I’m posting this late, it was from 19th November
I’m going to go out on a limb here, suspecting some of you might be on it with me and say that we should NOT still be deadnaming Christ as a “king”. Human history is littered with examples of powerful men and their military machines using such language to legitimate their oppressions of others.
The lectionary uses interesting framing to pretty much rewrite biblical history but let’s chat about how it actually went down.
The Israelites said “God we want a king, give us a king”.
God said, “Nah you don’t want that, kings are a bit rubbish”
But the Israelites (and it’s a criticism of the way we do human societies in general) kept pestering and pestering like the toddler that wants a McDonalds meal until God (like a tired mother) gave in and said,
“I don’t recommend this but mess around and find out” and from then on tried to help with damage control. The damage control didn’t stop the kings from being oppressive. Even David, the supposedly good one had Bathsheba-gate and all his wars and all the women he collected as trophies.
That’s not a good start. But we need to remember it was humans that INSISTED on this nonsense it was never a form of government recommended or valorised by God, God merely tried to stop it getting out of hand. God has a questionable commitment to free will which seems to be why it’s been allowed to go on for so long even though it is a mess.
I can’t think of a single king ever that was not oppressive, though some did charity work to redeem their public image (which is what Jeff Bezos is also now doing I notice). They take so much of it away as their privilege and then they give a small fraction back where they choose with much trumpet blasting and proclaiming their generosity. Such are kings.
The second reading appears to valorise “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;” as being created through Christ and for Christ. Mark Medley has produced a wonderful counter-reading of that which biblically makes sense. He sees in this section a “lyrical capacity to transform political and socio-cultural realities, as well as to empower and mobilize protest and resistance against imperial hegemony and coercive structures of domination” (Medley 2019). Rather than adding legitimacy to oppressive powers, Christ is the one who comes to call them into question and undo relations of exploitation and abuse. Today’s liturgical booklet seems to take a similar subversive stance, asserting “mystery” and that “Christ is among us” unlike kings who are a kept from nasty mob like us behind guards and locked doors.
Ask your heritage- if you have any blood of people who have been illegitimately annexed by kings. There are Irish people here, I myself am Latvian. Christ’s supposed kingship has been used against our people and against Kaurna people and Ngarrindjeri people and First Nations over the globe. First Nations did not have “kings” that was a cultural imposition from white empire-builders. The reign of white-supremacist, capitalist, heteropatriarchy needs to end, and it is a misuse of Christ, an idolatry, a blasphemy to reconstitute Christ as a poster-boy for wrong relations.
Jesus in the gospel is suffering and being mocked. This is not a triumph of Christianity it is not desirable for Jesus the man, the grown-up baby of our sister Mary to have been tortured to death just because he thought and said and proclaimed liberative possibilities and healed people. Why do we celebrate this and not Christ the healer? Christ the vine? Christ the wine-maker?
It’s his enemies that positioned Christ as a dangerous radical and a king as they could not conceive of a power that was collective or kind or healing- therefore he must like them be a military leader. When Pilate asked Jesus “Are you king?” Jesus was VERY clear that the word “king” was Pilate’s terminology not his own. When he defined himself he was a foot washer, a friend, an opinionated preacher- the Word, a shepherd, a fisherman, a mother hen, and after all his father was a carpenter. Of all the beautiful words of Christ, and all the beautiful deeds of him, why have we allowed our leaders to push on us a name Christ did not choose a name that benefited Constantine’s expansionism, not the sharing ideology of the early church. Poynting and Donaldson (cited in Rozitis 2021) have pointed out that the suffering male body is often portrayed as a necessary sacrifice for manhood, to establish male supremacy and homophobic ways of being. This can be seen in some valorisations of the cult of sport, in the celebration of the “sacrifice” of young men in wars and in the way abuse by boys of other boys is routinely normalised and ignored.
I’m a mother. I don’t want to torture and sacrifice boys and neither did Mary want that for her son. It’s not a cause of celebration, the heroism of dying on a cross or in trenches or by suicide if you are gay. NONE OF THAT IS GOD’S AUTHORSHIP!!!!! It was human greed for hunger and control that killed Jesus though it was the tenacious love of an earth that wants vines that brought him back. Christ came back to console and feed, like a sapling after a bushfire, like a river when the drought breaks, but not on the backs of slaves and prisoners-of-war like a king.
Jesus accepted the desperate plea of the dying man for recognition, dignity and friendship but he did NOT emphasise the metaphor of “kingship”. Let’s work on moving beyond kyriearchy to genuinely liberative possibilities of the kindom (no g), the Kindom of Godde.
In our silence and sharing time, I challenge you to think of a metaphor for Christ- from the bible, from the life of Jesus, from our sacramental life together that rings true and brings healing.
Medley, M. S. (2019). “Subversive song: Imagining Colossians 1: 15–20 as a social protest hymn in the context of Roman empire.” Review & Expositor 116(4): 421-435.
Rozitis, S. (2021). “Understanding and celebrating advantaged boys: education that excludes.” Journal of Educational Administration and History: 1-11.