Congratulations to Harry and Meghan for Escaping the Royal “Trap”
I wouldn’t normally watch something like Oprah Winfrey’s two hour long interview with Prince Harry and Princess Meghan (I’m not even sure if they are “prince” and “princess” anymore or what their last names are). But, it was on the television and I was trapped. I watched it with some reluctance. I am not a fan of celebrity culture or of monarchy (or of Oprah Winfrey).
I know, I know…someone will chide me for not liking Oprah Winfrey. Who doesn’t like Oprah Winfrey? Well, I don’t. I’ll just offer one illustration of why. During the interview Prince Harry complained about being “trapped” in the royal “firm.” Winfrey at least pretended to be nonplussed. Trapped? What? How could you—a prince—be trapped? She carried on this pretense of not understanding for quite a while. My question to her is “How could you not know what he meant by that?” He didn’t have the freedom to live his own life. Nor did Princess Meghan—or any other senior member of the British royal family. Nor do most celebrities. C’mon, Oprah. Get real. You must have known what he meant.
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My thoughts about this matter are these:
First, I congratulate Harry and Meghan (I’ll stop calling them “Prince” and “Princess” now) for escaping the U.K. royal family “firm.” Their description of it, combined with my own knowledge of it, convinces me that it is something like a cult. It is almost all-controlling of members’ lives. Why should it be? The royal families of the Scandinavian countries and of the Netherlands and Belgium are not like that. (Yes, I’ve done my research.)
Second, I would like to remind my fellow Americans that we rebelled against the British monarchy and declined to have our own. And that we have “adopted” the UK royal family as ours, somehow, for some reason that I do not understand. And that we have created our own surrogate royal families such as the Kennedys in the 1960s and afterwards. It’s all a huge mistake and very bad for members of those families and for us. There is, we believe, no such thing as “royal blood” and nothing really special about people who happen to have been born into royal or rich families. Why do we put them on pedestals and almost worship them? It’s unamerican.
Third, I am puzzled by Harry and Meghan’s appearance on the “Oprah show.” (Yes, I know it was a special and not part of an ongoing “show;” I’m just calling it “the Oprah show” as a kind of jest.) They seem to want privacy and to live their own lives outside of the intrusive spotlight. But appearing on this two hour television special hosted by one of America’s and the world’s biggest celebrities contradicts that desire. It will only make it less likely that they can live any kind of private lives.
Fourth and finally, speaking as a Christian theologian, I find the whole celebrity mania disgusting. Christ did not die for some people more than for others. He did not seek celebrity, nor did any of the apostles or church fathers. Personally, I think Christians ought to go out of our way to shun and avoid the celebrity mania. It’s unnatural and weird and worldly. It is certainly a manifestation of our fallenness, not of our all being equally created in God’s image and likeness.
I’m not protesting celebration of people who have genuinely achieved good things for humankind. Give their achievements attention and celebrate them. But do not put the people on pedestals and venerate them—especially not just because they belong to some family or other or because the media has decided they should be followed and watched and imitated.
So, as often, I will finish with a story that illustrates my consternation about especially Christian celebration of celebrities (our own or others’).
I once belonged to a rather ordinary suburban Baptist church that happened to be fairly close to the state capitol building. For some reason a leading politician who almost became governor of the state (he lost in the primary) joined the church with his wife. They drove a Jaguar. They exuded importance. So far as I could see they contributed nothing to the life of the church. Other than possibly money. I have no idea about that. They only attended on Sunday morning, the worship service, not Sunday School. Many church members were all aflutter and excited that this power couple joined our little, ordinary church. Then, for whatever reason, they left the church. I overheard two deacons talking and one of them said “Whatever are we going to do without them?” In fact, the church went on after they left just as before they joined. But while they were members people treated them differently from a rather poor family who attended the church. I observed this difference very closely. It was noticeable. Almost nobody talked to the poor family, but many people literally lined up to talk to the politician and his wife. A clear violation of the New Testament (Epistle of James). And yet I have observed similar behaviors among Christians most of my life. This is very disappointing. Another example of Christian accommodation to culture.
I wish Harry and Meghan all the best, but my advice to them would be to avoid the limelight unless they are willing to put up with the downside of celebrity—loss of privacy.
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