Chesterton and Belloc on the nature of democracy

Chesterton and Belloc - nature of democracy

Source: The Wrath of Gnon – Twitter feed

The author of the “Wrath of Gnon” blog quotes G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc on the nature of democracy. Some interesting concepts, and worth considering, in my opinion! Reminds me of hagiographer James Kiefer’s reflection on the English King Charles I, who for his defense of the historic episcopate and the Book of Common Prayer is accounted by many Anglicans a martyr:

“On the scaffold, he said (I quote from memory and may not have the exact words):

“No man in England is a better friend to liberty than myself, But I must tell you plainly that the liberty of subjects consists not in having a hand in the government, but in having that government, and those laws, whereby their lives and their goods may be most their own.”

“That is to say, one may reasonably ask of a government that it establish justice in the land; so that judges do not take bribes, so that innocent men are not convicted of crimes, while the guilty are convicted and punished, so that honest men need fear neither robbers nor the sheriff. One may further ask that taxes be not excessive, and that punishments be not disproportionate to the crime. Charles would have said, ‘Do not ask whether the laws were made by men whom you elected. Ask whether they are reasonable and good laws, upholding justice and the public weal.’

“He would have invited comparison of his record in this respect with that of the Long Parliament (which sat for twenty years without an election, and whose members came to think of themselves as rulers for life, accountable to no one) and Cromwell (who eventually dissolved Parliament and ruled as a military dictator, under whose rule the ordinary Englishman had far less liberty than under Charles).”

There is much truth in the above. Both the ancients and our own Founders knew that democracy is inherently unstable, since it depends upon popular sentiment that can be easily swayed by a demagogue, and the closer it is to “pure” democracy, the thinner the line dividing it from demagoguery and dictatorship.

While I am not sure I would be entirely happy under the sort of absolute monarchy Charles I favoured, I do tend to agree both with King Charles I, as quoted above, and with the “Wrath of Gnon” author – who writes, referring to Chesterton and Belloc’s comments on democracy,

“Give me a Council of Elders to govern me, and a King to protect me.”

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On the “sacred mission” of Monarchy

In which dowager Queen Mary tells her granddaughter, the newly-acceded Queen Elizabeth II, the way it is!

“Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth… Monarchy is a calling from God. That is why you are crowned in an abbey not a government building… You are answerable to God in your duty, not the public.”

What does “Christ the King” mean for us?

Christ the King - stained glass

This question is rhetorical, intended to incite pondering – and possibly prayer – rather than discussion, necessarily, and certainly rather than debate. That said, here it is:

We speak of Jesus as “Lord” and “King” – indeed, in the stirring words of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” drawn from the words of Holy Scripture, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”! Indeed, to be more theologically accurate, the High King of Heaven is God the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three Persons.

But what does that mean, what can it mean, to someone living in a Constitutionally democratic, representative Republic, for whom kingship is resolutely foreign (and often, quite misunderstood), and whose only experience of “aristocracy” is the mutant form represented by the economic elite (the “1%”) and the stars of the sports and entertainment industries?

Here is a reflection on monarchy, by a person I consider a good friend though I have yet to meet him in person, Ryan Hunter. He writes:

“I believe, and thousands of years of history have shown, that a man or woman instructed from youth in the art of government, a person who is trained from childhood to see their rule as a sacred duty, a solemn service, and a public stewardship rather than an earned right, governs more benignly, sincerely, capably, and nobly than someone who has either taken power through brute force, violent revolution, or contested elections. Democratic elections are an extraordinary thing in that they propose that, upon being elected, a politician who has previously been partisan, divisive, and factious will somehow, almost magically, cease to be partisan, divisive, and factious upon taking office. I believe it is the very height of naivete to believe that a popularly elected, partisan politician can somehow serve as a supra-political, unifying figure.”

Yet it is that “popularly elected, partisan politician” who we as Americans know (all too well!), while we are basically ignorant – at least from personal experience – of “a person who is trained from childhood to see their rule as a sacred duty, a solemn service, and a public stewardship rather than an earned right.” How, I wonder, does this lack of person, experiential knowledge effect our understanding of the Christian faith?

Both of my degrees deal with the medieval era – my B.A. in Medieval Studies, specifically; my Master of Theological Studies in History of Christianity: Early and Medieval Christianity, heavily so. I have been immersed, avocationally, in the Middle Ages since childhood, drinking deeply at the well of those who did have a personal, experiential understanding of kingship. Yet even my knowledge and experience is at second- and third-hand. What of those who have not had even so much as that?

I wonder how many of the eccentricities that seem to plague American Christianity – from the inane “prosperity Gospel” to seeing Jesus as primarily our “friend,” our “personal [read: individualistic] savior,” rather than our Sovereign Lord, our King in the full sense of that word, with the Body of Christ, His Church, as the community over which He exercises His lordship, and ourselves as members of that community – can be traced to this lack of full, personal, experiential understanding of kingship and lordship?

Protestantism, at least in America, is so intermingled with individualism and democracy that I am not sure it can ever be fully separated from these concepts. Even in Europe, the Enlightenment followed on so closely to the Renaissance and Reformation that they effectively form a continuum, philosophically. And I wonder if that does not have a profound – and possibly negative – effect on how we read and understand both the Holy Scriptures, and also other foundational documents of our faith.

