The Monarchy - a symbol of unity
The world is a very divided place. There are countless examples around the world and throughout history of divisions between people and nations. These divisions often cause violence, pain, and suffering.
So, when there is something in this world of division that unites people instead of divides them, that is a good thing. Of course, as Christians, we know that ultimate unity is found in the common salvation that believers find only in Christ. But there are still lesser things in the world that unite people which are still good.
One of those good things, I think, is the British Monarchy. The British Monarchy is a symbol that unites people from around the world. Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state of 16 different countries around the world. She is also the head of the Commonwealth, an organization of 54 countries. The same Queen that graces the loonie in Canada, can be found on the pound coin in England and the fiver in Australia. The same woman who is head of state in New Zealand is also the Queen of Jamaica. In this world where divisions and mistrust are everywhere a symbol of unity is an important and valuable thing.
I’ve experienced this myself. While we were preparing to go to Haiti as missionaries I worked as a care attendant in people’s homes in the UK. I remember one older man who would complain about foreigners coming into the UK to take jobs away from British people (political correctness was the last thing on his mind!). As he would complain about this to me, I remember thinking, ‘Doesn’t this guy realize that I’m a foreigner working the UK?’. But he didn’t think of me as a foreigner because he didn’t think of Canadians as foreigners. The connection between Canada and the United Kingdom is so deep that, in this man’s mind, a person born on the other side of the ocean, in a different country, is not actually a foreigner.
The Monarchy is the symbol of this connection. The Monarch embodies our shared history, language, and culture. This is how in recent days people around the world, not just in Canada and the UK, can be united in our sadness at the passing of Prince Philip. We all look at him as our Prince and we all look to his wife as our Queen and we are united in our mourning at his death and at the pain that our Queen must be feeling at this time. Even in death the Monarchy unites us. I think that unity is a beautiful thing which should be preserved.
However, I want to be clear. I am not saying that the whole history of the British crown is one of spreading unity and love throughout the world. The British Empire, with the Monarch at its head, has perpetrated evil acts against the First Nations of Canada, engaged in the atrocious and de-humanizing trans-Atlantic slave trade, and no doubt an historian could name more awful acts. As a result, many people see the monarchy as a symbol of historic oppression instead of a symbol of unity.
While I can understand that point of view (at least intellectually) and in no way do I want to minimize the awfulness of those acts, I also believe that forgiveness is possible. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21, ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ God sent Jesus, who lived a perfect life, to die for my sin so that God can forgive me and treat me as if I had not sinned. If God has done that for me, how can I not do that for others?
Not that this is easy, or that the evils of the past are any less evil. My rebellion against God is pure evil because God is pure good, why would anyone rebel against pure goodness unless they were evil? ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…’ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Even though I have rebelled against God, He still forgave me. He still sent His Son to die for me. Not because I am good and deserved it, but because He loved me. Therefore, this same undeserved forgiveness is something that I should give to others as well, including historic institutions.
If we can forgive the evils of the past then we can move forward and focus on what the Monarchy is today. I believe that today, in the 21st century, the Monarchy is a force for unification. The Queen is not the head of a worldwide British Empire, she is the head of the Commonwealth which is a voluntary organization of independent countries working together for peace, prosperity, and democracy. She is not the figurehead of a government oppressing people in countries far from its shores. She is the head of state of 16 countries, each with their own parliaments, laws, and independent sovereignty.
Whatever the Monarchy was in the past, it is today a unifying force in the world. In a world so filled with division and hatred I think the Monarchy stands as a beacon of unity which should be tended with care so that it does not go out.
God save the Queen.