If anyone watches three seasons of “The Tudors” within a week, well, I imagine that they too might be contemplating topics such as these.
One can’t help but notice, in this rather historically accurate version of King Henry VIII’s life, the endless procession of priests and bishops worming themselves into the Court, to scheme.
Drunk with power, they look everywhere to root out heresy. Henry’s Church of England occupied a kind of middle ground between Catholicism and Protestantism, and so clergy members took turns accusing one another, and members of the Court, of being the Papist agents of a foreign power or, equally damning, Lutheran and Calvinist heretics. Many a head was separated from its body on the chopping block.
The Tudors series really made a ritual of this dramatization, so much so that they played with variation. The best was when anti-Cromwell agents got the executioner drunk before Thomas Cromwell’s execution, and the blurry eyed axe man really made a mess of it.
And then there is Henry VIII himself, and true, while definitely the best dressed man this side of the Magna Carta, and an all around badass, actually believed something that appears numerous times in the Bible: The Divine Right of Kings.
From 1Peter (2:13-14):
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors…”
Then there is Romans (13:1-2):
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
Fortunately, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and Europe’s experience with fascism all put an end to this historical abomination of the rulers having some kind of divine right. Imagine Hitler as divinely ordained… Fortunately, now the prevailing view in the West is that there is no inherent connection between rulers and gods.
The thing is, the Divine Right of Kings is a totalizing doctrine, ultimately leaving no room (just as Henry VIII left no room) for natural rights or natural law. When a jury member objected to Lord Surrey’s kangaroo trial, he was told “the law is what the king says it is.”
The Divine Right of Kings appears numerous times in the Bible. That fact should require that book’s most strident fans (especially American Christians, many of whom believe that each letter of each word is correct) to explain why most other things written there are not bullshit, too.