Bishop Curry's Royal Message of Love Exposes our own Deep Flaws
By Tim Costello, Chief Advocate
The Royal wedding on Saturday hooked in an audience of nearly two billion people, transfixed by the pageantry and the fairy tale of a young couple’s love story. Sure, we all have lives that count; Harry’s royal bloodline and Meghan’s celebrity should make them no more deserving of attention than any of us. But happy news is rare these days and to be celebrated.
Millions also spurned the coverage, either lacking interest or shunning it because of what the Crown symbolises. To many the Windsors are nothing more than the obsolete detritus of an empire built on the back of British colonies and slaves which drains the public purse to this day.
Yet, within minutes of Prince Harry and Meghan’s kiss at the top of the Windsor Chapel steps, even the most disinterested were drawn into the orbit of the Royal nuptials.
We have the compellingly evangelical preaching - more sister Act than High Church - of the Most Rev Michael Curry, the black bishop from the bride’s home continent, and his message of love, to thank for this.
Rev Curry’s passionate, meandering, love-laden message from the pulpit rang an exhilarating bell inside all those people around the world who rejected the relevance of the staid British monarchy. Here was something living and breathing inside something that people felt needed life and breath.
Love is the only way, the good bishop repeated more than once. Everyone matters. And that includes the poor and the downtrodden. (It even includes the privileged and famous that made up most of the somewhat bemused congregation in the royal chapel.)
It also includes the 65 million people displaced from their homes around the world, living in refugee camps. Counted in that 65 million are the refugees and asylum seekers that we have locked up for years on Manus and Nauru because we don’t have the heart to rescue them from a living hell. Our own country’s shame.
Curry spoke a universal truth, and challenged us to find a way to live this message. Love isn’t just an antidote to when we feel sad, but it should be the driver for what we do every single moment of the day. Do we simply look after our own or do we love one and other as well?
It raises questions of our own nation’s approach to the poor in the world. Can we justify continuing to cut aid to the millions in great need, as our own economic prosperity increases? In Australia’s history, the gap between our wealth and what we give has never been so great. How is that love?
It didn’t take long for commentators to accuse Rev Curry of upstaging the bride. But why did he irritate some people so much when his message is really so universally acceptable?
Some conservative Christians were annoyed he didn’t preach sin and salvation. Others were upset that he appeared to be lecturing the Royals. Maybe some felt the discomfort of white privilege, not used to having a booming black man telling them how to live their lives.
As with Martin Luther King, who Rev Curry quoted from the pulpit, it’s often only later that we can hear the significance of the message without all the noise.
For King, as for Jesus, his words resonated more among the powerful after he died. (If they’re alive they irritate us; if they’re dead they inspire us.)
Perhaps it is because we have our own shame – one that upholds neither the rule of love Rev Curry preached nor Australia’s early, colonial intent to treat all humans in this land with equal humanity.
Rev Curry’s call for action should stir our national conscience over how far we strayed from this initial intent to love and respect the people who first lived here. We’ve learned that money on its own won’t close the gap between white and black Australia. Is there a whisper in our soul still about rejecting the Uluru Statement from the Heart to give constitutional recognition to indigenous Australians?
The Australian Government dashed the hopes of the powerless. This isn’t love. Love is more displayed in how European settlers of New Zealand has embraced and preserved the Maori culture in a way Australia has not with our own. Kiwis have a track record in showing respect to their indigenous people on national policy and attitudes. We don’t.
I happen to enjoy a royal wedding. My staunch Republican bones grate a little against my own interest in the spectacle. But seeing marriage vows exchanged at Windsor stirs a love of British history, in large part because of my own Scottish, English and Irish heritage.
Being taken in by this pinnacle of royal ceremony is a small down payment for our national subservience, still under the Crown in 2018. It’s refreshing to be reminded of the law, culture, church and democratic institutions that shaped us.
At the same time, I wonder about the colonial streak it seems Australians are losing – the laconic colonial larrikin that can smell bull a mile off and rejects pretense in favour of straight-talking.
Martin Luther King, and now Rev Curry, spoke straight. We understand their language and we should not criticise either for being frank.
King’s insistence that children should “not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character” is now never loudly disputed.
It’s sad to let cynicism ever undermine the transformation love brings. So rather than ridiculing or shooting this messenger, we must find a way to apply Rev Curry’s words: “Think and imagine a world when love is the way. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way—unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive—then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.”
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Published by the Herald Sun, May 23, 2018
Picture: Rev Michael Curry was accused of upstaging the bride at Harry and Meghan's wedding. What he really did was speak frankly a universal truth of love.