In the rather disturbing clip which I posted a few weeks ago, where George Weigel mocks the Kingship of Christ, he makes a curious argument against this doctrine. A caller had just asserted that the application of the doctrine of the Kingship of Christ to the United States would require a constitutional amendment proclaiming Christ as King of the United States. George Weigel says this would not be possible because if Christ could be proclaimed King then so could ‘Charles III or George VII’. This seems to imply either that a monarchy is inherently illicit or that the Republican character of the American polity trumps Divine Law. Obviously both these claims are contrary to the teaching of the Church. In the first case the Church teaches that any number of governmental forms (including hereditary monarchy, democratic republics and Bonapartist elected monarchies) can be legitimate so long as the rulers respect the Divine and Natural Law. On the second point Divine and Natural Law always trumps human positive law (public or private) because it is from Divine and Natural Law (and not the will of the people) that states derive their authority to legislate in the first place.

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But there is another oddity about Weigel’s point, it is clearly false even on its own terms. In 1 Samuel 8 when the people demand a King ‘like other nations’ God tells Samuel “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” So God holds that their desire to appoint an earthly King is precisely a rejection of the Kingship of God. In a way it is a form of idolatry and the Kings of Israel thereafter are forever leading the people off into idolatry. Initially the Lord punishes the people with Saul but then He relents and gives them a King after His own heart in David, even promising David an everlasting dynasty. But the son and successor of David falls into idolatry as do many of his descendants and successors after him.

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If we look at the Roman Republic (the state, after all, from which the term itself is derived). The Romans were notoriously religious and their religion was proudly civic and official. The recognition of Jupiter as King of the gods was at the very centre of Roman civic life and ceremony, with his emblem of the Eagle surmounting the sacred standards of every legion. This cult of the king of the gods was in no way seen as un-Republican quite the contrary. Nor, for all its idolatrous polytheism, was the Republic open to religious pluralism. The introduction of foreign cults was seen as highly suspicious un-Republican and savouring of royal tyranny. The decline in Roman religiosity, the growth of foreign cults and the claiming of divine honours by men for themselves and their fathers were strongly associated with the rise of the surreptitious kingship of the Julio-Claudians.

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The King, St Thomas teaches us, is the one who brings the community to its end. But “it is not the ultimate end of an assembled multitude to live virtuously, but through virtuous living to attain to the possession of God.” In the beginning God ordained that sanctifying grace should be transmitted by generation from Adam to his descendants. Famously, this is no longer the case. Aristotle held that the first civil societies arose from the family and so the earliest states were hereditary monarchies. But now the end of man is attained through the free adherence of the individual to Christ, moved by grace through the Church, undertaken personally as an adult or on one’s behalf by one’s parents as a child.

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Christ is a the heir of Adam, of Abraham and of David and of God. His subjects sign up to His Church voluntarily. All are commanded to do so but none are compelled. We have a hereditary monarch but not like the other nations for our King, the son of David, is also God and the Son of God. It is therefore providential that the polity under obedience to which the Messiah chose to be born and to die should be one which even in its acceptance of monarchy eschewed heredity and the name of King. Rome left an empty throne for Christ the King. The banner of the Cross was forever destined to be erected upon the ruins of the Capitol. This is the highest and truest Republicanism. Not only would it be compatible with the Republican principles the United States claims to represent for it’s people to amend their constitution to proclaim Jesus Christ as King, it would be their highest expression.

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