You have to have a fair degree of sympathy for Australian republicans at the moment. The narrative isn’t really going with them. Support for the royals in Australia doesn’t appear to be waning, even though it consistently lags a little behind those who want to see change. The breach in the walls of support that would be required for us to once more ask this question formally doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon. The greyhounds of a referendum remain in the slips, straining upon the start but not yet released.
The current visit by Harry and Meghan hasn’t done the monarchist cause much harm. The media are full of stories of crowds queuing for hours to get a glimpse or, if they’re really lucky, a stroke of a beard. It follows on from massive viewing figures for their wedding last year and large numbers tuning in only last week to see Princess Eugenie get hitched.
Personally, I’m not unhappy with this state of affairs in the affairs of state. I grew up a monarchist and find myself instinctively standing for those familiar strains of “God Save the Queen” every Christmas as Her Majesty gives her annual address. It must be genetic because I can remember my dad doing just the same back in Yorkshire when I was much younger. My children roll their eyes at me now just as I did at him back then.
In the light of this I have a little theory that I want to test. I think Christians are more inclined to accept the idea of the Queen and her successors as head of state because we are entirely happy with the idea of a monarchy. It’s in our constitution.
Christianity is, itself, a monarchy. The word “monarchy” comes from the greek monarchia; μόνος (mónos, “alone”) + ἀρχός (arkhós, “ruler, leader”). The Bible is clear, God is a monarch; he is the sole ruler (so Deut. 6:4, Eph. 4:6 etc.). So we’re not averse to the principle. In fact, the reality is that under our constitutional monarchy the Queen has little or no effective power. If we stand against her authority on principle then I think a bit of modest stillness and humility will help us realise that we might be in danger of opposing God’s authority on the same principle.
More than that, we’re not really opposed (when we think about it) to having a despot (in the true sense of the term; an absolute ruler). The word is used of both God as Father (Lk. 2:29; Acts 4:24; Rev. 6:10) and Jesus (2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4). If you like, we worship a despotic monarch (in the best definition of the words). In fact, this is part of the basic understanding of who God is. He is the one we rely upon who himself relies upon and answers to nobody (Acts 17:25; Rom. 11:35 etc.).
And then, of course, there is the instruction to submit ourselves to whatever rulers we find ourselves living under (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1; 1Pet. 2:13 etc.).
None of this, of course, is an argument for the excesses something like the Divine Right of Kings. I’m just suggesting that we can be a little bit more relaxed about the whole thing. I’m not sure that any of this means we have to be wholehearted monarchists (although this author will cheekily endorse such a position) but I think it does mean, on reflection, Christians aren’t as likely to be opposed to the idea. It’s not the only way to govern a nation but it’s not a terrible one and some of its undergirding philosophical buttresses follow the same spirit as those we will happily use when we speak of God himself
Or to put it another way, if you cry “God!”, then I think there’s really no reason you can’t also cry “Harry!”. I’ll leave St George for another day.
image: People Magazine