Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Posing as a Jacobite

In the life of every blog there comes the time to do some navel-gazing theological reflection, reviewing the subject-matter and reach of the site, and developing some conclusions. This is, we suppose, a largely fruitless as well as a self-absorbed tradition, but we are not in the business of questioning tradition here.

We advertise our letters as containing Anglo-catholicism, reaction and whimsy; but like all Church of England publications we actually cover mostly the gays, internal church politics, and nostalgia for an impossibly golden age. For most Anglicans this utopia is the 1950s: for us, true to form, the 1670s. Or possibly the 1630s. Certainly not the 1650s, though.

Reviewing the circulation of these little broadsides we find, to no surprise, that the most popular by far has been Elect to Leave, with a hundred times the hits of the average post. This we attribute principally to the vanity of certain right reverend gentlemen featured. We hope, for their sake, that there is no such thing as bad publicity; or perhaps that was good publicity by the standards of the House of Bishops.

That outlier aside, all our most popular posts have been on the subject of the gays. Discussion of the politics of the Church of England have occupied a middle place. The long lament for our ancient constitution (and paradoxical suggestions for its improvement along Thorough lines) have been the least regarded.

Readers may imagine that this order of popularity does not reflect the order of our own interest in these subjects; indeed, it reverses it. It is a sobering thought that our deepest concerns for the ordering of Church and State are of marginal concern even among the rather eccentric readership of this blog.

This is especially surprising considering that for three centuries the persona of the Tory churchman was the cliché at the heart of the Church of England: Royalist in politics, High-flying in doctrine, and like us anti-papist, anti-puritan and anti-modern. We never had many bishops, and we never had that many lay people (apart from a few lawyers, lexicographers and lady novelists) but we kept the Church of England to the good old way: reactionary in church and state, but deliberately anti-moralist in tone, so as to avoid association with our latitudinarian brethren.

There are still some of us about, and not only among our acquaintance here at Plumstead Rectory. For example, Austen Sanders' travelling companion (with his dislike of the so-called Glorious Revolution) was not, believe it or not, the author of this blog, although he is presumably a reader. (A free White Rose maniple pin awaits you.) But the loudest voices in the Church of England are now those who know little of her traditions. O Templers! O Moravians! And at the same time her reach and influence has declined: not coincidentally.

The revival of the fortunes of the Church of England (the Church of Scotland, too, for all we know or care) certainly requires us to stop fixating, swivel- or goggle-eyed according to choice, over gay lifestyles. Of course it is natural for church people to be thus obsessed: Anglo-Catholics, like Conservative MPs, meet more homosexuals than any normal person does. But it is not healthy.

As well as leaving behind this lurid puritanism, the Church of England must rediscover her own inheritance of faith. We encourage our readers to study and to meditate on Passive Obedience, Non-Resistance and Divine Right: that doctrine which, pace Dr Fisher, is the Church of England's very own.

We encourage you to speak again more of kings than of queens; to become once again the Tory party at prayer. The seventeenth-century Tory party at prayer, of course. Not today's soi-disant version. Although they also could profit by the lesson. Redeat.

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