Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christ... the King?

In my younger years I was an opponent of heirarchy and an advocate of consensus building egalitarianism in the Church (Lutheran, at that time). In late 20th century theological parlance I was much more content to dance in Sarah's circle than to climb Jacob's ladder.

However, in recent years my now nuanced view could be summed up in the bumper sticker "Heirarchy happens." Wherever there are two (or more) sentient beings there is going to be leading and following, first and second, speaker and listener. The opposite of heirarchy is not democracy, it's anarchy, at least in the realm of the divine.

The unique revelation of Christianity is in its definition of that heirarchy. Yes, yes, I understand how few monarchies still exist in the world, but in order to truly understand heirarchy, Christian-ly speaking, we have to go to the origin and model, our King Jesus.

Here are some helpful words from the Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI, on the topic:

"Jesus of Nazareth... is so intrinsically king that the title 'King' has actually become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king....God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was a result of Israel's rebellion against god. The law as to be Israel's king, and through the law, god himself... God yielded to Israel's obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them.

The king is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself. This is the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind. God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways...

The feast of Christ the king is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of one who writes straight on crooked lines."


JT said...

"The opposite of heirarchy is not democracy, it's anarchy"

Great quote... this has been my experience too.

Phil B. said...

Thanks! I am still somewhat allergic to allowing heirarchy extensive power.

However, I've found it very helpful to visualize church leadership as the neck, with Christ as the Head and the rest of us as the body. The leaders are the visible point of unity between head and members but not the by-all-and-end-all of the Church.

They are bracketed by our common Head and the "really useful" parts which do the lion's share of the work, i.e. us laity.