(No, not me: not much chance of that.)
After much resistance, the Cabinet Office has published a list of those who declined awards in either the Birthday Honours or the New Year’s Honours Lists between 1951 and 1999, and who are now dead. It’s not necessarily the usual suspects. Alongside John Lennon‘s famous returning of his MBE and the author J G Ballard who called the honours system a ‘preposterous charade’ are people like Eleanor Farjeon, author of ‘Morning has broken’ and C S Lewis.
What are the pros and cons of an honours system? Politically, presumably any nation wants to celebrate those who have made a significant contribution to that society, but certain questions arise about its current practice. Who is worthy of an honour? Do entertainers and sporting stars rank more highly than someone who has given quiet and dedicated service in a village for decades? (You should meet our children’s lollipop lady.) And is it really fitting still to have honours that take their name from the British Empire? Then there is the royalty question, but while we still have a constitutional monarch as the head of state, that’s not surprising.
From a Christian perspective, there are also questions. Is it right to accept an honour and be associated with (tainted by?) the powers that be? On the other hand, is it an opportunity for witness, and if so, how do we ensure the glory goes to God, not the recipient of the honour? How does it fit eschatologically, when Jesus refers to those who will be rewarded in the age to come and those who have had their reward already?
What do you think?