This question is rhetorical, intended to incite pondering – and possibly prayer – rather than discussion, necessarily, and certainly rather than debate. That said, here it is:
We speak of Jesus as “Lord” and “King” – indeed, in the stirring words of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” drawn from the words of Holy Scripture, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords”! Indeed, to be more theologically accurate, the High King of Heaven is God the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three Persons.
But what does that mean, what can it mean, to someone living in a Constitutionally democratic, representative Republic, for whom kingship is resolutely foreign (and often, quite misunderstood), and whose only experience of “aristocracy” is the mutant form represented by the economic elite (the “1%”) and the stars of the sports and entertainment industries?
Here is a reflection on monarchy, by a person I consider a good friend though I have yet to meet him in person, Ryan Hunter. He writes:
“I believe, and thousands of years of history have shown, that a man or woman instructed from youth in the art of government, a person who is trained from childhood to see their rule as a sacred duty, a solemn service, and a public stewardship rather than an earned right, governs more benignly, sincerely, capably, and nobly than someone who has either taken power through brute force, violent revolution, or contested elections. Democratic elections are an extraordinary thing in that they propose that, upon being elected, a politician who has previously been partisan, divisive, and factious will somehow, almost magically, cease to be partisan, divisive, and factious upon taking office. I believe it is the very height of naivete to believe that a popularly elected, partisan politician can somehow serve as a supra-political, unifying figure.”
Yet it is that “popularly elected, partisan politician” who we as Americans know (all too well!), while we are basically ignorant – at least from personal experience – of “a person who is trained from childhood to see their rule as a sacred duty, a solemn service, and a public stewardship rather than an earned right.” How, I wonder, does this lack of person, experiential knowledge effect our understanding of the Christian faith?
Both of my degrees deal with the medieval era – my B.A. in Medieval Studies, specifically; my Master of Theological Studies in History of Christianity: Early and Medieval Christianity, heavily so. I have been immersed, avocationally, in the Middle Ages since childhood, drinking deeply at the well of those who did have a personal, experiential understanding of kingship. Yet even my knowledge and experience is at second- and third-hand. What of those who have not had even so much as that?
I wonder how many of the eccentricities that seem to plague American Christianity – from the inane “prosperity Gospel” to seeing Jesus as primarily our “friend,” our “personal [read: individualistic] savior,” rather than our Sovereign Lord, our King in the full sense of that word, with the Body of Christ, His Church, as the community over which He exercises His lordship, and ourselves as members of that community – can be traced to this lack of full, personal, experiential understanding of kingship and lordship?
Protestantism, at least in America, is so intermingled with individualism and democracy that I am not sure it can ever be fully separated from these concepts. Even in Europe, the Enlightenment followed on so closely to the Renaissance and Reformation that they effectively form a continuum, philosophically. And I wonder if that does not have a profound – and possibly negative – effect on how we read and understand both the Holy Scriptures, and also other foundational documents of our faith.
As I say, something to be pondered, prayed over, and perhaps, discussed… gently. 😉