Allegiances

by

The Rt Rev Matthew Gunter

Bishop of Fond Du Lac, The Rt Rev Matthew Gunter recently posted a reflection on the Feast of Christ the King; “Centered on Jesus V: If Christ is King . . .”

 

He begins by reminding us that this relatively recent addition to the Church’s calendar (1925) arose from a desire to counter the early twentieth century’s violent embrace of secular ideologies such as nationalism, fascism, and communism. “Pope Pius,” Gunter writes, “rightly recognized this as antithetical to Christianity. For Christians, our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and Jesus Christ is the only king or ruler to whom allegiance is owed. Anglicans and others adopted the feast as a regular reminder of that allegiance.”

 

Jesus’ arrest, torture, and execution are rooted in the governing authorities fear of the impact of Jesus and his teaching on the bases of the political power, despite Jesus’ own claim that his kingdom was “not of this world.”

 

Gunter reminds us that differentiating Jesus’ kingdom from the world’s exercise of power continues to be a problem for us;

“The earliest Christian affirmation was, “Jesus is Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3, Romans 10:9-13, Philippians 2:11). It was a politically charged assertion.  Jesus was Lord/King. No other god or gods. Not Rome. Not the Emperor. That got early Christians in trouble with the political authorities of their day as it had Jesus.

Claiming that Jesus Christ is Lord or King remains a radical claim. And it continues to raise questions about where our true loyalties lie. While Communist and Fascist regimes overtly demanded that their citizens give their highest allegiance to the nation, all nations in the modern era (since about 1650) have more or less encouraged such allegiance. Other allegiances – like allegiance to Jesus Christ and the Church – have been minimized, side-lined, or co-opted. And many Christians have a difficult time distinguishing one allegiance from the other.”

 

He then tells a story of how this confusion is sometimes manifested n our modern American context;

“I once saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that I found disturbing and very telling. It was a white t-shirt that had JESUSAVES written across the front. I believe he does. But that was not the only message on the shirt. All the letters were blue except for those in the middle – USA – which were red. So, it looked like this: JESUSAVES. It was a telling icon of the confused syncretism of many Christians in America. Who saves? Jesus? The USA? Or, are the two so emotionally entwined in our imaginations that we can’t tell the difference? It is an illustration of Stanley Hauerwas’ assertion that for many Americans, the nation is their true church. For many Americans, America is the social body to which their ultimate allegiance is pledged regardless of what religious affiliation they formally claim.”

 

Gunter reminds us that ever since Constantine’s conversion, we have had struggles to separate patriotism and faith; loyalty to nation over loyalty to God;

“Christians need to beware of the temptation to confuse loyalty to King Jesus with loyalty to other entities – including Uncle Sam – who would claim the kind of emotional attachment that belongs to him alone. Our allegiance is to Christ the King. We pledge that allegiance to that king every time we recite the Creed. All other allegiances are secondary and should be held lightly. He alone is our hope and security.”

 

And so, the Feast of Christ the King points us to where our true allegiance should lie;

“The Feast of Christ the King is a helpful reminder to Christians that their allegiances lie not with any government, nation, party, ideology; or flag; but with Jesus Christ and his Church. And it reminds us that no area of human life, private or political, lies outside the concerns of the King and the responsibility of his followers.”

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