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No King but Christ includes the Queen, Tom Wright
As an Anabaptist, declaring that Jesus is Lord and that we have No King but Christ was basic to my theology, but I did not realize how distant that premise was for many other Christians, notably Queen Elizabeth II’s Christian subjects. I admit I am no Anglican, so I never viewed the queen as a Defender of the Faith, but I was amazed at the divine awe that so many of her subjects placed on her after her death. When she died, so many were brought to tears, and they came in devotion to her funeral. As an American observer, I did not share in mourning the Queen’s death, but I was intrigued by the reverence that so many paid her. The intrigue of the Royal Family is fascinating to observe, but, for me, only in the sense of celebrity gossip. I’m interested, for example, in how the family treated Diana, the Princess of Wales, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, but only in the same way I am intrigued that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are back together.
For her subjects though, I suppose I understand some of the admiration. For Christians who viewed her as a defender of the faith, I share the same empathy. But I’ve been formed by my Christian faith to not only offer allegiance to King Jesus but to ultimately empathize more with who the monarchy has oppressed and colonized than with the monarchy itself. So when I think of the Queen’s death, I may be sad for her as I might any individual. Still, her throne and her office have blood all over them. Her wealth, gold, and jewels are stolen, and even if she wasn’t responsible for the sordid history of her oppressive country, she could have walked away, decried the country’s past, or even led it in a different direction.
Christians mourning her death, even Anglicans who hold her office in high regard, must reckon with the fact that the monarchy is unrepentant of the harm it caused all over the world. In fact, many of its colonial subjects are still suffering poverty, pain, and death. Our focus must be on the victims of the throne, even during a time of death and sorrow for people who admired the Queen. To put it simply: if you mourn the death for Queen Elizabeth II more than the millions of people that have died under the British monarchy, you need to reevaluate your priorities.
Care for the poor and allegiance to Christ seem like Christian fundamentals that even the most loyal to the crown would agree with, but I was surprisingly shocked and saddened when the prolific, accessible, and popular New Testament scholar, Tom Wright (a.k.a N.T Wright), wrote quite a hagiography for the Queen. Sure, Wright, is an Anglican Bishop, so some respect is in order. But he called her an exemplary Christian. Wright made his whole career telling us that the Jesus is Lord was an anti-imperial slogan, and now he was, going out of his way, to praise another monarch, and one with a deadly legacy.
While I find his biblical insights and theology not very profound, and since he compared including queer folks in marriage to Nazi rhetoric, I didn’t think that he would be so willing to contradict himself for his queen. If Jesus is Lord, if we have no King but Christ, then we dare not bow to another Lord. But even if you insist on respecting the crown, we must see the Lordship of Jesus as an affront to its violence, its greed, and its imperialism.
We have to ask what kind of Empire-disrupter Jesus is if a theologian who names him as such has no issue coddling the Queen and naming her as an exemplary Christian. I am not suggesting we dance on her grave (though you can understand why some of her oppressed subjects might), but rather, we need to remember her in light of the evil done in her name around the world and in the name the monarchy over history.
While it is understandable that many revered Queen Elizabeth, in the U.K., in the U.S., and all over the world, it is the height of hypocrisy for Christians, who serve the Prince of Peace, to admire a monarch from such a violent throne. Further, to see many people she’s oppressed pour tears out for her is, again, understandable, but discouraging for those of us who fight for freedom. But, for my part, a theologian who declares that Jesus is Lord is a political statement, one that offends the empire, who also bows to the Queen of the United Kingdom makes me wonder if “no King but Christ,” has an exception when you’re an Anglican bishop. If Queen Elizabeth were to be a model Christian, she would have bowed to Jesus and cast away her crown, and ended the monarchy in submission to our true King.