29 March 2011

Legacies of Ordered Liberty- The Anglo-Norman tradition on both sides of the Atlantic

It would seem in truth some of the last remnants of Old England are being swept away. The England that endured the Blitz seems a distant dream. After the war the architects of the New Order set about in earnest to make a new England and lo, it has arrived and come into its own.

Christians are now essentially banned from serving as foster parents because of their intolerance of homosexuality. England perhaps longer than any other country in Europe maintained a strong Constantinian tradition well within living memory and now the Blowback, the retribution seems to be taking a severe form.

What happened?



Sadly, the heavy-handed tradition of ordered liberty, societal unity and forced morality stems from centuries of Constantinianism.

Now that Constantinianism is disappearing, we find one Monism is being replaced by another. Pluralism is an illusion many Political Christians will tell us. In fact many view it as a sinful and intolerable social structure.

You have your choice of Monisms....Religious or Secular, so we had better fight.

But these modern Sacralists are considerably more determined and comprehensive in their vision of what society is supposed to look like. It's almost like if they can do it right this time...it won't slip away from them again.

Contrary to a Universal Sacralist claim....

The ancient world often had pluralistic tendencies and there were many pluralistic-type societies throughout the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages you had 'Christian' states like Byzantium and Venice that were very tolerant of other faiths. I will grant the minorities did not have a part in the political process, though that isn't really a concern to me. For the Christians who oppose pluralism, that point, the exclusion from the political process, from power is the stumbling block. For them to achieve their means, they must be able to employ political power and so a tolerant pluralism is insufficient and offensive.

Even Muslim Spain proved very tolerant of other faiths though indeed it was clear to all that the state would be Muslim.

You see, the Sacralists cry, all states have more or less since the beginning of time been Monistic and Sacralist...societies with a state-sponsored, official religion. To think or desire otherwise is madness.

Agreed. There never will be a pure pluralistic society, but as Christians we understand that man always has the impulse to build a new Babel. When man was cursed and scattered by God in Genesis, the Babel impulse wasn't broken, it was scattered and thus weakened....providing the delay-venue for the Messianic/Covenantal Seed to mature.

Then the Messiah arrived and everything was forever changed.
When the New Covenant was inaugurated and the Kingdom initiated, a new race, a new nation was created. The gift of tongues was a temporary sign demonstrating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit....to make a new people of all nations. Originally it was the Jews of all nations and tongues. All of this is in Peter's sermon in Acts 2. Christ was enthroned, sitting down at the right hand of God. That is the highest seat possible. The Son can never sit above the Father, but the fact that the Son is at his right-hand essentially declares him a co-ruler. And though I can't take it in....in Christ, we're there as well.

Then later Peter finds when he has his rooftop vision and meets Cornelius, the very laws that kept the Jews as a distinctive people were set aside and that now even the gentiles are included.

The Babel curse will never be undone in This Age but it will be removed in the Age to Come. We as Christians live in both worlds, but since our ethics are derived from the Age to Come, we must abandon the Babel Impulse.

We cannot be nationalists. We cannot be trying to construct Sacral Monisms....Holy Unified Societies. That's anathema to us. That's Babel.

But intolerance and enforced conformity...that's Oriental Despotism right? We have a legacy of tolerance in the West.

Sometimes what we call the East was very tolerant and sometimes not. Most of the time the Byzantine legacy whether in Byzantium or even Russia looked the other way and more or less tolerated religious dissenters. It was only when they took up the political quest, that the sword came down on them. As always it's complicated, but in the case of groups like the Paulicians their error, like that of the Hussites was the taking up of the sword. Then...indeed the wrath of Constantinople fell on them.

As far as the historical category known as: Christendom, it was Western Europe, specifically Roman Catholic Western Europe that proved the most intolerant of all. And the Reformation did not remedy that in the least. Even the most horrible pre-World War conflict...The Thirty Years War did not remedy it. It compartmentalized the problem, but did not breed tolerance.

