thinking theology

Beyond Kings

In this era that feels pre-apocalyptic, I want to reflect on what this feast day of Christ the King might mean. In the 1800s, a philosopher and diplomat by the name of Joseph-Marie Comte de Maistre — a man of significant influence — argued for the divine right of kings, the supremacy of the Church, and the right and obligation to impose Christianity on all people. He famously said that the people received the government they deserved. He would also have agreed with the Doctrine of Discovery that asserted that the church should colonize all nations not presently under the rule of the Catholic Church and the Pope.

We persist in thinking that we no longer share in these ideas but we continue to make little kings and queens out of the people we elect and then react with anger when they are clearly human, buffeted by conflicting demands and realities. The problem with government is that it is asked to act on a history not redeemable and on situations that are not legislative but based in relationship. For example, in the government’s relationship with First Nations, I wonder how often we ask those representatives about their suggestions, rather than rushing to partial and unsatisfactory solutions. Parental, solution-based decisions sabotage relationships. In other forms of government as well as democracy, there remains the idea that the whole must be governed by a small group who know what is best for everyone, and certainly for themselves.

I wonder if we are standing in Pilate’s shoes when we try to make Jesus a king of this world who will mandate culture, politics, even economy. I worry when any of us employs the name of Jesus as a political tool or benchmark. I recall Jesus handing back the coin with the face of Caesar on it and remarking that the product of empire belonged to empire. At trial, Jesus mocks Pilate and scoffs at the title of king, a title laden with corruption, violence and self-interest. 

So what is the truth to which Jesus testified? I think he was pointing to a revolution of human self-understanding. I think he would encourage us to get beyond depending on whomever we have made a king. I think he would say that if we want a different world, we will have to make it one meeting at a time, one hour in prayer at a time, one act of courage at a time.

In the world, we must pay taxes, vote, discern the best paths. In the world of Christ, we are remaking how we imagine life and society. We are an undercurrent of change gently whirling society from top-down to consultative decision-making, from imposition to exploration in relationship. Kings will be kings. But we will carry a hope and a vision for humanity that is beyond kings, beyond armies, beyond law.

Our vision begins with the idea that the creation is holy, people are holy. Life is sacred. It is irrelevant whether this is achievable. That is the measure of kings and corporations. What is relevant is what is happening in each human, in you and in me, and in how seriously we undertake this transformation. The solution is not out there, but in our hearts and minds. From the Alpha to the Omega, from the beginning of understanding to its fulfillment, it is all made in goodness. To understand this is to stand in the midst of the Divine, with Jesus, forever.

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