Stewart Lamont has written an intelligent analysis of the present state of relationships between church and state across the world, homing in with a plea for disestablishment of the Church of England. As befits someone described in his blurb ‘as Scotland’s leading writer and broadcaster on religious affairs’, Lamont’s sympathies are with church rather than state. Indeed he begins with a strange attack on the ‘paranoid’ St Paul for his ‘extraordinary’ instruction to the Romans that Christians should obey the power of the authorities ordained by God. The truth surely is that there are contrary indications scattered through the New Testament on this relationship.
The nub, as Lamont acknowledges, ‘is that there is no sanction given by Jesus to any specific form of relationship between his followers and the state’. Indeed the action of Our Lord in specifically renouncing the role of a freedom fighter against the Romans is one which some of His followers have neglected to their own loss. It is clearly right for Christians to stand up against injustice and in favour of the poor or oppressed. To go beyond this and identify Christianity with particular political creeds or movements is to leave the rock and build upon the sand.
Lamont writes interestingly about the church in Brazil, on which I am not in any way qualified to comment. I should have guessed, however, that for churchmen to identify themselves with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua would be to build on shaky foundations