So where do our modern notions of tolerance come from?

Mostly from the Enlightenment, but in America it was the Enlightenment plus a cultural legacy of anti-Constantinianism. These Moravians, Quakers, Baptists, and others didn't win the day, but they played a part. They understood the Christian Church was not looking to create Sacral societies or Monisms.

But I think on a larger level, begrudgingly we must admit the Secularism that grew out of the Enlightenment put forward a vigorous and shall we say marketable version of tolerance.

Only when the Wars of Religion came to end did Europe begin to grow weary of Constantinianism....a little at a time. For the first time people, unbelievers like Voltaire and others could really question the whole system, the entire order. And for the first time they could speak without fear as their 'Enlightened' rulers looked the other way, at least most of the time.

A century or so later we had the birth of the United States of America and the French Revolution....the beginning of the end of the European Constantinian legacy.

In America, the rebellious colonists could just separate. They could reject George III and leave him on the other side of the Atlantic. The post-war settlement could be peaceful, it would not require an overthrow of the whole order, a destruction of the regime.

A few years later in France, they didn't have an ocean to separate them from the king. If they were going to fight him, then they were going to have to finish him...and finish him they did. There was no going back to the old ways of doing things.

But before all that took place, a lot of things happened in England and in the land many of her people colonized....America.

British cultural values....British Constantinian values loom large in the American story. And just because a bunch of Freemasons legally repudiated it in the 1770's and 80's, in no way were the cultural values left behind. What we then see is the genesis of a dynamic, a tension still playing out today....the Constantinian impulses of a large number of the population versus the legislated pluralism of the Founders.

Propagandists like David Barton can quote judges and Founding Fathers all day long, but he's ignoring the profound rejection of European Constantinianism. The America of the Founders wasn't the first Christian country, it was the first explicitly non-Christian country of the European tradition since the times of Diocletian. The First Ammendment's 'Congress shall make no law' was revolutionary, a complete rejection of the Western Constantinian tradition.

I don't count states like the Hunnish Empire, Bulgarian Empire and Moorish Spain as part of the European tradition. Geographically they were in Europe, but they were foreign powers, Middle Eastern and Asiatic.

Even though the world seems to have changed, we in the Anglo-sphere are still feeling the effects of British Constantinianism.

Fischer's Albion's Seed is an indispensible tool for understanding the different cultural streams and social traditions which early America brought with and inherited from England. Regardless of whether one is German or even Southern or Eastern European…England and English culture more than any other land played a key role in shaping American ideas about government and society. Fischer brilliantly brings out the different attitudes which were prevalent during the Pre-Revolution migrations to the North America. The cultural differences between the American North and South, the differences between coast and frontier, and even the differences between a place like Pennsylvania versus New England become clear. It's not a faultless book, sometimes it's oversimplified and in all seriousness at around 1000 pages...it's way too short.

More than any other group the Calvinistic New England Puritans brought with them the concept of Ordered Liberty. They believed in Freedom, but often not in the way we've come to know it. For them Freedom and Liberty were concepts largely tied to the Church and the Christian being free from the civil and religious forms of Papal and Anglican tyranny. It was freedom to establish a Protestant Constantinianism. For many, Colonial New England wasn't free at all. For many it was a nightmare. Their message was powerful, it subsumed the Separatist group which had settled in Plymouth and its spiritual descendants are still quite vocal today. In fact they wield a whole array of new philosophical and theological arguments to give force and power to their positions. They're called.... Dominionists, Theonomists, the Christian Right, and others.

This New England legacy continues to play out in American culture though it manifests itself in different ways. 
The urge to create a unified society that demands social consciousness is very much part of the story of England and many other countries in Europe.

England more than some of her Continental neighbours has a long tradition of liberty or anti-tyranny which hearkens back to the Magna Carta and the Limited Monarchy that came out of the perhaps misnamed Glorious Revolution.

