On November 11, 1918, “The Great War” ended. It is hard to think of any war being considered great, but there was a general optimism that the horrible atrocities seen in that war would never be seen again. History would tell us something different. Among the “losers” of the war, a depression hit with the economic and social sanctions imposed by the winners. People turned to their politicians for guidance and promises of stability and strength.
Among the winners, the euphoria of the celebration led to a sense of comfortability and bliss among the powerful and middle class. There were real blinders between the haves and have nots, and as many economists saw, much of the perceived financial stability was merely a mirage. Remaining blissfully unaware of where things were actually going in society, more were focused on the greatness of the state and its power over faith and its power.
For the Catholic Church, Pope Pius XI was worried about the direction that things were going. Whether countries were in the exuberance of wealth or the desolation of poverty, people were turning from the church and faith to government and secularism for guidance. His counter was to set aside a special feast to remind followers that there is only one true king, and that is Christ. Yes, cynics might say that it was a ploy to maintain power for the Catholic Church, but I don’t think so, especially in the light of what happened over the next 20 years.
As Pope Pius wrote in the Quas Primas:
When we pay honor to the princely dignity of Christ, men will doubtless be reminded that the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state; and that in fulfilling the task committed to her by God of teaching, ruling, and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power.
— Quas primas, 31
It makes me think, not only of the recent election, but also of Brexit and the general uncertainty and frustration of the world. We have bought into a society that says that church is not really needed. And instead of being proud to participate in faith, many are ashamed, and only a fraction of people even go to church. With church attendance at a record low, and secularism guiding both policy and, at times, theology, we are in a real global crisis again.
Though I know many are thinking we are on the verge of another Nazi situation, I don’t think we are there, at least in this administration. But I can assure you that we have to be vigilant so as not to let our government take the place of our church, and the president, that of our pastor. We have to recognize that Donald Trump is no better than you or I. He will make mistakes. He may even do some good. But regardless, while he is our president, he is not our king. He is a servant of the people, and he will be judged likewise. So we need to continue to have faith in Christ.
Christ is our King, and it is only through Christ that we gain salvation. So maybe it is fitting that the feast of Christ the King comes just a little over a week after the election. As I often say, perspective is everything! When we celebrate that Christ is our King, we are also celebrating our choice to live by faith, and not by the constrictions, frustrations, and torment of this world.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen