Tag Archives: Founding Fathers

“Divine-Right” Deceptions

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

Wendy and I have recently binged our way through Netflix’s original series The Crown. It is a dramatic interpretation of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it

One of the subtle themes in the storytelling is the British royal family’s understanding of their role as a “divine right” monarchy. It was very common for the royal families of Europe to view their respective reigns as being God’s appointed rulers. The Queen is not only viewed as a head of state but also head of the Church of England. Rulers taking on the mantel of divinity has a very long and storied tradition in human history. From Pharaohs of Egypt to Caesars of Rome the rulers of Empires have claimed to be gods or to have some divine “right” to rule.

This of course, stirs up all sorts of conflicting feelings, especially here in the culture of the States which was founded on a rejection of monarchy altogether. The founding fathers created a government that was, as Lincoln would put it four score and seven years later, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Nevertheless, this theme of royals and nobles being better than the commoner, or not, still resonates in our storytelling.

Even Shakespeare used this as a device. Henry V was a divine-right monarch like the rest of the British kings and queens, but Shakespeare wrote the heroic “Hal” as a populist King of the people.” Cloaked and disguised as a common soldier, King Henry sits by the fire with his “common” men at arms an waxes on his own humanity:

I think the king is but a man, as I
am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me: the
element shows to him as it doth to me; all his
senses have but human conditions: his ceremonies
laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; and
though his affections are higher mounted than ours,
yet, when they stoop, they stoop with the like
wing. Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we
do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish
as ours are: yet, in reason, no man should possess
him with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing
it, should dishearten his army.

This all comes to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter. Paul addresses those believers of Corinth who have become arrogant and have displayed an attitude of being better, more godly, more authoritative, and more spiritually noble than others believers. They were acting as some sort of “divine-right” authorities within the church.

Paul’s response is to point out that those who follow Jesus, all of us, have nothing spiritually that has not been graciously given to us by Christ. This is a cornerstone of our belief system. We don’t earn God’s favor. We don’t merit Jesus’ love, or forgiveness, or grace, or mercy, or salvation because of what we’ve done or not done. All we have is a gift of God given to all and for all to receive irrespective of gender, race, creed, socio-economic status, standing in society, education, age, or moral/immoral track record.

This morning I’m mulling over my own track record. Along my journey I know there have been times when I’ve spoken or acted out of spiritual arrogance. Some very specific examples spring to mind in my memories. Lord, forgive me. I’ve deceived myself and acted the part of “divine-right” authority from time to time. I’d like to think that age and experience have taught me humility, but they have also taught me that I easily cycle in and out of these things. “Ceremonies laid by” I’m just as human as everyone else, including Queen Elizabeth II.

Checks and Balances. Nice Try.

Diagram of US Federal Government and American ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 53

But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
    not a single one!
Psalm 53:3 (NLT)

Having just come through an intense political season and subsequent national election, I have been spending a lot of time mulling over issues of government. Bear with me here. This is not a partisan political rant but a meditation on spiritual principle. Beyond political agendas of the two main parties, my thoughts have been reaching deeper to the system of government itself. The American experiment was, in many ways, unique when our founding fathers hammered out and crafted our current system of government. Not to get all high school government class on you this morning, but I’m struck at how the framers of our constitution understood the corruption of humanity. They acknowledged that without checks and balances, the system would quickly fall to corruption. By separating power and spreading it out between branches of government, between houses of congress, and between the states and the federal entities, there was a greater likelihood that one person or one government entity could not have too much power and grab control of the entire system (which history reveals is always the eventuality).

What the founders of the United States acknowledged was what God’s Message calls the sinful nature and what theologians refer to as the depravity of humanity. Every person who has watched over or parented small children has witnessed and experienced this. Given to him or herself, a little tike will hit their rival, rip the toy they want out of another person’s hands and then lie about doing it. They will hide their vegetables under the table or feed them to the dog. As we get older we hopefully learn that these behaviors are wrong. However, my personal experience and my dealings with other human beings leads me to believe that as adults we just get better at hiding our true nature, excusing our failings, shifting blame and getting away with it.

Prevailing thought in our culture is that we are all basically good and are given to doing the right thing. Therefore, given a little effort, we can reach a level of moral excellence acceptable to God. At the very least, we should be able to tip the scales slightly to the side of “good” and earn a pass on Judgement Day. My journey through God’s Message reveals a very different picture. I find God telling us that despite Herculean efforts to overcome our corrupt nature and moral shortcomings, we will instead find ourselves to be Sisyphus who just gets the stone to the top of the hill only to find that it rolls right back down again. We can never achieve a level of moral perfection necessary to be found innocent.

Which is why I find that even our system of government with all of its checks and balances still slides slowly into the muck of corrupt dealings, power grabs, deceptive advertising, pork barrel spending, blame shifting, and inside trading.

God help us. Despite our best efforts we still fall short.

We need a Savior.