It would seem that Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge has tweeted that he’d rather not have Jesus as King, but prefers to think of Jesus as a “consultant”. LifeSite reports on the tempest in a teacup tweet here. It reminds me of an Anglican canon I heard tell the crowd, “We don’t like the phrase ‘Kingdom of God’. It would be better to refer to the ‘Commonwealth of God.'” Uh huh.
I say “tempest in a teacup” because it’s not that big a deal, and because well, the turn of phrase is English, and so many Catholic bishops and Archbishops are now coming out with words and actions that have that peculiarly trendy and goofy twang that we are used to hearing from Anglican bishops. In fact it is becoming so prevalent that it is a new kind of ecumenism.
“At least we can all be united in our banality and vague attempts to be cool and up to date…”
It would seem a mystery to modern people, however, that we should exalt “Christ the King” when we live in such an egalitarian age. Yes, everyone loves HMQ and doesn’t Meghan Markle sparkle? I like watching The Crown like so many others, but we all realize the English royal family are now a blend of class and crass…like most of England–snobbery with nothing to be snobbish about.
So why the title of “Christ the King”? Don’t we live in an age of the common man? Isn’t the Archbishop right that if Jesus were here today he might be a psychologist from Canada, a self help guru from LA, a best selling business consultant or a slim and smiling prosperity preacher?
This is precisely why I love the feast of Christ the King–because it is counter cultural and the gospel is only good news when it is subversive.
Pius XI established the feast in 1925 to counter the rising trends of secularism and nationalism. Remember your history. What was happening in 1925? The first world war had ended with Europe in chaos. Out of the ashes Mussolini was rising. In January of that year he gave a speech in the Italian House of Deputies which marks his ascent. In July Hitler publishes the first edition of Mein Kampf and in November Hitler establishes the SS. In Mexico the church was being persecuted by the Calles government. In November 1927 Fr Miguel Pro was executed.
What is secularism? It is the establishment of a god and religion-free society. In other words, Atheism by a different name. It could be explicit atheism as in the communist secular regimes, or it could be implicit atheism as in modern secular states where separation of church and state are enshrined.
Nationalism comes close on the heels of secularism. Think about it: if you don’t have God as your almighty power what will you have? It must be the state. G.K.Chesterton–about this same time–wrote something like “If you will not have God, then the state will become your God.”
There are two world views and plans of action: “Make the world a better place or prepare to go to a better place.” If secularism is true, and God has no place in society, then the government must prevail. An almighty government may tolerate religion for a time, but not for long because eventually Almighty God and Almighty government will come into conflict. It cannot be otherwise.
The feast of Christ the King therefore, is set up to intentionally confront the evils of secularism and nationalism. I say it is a mystery not only because it is a head scratcher in the modern world, but also because it is a sacramental mystery. Christ’s kingship is a transcendental reality. This is why PopePaul VI amplified the title with “Christ King of the Universe.” He is not only king of our hearts, but every authority on heaven and earth has been given to him and before him every knee shall bow.
This is why a state may not have an established religion, but it there should still be references to God in national life. Having “in God we trust” and “one nation under God” and oaths of office being taken with a hand on the Bible–or bishops sitting in the House of Lords–all these symbolic actions indicate that a state–any state–should not be completely atheistic.
Should we worry? Maybe a little because the United States is increasingly secular. What started as a separation of church and state is moving inexorably towards an atheistic state. As Christianity fizzles out or becomes no more than moralistic, therapeutic Deism, a secular atheistic status quo will gradually be established, and as that grows we should not be surprised to find that nationalism also grows. Good Catholics should therefore be dubious when Donald Trump trumpets his belief in nationalism, and while we support his pro-life appointments and prefer him to the alternative, we should also be a little bit leery of those red MAGA ball caps.
By the way, if I criticize Trump’s nationalism you needn’t get into a hissy fit and think I like Obama and Hillary and that I think you should vote Democrat and that I like gay marriage and abortion.
Don’t worry. It’s possible to criticize both sides, and it doesn’t do any harm to observe that the two horns of Antichrist called secularism and nationalism are rooted pretty cozily in America’s heartland today.
It’s something to keep an eye on.
As for me and my house, we will serve Christ the King.
Viva Christo Rey!
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Sadly, how many “American Catholics” quietly looked the other way during the 1920’s while this persecution took place on our door step.