Royal Weddings, Eschatology, and the Arts

So, I am a cynic and I wasn’t really interested in watching Price William and Kate tie the knot yesterday. And, I darn sure didn’t care to withstand news coverage from America’s wonderful (sarcasm) 24 hour news teams (I did watch a little of the after reporting later in the day). But, I want to resist, for a second, the criticism that the time was wasted covering the wedding when there are more important things going on in the world. Of course this criticism makes sense; the US is involved in three wars, world leaders are making important decisions regarding the world economy, the earthquake in Japan, tornadoes in the southeast, and the US budget.  And of course, the news media covered the event like gossiping vultures (interested in why certain family members were or weren’t there, the shame the prince Charles has put on the family), the event featured just a little British nationalism, and yes Williams and Kate (no matter how faithful they are) are bound to disappoint us in the future in  some way.

But, I want to suggest that there is something about a royal wedding that is desperately needed in the world today. We are a society that values utility and information. What is important to us is stuff that can help us solve problems. We want to be doing stuff. For us Americans, a royal family, specifically a British royal family with no political power, seems like either a waste of time or a matter for trivial gossip. But we must pause to remember that a wedding is the consummation and celebration of the commitment of two people to give their lives for one another which will literally and figuratively bring new life into their communities, with God’s help. A marriage is a powerful metaphor that the authors of the New Testament use to describe the relationship between Christ and the church (Luke 14:7-11; Eph 5:22-33; Revelation 19:6-10). We, who are Christians, need such images and reminders in order to confront the evil and pain in the world. We need the eschatological vision that a grand wedding provides (even if it is always like looking through a glass dimly) in order to see to world differently to bring new restorative light into the darkness.

Until recently, I have never really thought about the arts in a theological perspective. A month ago, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by painter Makoto Fujimura at Duke Divinity. He used story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus and Judas’ reaction to discussion the relationship of the church and the arts (John 12:1-8). Mary’s wasteful use of expensive perfume is decried by Judas. His criticism makes sense. The perfume was money and it could have been used to feed the poor. But, Jesus thinks differently. He sees that Mary has provided a creative and truthful image about God’s lavish love for the world that is revealed in Christ’s death; she has done a beautiful thing (Mark 14:7). “What Judas doesn’t realize,” Fujimura explained, “is that it is the artists who are with the poor.” He closed his presentation by asking, if the image of the final consummation of God’s kingdom is a wedding, who are the wedding planners? Who are the artists, decorators, cooks, fashion designers, and musicians who can provide the world with images of God’s love and restoration? Who can provide an eschatological vision that helps us participate in God’s restoration of God’s creation?

I received a tweet on my newsfeed from a friend on my way to work yesterday that was a quote from the wedding homily yesterday. The Bishop of London stated, “Every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.” What a great thing to be said to a world that was watching celebrities?

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