“The Queen is just a figurehead. It’s a meaningless title.” “She doesn’t even do anything for us.” “What a waste of tax dollars!” “She didn’t even do anything to earn that position!” These are the most common comments I hear whenever the Canadian Monarchy is discussed. They transcend religion; I hear these things from Christians and non-Christians alike. The cynicism of the former concerns me most of all.
Canadians’ rampant dismissal of the Monarchy has always baffled me. There are solid reasons for supporting the monarchy from a Christian worldview as well as from a purely pragmatic perspective.
First of all, as human beings, we are made in the image of God. In the Bible we see the heavenly model of government as monarchy. God rules as King with absolute sovereignty. In our governments, how are we mirroring this? Of course, I am not suggesting that kings and queens should have absolute authority, as God does. The image of God is broken in us, so to account for this we need a large dose of democracy, which is why I value a constitutional monarchy rather than an absolute one.
When a government overcorrects for human brokenness and becomes obsessively democratic, however, for example in the aftermath of the American and French revolutions, the result is a people that attempts to submit to the individual will. There is no “Queen and country”; there is “me, myself, and I”. An example of this is the so-called “American dream” of self-made success.
Now, I am not saying that all people in republics are self-interested. I am simply saying that republics tend to encourage self-interest more than monarchies. The rejection of monarchy in republican states fails somewhat when they attempt to create an artificial royal family out of the elected president’s family (e.g. the “first lady”).
Particularly in reference to our Canadian monarchy, we as Christians have much to respect and admire. Our monarchy has developed over hundreds of years within a Christian (although flawed) context. The symbols and rituals of the monarchy are deeply Christian in nature, which is something we ought to appreciate. Compare this with our neighbours to the south, who can trace their state’s origins to the will of a group of men, some of whom were not Christian, but deist.
Queen Elizabeth II has shown a deeply Christian character in her life as a servant-monarch. If Peter called the church of his time to honour a pagan emperor (1 Peter 2:17), how much more should we honour a Christian queen.
Now, more pragmatically speaking, it is not true that the Queen is merely a figurehead. She is the head of state, and does have certain emergency powers. However, it is true that her role is largely symbolic. But isn’t the symbolic an important aspect of life? Why do we think that “symbolic” means “useless”? Following that line of reasoning, why go to your graduation? Isn’t it just a symbolic receiving of a degree? It isn’t like you are getting any special powers out of it. You will still get your degree in the mail if you don’t attend the ceremony. But most of you will still go to your graduation. Why? Symbols have meaning to us, and meaning matters.
Taking the mainly symbolic role of the head of state, Her Majesty is symbolically the person who holds sovereignty over all her realms. She does not represent any party, and thus can unite all her subjects under her symbolic headship. This is superior in my opinion to the system found in republics, where the head of state is an elected president who represents a particular political party, who rules by the will of a certain group of people.
To those who say the Monarchy costs too much, I would point out that the majority of the cost is for the British taxpayer, who does not even pay that much. For Canadians, the Monarchy costs very little for each taxpayer (around $1.63 per year).
I will end with the words of C.S. Lewis, which I believe were prophetic of our current age: “Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”