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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Tabloid treatment of Princess Kate reveals more about us

You don’t have to be a royalist to have been caught up in the conspiracies surrounding the Crown across the last few weeks. 

First came the unusual absences from public occasions or withdrawals from speaking engagements. Then followed a tsunami of articles offering rumours and theories, culminating in arguably the biggest non-story of the year so far: the minor, if slightly clumsy, editing of a family photo.

Perhaps to put such speculation to bed, or simply in the interests of transparency, the Princess of Wales released a video message announcing a shock cancer diagnosis, which was closely followed by a second wave of responses, this time condemning the previous gossipers and wishing her well.

Whether by their presence or their absence, the Royal Family remain a conspicuous presence in British life. But why do we care so much about them?

The relationship between the monarchy and public appears to be finely balanced. On the one hand, they’re meant to be accessible, relatable, and visible at all times – maybe that’s why Kate, or the King, felt the need to announce their illnesses. On the other, they’re meant to be almost mythic, otherworldly, and separate from us – maybe that’s why so many were shocked they’d be vulnerable to such a diagnosis in the first place. Both actual and symbolic, immanent and transcendent.

In fact, that last phrase might get to the heart of it – and might explain why monarchs were historically regarded as God’s chosen representatives. In each of us, there’s an innate desire to hold those both together, because we were made by a God who rendered himself immanent enough to empathise with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), and yet is transcendent enough to create everything that exists (Acts 17:24–25).

But only in the person of Jesus can those two things be perfectly held together.

That won’t prevent the torrent of conjecture the next time something happens to a royal, but perhaps it can temper our response when they inevitably fall short of our impossible expectations.

And, as those whose lives are meant to be Spirit-empowered, if pale, imitations of Christ’s, it can lay out a template for us. God is both scandalously immanent to and sovereignly transcendent above his world. We are both embedded in workplaces, neighbourhoods, and friendships, whilst being citizens of a different place (Philippians 3:20) – set apart for the sake of the world. How will you live both with empathetic closeness, and radical holiness, this week?

 

 

Matt Jolley 

Research and Implementation Manager, LICC 

Comments

  1. This paradox of immanence and transcendence has been increasingly important to me as I remember its expression in Psalm 23:4 (you are with me) and Isaiah 55:9 (As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts).

    By Gary Nielsen  -  5 Apr 2024

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