Was Christianity buried with Queen Elizabeth II?
17 October 2022
Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made no bones about her deep Christian faith. Indeed, in her 2014 Christmas message, she declared:
‘For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.’
As the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, pointed out at her funeral service at Westminster Abbey, the first thing Her Majesty did upon entering the same church for her Coronation in 1953 was to kneel in silent prayer before the high altar, pledging her allegiance to God before her subjects pledged their allegiance to her.
The Queen believed in what Paul Kingsnorth, a recent Christian convert, calls a ‘sacral monarchy’. That is not a belief in a ‘Divine Right of Kings’, but rather that God has anointed the Monarch to serve and protect his people.
Like all those before her in the unbroken line stretching back 1,000 years, in the Coronation service the Monarch is anointed with the Oil of Chrism – the word chrism meaning ‘the anointed one of God’.
Those of the Christian faith who are baptised and confirmed are anointed with the same oil, so that we can be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live our lives of discipleship and service, as the Queen did.
The anointing during a coronation ceremony serves as a reminder of Biblical times, in particular, Saul, the first King of Israel, who, as recounted in 1 Samuel 10, was anointed with oil to be prince of the Israelites.
In Kingsnorth’s view, the transcendence of all that may now be lost. He states: ‘I am just looking down from that height, onto the nave and the transept and the coffin draped in the standard, and I am thinking: I have just heard the last post sounded for Christian England.’
However, he remarked as he watched the massive crowds queuing to pay their respects to Her late Majesty that people don’t really want to be done with the old world, that they just say they do because they feel that they have to.
What is more, while Charles III states that he is a committed Christian, it is widely speculated that the new Prince of Wales is not very religious at all, much like those he will rule over one day.
This leads us to a wider question of whether Christianity can survive, particularly in this secular world which is openly hostile to its Christian roots. Our politicians haughtily dismiss any concerns about the free practice of religion when formulating policies and laws, cloaking such dismissal in the language of ‘bigotry’, as if Christianity for them has become a nuisance that must be dispensed with in supposedly more ‘enlightened’ times.
However, they forget one important consideration. As Kingsnorth writes, if we cast out the Christian worldview, we had better understand what we plan to replace it with.
It is to Christianity that we owe the development of our legal system, with its notions of fairness and justice. In fact, several Lord Chancellors were also Archbishops of Canterbury; St Thomas à Becket, to name one.
However, the idea of equality before the law is probably best expressed in St Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:28): ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, given you are all one in Christ Jesus.’
This is the ultimate Christian statement of the inherent dignity of each person, and implementing this ideal over the last two centuries has been the great calling of the Western liberal democratic tradition, with, in our case, the Monarch at its ultimate guardian. It is the fundamental reason why our institutions have survived. Let’s not forget the framers of our Constitution declared that they were ‘humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’ in forming one indissoluble Commonwealth.
As noted by Chris Merritt in The Australian, Douglas Murray, the author of The Strange Death of Europe, even though he is an atheist, is categorical about the debt Western civilisation owes to Christianity.
‘We are all Christians whether we like it or not.
‘Where the hell do people think human rights came from? These are things that exist on the embers of Christian thought.’
Those who believe what Christianity has to offer is at best, quaint, and at worst, ridiculously superstitious, might just want to reflect on the crowds that farewelled Her late Majesty and ask themselves, will the Godless society they seek to create be any better than one founded upon the faith and principles the Queen so fervently believed in? That faith and its principles have given us stability, fairness, equality, and tolerance, which, interestingly enough, are the reverse of what is happening in our increasingly Godless world, with its ever more fractured society, divided along lines of identity politics and an intolerance of ‘dissenting’ views, not to mention record levels of anxiety and depression among young people.
As Kingsnorth notes, tellingly: ‘If there were any cultures like that – well, they didn’t last to tell us about it.’
Dr Rocco Loiacono is a legal academic, writer and translator