Scottish Highlanders and the Irish found little to glory in for sure.

To many of the English, the idea of an unregulated society was positively abhorrent, it was something found among the Scots, the Irish or other races and societies they often tended to look down on. For a society to prosper, many believed and still do, it needs direction, structure, goals and the individual though free in one sense must operate within that sphere.

For many years the structure of the society was Constantinian. In England it was Monarchical and Anglican and in New England it was Oligarchical/Republican and Congregational. The state would help you, in fact compel you to love God and your neighbour.

This was very different from the Ulster Scots settled on the frontier who were suspicious of authority and wanted nothing to do with regulation. Highly individualized they cared little for those around them or any overarching social order or goal. Their legacy also plays a big part in the American story.

In fact modern Christian Conservatism is in some ways a synthesis of these two visions...sort of a Constantinian Libertarianism, that is a libertarian  impulse when it comes to things like taxes, social programmes, and market regulation, but very anti-libertarian when it comes to conduct not approved by the Constantinian state.

In societies determined to create Ordered Liberty, you find laws concerning building, schooling, social conduct. In Appalachia, you find (or did) chaos, at least when compared to the New England legacy. Freedom meant having choices, but it meant your neighbours could also choose to be uneducated, live in squalour, and behave crudely in public.

Both societies viewed themselves as absolutely Christian but had very different ideas of what that entailed. These divisions still exist today even though in many ways both British and America societies are far more unified than they once were. State sponsored Nationalist propaganda and television have brought about a unity that did not exist a few generations ago. The Church has largely followed these social trends and at least in the United States, the social agenda to control behaviour, the Puritan legacy seems to be paramount.

Of course we might argue that whether either tradition is Christian at all.

Fischer's two other divisions....the almost feudal Virginia, the Anglican/Cavalier realm of the Founders lived on in the Old South, but ironically has now almost disappeared.

The Quaker legacy of Pennsylvania...lives on but largely under secular forms, since as we know there are very few Christians to be found that don't embrace some form of the Puritan agenda. I'm not saying everyone wants to be Puritans, but it's very hard to find a Christian in the United States that doesn't embrace the Sacralist 'City on the Hill' vision.

It wasn't born here, the Puritans brought it from England. It was the same impulse that led Cromwell and others to fight the Stuart king Charles I and eventually remove his head from his shoulders.

It wsa the same spirit that led the Scottish Presbyterians to conspire with his son Charles II to sign on to their version of Constantinianism aka The Solemn League and National Covenant to counter the Congregationalist Puritans of England who were far too tolerant of other Christian groups!

It was the same spirit that led Charles I's father, James I of England to set up the Ulster Plantations. Ulster was the last part of Ireland to be conquered by the English. It was completed under Elizabeth I and a few years later when James VI of Scotland became James I of England he wanted to make sure the Irish were brought into conformity...so he settled a bunch of Lowland Scots and Northern English in Ulster to transform it into a little England.

It worked real well. Four centuries later Ireland is still dealing with the fallout from this and for some of the Christian leaders in Ulster it might as well be 1611 instead of 2011.

Speaking of 1611, it was this same King James who commissioned the King James Bible, the Authorised Version to supplant the Geneva Bible with all of its study notes that promoted a non-Anglican Constantinianism.

The Puritans of the day rejected the Bible commissioned by their sodomite king. The Mayflower Pilgrims carried their Geneva Bibles to North America. I'm not attacking the King James version, far from it. I'm just pointing out that it was a government sponsored translation and a very politicized one at that!

Thankfully the used about 95% of Tyndale's Bible for the New Testament, a man much better than any of the Tudor or Stuart kings, not to mention Cromwell or any of the Scottish Presbyterians.

Speaking again of Cromwell, it was the same spirit that led him to cross over to Ireland after the Irish tried to expel the English and Protestant settlers.

