Last Saturday, the world celebrated the long and illustrious life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It’s unusual for any man to see a hundred years, let alone one under the intense, unrelenting demands of the royal office and public scrutiny, but Philip was a tough old bird. He managed to make a mark in the shadow of a singular queen, retaining both his own dignity and identity.
Perhaps the dark difficulty of his childhood prepared him for the long road ahead. Nothing was ever easy for the exiled Greek and Danish prince, who was, in his own right, of equal peerage to the HRH Elizabeth. There is much to commend and admire in his steely comportment, cheeky humor and unrelenting execution of duty. As a patriarch for both country and commonwealth, Philip was exemplary.
His funeral was his closing statement to the world, and with typical resolve, he had the final say on all details. The service was as spare and elegant as the man himself. Instead of adulating crowds lining The Long Walk, military bands filled the Winsor court and a lone Land Rover carried the casket. The pristine simplicity of a mixed quartet, a minimum of military brass, and the refusal of a eulogy, all typified the no-nonsense consort.
Watching the funeral, I had the profound and unmistakable conviction that we were witnessing the end of an era. With the birth of the #metoo movement and #Blacklivesmatter, the deep fundamentalism of white privilege is being shamefully exposed. Outcries against racism, sexism and countless other ancient evils too long disguised under the mantle of civilized governing may no longer be silenced. So, is it insignificant that the loftiest patriarch of the British monarchy, and the quintessential paragon of the Old Boy’s Club, is now dead?
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Psalm 146:3-4
While Prince Philip typified old school “stiff upper lip” standards of masculine duty, personal sacrifice and cultural decency, he and his class also enforced a system of rigid class separation, racism and blatant, unapologetic chauvinism. They were the flinty guardians of colonialism, in all its gross exploitation and injustice. Even within their own family, the royals have seen the generational effects of stereotypical Empire stoicism, and the inherent danger of simply ignoring dysfunction.
What will the new princes bring? Will a new cohort, flush with hope and bright with youth, education and entitlement really do better? Humanism is still not the god of our deliverance. In his final hours, King David had some reflection on this very question. This is his conclusion.
Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue.
The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. 2 Samuel 23:1-6
I dream of the day we have a government that “rules in the fear of God”. I pray passionately for it though I don’t really believe I’ll see it in my lifetime unless Jesus himself returns. However, when I give up all hope, I’m reminded of the countless wicked kings in Israel who inexplicably spawned sons who, out of nowhere, sought the Lord, and restored the spiritual life of Israel. Miracle upon miracle, Josiah’s, Asa’s and Hezekiah’s are still destined for this world. They are still being born, ready to step into their place of authority. Let’s pray for the leader who will defy this godless generation and have real, lasting impact for true human freedom.
Our challenge is to honor and value the very real virtues of our elders, while at the same time, wisely acknowledging their feet of clay. There are mistakes we must not repeat; lies we must not perpetuate; exploitations we must confront. The rule and government of Jesus is growing on the earth, whether we believe it or not (Isaiah 9:6-7). Time we manifest this reality. The Sons of God are the princes of the earth.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light… 1 Peter 2:9
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