Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Queen Elizabeth and Christ the King

Much in the news about the British monarch turning 90 - Flood of Tributes for Queen Elizabeth on Her 90th Birthday.

I don't understand, though, why anyone would want a monarchy. It's often said that Americans are more charmed by the British monarchy than the British, but that's not exactly true - for us it's now another country's quaint curiosity, one that we can enjoy from a safe distance, one we went through a lot to get rid of ourselves. And there are those in the UK who feel the same. Here's the beginning of an article from a few years ago ...

Why UK should abolish its 'failed' monarchy

With all the fuss in the media at the moment about Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the British are united in their adoration of their monarch. The reality is that while a large swathe of public opinion is largely indifferent to the royals -- but happy to have an extra public holiday to mark the jubilee -- many millions want the whole institution of monarchy consigned to the history books.

The British republican movement has been growing rapidly over the past 18 months -- thanks in large part to the heightened royal coverage prompted by last year's wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and this year's jubilee. Our cause is simple: it's about democratic reform and a rejection of inherited power and privilege. The case for Britain becoming a republic is threefold: the monarchy is wrong in principle, in practice and it is wrong politically.

We're supposed to be a democratic society, which means we should cherish and value democratic values, such as equality of citizenship, freedom to participate in government, accountability and transparency. In a democratic society there is no room for a head of state who is put there for life and by birth. A hereditary monarch has no place in a society that believes "we the people" should be in charge. The principled objection is unanswerable.

In practice the monarchy is an institution that is not fit for purpose. It is secretive, having recently lobbied successfully to have itself removed entirely from the reaches of our Freedom of Information laws; it lobbies government ministers for improvements to its financial benefits and for its own private agenda; it is hugely costly -- an estimated £202 million a year, enough to pay for thousands of teachers, nurses or police officers at a time of sweeping public spending cuts ....

And this reminds me too of a 2011 post by British Jesuit, Philip Endean, on Christ the King ...

[...] If we celebrate this feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King here in the US, we need to recognise that so much of what is valuable and precious in this country arises from a rejection of the idea of kingship, a recognition that the political power of this world can often be dysfunctional and abusive, that human freedom and dignity need to be safeguarded. These United States are founded on a belief that all are created equal. Most US citizens are descended from immigrants who came to this country because the monarchies of Europe could not provide them with a decent living. The Pilgrim Fathers stand as a symbol for millions who came to this land, found here the blessings of prosperity and liberty .....

When the gospels speak of Christ as King—which they don’t very often—they are always concerned to bring out that his kingship is not like that of the great ones of this world who lord it over others. He is not a King before whom we bow and scrape and curtsey. This king is hidden from us; we don’t recognise him. He is in the poor, those in need, the naked, the sick, those in prison ....

The Gospel is anything but an endorsement of the established political order, anything but a simple affirmation of power as we experience it. The Gospel is about liberation. The title of Christ the King only makes sense if we see it in the context of this world’s powers and authorities being transformed, of a promise that all of us will be given a royal dignity, all of us will be given the exclusive privileges of a first-born son and heir ..... the language of kingship is being used in a quite distinctive, strange, quirky way. This kingship takes the form of Christ’s identifying himself with the poorest among us. The world of the court is evoked, certainly, but only so that it can be subverted ...

So, happy Birthday Elizabeth, but glad you aren't our queen :)


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