During the tensions between Parliament and Charles I, the Irish rose up and killed thousands of them in 1641. The fact that the English Puritans believed Charles would make use of the Irish as mercenaries helped spark the English Civil War.

During the English Civil War, Scottish Covenanters crossed over to Ulster to fight the Irish, and in there was a great deal of ugliness on both sides...it's still felt today. These events have not been forgotten. Not everyone forgets like Americans do.

When Cromwell was done with Charles I, he crossed over to Ireland and to this day in the Irish collective memory he is the equivalent of Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and Tamerlane, all in one. His massacres were pretty infamous. Of course thankfully the Puritan theologian John Owen was able to take a break from writing to accompany Cromwell as his chaplain while he massacred the unfortunate Catholic Celts who did not want to be English Protestants. Barbarous wretches, Cromwell called them as offered them Hell or Connaught.

Cromwell would not suffer the Mass to be said where he had power. Don't get me wrong the Mass is blasphemy, but I don't want to massacre those who say it. I find Cromwell's Declaration to be ironic. It kind of says it all. It's called the 'Declaration of the lord lieutenant of Ireland for the undeceiving of deluded and seduced people.'

This was after a quarter of a million people were dead and tens of thousands of others had been sent into slavery.

Catholics are certainly deluded and seduced...but was Cromwell somehow better?

No pluralism allowed. The Irish tried one more time with the Stuarts a generation later, lost again, and endured the Penal Laws as punishment until they finally broke 800 years of English rule in the early 20th century. But the problem is complicated by the fact that the non-native Protestants in the north had already been there 300 years. They couldn't just go home and certainly refused to do so. After the violence of the 20th century in the north, most have perhaps learned something, but you still have hardshell Constantinians like Ian Paisley who seem to have learned nothing and if he had it his way, England should do it all again.

I hadn't realized some of the polarization had spread across the Irish Sea to the Clydeside until I visited some Protestants in Glasgow in the 1990's. I was handed church bulletins with the Royal Family on the front. "We're all Royalists here," I was informed by one of the congregants. He also informed me, "The pastor 'ere, e's a wee bit o' a Calvinist ya see?" I was ushered in to his office to meet him. Behind his desk was a much larger than life, very impressive portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in full regalia.  I was grinning a bit, but they were all quite serious...as serious as any group of American Christians are about George and Abraham and the American flag being in their churches.

So what does this have to do with Christians being denied foster care because they won't teach homosexuality if acceptable?

The problem is when you've called on the state to enforce Christianity….Love your neighbour, and the goal oriented regulation of liberty may live on long after the citizens of the state have any concept of what Christianity is. The social struggles are defined theologically and in turn they help to shape the theology of those living there. So it wasn't just about Irish versus English, or Scots versus English....it was truth versus heresy. It was order versus chaos...at least that's how they saw it.

And when Oliver Cromwell took command of Parliament's New Model Army...the Scots and Irish felt it.  Cromwell said the Scots feared God but were deceived.

Apparently he was going to set the straight and make them fear God properly.

American history and ideology ended up transforming the Calvinists of New England into Unitarians. They went from being harsh Constantinians (ordered society) to harsh secularists. They kept their ideas of an ordered society but in a secular context. Though they abandoned Christendom, centuries old social values are not shed so easily. New England, like England maintained their legacy of Order, but with secular values.

Loving your neighbour lived on, but with a secular rather than Constantinian emphasis.

You will love and tolerate homosexuals.

It's funny to think of it…but in a way even a Roman Catholic like Edward "Ted" Kennedy was living out those New England values. On one level he was everything the Puritans were not….on another level he and his kind were and are very much the children of that legacy.

In England, it goes far beyond the Puritans. It's rooted in the cultures of South England and East Anglia and today, most of England.

There are different shades of nuance but whether you're Republican or Democrat, Tory or Labour…they're all committed to the same idea. They all operate in the same circle…get on board or else. It's not put that way, but the idea is, the state is to bring everyone on board even kicking and screaming.

