Does the Queen believe the Bible can still bring harmony to her kingdom, or is ‘sport’ the best she can offer?

Is it my imagination, or was the invisible ink glowing brightly in today's Queen's Speech? I'm not sure how good I am at 'reading between the lines' but it seemed to me that there was a kind of gulf between (1) the Queen's praise for the action of her prececessor King James in 1604 to commission a fresh translation of the Bible to bring “harmony” to his kingdom (which newly included England & Wales as well as Scotland) and (2) her examples of the way that sport is today “one of the most powerful ways” to bring harmony – because although there is opposition the opponents have to respect one another. (And it can help with the rehabilitation of our soldiers injured in places like Afghanistan too.)

I can see benefits of sport (like all good things, in moderation) but I find myself noticing that although the King James Bible was a momentous seven year scholarly project to bring harmony to the kingdom, the Queen did not mention the possiblity that a “most vivid translation of the scriptures” might bring harmony to our nation today. I find myself wondering whether this thought had not occurred to her, or whether it was 'between the lines': a hope that she had very much in her mind but did not speak for some reason.

I find myself admiring the way that King James had a vision of the Bible as a unifying text. Good leadership is about presenting people with a vision to aspire to and to work towards, and helping them to step towards it, and he sought to do that. I sometimes feel that the politicians who lead our country today see their role in a far to narrow way to do with juggling purse strings (taxes and how to spend them) and passing legislation – instead of presenting and building a unifying vision. I also wonder where in our de facto constitution – with its curious balance of power between government and monarch – the mantle of “visionary leader” rests.

Constitutionally the Queen uniquely holds together the Church (of England) and secular government because she is the head of both. Part of what is needed for effective national leadership is a common direction of religious and secular leadership (as demonstrated by King James) while government and church at the moment seem to be at each others' throats (at least in public if not in private).

The trouble with people for whom harmony is most important is that they are sometime not willing to say what needs to be said for fear of upsetting people!

The King James Bible, also known as the Authorised Version, was commissioned in 1604 and published in 1611. So it's 400th anniversary will be celebrated next year in 2011. I'm sure there are a lot of groups which will take an interest in this. One that I have noticed is Biblefresh which seeks to encourage a fresh interest in the Bible during this anniversary.

Full text of the Queen's speech care of the BBC here.

My academic ability is on the rise

I'm not sure that I am doing anything differently, but both Cranfield School of Management (where I did my MBA) and Imperial College (where I read Electrical Engineering) are rising in the rankings this year. Imperial has risen fifth (or ninth) in the world according to the Times Higher Educational Supplement. This year in September The Economist wrote that the Cranfield Full-time MBA ranked 1st in the UK, 4th in Europe and 15th in the world.

“To maintain cohesion, a nation must tell its own story over and over.”

This is a quote from author John Banville,* and it makes pretty good sense. Modern western society values fresh discovery and independent thought, but that needs to be balanced with a memory of truths already learned.

This is one of the difficulties that British society has right now, which are spoken of as a need to describe (or invent) what 'being British' is all about.  To what extent is being British about (say) a culture of discovery, tolerance, and openness to new ideas and cultural values; and to what extent is it to do with a common story?

I agree with John: building society is not about reinventing what it means to be British, but is about being able to tell our story – a story which is of course added to day by day.

The British story is in part a Christian story. One of the strengths of the Christian Bible as a religious text it is that it is largely story. Its narrative brings cohesion to those who see it as 'their book.' While all stories are told from the point of view of the story teller, the Bible has the integrity to convey its story 'warts and all.' It tells not only of success and good deeds but of mistakes and failure as well. We need to have the courage to do the same with our own (British) story.

*According to The Week 4th December 2010, quoting the Independent.

An excellent read – Sebastian Faulks “A Week in December”

You need to add this to your Christmas reading list. Sebastian Faulks is a skilled author and I have enjoyed most of the novels of his that I have read.

This one describes a collection of intersecting lives in London that paint a rich, intriguing, and insightful picture of the medley of personalities and cultures that make up our society today. These range from obsessive financiers to suicide bombers. Just read it…