Traitors’ Gate

The Tower of London, for all its touristy buzz and smiling Beefeaters, is still a royal palace and grim fortress. One of its most forbidding nooks is Traitors’ Gate, a river entrance through which condemned enemies of the state would pass ahead of their imprisonment and execution. Archbishop Cranmer entered the Tower this way on account of his Protestantism, as did Princess, later Queen, Elizabeth, who angrily objected to her being made to pass through that gate, seeing she was no traitor. Although many who used that entrance would have been genuine usurpers, many others were simply victims of pernicious Tudor tyrants. For others, it was for their faith that the State judged their lives forfeit.

I love my country- I’m something of a patriot. This doesn’t mean I’m a xenophobe who loathes foreigners, nor a nationalist who denigrates other races and ethnicities. Yet I seek to be a loyal citizen to the State in which I have been born, notwithstanding my citizenship in heaven. But one day, might I be considered a subversive or a traitor, as was good Thomas Cranmer? I looked up British Values on the .Gov website. British school children should be taught the following:

-an understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process

-an understanding that the freedom to hold other faiths and beliefs is protected in law

-an acceptance that people having different faiths or beliefs to oneself (or having none) should be accepted and tolerated, and should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour

-an understanding of the importance of identifying and combating discrimination

I think this is all fair enough. In fact, they should be global values, not just British ones. Yet I can see these benevolent ideals being modified or interpreted in such a way that any unable to subscribe to our new, state sponsored ethics will one day land in trouble. In 21st century Britain, street preachers are arrested, churches investigated for distributing leaflets, airline staff disciplined for displaying a cross on a necklace. The faith which requires its members to pay tax and pray for those in authority is becoming increasingly marginalised; antagonistic voices are calling for its silencing and expulsion from the public square. One day, old Traitors’ Gate might be reopened to admit all those unable to bow the knee to the aggressive new liberalism. For those upon whom Traitor’s Gate closes, another opens in heaven, beckoning entry:

Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord: This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.

Psalm 118:19-20