From Peter Hardy, Chaplaincy Assistant:
When in last week’s edition of The Tablet I read at least a couple of letters lamenting -tongue in cheek- that republicans would be miserable over the Jubilee bank holiday weekend this came as news to me. Not only had this republican very much enjoyed attending a massive street party (with the most food I’d ever seen in one place), but somehow I was captured as (a very small) part of the celebrating crowd in the local paper, ITV regional news and BBC national news! I was aware of irony here, but not, I don’t think, hypocrisy. Republicans certainly do not hate the Queen and for the most part appreciate her life of service for this country- we simply do not approve of the a central part of the fabric of the state being the institution of the monarchy.
What was truly significant, however, was the rare opportunity this holiday provided for communities to come together and express our shared identity. I was reminded of something that Desmond Tutu (as an Anglican archbishop presumably a royalist!) said in his native South Africa a few years ago: “One of the sayings in our country is ‘Ubuntu’- the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality -Ubuntu- you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
Still, a theme running through the Gospels is that we are sometimes made to feel like an outsider from our community, and it strikes me there is a parallel with religion here. Just as one doesn’t have to approve of the monarchy to enjoy royal celebrations, one doesn’t have to believe in God to receive the benefits of being religious. A number of recent books evincing a trend which Alain de Botton has dubbed ‘Atheism 2.0’ has made this clear, not withstanding the three nastika schools of Indic religion which predate Christianity by many centuries. So in addition to the widespread belief that ‘atheist’ = an immoral person, that ‘atheist’ = a non-religious person is another stereotype we need to break down.