Perhaps it’s because I’m not British … well, I didn’t grow up here. Or maybe it is because I’m a Lutheran and whether in Australia or here, that is part of being a very small group. So I read with interest and perplexity the ‘broadside’ by Lord Carey (former Archbishop of Canterbury) against PM David Cameron for ‘making Christians feel marginalised’ and for ‘having done more than any other recent political leader to increase Christian anxieties’. That’s a comment that has perspective to it – many decades at least (and I’m only here one) – that the British social, politi-cal, religious landscape is changing and ‘quite a bit’ at the moment. For the worse, according to Lord Carey. His perspective comes from the Christian Church walking the corridors of power and being part of the political processes which is possible when the state recognises the Church – especially with a ‘state church’. My perspective is that the Christian Church wasn’t part of the state – let alone having any ‘power’ – for the first 300 years of its existence.
What is the church here for?
I once wrote a brochure ‘All you ever you wanted to know about the Lutheran Church (on one piece of paper)’ (ok, I was writing on both sides!) and in it I wrote about Lutherans in the world: “Lutherans believe that God continues to make his world go round with people in all segments of society doing their ‘bit’ so that people can be fed and clothed, enjoy arts and leisure, and live in peace and justice. Consequently you will find Lutherans in all walks of life who work not to make a heaven on earth but so that everyone can live in peace and harmony, treasuring life and love, and hav-ing the opportunity of hearing the gospel. Lutherans believe that God rules the world with ‘two hands’ – his ‘left’ hand is the government with its laws for good order and justice and his ‘right’ hand is the church which proclaims the gospel and brings forgiveness. Lutherans thus tend to be politically and socially ‘quiet’ working within the structures of society and they treasure their freedom in Christ to do this and to have differing opinions about how best the world should en-act peace, justice, and harmony.”
Today’s cry of ‘Christ is risen!’ (‘He is risen indeed!’) is not a clarion call for a political movement whose purpose is to make heaven on earth or some form of theocracy. The cry goes out into a dead world that there is life and hope – more certain than death and taxes! – because Jesus’ grave is empty! This new life is given through words and water and nourished with words and bread and wine and is given one person at a time – individually – personally. Pretend to sit on the Moon with good eyesight and watch the Earth spin and imagine Christians as living lights in the darkness and they can be found in all countries – under all forms of governments – in all circumstances. More lights are appearing all the time. Sure the social and political environments might, more or less, be conducive to sharing the Gospel but the risen Lord walks in all lands. He doesn’t need a certain type of government to help him. His followers might prefer one government to another but they can be Jesus’ disciples in any regime and, anyway, they’re following Jesus as Lord no matter who has the political power. — GS