Monday, September 12, 2022

Who elected him?

A man was, briefly, arrested in Oxford yesterday for heckling during the proclamation of the King.  In response to the proclamation, he shouted a question: who elected him?  For this he was briefly detained and driven home.  I don't intend to comment on the rights and wrongs of this situation.  Not least, I am aware that the only account I've read is that of the republican in question, and it's quite likely there is another side to the story.  If you want to read a defence of his protest, from the point of view of freedom of speech absolutism, Steve has an article for you.  I don't entirely agree, but it might be a good place to start from.

I was thinking that I would instead write a little piece about how this protest in many ways captures the spirit of the age.  This is, after all, a deeply democratic age, in the sense that we want to believe that all power and authority starts with us, the demos, and is then passed on to whomever we choose.  That is why you get people saying 'not my king!' - they mean, I think, I didn't choose him, and I can't imagine any other grounds of legitimate authority.  This attitude does, of course, get us into trouble even with the democratic elements of our politics.  Some want to disown political leaders they disagree with (not my PM!) in the same way that others would disown the Monarch.  This is just the individualistic version of the democratic impulse - nobody can have power or authority over me unless I chose them.

There certainly is an extent to which this is the spirit of the age, but as I've thought about it I've been struck that this is really just the spirit of humanity.  The obvious verbal parallels in the story of Moses jump out at me - who made you a ruler and judge over us?  The deacon Stephen makes it very clear that this attitude was a rejection of the one whom God had chosen, and sees it as the archetypal reaction of Israel to God's authority.  Psalm 2 shows us that it's not just Israel, but all of humanity.  We will be in charge of our own destiny.  I will be my own ruler and judge.  Isn't this just the spirit of sinful rebellion?

I am not suggesting that there is a one to one relationship between political republicanism in the UK and spiritual rebellion in the human race!  There are all sorts of reasons (none of them good, in my view, but that's by the by) why one might be a republican.  After all, the answer which the proclamation gives to the protester's question - God, by whom kings and queens reign - is in the case of earthly leaders open to question.  But I do think there is something in the attitude that we ought to be wary of.

In the end, a King has been elected - by Almighty God.  The rule of King Jesus does not depend on our choice, or even our assent.  God laughs at our attempts to be 'spiritual republicans'.  Every knee will bow.

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