Vail Daily columnist Jack R. Van Ens: Royalty imbued in each of us
Vail, CO, Colorado
Camelot. Shangri-la. Garden of Eden. Disneyland. What do they have in common?
They represent slices of paradise, bits of perfection. Some add the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine (Kate) Middleton to this list.
Why? Within us lurk longings to participate in a regal ceremony, to enter a blue-blooded fairyland full of royal pomp. Identifying with commoner Kate, some imagine being whisked to a never-never land where subjects bow to kings and curtsy to queens.
Dale Carnegie had it right when he observed that everyone we meet wears a sign which declares, “I want to feel important … please help me.” This longing propels cheering crowds to line the royal carriage route to the marriage altar. Some slip from reality to fantasy, imagining their names on the royal couple’s wedding guest list.
However, a charmed life crowned with luxury isn’t what it appears to be. After a few months, Kate Middleton might wish she could rewind the movie of her life and return to a commoner’s obscurity. Fame robs its recipients of anonymity. Couples who live in glass houses lack privacy.
Inconsequential social etiquette binds the royal couple. Protocols dictate to whom Kate must curtsy. When Kate accompanies royal spouse William, she gets promoted to his elevated rank. Before marriage, Kate had to curtsy to Camilla if she approached on the arm of her husband, Prince Charles. But the etiquette deck is shuffled when Camilla comes without her husband and Kate approaches with William alongside. Then royal etiquette dictates Camilla must curtsy first.
Do such ironclad rules of social decorum create a fantasy land worth visiting? Doesn’t this badge of royalty hang like an albatross that stultifies life, leaving it starchy, artificial and downright confining?
Our founding fathers rejected a royal monarchy because they wanted U.S. citizens to have more direct access to their elected leaders. Although the colonies evicted the British crown’s control in the 1770s, the founding fathers didn’t eradicate traces of King George III’s monarchy from their minds.
Our nation’s founders frowned upon establishing a democracy in which citizens had immediate access to elected officials. In fact, our founders linked “democracy,” derived from the Greek demos krateo-rule of the people, to what they termed “mobocracy.”
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson abhorred a democracy in which riff-raff ruled, unenlightened masses ran government and rabble-rousers advanced ignorance.
“Democracy” didn’t acquire today’s positive connotations until the 1830s, reported Alexis de Tocqueville, the French observer of America’s political and religious trends.
John Adams feared a democracy led by common folk. They’d unleash unruly experiments in statecraft, warned Adams, leading to “a great Danger that these Governments will not make us happy.”
To counteract such a ruckus, Adams and Jefferson promoted a “natural aristocracy.” They desired cultured leaders, people who earned their royal status through intellectual achievement. Blueblood families who owned huge tracts of property made up European aristocracy. They supported entrenched monarchies.
As a young legislator, Jefferson modified Virginia’s laws regarding property ownership so that royalty couldn’t rule. He rejected ancient Norman law which kept most of the property rights among royalty.
Norman code decreed that blue-blooded families held land in perpetuity. When a landowner died, his property passed in its entirety to his oldest son. Jefferson dismantled this archaic system which barred commoners from purchasing property.
In a similar way, Christ upset the religious establishment who erected barriers, denying common folk access to God. He taught the masses they didn’t need religious middlemen called priests to bridge access to their Lord. Jesus upset religious royalty who hid behind temple customs that gave them passes to God’s house but barred common folk from entering.
Jesus promised people access to God. “We are a royal priesthood,” scripture announces (I Peter 1:9). Being members of a “royal priesthood” means religious commoners aren’t required to curtsy before prelates. We aren’t forced to bow before religious protocols that act like buffers blocking access to God. We are royalty in the sense of being unique, significant individuals who God loves and supports.
We don’t need a cathedral in which to marry, a regal coach in which to ride or a creme-de-la-creme guest list before we can assume our royal status. All it takes is an inquiring mind, a humble heart and a curious spirit.
We are of kingly value, even when we feel all too common because fame and fortune bypass us. God regards us as His royalty.
The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores.