Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
The royal family has been “absent” from the front pages for some time now. When Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement recently, feelings of good will toward the royal family were re-awakened – a note of good news amid the economic gloom.
The Baptist Times sends its congratulations to the prince and his fiancé. But it would be failing in its duty not to address some of the underlying issues that will not go away even as the monarchy comes once again to national attention.
There is a conservative streak in British society of which the monarchy is representative. A royal wedding in 2011 will strengthen this. Yet we might spare a thought for all those who do not feel that all this is representative of their experience of life in this country.
The extreme contrast between “commoner” and royal is not so sharply drawn now as once it was. Yet the country is rife with division – based on class, race, income and opportunity, education – you name it. Will this new manifestation of all things royal contribute to breaking down such divisions?
In a time of economic uncertainty and social upheaval together with an apparent “coarsening” of our culture, a world of, apparently, order and civility on which the impending royal wedding opens a window seems very attractive.
But what if this should blind us to issues of inequality and injustice that mark our society and that continue to stain the world? Non-conformists in their history have not been uncritical supporters of all things royal.
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A hereditary, elitist and patriarchal system that is built on a close relationship between the crown, the elected government and the established church – which isn’t the whole church, by the way – will always be flawed, even if no alternative has ever gained much support.
So, as Advent begins, perhaps our congratulations to Prince William and soon-to-be Princess Kate should be sent along with the thoroughly Christian reminder that one day the kingdoms of earth shall be the Kingdoms of the Lord. Or, as Baptists might have said once upon a time, “we have no King but Jesus.”
Mark Woods is editor of Britain’s Baptist Times, where this column first appeared.