Monthly Letter – May 2023

Who’s In Charge?

Dear Friends,

Does it make a difference who’s in charge? Of the country, I mean.

It’s a question which begs to be asked, and an issue which cannot be ducked. The coronation of a new monarch at Westminster Abbey: the installation of a new First Minister at Holyrood: and the consternation of a new Prime Minister whose first hundred days in office brought a catalogue of struggles, strikes and scandals.

Does it make a difference who’s in charge?

Does it make a difference that it’s Charles who’s now the King and not Elizabeth the Queen?

Does it make a difference that for long enough (some 30 years or so) the man who’s now the king has been insisting that he’d rather be, not the ‘Defender of the Faith’, but much more simply the ‘Defender of faith’? Does it make a difference that there’s been that subtle shift (and most times not so subtle) – that shift towards the ‘greyness’ of ‘diversity’ in matters which pertain to Christian faith, that shift from truth being viewed as something that is absolute to truth being seen as ultimately relative, no more than what you choose that it should be?

And what about the principle itself, before you ever get to a discussion of the personnel?

Does it make a difference that we still retain a monarchy, instead of our becoming a republic, as the clamour of a younger generation now increasingly demands?

And what about the ‘new kid on the block’ up here in Scotland? Does it make a difference that it’s Humza now, not Nicola, who occupies Bute House? And Humza now; not Ash nor Kate, his colleagues – or opponents, depending how you view them all? Then, too, behind the personnel, does it make a difference – did it, would it, will it make a difference – if the union is disbanded and if Scotland opts for ‘self-determination’ as an independent state?

The issue is one which requires to be faced, and the question is certainly live. Does it make a difference who’s in charge?

And the answer, I guess, is both ‘Yes’ (more immediately evident) but also (perhaps less obviously) ‘No’.

So let me start with the ‘No’, and why in the end of the day it doesn’t, in the deepest sense, make much of a difference at all just who’s in charge: and there are two main reasons for this, two main reasons why the ins and outs of politics don’t really make a difference.

The first has to do with the flawed and far from perfect nature of humanity. There is no perfect system of government. Short, that is, of the pure and perfect theocratic rule of God awaiting us in heaven. All sorts of systems have been tested and tried, and none of them prove themselves foolproof. Proof, that is, against the foibles of our sinfulness. All of them doubtless have merits, but all of them prove very far from perfect.

We’ve opted, long since, for democracy here – or a sort of democracy anyway: and we often seem to tout this democratic pattern of our politics throughout the world, as if its basic tenets were so obvious that another form of government is surely just self-evidently wrong. It certainly has its merits, our democracy: and it may well be that those very merits create the sort of safeguards which make democratic government significantly preferable to others you could choose.

But it’s got its ‘downsides’ as well. The ‘will of the people,’ in Scriptural terms, is never really spoken of in what we’d say were complimentary terms. Paul speaks of us all (and ‘we’ are the people after all) – he speaks of sinful humanity as futile in our thinking, darkened in our understanding, enslaved by our passions, with an ignorance in our outlook and a hardness in our hearts. Credentials which don’t exactly flag us up as ‘poster’ boys or girls for wise and wholesome government.

And that, of course, is the problem. No matter who you have as your ‘first violin’ in the orchestra of government, or who gets to call the tune, if the strings have been pulled and they’re all of them now flat or sharp, the music will be messy and the ‘harmonies’ will be harsh.

In other words, even if your governmental ‘system’ is as good as you can get, and whatever party politics they own, those who are entrusted with the reins of power are all, without exception, truly sinful men and women: their perspectives and their principles, their priorities and practices are bound to be, at best a bit unbalanced, and at worst just plain corrupt.

Such is the world in which we live. And such was the world in which Christ’s church was birthed – and into which His church was boldly launched. With people like Herod the tetrarch in charge, and the empire being run by a Nero.

Some are better than others, for sure, but there aren’t perfect rulers on earth. Have a chat with Moses and discuss with him the politics of Pharaoh. Have a chat with Daniel and debate with him the merits of the rulers and their regimes in his day. Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, was a brazen, brutal despot who’d as quickly hang opponents out to dry as build his fabled hanging gardens: a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. Nor were his successors any better. Even the kings of the people of God were at best always thoroughly flawed.

So in some respects it makes no difference at all who’s in charge: because whoever it is, whoever they are, whatever their colour may be and whatever credentials they boast, they’re all of them invariably flawed. Just as we are. All of us. We know that. Our eyes have been opened to see that, and we harbour no illusions on that score.

Which is why the early church were never really organizing rallies and engaging in a series of co-ordinated protests outside Caesar’s place of government. It was people who first needed change: the politics, important as it surely is (and I’m far from dissing the significant place of politics, anything but), the politics could wait.

The gospel that they preached was thus directed to the people whom they lived with, worked with, played with: neighbours, colleagues; family, friends; the men and the women they met, as it were, on the famous ‘Clapham omnibus’. And the message they preached was centred on a person, not on politics; declaring what the Lord had done – and not what rulers should do.

That’s the first reason why it doesn’t, in an ultimate sense, make all that great a difference who’s in charge: whoever it is will at best be, bottom-line, flawed.