Why are Christians excited about this? It doesn't mean we have to flee to the Third World to find personal freedoms. They are usually much stronger there, but without security which sometimes can prove less than desirable.

Structured societies at least seem to grasp that man won't do what is good and must be compelled or coerced. In that sense they actually do have more of a sense of the true state of man.

I find all options distasteful in the end and especially so when any are presented as 'christian.'

Ordered Liberty says:

You will send your children to state schools where your children will learn state values.

Schooling is another area that has suffered Constantinian blowback. The Roman Catholics learned long ago that in a Protestant Constantinian context they needed to preserve their children and they set up their parochial system. Protestants led the crusade for compulsory education. The Puritans and their secular descendants were standing on the shoulders of Protestants in Geneva, Scotland, and Prussia when they developed the American system.

Now it has come back to bite them and it has led some Christians at least in the United States to re-think the whole issue. Sadly, I don't think the lessons are being learned. Many Christians have grown very hostile to the whole idea of public schooling and have embraced a minimalist view of government. I just have a hard time believing if they got the upper hand they would maintain such a view and allow secularists and those who oppose them to enjoy the same liberty.

A minimalist government is nice when it comes to personal liberties, in other contexts we might want government. It largely will depend on our context. The problem is so many Christians make it a Theological issue and try to argue the New Testament teaches a specific form of political structure and economic policy. It does not. Once that is acknowledged there can be a discussion. But for the architects of Christendom new or old, they must have a goal, a vision, and to give it teeth it must be termed Biblical. That way, when someone disagrees, it's not just a friendly disagreement within the realm of Christian Liberty. No, suddenly it's heresy.

And again I will point out that the Christians who have embraced a minimalist view of government seem to mean that only in terms of economics. There are reasons for this, but largely they want government to be quiet heavy handed when it comes to regulating behaviour. They want the government and lots of it when it comes to passing laws (and enforcing them) related to conduct.

Well, throughout most of Church History Sacralists have had their way. It used to be Monarchy, now it's something else…Parliamentarianism and Socialism if you're European, Republicanism and Capitalism if you're American.

None of it has ever worked and never will. Christendom has suffered many blows…

The Schism of 1054 split East from West.

The Reformation destroyed the unity of Western Europe/Latin Christendom

The Thirty Years War opened up Europe to spirit of skepticism and the potential of secularism.

And certainly, the modern age of science and the reality of two World Wars (The 2nd Thirty Years War) poisoned many.

Christendom once again is suffering blowback and retribution. There is no doubt the form is accelerated in the United Kingdom. For various reasons the non-conformist tradition in the United Kingdom has diminished and the apostate Anglican Church has always been a servant of the state and a promoter of nominal social Christianity rather than an active promoter of the Biblical gospel. Constantinianism always brings about a lowest-common denominator form of Christianity. Because by definition it must be inclusive, when society changes, rather than the Church turning to mass excommunication, it just keeps lowering the bar and re-defining. And it usually has a large academic apparatus filled with cutting edge theologians to help it in that task.

What's happening in the United Kingdom will ultimately happen here as well. It will be slowed in the United States due to the efforts of those on Christian Right, but I fear in the end the American backlash will actually prove worse. That strays into the realm of prognostication and is thus up for debate. But I think the long drawn out and increasingly nasty culture war will bode very ill for Biblical Christians in America. I think we will suffer for the language and conduct of Dominionist politicking and activism. We always suffer along with the proponents of Christendom. I always think of the Moravians during the Thirty Years War. They had nothing to do with it and certainly rejected both sides…but they suffered terribly. The life of Jan Amos Comenius (Komensky) reads like a parable.... what happens to Biblical Christians when Christendom begins to fall apart.

