The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Who Are We Now?

The passing of Her Majesty the Queen and the second Elizabethan age inevitably provoke wider questions, perhaps most acutely ‘who are we now?’

The UK, unusually, has no written constitution, which means that the question cannot simply be answered by pointing to a document and saying, ‘read that’.

Our strength – and our weakness – lies in the ungathered documents, beliefs, customs, and institutions that cluster together to give us a sense of ourselves. It’s a strength because it affords flexibility and deters people from simply heading to court for an answer. It’s a weakness because ultimately there is no clearly drawn line and we risk waking up one morning to realise we don’t have enough in common after all.

Supreme among these institutions is, of course, the monarchy. Hence the fear: if, as many claimed, the Queen held the monarchy together, now she is gone, what will hold us together?

It is not an idle concern. Without a robust sense of us and the duties we owe one another, a nation splinters and the goods of human life – security, peace, justice, communion – become much harder to sustain.

If the Old Testament points anywhere here, it is towards a written constitution. The Israelites are warned against placing all their eggs in a royal basket and the crowned king is deliberately placed under the written Law. (Deuteronomy 17:18–19). This became a model, in the Middle Ages, for the rule of law and the limitation of power that characterises the modern West.

That recognised, the Old Testament was never intended to be a template for all political systems. If it can be made to work, a constitutional monarchy like our own is a perfectly justifiable arrangement.

That’s a big ‘if’ though. Among the many plaudits paid to the Queen was praise for her commitment to virtue: hard work, duty, kindness, suppression of ego, commitment to the public good. It is these that make a constitutional monarchy – and the society over which it reigns – work.

In essence, then, in a country like ours, the answer to the question of who we are is whoever we want to be. If we conduct ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, then that is who we will be. If we don’t, we won’t, and things will fall apart. The momentous choice is ours, and one that we each make, every day.

Nick Spencer
Senior Fellow, Theos


  1. Well said on this important topic Nick. Your last paragraph was redolent for me with more then echos of Exodus 34:5-7, the seminal revelation the Lord gave as to what He was-is-and ever will be like. Therefore, what we should be seeking to be like: Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. and he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” – Moses made haste to bow down and worship-so should we. Eternal and Prayerful Regards, Bill Saunders, with you, in GLAD submission to Christ.

    By Bill Saunders  -  16 Sep 2022
  2. There seems to be something missing at the end here – isn’t it all about Jesus Christ and Him dwelling in us just as He was in the Queen? Isn’t it He who is the glue and isn’t it He that we need to turn to? I thought it might have said that at the end.

    By Nick Fletcher  -  16 Sep 2022
  3. Let us pray for our nation at this challenging time when we have a new Monarch and a New Prime Minister. May God help us to trust in Him, to pray for our leaders that God would give them wisdom to make the right decisions and help each one of us to serve Him and our fellow human beings with kindness, compassion and humility wherever He has placed us. We are all called to serve God and one another.

    By Prudence Eliapenda  -  16 Sep 2022
  4. Is it? The Queen was pretty much a rubber stamp for whatever the government wanted to do, right or wrong. Boris Johnson showed just how vulnerable we are without a written constitution.

    And the reality of monarchy is very ambiguous.

    After Elizabeth: The spiritual implications of imperial succession

    The bit about South Africa is incorrect but otherwise a needed perspective 

    By David Cockburn  -  16 Sep 2022
    • The piece quotes Netflix as if it were authoritative and makes wild assumptions about what did or did not transpire between the Queen and her Prime Ministers. The author can not know whether or not the Queen objected to what was being done in her name.

      By Adrian P Beney  -  16 Sep 2022
  5. A thought provoking piece. Boris Johnson’s bad behaviour showed how vulnerable our constitutional settlement is to those who would abuse it. But ultimately the Tory MPs said enough was enough and the end came quite quickly.

    So Nick is right in saying that “The momentous choice is ours, and one that we each make, every day.“. It’s also especially the choice of the choice we make at the ballot box. And indeed the one the Conservative Party membership has recently made.

    By Adrian P Beney  -  16 Sep 2022

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