Divine Right to Power
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I get about 100 channels on cable. I could pay more and get more channels, but the result would be the same. Too often, nothing worth watching.
Bored last Sunday night, I was trying to find something worthwhile by systematically working my way through the channels. Inevitably, particularly as it was a Sunday, I came across a Christian televangelist.
This one was doing his show from his current "crusade" in Nigeria. There he was on a stage, bobbing and weaving, shaking his pompadoured hair, gesticulating alternately to the crowd and to the skies, preaching his message in English in brief phrases, pausing for the translation. Just behind him and to his left was his translator, a much smaller man, but identically dressed, who matched him step for step, phrase for phrase as they moved back-and-forth across the stage Right in front of the stage were several large golden thrones, occupied by what appeared to be local royalty. And behind them, standing, swaying to the cadences of the preacher's speech, was the audience.
I watched for a couple of minutes, getting enough from the sermon to write the next meditation (#124), and resumed my channel surfing. And six channels later, inevitably, particularly as it was a Sunday, I came across another Christian televangelist.
This one was doing his show from his current "crusade" in Indonesia. There he was on a stage, bobbing and weaving, shaking his pompadoured hair, gesticulating alternately to the skies and to the crowd, preaching his message in English in brief phrases, pausing for the translation. Just behind him and to his left was his translator, a much smaller man, but identically dressed, who matched him step for step, gesture for gesture, phrase for phrase, as they moved across back-and-forth the stage Right in front of the stage were several large carved wooden thrones, occupied by what appeared to be local royalty. And behind them, standing, swaying to the cadences of the preachers speech, was the audience.
Different preachers, different locales, and the show was almost identical. Perhaps they are given a checklist in the Crusades 101 course in Missionary School:
- Hire a Mini-Me translator
- Buy matching outfits
- Rent thrones
- Arrange attendance of local royalty
Local royalty? What are they doing there, sitting on their thrones in the front row? Isn't this a religion which preaches "Blessed are the poor..., " "Blessed are the meek...?"
The preacher wants them there because their attendance gives him instant credibility, and their followers gives him an audience.
And the royalty are there, in the front row, as through the preacher, they get the Christian God's approval for their role as rulers.
And so it has been throughout history, the alliance of the rulers and the priests, each supporting the other's role, each substantiating the validity of the other, each feeding off the pittances of the masses..
Early Christianity may have been a religion for the downtrodden, but that effectively ended with the conversion of Constantine in 313 A.D. and Christianity became in effect the state religion. And it remained that way. Get the ruler on side, and his subjects will follow.
Examine the division of Europe between Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox regions. This is a direct result of the decisions of kings, not that of people in general.
This is not solely a Christian situation. Look at the relation of the Emperor of Japan to Shinto; look at the rise of the House of Saud and its relations with the Wahabbi sect; look at the religions of India compared to those of the traditional local rulers. Consistently, rulers have aligned with priests to divide secular and spiritual domination over their subjects.
Of course it's not just royalty who make these alliances. We also see various dictators using religion to sanctify their rule. I remember vacationing in Haiti in the early '70s. In the hotel lobby was a large oil painting; Baby Doc (Jean-Claude Duvalier) front and center, behind him his late father Papa Doc with his hand on his son's shoulder, and behind him, Jesus Christ with his hand on Papa Doc's shoulder. A double blessing from on high as Christ is sacred in Haiti's version of voodoo as well as in Christianity.
It would be nice to think that the alliance of rulers and priests was ancient history, something applicable to the times of kings and dictators. Democracy and freedom of religion should put this all in the past. But all too often, at least in the U.S.A, we see politicians align themselves with particular religious viewpoints in the search for credibility, and denying the rights of those with non-religious views.
It would seem the Divine Right to seek Power trumps the separation of Church and State.