God Save the Queen: Faith, politics and who is in control?
If you ever find yourself walking around some of the more touristy areas of London you will find two things in repeat. First, lots of tourists (obviously) snapping pictures and looking for those guard guys who are not allowed to move. Second, you will find lots of people catering to selling things to said tourists running around looking for those guard guys who are not allowed to move.
Trinket stands and gift shops line the streets of almost every major attraction in London. You will find everything a tourist could want! Union Jack flags, plastic double decker buses, miniature phone booths, selfie sticks so you can take your picture with the guards who are not allowed to move, football club scarves and of course t-shirts with everything you could imagine printed on them. Among the most popular are “Keep Calm and Carry On” or “God Save the Queen” or why not check both boxes with “Keep Calm and God Save the Queen”.
God Save the Queen
In my nearly 7 months in the UK so far, I have lost count of how many times I have heard that phrase. Although, to be fair it is often heard being said by someone who doesn’t have a British accent. But the phrase goes back over 400 years and is, in fact, the opening words of the National Anthem of the UK as well as several other former British colonies. If you think you escaped it, America, then listen to the tune “My Country Tis of Thee” and see how many times “God Save the Queen” fits into the melody. Hint- they’re the same melody.
But the phrase got me thinking about the interweaving of faith and politics. In the UK, the Queen herself is the head of the Church (in a similar fashion to the Pope) although sh, for the most part, stays out of the actual affairs and her position is more ceremonial than active these days it still holds great significance.
It may seem to many that in our current political environments around the globe faith and politics are more interwoven than ever. In the states, we have various religious figures endorsing candidates from the pulpit, groups that stand firmly on one side of politics or the other claiming it is the Christian thing to do. And usually at the end of every election sequence regardless of the outcome, at least one religious group seems to take it as a sign of the apocalypse.
Faith & Politics
This is not just a theme in the western world. Many countries have their own authorized religion that is run by the state or endorsed by the state. Other countries give their religious leaders top positions in government to ensure that they are adhering to religious laws while they make their own. The truth is from the largest democracies all the way down to isolated tribes on the outliers of civilization, faith and politics are almost universally intertwined.
[bctt tweet=”Who are we really supporting, our God or our own politics? ” username=”ys_scoop”]
However, as Christians, this should not be a new realization. The Bible addresses this topic quite regularly. The big question remains however of who are we really supporting, our God or our own politics? I think we all could use a refresher on what Scripture says about the two to help us keep our heads on and our hearts on point.
1 Peter 2:13 – 16 gives us some good advice to start with:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
Submitting yourselves to the emperor is a pretty tough pill to swallow. It is often hard to support someone if their beliefs and actions don’t match up to yours. But let us not forget that these words came from Peter under a Roman authority which obviously did not look anything like his religious views. I love the line that says, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” You see, our command to submit to authority is also directly tied to the command to do good. We don’t have to choose between doing what’s right and following a leader. We are called to be an example no matter what the political environment.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 also gives a command to pray for all people
(including our enemies or people whose political or religious beliefs differ from ours):
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
God wants peace.
Some of my favorite Bible verses are ones speaking directly into our political situations.
- Isaiah 1:17 is a commonly heard one, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
- Whereas Proverbs 31:8-9 is directly related to the issue of civil rights “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
- One of my favorite stories comes from Jeremiah 22: 1-5 “This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there …. Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’” Which carries with it a strong admonition to all in authority.
The truth is that faith and politics should mix. But I feel that we often mix up the order. All the good we do in this world is done for one cause, to honor God and live according to good and perfect will for us. I think he is clear on what that looks like and if your politics don’t align with commands that God is repeating over and over throughout the narrative of scripture then you may need to either adjust your political views or start re-reading what God is saying.
If like me you often find yourself doing a constant dance between trying to submit to Caesar and doing what God says can I recommend three ideas for you that Jesus taught us?
1. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17).
Understand and live in the fact that we are under a world government system. We are supposed to generally follow the law of the land. I don’t think God is an anarchist by nature. However, we are also to give to God what is God’s. This means that everything we have, even our devotion, is ultimately due to God and nothing trumps that.
2. Remember “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9).
If we are constantly in a state of working towards peace, then I believe we stand in line with who God wants us to be. This mission of making peace rests above any regional or government command. Peace is what our world needs, Christ talks about it constantly and in moments of peace, we see what God’s kingdom could look like here on earth even if it is only momentarily.
3. Remember who you serve.
Even Jesus submitted to God’s authority: “Not my will but yours be done” Luke 22:42. Elections come and go, presidents and prime ministers change, dictators rise and fall, even the greatest earthly empires end up as dust. We serve a God who is from everlasting to everlasting or at least we are called to be.
Thanks for bearing with me through what could be a heated political post. I hope you see beyond politics to the heart of our faith. Tune in next time for more cheeky Brit slang!
Denny Burda is the Senior Youth Minister at St. Paul’s Howell Hill in the United Kingdom. After over a decade in youth ministry in the States, Denny, his wife Merina and their cat Elliott followed God on their big adventure of a new life in a new culture.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.