So, in case you weren’t on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or seen every tabloid from here to kingdom come, Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, had a healthy little baby boy (name unannounced at the time of this writing) yesterday–and people have completely lost it. Royal Wedding fever was one thing. Royal baby fever is quite another.
Now, there are a lot of different social factors at work. For one thing, babies are adorable. I see them and I instinctively start making ridiculous noises and faces no matter where I am—even at peasants. Also, British people are fascinating to Americans. I mean, it doesn’t matter how stupid a statement may be, if it’s uttered in a British accent, Americans are likely to think it’s brilliant. (Think Richard Dawkins.) Finally, and closer to the point, our obsession with celebrities—their doings, controversies, health-food purchases—whatever it is, we eat it up.
But why are we so obsessed with celebrities? Simply put, it’s because we have no royalty. Americans have been deprived of majestic sovereigns, so we settle for pop starts. But here, with Prince William and Kate and this new little boy, we have actual flesh and blue-blood royalty! Forget North West, a real-life prince, third-in-line to a real throne, was born!
You see, despite the 4th of July, our American love of democracy, equality, and autonomy, I can’t help but sense that in all the fanfare lies our deeply-repressed desire for a ruler–a true King. It’s not that we’ve all got a round of ‘Rule Britannia’ in us. As much of an Anglophile as I might be, what I’m talking about goes down far deeper than cultural nostalgia.
C.S. Lewis captured the notion best when he laid out the dual logics for democracy:
“I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows.
That I believe to be the true ground of democracy. I do not believe that God created an egalitarian world. I believe the authority of parent over child, husband over wife, learned over simple to have been as much a part of the original plan as the authority of man over beast. I believe that if we had not fallen…patriarchal monarchy would be the sole lawful government. But since we have learned sin, we have found, as Lord Acton says, that ‘all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ The only remedy has been to take away the powers and substitute a legal fiction of equality. The authority of father and husband has been rightly abolished on the legal plane, not because this authority is in itself bad (on the contrary, it is, I hold, divine in origin), but because fathers and husbands are bad. Theocracy has been rightly abolished not because it is bad that learned priests should govern ignorant laymen, but because priests are wicked men like the rest of us. Even the authority of man over beast has had to be interfered with because it is constantly abused.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
We may disagree with some of the old-school patriarchy, and to be clear, he wasn’t advocating for its return, but the essential insight was that there is a deep structure to the soul that delights in the idea of a Royal. We love the idea of a true king who will come, take things firmly in hand, reign with righteousness, and bring the shalom of a kingdom at peace.
This is why everything in us clapped for joy when we read, (or saw, for you illiterates), Aragorn finally crowned king in The Lord of the Rings. It’s also why some of us found ourselves uncomfortably agreeing with Loki in The Avengers film as he lectured the masses on their innate desire to be ruled: “You were made to be ruled …In the end, you will always kneel.” There was something true about it, and yet that truth felt like a dangerous lie coming from Loki’s mouth. Indeed, it’s telling that the film didn’t directly reject the notion, but had the brave old German man say, “Not to men like you.” The implication of course, is that for the right man, we would gladly kneel.
We want a king, but history has taught us that eventually, kings will abuse their power so in their stead we found democracies and republics. Sadly these are only stop-gap measures that leave us with unfulfilled longings that can only be grasped at in fiction and film.
Or so it seems.
As this new prince is born, filling our news feeds with excitement and anticipation, I can’t help but remember the good news of Christmas: that 2,000 years ago another royal child was given to us. He came though, not in pomp and glory, surrounded by papparazzi and glitz, but humble, away in a manger, signifying his peaceful intentions. Contrary to all expectations of human royalty, this monarch came, not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45). King Jesus is the ruler we can trust. He is the one who, though he rule with a rod of iron, will not break a bruised reed, but administer justice according to bountiful grace. The good news of the Gospel is that in Christ we have a Sovereign that our hearts have always longed to kneel before.