Birth of a Royal Baby

August 16th, 2013

A Baby Is Born

Thousands of babies are born around the world every day. However, few receive the same welcome as George, the first child of William and Catherine, born in London on July 22. Of course, George is also known as His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis, the third in line to the British throne.

While George is destined to be the British king, many here in the United States have been fascinated for weeks leading up to his birth. News organizations have devoted human resources, air time, and newspaper columns to the new prince. CNN featured the British ambassador in Washington, Peter Westmacott, who wore a patriotic red, white, and blue tie. The New York Times focused on trying to make sense of the royal traditions surrounding the prince’s birth. Why are media outlets so focused on news of Britain’s royal family? Nick Bryant of the BBC believes that the special relationship between the United States and Britain “explains much of the wallto- wall coverage.” Much like Princess Diana’s tragic death, Bryant asserts, “This royal birth also serves as another reminder of America’s umbilical link with Britain.”

Celebrity Culture

The US fascination with British royalty is not new. In the 19th century, news of the coronation of Queen Victoria intrigued Americans. “What is new is the marriage of British regal tradition with American celebrity culture—a union which came crystallised in 1985 when Princess Diana danced with John Travolta at a White House state dinner,” Bryant reports. He states that the members of the British royal family have become “A-list celebrities in the US cultural hierarchy, with the star power to eclipse even Hollywood’s biggest names. As the American reaction to the royal birth reminds us, the royals have become an offshoot of the US entertainment industry.”

“The human being is hardwired to worship something, and traditionally that’s been a religious figure,” says Jim Houran, a psychologist and expert in celebrity culture. “Regardless of the celebrity, we tend to see them as these people on pedestals. When you add on top of that a real aura of regality, that just sort of sweetens the pot.”

Houran adds, “Whenever celebrities add onto their families we’ll naturally be captivated by that just like whenever celebrities do something wrong, we get captivated by that as well.” Houran asserts that “celebrities do a lot of good,” because they provide both entertainment and a form of escapism. He thinks that the new prince’s birth is well-timed, providing positive news during a time of world turmoil.

Royal Dreams

Sometimes, instead of merely catching the news about royals, we dream about being royal ourselves. Fairy tales and movies like Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, and Beauty and the Beast help feed these dreams.

The Disney Company is more than happy to help girls from three to twelve years old live their own fairy tale. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disney World promises to turn girls into princesses. The lowest priced package includes hairstyling, shimmering makeup, and a princess sash and tote for $54.95 plus tax. The highest priced package adds on nail polish, a complete costume (including accessories), and five photographs in princess-themed holders for $189.95. Boys are not totally forgotten; for $15.95, they can get hairstyling (with gel), a mighty sword and shield, and confetti.

Children are not alone in dreaming of royalty. During our family’s last trip to Disney World, we saw a group of four women dressed as princesses. They were not accompanying their young daughters; instead, this was an adults-only visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Royal Themes in the Bible

Stories of royalty can be found in the pages of the Bible. While ancient Israel did not originally have a king (see the sidebar “Core Bible Passages—Royal Ambivalence”), kings became an important part of life for Israel and Judah from King Saul on. Quickly it became clear that kings were not perfect. Even David, considered Israel’s greatest king, made crushing mistakes, including using his royal power to sleep with a woman he desired and then arrange the murder of her husband to cover up his infidelity (2 Samuel 11:1-27).

In later years, prophets proclaimed that the king was to be God’s agent of justice and mercy; and they criticized those kings who failed to live up to that expectation. Elijah famously condemned Ahab for his selfish disregard for justice and for promoting the worship of other gods. Amos warned the rulers of his time, “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on Mount Samaria, who cheat the weak, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring drinks, so we can get drunk!’ The Lord God has solemnly promised by his holiness: The days are surely coming upon you, when they will take you away with hooks, even the last one of you with fishhooks. You will go out through the broken wall, each one after another; and you will be flung out into Harmon, says the Lord” (Amos 4:1-3).

Micah vividly condemned the royal family in his day, telling them, “Hear, leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel! Isn’t it your job to know justice?—you who hate good and love evil, who tear the skin off them, and the flesh off their bones, who devour the flesh of my people, tear off their skin, break their bones in pieces, and spread them out as if in a pot, like meat in a kettle” (Micah 3:1-3).

The Bible contains numerous prayers for kings, including Samuel’s anointing of Saul (1 Samuel 10:1). In Psalm 61:6-7, the psalmist prays, “Add days to the king’s life! Let his years extend for many generations! Let him be enthroned forever before God! Make it so love and faithfulness watch over him!” All of Psalm 72 is a prayer of guidance and support for the king, starting with the plea, “God, give your judgments to the king. Give your righteousness to the king’s son. Let him judge your people with righteousness and your poor ones with justice. Let the mountains bring peace to the people; let the hills bring righteousness. Let the king bring justice to people who are poor; let him save the children of those who are needy, but let him crush oppressors!” (verses 1-4).

The Bible is filled not only with stories of kings and prayers for kings, but also images of God as King. Psalm 99 begins in a heavenly throne room: “The Lord rules—the nations shake! He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures—the earth quakes! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them thank your great and awesome name. He is holy! Strong king who loves justice, you are the one who established what is fair. You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob. Magnify the Lord, our God! Bow low at his footstool! He is holy!” (verses 1-5). Psalm 47 envisions God’s rule over the nations and begins with this call to celebration: “Clap your hands, all you people! Shout joyfully to God with a joyous shout! Because the Lord Most High is awesome, he is the great king of the whole world” (verses 1-2).

Welcoming the Prince

The Friday after Prince George’s birth, our family decided to drive to a nearby beach town for dinner and then take a stroll along the boardwalk. We went to our son’s favorite beach restaurant, known for authentic British fish and chips. The interior is always decorated with British flags, station signs from the London Underground, and photographs of various sites around Britain. The exterior is marked with a reproduction of the red phone booths that once dotted London. But on that momentous week, the outside had an additional attraction: a cardboard cutout of Queen Elizabeth II sporting a welcome message for the new prince, her great-grandson.

I silently prayed for Prince George and his family, as well as for all babies and new parents. And I prayed for all leaders, that—as David prayed shortly before he died—they may rule rightly over people and rule in the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:3).

Be sure to check out FaithLink, a weekly downloadable discussion guide for classes and small groups. FaithLink motivates Christians to consider their personal views on important contemporary issues, and it also encourages them to act on their beliefs.

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