A couple of interesting things in the news this week that I'll contrive to cobble together.
First, earlier this week the Queen visited Australia. Not Sydney, mind you. It resulted in this interesting gathering of ladies…
Her Majesty is easy to spot. The lady in the curious blue stripes is the Prime MInister of Australia, Julia Gillard, and the lady in the fuchsia dress and hat is the Governor General (GG), Quentin Bryce. Constitutionally, Bryce appoints Gillard in her role as representative of Elizabeth II. GG's are now always Australian but the constitutional arrangement remains. The Sovereign is sovereign, but delegates her power. Just as in the UK she has absolute authority but with no practical authority. Were she ever to exercise that authority we would have a constitutional crisis. Only once has Australia come close [wiki].
A local vocal critic of all things Christian (and Sydney Anglican specifically) commented to me (actually, the word “comment” is far too bland for the actual words used) that surely our “misogyny” couldn't countenance such an occurance. Which really just betrays a pretty poor understanding of Christianity. Certainly, we (ought to rightly) endorse complementarian structures in the home and the church but things are a little more vague when it comes to the government of the land. Personally, I don't really worry about whether a woman is running us – I don't expect a nation that isn't Christian to do Christian things (just as I'm not too fussed that she's an avowed atheists – what were you expecting, people?)
What seems to have caused most fuss is the fact that she shook the Queen's hand, rather than curtseying.
Ms Gillard said today she did not even consider curtsying when the royal plane touched down in Canberra last night because “it's just not me”.
Some monarchists have criticised Ms Gillard's failure to curtsy as a sign of disrespect, while others have praised her for abandoning the traditionally female gesture.
Governor General Quentin Bryce, who also met the Queen and Prince Philip as they stepped off the plane, chose the more traditional curtsy and also wore a hat, while Ms Gillard did not.
Ms Gillard, who makes no secret of her republican beliefs, told radio 3AW she was told she could choose how she welcomed the Queen.
“The protocol advice to us was you either curtsy or you bow your head, you should do what you feel comfortable with,” Ms Gillard said.
Hmmm. If you watch the video it's hard to spot any bow. Now, once again, quite what were you expecting from an avowed Republican? Nevertheless, I'm a little more disappointed. Quentin Bryce, no shrinking violet herself, was quite happy to curtsey and acknowledge the Queen as Queen. Could Gillard not do the same? This is not even the President of the USA, this is our Queen. Had Gillard been the Prime Minister of, say, Malaysia then it would not be expected of here but surely our government ought to, even in the small things, acknowledge the structures we have in place (which is not to say they have to endorse them).
As Christians, of course, we recognise that God has put all authorities in place (Rom. 13). If this was true of the despotic regime in Rome at the time of writing – and the church there was called to submit to them – then how much more of a benign (even gracious?) Sovereign? What does the Christian republican do? I'd suggest campaign for a republic using the laws and mechanisms of Australia, and while you wait for constitutional change don't forget to curtsey when you meet her. Or is the Apostolic word not the Apostolic word?
Elsewhere far more important topics were being discussed. Opposing teams of British and Colonial lawyers got together to debate the legality of the American Declaration of Independence.
Good stuff. Of course, the Yanks stacked the deck by hosting it in a city full of Americans, and barbaric rebellious types at that.
But there are interesting questions – which way should the Christian go in such an event? Should we submit to the authority, unfair as they are, or rebel?
What would Paul have advised the Roman church? What did he advise the Roman church?
Finally, an interesting piece (especially since it comes from a left-wing politician), “Force May Be Needed Against Iran & We'd Better Prepare For It“
But there is another aspect that we simply cannot ignore. If a country lead by a dangerous dictator develops or looks like it is on the cusp of developing weapons of mass destruction then we simply cannot afford to sit back idly and do nothing. This is not an argument for automatic armed intervention but is an argument for a more aggressive foreign policy objective. In the case of North Korea for instance it involves a careful and ever changing balance of sanctions, trade, diplomacy and military threat. The alternative is to risk genocide. Imagine Gaddafi with chemical weapons over the last few months or even the ability to make a dirty bomb in advance of the Pan Am atrocity. Already tragic events would have been of an altogether different magnitude.
Is this really the role of the State? Christian, was does it mean for the Apostle to write,
3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
I know, I know – lots more questions than answers.