Since the queen died, the coverage has been 24/7. It goes beyond a death and a funeral. We seem obsessed with the royals, but I’ll have to say I’ve had a hard time getting on board with all the royal-to-do. I always do. I’ve been told, since I’m “just an American,” that I just don’t get it. I think they’re right.
I do love some of the pomp and ceremony (although anything can be overdone). We need good, formal rituals. We could use a good dose of appreciation for the right way to do things. Some people just don’t know “how to do.” Have you noticed? We need more honor and respect for elders and leaders. (And more elders and leaders worthy of that respect.)
I do love the attention to heritage and history. You know, we’re “doomed to repeat it” if we can’t learn, so, if only by a special funeral, the rare occasion filled with such regalia, if it takes that kind of ceremony to remind us of who and what we are, that has to be a good thing.
I do love the reverence around death — and we could certainly use some of that. I conduct funerals for a local funeral home when a family doesn’t have their own minister. It’s amazing how little respect I sometimes observe, how little decorum I often experience. As a general rule, I don’t care much about how people dress. I’m not a fashionista. I’m glad to celebrate some of the recent casualizing of our culture — but do you really want to wear a T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes to mama’s funeral!? It’s not pretentious to believe some occasions really do deserve a bit more attention to detail.
Charlotte still provides a police escort through town if a procession to the cemetery is needed. People slow to a stop, turn on their lights, so there’s that. But with a culture that is becoming more secular by the day, we may be losing an appreciation for appropriate ceremony that has a proper place in life. Births, weddings, deaths, historical commemorations, rites of passage — some moments in life deserve a little dignity.
“I do love the recognition of a life.”
I do love the recognition of a life. One of the surprising joys of pastoral ministry has become the writing of a eulogy. I don’t enjoy anyone dying. I do love sitting with a family, hearing the stories and crafting a eulogy that can speak honestly, sharing the joys and sorrows that made a life.
The entire nation has spent a week hearing good stories of one good life. Very few people get that kind of attention, but everyone deserves to have a eulogy, a “good word” spoken when they die.
And I’ve got to say that I do love seeing people in church. I love the beauty of sacred music. The solemnity and reverence of a well-crafted service of worship. The mentions of God, the holy, the sacred dimension of life. Where are people going to get that reflection on life’s sacred mystery when all the churches have been converted to art museums or coffee houses?
Our sons had the same fourth grade teacher, who told us she could easily pick out the “church kids” in her class every year. Without a doubt. They knew how to sit still. How to listen. How to relate to their peers. How to address adults. How to stand in front of a class and speak. They learned it in church. Yes, I love seeing people in church.
So, there’s all of that to love.
“Is our fascination with aristocracy a tell of our deepest (maybe unhealthy) longings?”
But why, in the 21st century, do so many seem so enamored, still, with the idea of the monarchy, the royals, the crown? Queens and kings, dukes and duchesses, thrones and lands. Is our fascination with aristocracy a tell of our deepest (maybe unhealthy) longings? Does watching all that satisfy some fantasy? Why would such glamour, that fairy tale in real life, appeal to us?
To be clear, the harsh criticisms I’ve heard since Queen Elizabeth’s death do not resonate with me. Yes, she was a queen, but she also was a mother, grandmother, great-grand, and obviously a figure admired and beloved by many. I’m not a hater. I’m not interested in besmirching her name. I do not want to enter the snarky, angry, always-unhelpful Twitter wars. It’s just difficult for me to settle comfortably with all the allure and attention, knowing all that “monarchy,” in any form, implies.
While “the crown” does not mean what it once did, the imprint of colonialism, the conquest and violence, the oppression and the assimilation of peoples, all that is implied of inherited power and its opposite, that imprint has left deep wounds across the globe. The monarchy does not wield the heavy hand that allowed it to achieve once-global dominance, but it is also true that it has only divested the power that has been wrested away from it. Even as what might be regarded a beautiful ceremonial institution, it stands today only because of that history.
But the real rub for me, which I would hope people of faith can share, is that virtually everything “monarchy” represents is in opposition to Jesus, in nearly every way. The power, the pageantry, the money, the glamor, the hierarchy, the detachment, the excesses. These are not the ways of Jesus.
Christians say we worship the “King of Kings,” the “Lord of Lords” (which means a different kind of realm, altogether), but all the attention, devoted to every aspect of royal life, concerns me that perhaps we’re not through with kings and kingship at all. Maybe the values and ideals of monarchy really are still lord, even for infatuated Christians.
I watched the funeral with the rest of you, for all the notable reasons above, but as a would-be follower of Jesus, don’t I need to be at least a little uncomfortable with it all?
Russ Dean serves as co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. He holds degrees from Furman University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. They are parents of two sons. Russ is active in social justice ministries and interfaith dialogue. He is author of the new book Finding A New Way.
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