Christ our kin

I was asked to give a reflection on the feast of “Christ the King” but I conscienciously object to monarchs. The more history I learn the stronger my conviction that kings are always oppressive (yes always) and that they are grounded in always/already oppressive ways of relating. So what could I say? Apologies that it has taken me until the eve of the 3rd Sunday of Advent to even post this.

I’m Latvian, part of a tiny country that was taken over by powers from other countries. I associate kings with colonising, enslaving, exploiting. I also play chess where the king needs protecting but is a useless bit of dead wood and the queen has to do literally everything and protect the pawns so they become queens. Perhaps you could say I am biased, but it is not possible for me to sincerely see the metaphor of “king” or “kingship” in a positive way.

In the past I have attempted the convoluted spiritual gymnastics where I take language that is alienating, and relations that are in real life oppressive and try to twist them. #NotAllKings or something like that. But I am a simple history teacher, I am tired and not feeling very philosophically or theologically agile. I want a faith that heals and feeds me in a heartbreaking and frightening world. I don’t want to have to twist the word of Godde to make it pronounceable. I don’t want to have to take the stale bread that is Word yet again and soak it to try to bring back some goodness.

Patriarchy, the rule of men over women has been analysed as being kyriearchal[1]. Even most men are oppressed within such a rigid hierarchical structure. Having brought up sons I have witnessed their heartbreak and confusion when their heart wants to connect with the world, but there are so many messages out there for young men trying to forbid it. Forbidding connection leads to having powerful men in our world who think thrusting an expensive rocket into space is a higher priority than saving our fragile blue bead on the necklace of the deep, our planet. Forbidding relationality and vulnerability leads to the rape culture in parliament house and the denial and avoidance of deep shame that comes with it. Layers upon layers of lies. We become less human. Instead of a loving parent, sibling or song we have a king. We build an institution. We construct rules and walls to keep the wrong people out. We use shame and punishment and pomp and ceremony to hide from the emptiness we fear may be at the heart of it all.

We can refuse that.

Vicki and Jane have sensibly provided us with a theme for today “God of tender care, you have loved us into birth.” That image to me sounds more like midwife than king and I am tempted to drop the “g” as we sometimes do and celebrate Christ the kin. Kin not just to you and me, the privileged ones but kin to the refugee and the dispossessed. Kin to the creeks[2] and mountains that make up Country. Kin to the butterflies who pollinate the plants so we will still have bread tomorrow. Donna Harraway says that in the face of the way humans have irreparably changed the natural world there is no place for hope OR despair but only for making kin and learning to live wisely without hiding in an innocence that does not convince[3].

Harraway says “make kin”, and talks about string games where many hands have to pass the pattern to each other -watching and trusting, receiving and then relinquishing the shape of the whole. Can I “make kin” anywhere within todays readings?

The second reading is a beautiful contrast to the first, as a string game, like cat’s cradle it has all the power of juxtaposition and movement. Daniel has taken his substances his vision inducing herbs and is trying to articulate the greatness and exceptionalism of a God who is greater than humans, but lacks the imagination to take this outside of patriarchal fantasies of power over. The hymn discreetly subverts invoking an “Everyday God” a God who makes kin of us, a God who works collaboratively even within their own trinitarian self.

I love that I just used the pronoun “they” for God by the way.

In the gospel we have Pilate, who is only concerned with human, phallocentric politics trying to trip up Jesus who is more of a rebel than even Pilate understands. Jesus comes across as frustrated, “you are reducing me to king, that’s your language, that’s your narrow worldview, it’s not quite what I am claiming” but I’d venture to suggest none of us fully understand any identity claim by Christ. It has to be bigger than this delusional talk of “kings” and “governing” and the trickling down of the practically empty rivers and the hell our govenrments seem intent on building upon the fracked and desolate earth.

Jesus’ body too is fracked and made desolate by the empires of the greed and vanity of men (and let’s be honest given the chance women too can be greedy and vain). Jesus is the land that is burning in the too hot, too dry summer. Jesus is the young shoot hit by a hailstone as large as a golfball. I don’t believe that God will magically make climate change go away, any more than God sent legions of angels to take away the agony of the cross from Jesus.

But stubborn Jesus testifies to the truth and so can we. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to the truth and so might we. We might call Christ the “king” or “midwife” or “blade of wheat” or “water of life” but the words are our words, we are expressing our own world-view and identity in what we try to limit Jesus to. The Word of God will not play that game with us any more than Jesus did with pilate.

King is a human term, our salvation is not in kings but in the whole truth albeit we can’t grasp the totality of it.


[1] Fiorenza, E. S. (1992). But she said: Feminist practices of biblical interpretation. Beacon Press.

[2] Povinelli, E. A. (2016). Geontologies. Duke University Press.

[3] Haraway, D. J. (2016). staying with the trouble: making kin in the Chthulucene.

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