Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Independent or Free?

I am half Scottish - my late Mum was a Glaswegian.  They say that a Scotsman is a wit, so I am not sure what that makes me!  As a boy growing up in Guernsey I was very proud of my Mum's tartan and all things Scottish.  Hogmanae - what they call New Year north of the border - was always a great time in our family, with Mum making all kinds of efforts to have only a dark haired person crossing the threshold first in the new year - 'first footing' as she called it.  I would never do because my locks were pale, but I could substitute for the real thing as long as I carried in my hand a piece of coal!  Ah, halcyon days of pipers, drums, Scotch pies and Irn Bru (made from real Scottish girders of course).

What my Mother would have made of all this talk of independence if she was still alive I don't know.  Mum reckoned that the UK government was really run by Scots anyhow, and that Scottish oil from the North Sea paid all the bills in London already.  She would have wanted to be able to vote in any referendum on separation from the UK but I don't think she would have voted 'yes' - but I may be doing her a injustice.  You see, my Mum loved the Queen and anything to do with the monarchy.  She would have no time at all for the idea of an independent Scotland under a president, not even an elected one.  Maybe she would have tolerated an idea similar to that which obtains here in Guernsey where the government is independent of Westminster but loyal to the Crown.  Sadly, I can't ask her now.

Independence is the great longing that accompanies democracy, prosperity and development.  We see it manifest all around the world from Latvia to South Sudan.  Yet in some ways the developed world is less free and independent than it has ever been.  Great blocks of nations like the EU and OAU are letting go of huge areas of their sovereignty to have the benefits of belonging to something larger. In an increasingly troubled world we need one another. For me, that's one of the biggest reasons why I seek to be part of a local church, which in turn relates to a wider family of churches.  As one of Scotland's most famous sons, John Donne, said after all, 'no man is an island entire of itself'.

For the Christian, our loyalty to our monarch, Jesus Christ, means that we surrender our independence to Him, in whom we then find real freedom.  The great Scottish theologian and preacher George Mathesan, also born in Glasgow, expressed it this way...

Make me a captive, Lord, 
and then I shall be free. 
Force me to render up my sword, 
and I shall conqueror be. 
I sink in life's alarms 
when by myself I stand; 
imprison me within thine arms, 
and strong shall be my hand. 

My will is not my own 
till thou hast made it thine; 
if it would reach a monarch's throne, 
it must its crown resign. 
It only stands unbent 
amid the clashing strife, 
when on thy bosom it has leant, 
and found in thee its life.