I’m a Brit, which means I’m currently drowning in a sea of hype about King Charles’ coronation. Boy do I want it to be over!
As you can probably tell, I’m not a fan of the monarchy. Watching the coverage makes my guts twist and my bones ache, and I’ve been wondering about the strength of these feelings. Surely it’s just a good old British knees-up, a little pageantry, a chance to gather and watch an opulent spectacle?
A monolith of social injustice
I don’t have anything against Charles or most of the other royals, but the institution of monarchy is, in my view, a truly dreadful thing. There is a good reason Western democracies slowly neutered their monarchies over the course of the twentieth century, reducing them to titular, constitutional roles. In previous centuries, the populace was at the mercy of the monarch – the difference between life under a bad king and a good king was night and day, and peasants had no true way to protest about their lot other than to revolt.
The emergence of democracy has put the monarchy in a box, giving people a voice and a vote, and ultimately empowering folk to take some measure of control over their own lives. This process continues to unfold, and there is much that needs to change about the British political system, but at least it is possible for that change to happen if enough people care about it.
Monarchy is an anachronism – a useless, outdated object such as a mechanical typewriter – and though it might look pretty on its stand, it remains a symbol of inherited wealth and power, which is a form of institutional injustice. The coronation ceremony is shaped around the notion of the divine right to rule – that the king is chosen by God. If a king has a divine right to rule, then we, the peasants, have a divine obligation to subject ourselves to that monarch.
Of all the families in the UK, the Windsors are the most perfectly chiselled sculpture of injustice. They are born into wealth and power while others must struggle with the harsh realities of life. This is the very opposite of the Kingdom of God, in which nobody is considered more special than anyone else. In fact, showing honour and preference towards the wealthy is something the Bible warns against. James 2: 1-6
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?
Though not a church service in the traditional sense, the coronation was held in a church with all the trappings of a Christian ceremony, and there were absolutely seats of honour for those also born into wealth and power. Peasants lined the street just to snatch a glance of the king as he passed. Some camped out on the hard pavements for days, waiting for the moment when the special one passes by. It is frankly ludicrous, and cannot be considered Christian in any meaningful sense. My conviction that we are all equal before God won’t let me accept the show as anything other than a parade of social injustice, in which the peasants accept their role and play their part, grateful for a moment of proximity to inherited, unmerited honour.
Idols of flesh
It is the acceptance of the peasants that bothers me the most. Who are these people who will camp on a hard surface for a week? They must surely have accepted two things: that the royals are fundamentally superior and that they, the peasantry, are innately inferior. I believe this to be a form of psychological self-harm.
When Queen Elizabeth died, the fuss was extraordinary. BBC News presenters would interview those standing in the nearly perpetual queue (in order to be able to walk past her coffin), asking why they’d come, and person after person expressed the idea that the queen (who also inherited wealth and power) was somehow more special than any other human being, and certainly more special than themselves. This is nonsense, of course, but the number of people willing to do themselves this dishonour astounded and alarmed me. I wanted to shake them by the shoulders until they understood that they were just as special in the eyes of the only One who counts.
Listening to the TV pundits, I hear all kinds of virtues projected onto the royals that any kind of analysis would reveal as inaccurate. In my view, this is a form of idolatry. People want something to believe in and look up to, but instead of drawing near to God they idolise other human beings they can eulogise about from a distance. It’s an easier option than walking with the Light of the World.
A live and current injustice
The British people are struggling through a cost of living crisis, in which many are going to food banks, having to choose between heating and eating, and even being made homeless. The coronation has cost about 100 million pounds, which is money that could have been used for compassionate purposes. I hear the justification – it’s a historic, one-off event – but how much more historic would it have been if the king chose to host a small ceremony and distributed the rest to charitable institutions? That would be remembered as a glorious act of leadership and service, and Heaven would cheer! But no, money has been lavished on the rich and powerful while the poor continue to starve. Same old story.
Being a royal is a misery
It seems clear that many of the more senior members of the royal family are pretty miserable, trapped in an institution where they can’t express themselves, have a career, or forge their own path in life. Some see this as a ‘life of service’, but according to recent surveys, most young Brits don’t share that view. They believe in fairness and representation, and there’s barely a whiff of either in the royal institution.
Head of the church?
I find it highly problematic that the king is the head of the Church of England. There’s only one head of the Church, and that is Christ. To wed the British monarchy to the Church of England is to intermingle faith with worldly, cumbersome traditions, and to confuse being a follower of Christ with being English. The resultant madness is woeful and avoidable.
Monarchy is for peasants
I don’t see any person as either inferior or superior. We are all equally precious in God’s sight, dearly beloved, and special. The Bible urges believers to give honour to those who serve in the background rather than to those the world celebrates as superior, and yet the Head of the Church of England is afforded every available honour, while peasants gawp, open-mouthed at their betters. I can’t bear the injustice or the hypocrisy, won’t join in with the self-harm of the British populace, and will not subject myself to a flawed human being when I can bow before the King of Kings.