As I say, something to be pondered, prayed over, and perhaps, discussed… gently. 😉

Ryan Hunter. Profound examples of holiness: the Royal Martyrs in their own words and through the words of those who knew them / OrthoChristian.Com

Source: Ryan Hunter. Profound examples of holiness: the Royal Martyrs in their own words and through the words of those who knew them / OrthoChristian.Com

Today, July 17th, 2017, marks the 99th anniversary of the murder – martyrdom, for the Russian Orthodox Church, and many others as well – of the last Tsar, Nicolas II Romanov, his Empress, Alexandra, and their children: now revered as Royal Martyrs and Passion-Bearers. Please follow the link for my gifted young friend Ryan Hunter’s essay on the Royal Martyrs. Ryan also writes:

Today we remember and commemorate the murder and martyrdom 99 years ago of the Russian Imperial Family – Emperor Nicholas II (b. 1868), Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (b. 1872), and their four daughters and one son – along with several of their trusted servants and friends on 17 July 1918. The Emperor had abdicated the throne under dubious circumstances – with some believing he did so under duress, and others that his very signature was forged – on the Ides of March 1917.

The glorification (canonization) of the Imperial Family as passion-bearers – those who went to their deaths with tremendous fortitude, faith, and courage – took place by the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in 2000, with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) having taken the step of declaring them as martyrs in 1981.

Today the Imperial Family are for many Russians a symbol of the dignity, beauty, and nobility of soul of Old (pre-Soviet) Russia, and a growing movement of mostly young Russians has expressed support for restoring the monarchy under the Romanov House. Reports estimate some 70,000 Russians and other Orthodox believers made the journey to Ekaterinberg to the memorial church dedicated to them.

The last Russian Imperial Family, especially the Emperor and Empress themselves, were victims of a systematic defamation campaign by Bolshevik revolutionary and later official Soviet communist propagandists. Too often, American and Western European historians and politicians have uncritically regurgitated these tired slanders. Anyone familiar with the warm, beautiful letters to and from the Emperor, Empress, and their children will find themselves in a world in which the highest, noblest Christian ideals were valued, defended, and embodied.

The Empress’ beloved older sister, the widowed Grand Duchess and abbess Elizabeth (“Ella”) – both beloved granddaughters of Queen Victoria – died the day after her, and was also glorified as a saint of the Orthodox Church.

O Holy Martyrs, pray to God for us!

Amen.

Emmanuel Macron Says France Needs A King – Vessel News

Emmanuel Macron, France’s new President-elect, is a man known for his charm (and his wife Brigitte), but less known for his agenda…

Source: Emmanuel Macron Says France Needs A King – Vessel News

I am not sure whether or not I have shared this article previously, but I do not think so. Even if I did, it is interesting, and some may have missed it! Macron is difficult to get a handle on. He lacks a track record, by means of which his actual beliefs and intentions might, at least in part, be discerned. But this is, at least, interesting:

“Democracy is always presented as if it were incomplete, because democracy is not enough by itself,” says Macron, elaborating that there is always something missing in the democratic process; some sort of void. 

“In French politics, this absence is the presence of a King, a King whom, fundamentally, I don’t think the French people wanted dead,” said Macron. “The Revolution dug a deep emotional abyss, one that was imaginary and shared: the King is no more!”

According to Macron, since the Revolution France has tried to fill this void, most notably with Napoleon and then Charles de Gaulle, which was only partially successful. “The rest of the time,” said Macron, “French democracy does not manage to fill this void.”

At least the “Overton window,” the range of subjects acceptable for serious political discussion, has been wedged open to the point that monarchy can be a legitimate topic for political discourse!

8 reasons constitutional monarchy is the best form of government • The Crown Chronicles

Many people say that having a Monarch as Head of State is good for tourism, but not much else. But, hang on, aren’t Monarchies cheaper than Presidencies? Yes.  And doesn’t having a King or Queen ensure that there cannot be a dictatorship? Yes!  So why is monarchy good? Here are 8 reasons why constitutional monarchy is the best form of government…

Source: 8 reasons constitutional monarchy is the best form of government • The Crown Chronicles

Can’t argue with anything here! An excellent essay, entirely. 🙂

__________

N.B. The article notes,

“While a number of examples relate specifically to the British Monarchy, most of these reasons are applicable to the other Monarchies of the world, and we have tried to include some broader examples and statistics.”

Iran’s exiled Crown Prince calls for a monarchist revolution in Iran – Royal Central

Some call him an Emperor, some a Crown Prince and by his Iranian followers, he is referred to as His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah II. Still, the Crown Prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, has now called for a monarchist revolution in his birth country of Iran and calls for Trump and American help to transform the dictatorship to a parliamentarian monarchy.

Source: Iran’s exiled Crown Prince calls for a monarchist revolution in Iran – Royal Central

It should be said that the Crown Prince wants to have a peaceful revolution that will be carried out by the Iranian people, and he does not envision an armed revolution with foreign military troops on the ground. Asked how his envisioned peaceful revolution could play out in Iran, Pahlavi said it would need to begin with the labour unions starting a nationwide strike.

Pahlavi’s father, Mohammad Reza Shah, took power following a coup in 1953 engineered by Britain and the United States. Under the Crown Prince’s father’s secular and pro-Western rule, Iran experienced a rapid modernization programme financed by oil revenues. The Crown Prince is clear in his statements; he does not want the same thing [a coup backed by Western powers] to happen again. “Western governments need to keep their distance and not threaten military action,” said His Imperial Highness.

I believe this would be of great benefit to the Iranian (Persian) people, many of whom are not happy with the rule of the Ayatollahs, and to the rest of the world, as well, for whom the Islamic Republic of Iran is well-known as a state sponsor of terrorism and a persistent threat to regional security. Respectful salute to His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah II, and prayers for the achievement of this goal!