The second reason why it doesn’t make a difference who’s in charge can be stated much more easily: it’s the great gospel truth, which pulses through the gospel that we preach.

Jesus is Lord! He’s in charge. God has installed Him as King of all kings, He’s enthroned on high, at work in the world, and sovereign in all He does. He’s wise, good, strong, kind, sovereign and He’s forever King. He’s never panicked or fazed. He’s never surprised or bemused. He’s never shaken nor shocked.

He’s in charge. Totally. And permanently. And no amount of petty political maneuvering here on earth affects or impinges on that, not one tiny little bit. So it doesn’t make a difference who’s in charge, on any of the rungs of governmental rule beneath the kingship of the Lord. The buck stops with Him and He both knows what He’s doing and will get it done.


It does, nonetheless, make a difference who’s in charge. Of course it does! Charles is not Elizabeth. Humza isn’t Nicola. Putin’s not Zelenskyy, and communism isn’t capitalism. They’re each of them different, for all that they’re none of them perfect. So, yes, of course it makes a difference who’s in charge.

What are we to make, then, of the changes we’ve experienced in our land – in terms of who’s in charge? For the changes are certainly significant.

There’s, first of all, the shift towards the power of the populace. The issue of the monarchy is bound up with just this: it’s the desire and demand (on the part of a younger generation most of all) to dispense with hereditary rule and to have as our head of state a person whom the people have elected to the post (and whom the people can, of course, depose).

There’s the shift towards the power of the pen (and its contemporary equivalent): the mighty media moguls who control the information we receive; who select which bits of fact-checked ‘news’ we get to hear; who block on social media the voices and opinions which conflict with, challenge, and would likely then confound, their crazed ‘progressive’ agenda.

There’s the shift towards the power of the ‘top-dog’ personality. It’s the logic of a brazen celebrity culture, a return to the days of the Judges when everyone did what was right in their own sinful eyes and relied on a single deliverer to get them out of their mess. Our focus has subtly been changed; our preoccupation now is no longer with the people who are in government, but with the person at the top – who’s the one who’s running the show? Who’s the new Prime Minister? Who’s the new First Minister?

And with that, too, there’s come a shift towards a more authoritarian use of power. ‘Tolerance’ has subtly had its meaning changed to indicate that every view is valid and must always be embraced – except, of course, the view which dares to challenge such a fundamental tenet of this new post-modern world!

There have also been some seismic shifts in personnel. A monarch whose convictions, for all their outward Christian trappings, are basically (it seems) a syncretistic smorgasbord of different faiths, each one as good as the other. A Hindu in 10 Downing Street. A Muslim in Bute House. Two or three short decades back, such a scenario would have been unthinkable: it represents a seismic shift in culture and society.

A seismic shift, and yes, a catastrophic drift away from what has been the basis of our nation’s way of life – for centuries: the solid, secure foundation stones of Christian truth, which our forebears were careful to lay, and which issued in an educational system that for long enough was very much the envy of the world, and which generated leader after leader of great calibre, in all the major sectors of a people’s life, whose influence was massive and whose names remain respected and revered across the globe.

Humza Yousaf’s comment that he wouldn’t let his faith get in the way of Scotland’s good is surely in some ways bizarre. Is that what he thinks of Islam? That it might, or it could, or perhaps even would, be to the detriment and impoverishment of our nation’s way of life? What sort of faith is that?

But perhaps it’s not Islam which is the driver and dynamic in the new First Minister’s plans. He’s tied, it seems, to the ‘brave new world’ religion and its brash progressive agenda.

He, after all, was the one who, as Justice Minister, introduced the Hate Crime legislation, described by a former stalwart of his party as “one of the most pernicious and dangerous pieces of legislation ever produced by any government in modern times in any part of the United Kingdom.”

He’s a man, moreover, committed to making abortion easily available, right up to birth, and that for any reason – an abortion regime among the most extreme, and surely evil, in the world.

And he is the one who’ll now push to pursue the radical reforms set out within the Gender Recognition Reform Bill: a bit of legislation which enshrines the book-of-Judges line of self-determination – everyone does what’s right in their own eyes. You get to choose – who you are, how you live, what you do. Everything is relative. And everyone is ‘royalty’. In this brave new world you do what you’re told, and they’re telling you simply you get to be god.

We chose as a nation a long while back to dispense with the Lord as our God. The nation renowned as ‘the land of the Book’ has pulled up its roots and binned the book. We have claimed to be wise, but in truth we’ve become simply fools, and exchanged the truth about God for a lie. And since serving the Lord has seemed now so undesirable to us, the Lord in turn gives us over to our serving ‘other gods’: the harsh demands of Islam, the endless, bland ‘recycling’ of the pantheistic Hindu world, the empty pious platitudes of syncretistic faith, the avant-garde defiance of a so-called ‘progressive’ ideology.

Does it make a difference who’s in charge? Well, maybe that’s the wrong way round. It’s more, I suspect, that your noting who’s in charge today will tell you what’s already sadly different and what so markedly has changed. We’ve chosen as a nation ‘other gods’; and having trashed the truth and made our bed, it’s no surprise that now we get to lie in it. A nation deceived and deceiving. May the Lord yet have mercy upon us.

Yours in Christ Jesus our Lord

Jeremy Middleton