Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Anglican state

On the Friday night news of the Israeli State TV, the interviewers and commentators took a moment of rest from the daily preoccupations, and turned with a smile to the biggest media show ever - the Royal Wedding in London. Commentator Ari Shavit took the opportunity for a sarcastic remark: "The whole world complains about our insistance on Israel being a Jewish state. But here we see that this ceremony in London is clearly a religious ceremony which derives from a long religious history. Prince William, if he gets to become King, will also head the Church of England - and no-one complains about that. "

Indeed, there can be no doubt that England never implemented a strict separation between Church and State. Officially and legally, the Church of England is still the official State Church there. Still, no one there takes from that the conclusion that Anglicans should have a privileged position in English society. No government policy measures are dictated by the aim of maintaining at all costs the Anglican majority, nor would anyone dream of arguing that state lands should be the unique domain of Anglicans and theirs only. No Member of the British Parliament would conceive of a law setting up "Admissions Committees" which could exclude non-Anglicans from a community on the grounds that "they don’t fit the social fabric." Ireland's independence, after centuries of British rule, was not made conditional upon recognition of "England as an Anglican state", nor was such a condition imposed for India's independence. And England has no religious laws imposing Anglican observances upon those who do not take them up from their own free will.

True, anyone who reads history books can find that once there did exist such laws and practices in England, imposing the Church of England on unwilling people and making non-Anglicans into second-class citizens.

That was once upon a time, long ago, laws which were abolished and deleted from the law books hundreds of years ago and nobody would dream of renewing them.

What, then, is nowadays the meaning of the Anglican character of England? It's mostly a symbolic thing, various colorful ceremonies held from time to time which have no real impact on daily life. Like the Royal Family which has no political power, and is mainly concerned with performing all kinds of ceremonies such as the current "Grand Wedding Show".

If ever the State of Israel consents to reduce the state's Jewish character to the sphere of symbols and rituals, and let daily life be conducted on the basis of full equality between all citizens, it might be much easier to explain to the world.