The whole situation in the United Kingdom is sad. I'm not saddened at the fall of Constantinianism. I'm saddened that Constantinianism has led to such a pendulum swing. I'm saddened that the Church has to suffer this reaction. And as rotten as English history can be, I can't help but have strong affections for the land and its people. The majority of my ancestors came from its shores and many Americans can't help but feel somewhat at home there. I grieve for the Churches in England and I hope the lessons are learned.

When I hear English people say, "Britain lost her Empire, because she forgot God," I am dismayed. Britain lost her Empire because it was an affront to God.

A little Indian man brought down the Raj and shamed the English people by behaving as more of a Christian than they were. I think it was judgment from God that a Hindu was more Christ-like than the mighty Christian Empire and he shamed them into retreat.

The lessons are not learned.

I hope and pray Christians in England do not turn to right-wing politics, the BNP and like-minded parties, and embrace Culture War. I hope they don't fall prey to temptations to seek desperate acts in the quest to retain or recapture power. I hope they don't buy into fear and anger akin to Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' as they react to their disenfranchisement.

Let's hope it doesn't happen. I fear it might in the United States. God forbid, but I think Christians here will turn to violence against immigrants, the political left, homosexuals and others who threaten their vision.

Things will change. There will come a time when homosexuality will not be looked upon so favourably even by the lost. But it will take time. Fighting to get your man into Parliament or #10 won't change it.

As bad as things seem, some good will come of it. Increasingly the line of delineation between those who would follow the true gospel and those who are not serious about following Christ will be made more clear.

The poignancy of the gospel will become clearer. As Christendom is eradicated it changes society but also creates new opportunities.

Just in my own lifetime we've gone from shops being closed on Sunday, and people who didn't attend Church keeping indoors and quiet as not to offend, to a generation of kids literally knowing nothing about Christianity. The basics, the ABC's, of the Bible are unfamiliar to them.

While frustrating to Constantinian aspirations and Barna surveyors, this reality provides a golden opportunity for the gospel. Right now, at least in the United States we often must get people unsaved to get them saved. Hoards of Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians are Christian in name though completely lost. And talking to them is not easy…they're already Christians and they grow a little hostile when you suggest they've been taught wrongly or that the buildings they sit in on Sunday morning aren't Churches at all.

But among this up and coming generation, there's no Christian baggage to deal with. It's almost as if you're starting with a clean slate. You still have to deal with cultural ideas and the worldly philosophies of the lost, but the gospel deals with those readily enough.

Don't despair. God can and will work mightily in such situations. As bad as this court ruling seems for Christians in the United Kingdom, it may in fact be the beginning. In time the gospel may work in a way it hasn't. Britain is famous for many of its revivals and yet they were all within a certain social context that is now gone. I am more excited about what is to come.

And if in the end, Christians are driven to leave the British Isles…then it is the Judgment of God.

For centuries Britain wielded the sword to build a pseudo-Christian Empire.

Nations and Empires come and go but the Church is eternal.

Be thankful the Judgment isn't much worse.

If God works in Britain in the days to come, the BBC won't be telling you about it.

America's Empire will prove to be of a much shorter duration, and she hasn't dragged her feet in building it. And mighty shall be its fall. The kings and merchants of the earth will certainly lament.

Let's learn from the past and not make the same mistakes again and again. As Christians we want to live in a society that is peaceful, but let's avoid Ordered Liberty. When it's done in Christ's name, it becomes an ugly thing and in the end actually harms us. And when we are subjected to regime of Order that is hostile to our causes it makes for a bad time.

Man's Babel Impulse always leads him to try and create these types of societies. It's nothing new, but let's not cheer it on or reminisce about the past when the Order was in the hands of those professing Christ. They were in error.

2 comments:

Wesley 'Whitey Lawful' Mcgranor said...

I have orginized an Anglo Militia for those that uphold the common law of Christs--fulfillment--common law: law of the heart, mind and soul.

Protoprotestant said...

I'm not sure I understand what you mean.