Everyone (well not quite everyone) is talking about one aspect of the royal wedding. Not The Dress. Not the page boys or the bridesmaids. Not the car. They are talking about the sermon and Bishop Michael Curry.
It was quite a performance. His delivery was superb. He drew on the wisdom of Dr. King, a must for many American preachers. It was, they say, courageous to talk about poverty in a room full of fabulously wealthy and powerful individuals. One radio commentator said on the radio this morning that the only time Camilla smiled during the sermon was when Bishop Curry said he was going to drawn to a close and “let’s get y’all married”.
But it was the reference to poverty that troubles me. Don’t get me wrong. I am delighted he talked about poverty. But it was not a challenging reference to poverty. It was a safe, comforting one.
Sky News journalist, Mark Austin, said:
“Lovely moment as the preacher takes the Royals to the edge of their comfort zone”
while the BBC’s Jeremy Vine said:
“The preacher is doing 50 in a 30 zone and it’s brilliant.”
Labour MP, David Lammy, tweeted:
“What power what courage what preaching with a global audience in witness. “When love is the way.. poverty will become History” The redemptive power of Love. Well done Bishop Curry. #RoyalWeddding (sic)”.
If only it was so. If only making poverty history was that easy. I have no doubt that 99.9% of those present at the wedding are people who have huge capacity to love and who are genuinely disturbed by poverty.
Yet all the while levels of poverty increase in this country and in the United States, and all the while the rich get richer.
Yes, I have no doubt that most of those at the wedding are active in various humanitarian causes and are, no doubt, very generous in parting with some of their personal fortunes.
My issue is with Bishop Curry. “When love is the way … poverty will become history”. That is not the teaching of the Scriptures. It is not the teaching of Jesus. Yes, Jesus spoke, time and again, about love, but when it came to wealth anomalies he had a message which was a tad more uncompromising: “… it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. Ouch.
Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount includes the passage: “Blessed are the poor, for they will inherit the Kingdom of God”.
Jesus drove the money lenders out of the Temple with a whip.
The Magnificat, also known as the Song of Mary (the mother of Jesus), is said or sung each Sunday in many churches. The text is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke, and includes the following:
“He has put down the mighty from their seat: and has exalted the humble and meek.
He has filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he has sent empty away.”
Please do not see this as an invitation to trade Biblical verses with me. It is easy to find quotes from the Scriptures to serve most causes. Verses from the Bible were used to justify apartheid, continue to be used for homophobic purposes, and for the subjugation of women. There are verses that would seemingly legitimise me selling my daughter into slavery and killing footballers who ply their trade on a Sunday.
My issue with Bishop Curry is that, while love is a central theme of the teachings of Jesus, the concept of ‘love’ should be an uncomfortable challenge to us all, not one that provides a brief moment of moderate angst for the rich, the super rich and the mega rich at a wedding where much of the cost came from the public purse.
Of course Bishop Curry was never going to deliver the sermon that Dr King might have delivered at another time and in another place. But, please, let’s not pretend that Bishop Curry did preach that sermon.