Ashenden Mentions Rowling in Review of King Charles’ Christmas Speech
Dr Gavin Ashenden is a scholar of Inkling writing, whose exegesis of the literary alchemy of Charles Williams in Alchemy and Integration is a landmark study, and a devout Roman Catholic. He was once an Anglican bishop and Chaplain to the Queen before he swam the Tiber. He works currently as an Associate Editor at The Catholic Herald. He wrote a review of the King’s 2022 Christmas message this week called, ‘The Christmas speech that defines the King as a ‘defender of faiths.’ In the role of Christian gadfly to the body politic, Dr Ashenden is the closest thing to C. S. Lewis, social critic, that the 21st Century has on offer.
I thought it worth noting, then, that he thought it important to mention J. K. Rowling in his review of the new king’s first Christmas message to his subjects in the United Kingdom. Ashenden thinks the king has made a mistaken political move, one he signals in the speech on Sunday, to appease the Woke establishment and media mob in hopes of protecting the monarchy. It is a mistake, he argues, because the Left always devours its own; he offers Rowling as a recent ‘for instance’ of this phenomenon:
The monarchy is already much more fragile than it looks. In fact its fragility may be inversely proportional to the successful choreography of pageant that it is sublimely capable of on dramatic public occasions. It is deeply out of step with the progressive culture that has captured our infantilised popular imagination. There is no less “inclusive, diverse or equal” an institution the world over. True, it is trying to hide this philosophical dissonance behind an energetic and very public adoption of causes beloved by the media-fed junkie public. It broadcasts its green and ecological passions with devotion and regularity. But will this be enough to save an institution that has become so at odds with its own roots, identity and integrity?
Second-wave Feminism might have a word of advice to offer. It was at the vanguard of our progressive culture until the sudden and not wholly predictable swerve into trans rights. Suddenly celebratory feminists like Germaine Greer, Suzanne Moore and JK Rowling who had ridden the crest of a powerful and popular revolution became public enemies overnight.
The revolution always eats its own tail.
The only constituency that can save the monarchy if progressive politics shifts any further towards the values of the Montecito sans-cullottes Meghan and Harry, will be the Christian constituency.
But in this country Christianity is buckling under the relentless daily assault that an increasingly hostile secularism is directing towards it. Today, you can be arrested on suspicion of praying in the environs of a closed abortion facility by the thought and now prayer police.
The King has chosen to look the other way. There is of course no such thing a “multi-faith”. It is a cosmetic shibboleth designed to hide the predatory intentions of one kind of philosophical absolutism against another. It is a mechanism for undermining the distinctive and absolutist claims of non-relative religious movements so that they can be rendered increasingly irrelevant by an uncompromising secular rationalism.
If, while the King looks the other way, observant Christians are increasingly marginalised, ridiculed, persecuted and prosecuted in his multi-faith realm, when the next crisis comes that threatens to derail monarchy, the one group in his realm who might have fought for him and defended him, will have been rendered silent and impotent.
In abandoning the Faith that conceived, defined and sustained the concept of monarchy, King Charles may just have sown the seeds of the destruction of the House of Windsor.
Ashenden knows what the Marxist left is capable of courtesy of his being captured and interrogated by the KGB while smuggling Bibles to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, an experience he shared in an interview below:
Rowling has recently, like Charles III, taken on a new role per Beira’s Place. Hers is not as Queen but that of “campaigner,” a mantle she adds to her lives as “author” and “philanthropist.” She campaigns for the rights of women and she gives generously to charities for women victims of violence, for children without families, and for various medical research projects, especially those seeking a cure and palliative treatments for Multiple Sclerosis.
She is a “campaigner,” not a “crusader.” Though a Christian by confession, she has never to my knowledge spoken up for Christians anywhere at any time despite the global persecution of the faithful nor has she taken stands with orthodox believers against the desacralization of marriage or for the rights of unborn children to life. Quite the opposite, she has consistently described Christians who do as “fundamentalists,” a colloquial synonym for “bigots” and “hateful ideologues.” Her faith, consequently, might be described best as “nominalist” or “notional” rather than traditional.
It may be a stretch to connect Ashenden’s critique of the signature Windsor calculation to protect the monarchy with Rowling’s disavowal of any alliance with orthodox Christians in her fight to protect women’s safe spaces and transgressive over-reach, but there is a superficial resemblance in their shared disregard for Christian believers. Rowling has no dynastic inheritance to protect, of course; her calculation seems to be based purely on a desire for public and visible distance between her and those she finds repugnant.
I think there are two or three central mysteries in the life and work of J. K. Rowling.
The one we talk about most here is the curious correspondence between the Harry Potter novels and their apposite numbers in the Cormoran Strike mysteries, when the latter series, according to the author, will be ten books long. Does that mean Strike7 will echo Deathly Hallows the way the other novels in the series have their equivalent numbers in the Hogwarts Saga? What will the next three books be about if that is the case? And regardless, why is she playing this remarkable game of parallelism?
Today my reflections on Ashenden’s essay reminds me of another Rowling mystery.
How can an author suffuse her works with implicitly traditional Christian content as profound as she has in The Christmas Pig, Harry Potter, and Cormoran Strike and still publicly take stands as contrary and in magna voce as she has to that of Christian orthodoxy? I am confident that we will know the answer to the enigma of the Strike-Potter correspondences long before we do that of her faith-in-work and faith-in-life divide.
Today I’m thinking that she has elected to take the path of the Radical Reformation Anabaptists at least with respect to their belief that the institutional church is by definition not the Ekklesia of the New Testament, the Mystical Body of Christ. Individual conscience and noetic discernment, in this view, leaving aside the Anabaptists’ dependence on and adherence to scripture, is the only dependable guide in the real-world odyssey of the soul towards perfection in the Spirit. Hence her celebration of ‘Seekers’ and extra-ecclesial alchemists as psychomachian heroes and her portraits of men-without-mothers as spiritually naive or skeptics.
All of which is necessarily and shamelessly speculative, as in ‘none of my business.’ In my defense, however, as ‘Dean of Harry Potter Scholars,’ I am obliged to point out the mysteries and contradictions, even the hypocrisy of The Presence, at least all those touching on the artistry and meaning of her work. As the World celebrates the twelve days of Christmas and the Orthodox prepare for Nativity, I offer you Ashenden’s reflections about the new king’s apostacy from Anglican Christianity to multi-faith relativism as valuable in themselves and as a jumping off point for Rowling meditations. Cheers!