LABC Update – May 2, 2023
May 1, 2023
This Saturday, May 6th, much of the world’s attention will be on London where Charles III will be coronated as the king of England and his wife, Camilla, will be crowned queen of England. Charles is the 41st British monarch since William the Conqueror took control of the land back in 1066.
Although the power to rule in England resides in Parliament, the king is far from a primarily ceremonial figure. The British monarch has a great many powers and responsibilities. A recent Reader’s Digest article lists 27 of them: Serve as king of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales as well as the 14 nations that make up the “Commonwealth realm,” Choose to rule or abdicate, Serve as head of the Commonwealth of Nations, Pick the prime minister, Appoint members to the House of Lords, Appoints Supreme Court justices. Initiate the process of “forming a government,” Open Parliament each year, Kick off parliamentary business, Legitimize laws, Summon the prime minister, End the parliamentary session, Open Welsh lawmaking sessions, ratify Welsh legislation, Open Scotland’s parliamentary session, Ratify the laws of Northern Ireland, Appoint the members of the Privy Council, Approve Privy Council orders and proclamations, Break the law without prosecution, Pardon criminals, Drive without a license, Exceed the speed limit, Travel without a passport, Command the armed forces, Grant knighthoods, Appoint archbishops and bishops to the Church of England (Defender of the Faith), Own all the dolphins in the United Kingdom.
This is an impressive list. It represents much power, simply by right of birth, being bestowed on one person; power given without a vote of parliament or people; authority granted without regard to aptitude, attitude or ability.
While Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, was, at the time of her death, widely respected, the current king has not yet won such a secure place in the hearts of those over whom he rules. His coronation is accompanied by questions of why the United Kingdom needs a monarch and how it benefits from having a royal family.
While kings are commonplace in the Bible, there are voices in the biblical text that are uncomfortable with the notion of royal rule. This is what the priest Samuel says on behalf of the LORD when the people ask for a king. “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots, 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and the best of your cattle[b] and donkeys and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And on that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you on that day.” (I Samuel 9, NRSVUE)
The Bible is much happier to say that God alone is king. Indeed, some would say that the form of government the Bible advocates is a theocracy. Others note that the problem with a theocracy is that, without God (theos) physically present, there are many who are far too ready to step in and act like God on God’s behalf.
Our Baptist forbearers were cautious about the idea of monarchs and they were resolute in their belief that they should not be given religious or spiritual authority. The idea the king was “defender of the faith” with the authority to appoint archbishops and bishops was morally repugnant to them. It is one of the reasons they became Baptist in the first place.
The bottom line is that our religious tradition is very much against giving too much power to any single person or institution and has long resisted giving political authority to religious leaders as well as giving religious authority to political leaders.
King Charles III would like to be known as the “defender of all faiths.” I appreciate his concern. However, history shows that the faiths of the world generally need to be defended from falling into the hands of political leaders more than they need to be defended by them.
Tonight on LABC Zoom – Pastor Jim leads Bible Study 6:00
Dial-in: 1 669 900 9128
Meeting ID: 859 909 5914
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