near a church for weddings and funerals. As for the foreigners, whether Muslim or Pole or whatever, the old British traditions and institutions have nothing to do with them. They have no interest in them, and what British person would tell them about them? What would be the point when we have “British values” instead?