The quiet, steadfast faith of 'The Crown'

December 28th, 2017

It’s hard to hang around the Episcopal Church for a while without becoming at least a nominal Anglophile. As a part of the Anglican Communion and a descendant of the Church of England, this might seem self-evident, but the various member churches of the Anglican Communion also take on their own local flavor and traditions. In particular, the music of the British choral tradition plays a large part in enhancing the liturgy in many Episcopal churches, even while others draw on other cultural traditions from around the Anglican Communion.

Not surprisingly then, several of my colleagues and I found ourselves enraptured by the Netflix series The Crown, a historical drama that follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the various events that shaped the second half of the twentieth century. It is a pleasure to watch, beautifully filmed and scored, and Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II is perfectly restrained. Many of my fellow young clergywomen remarked on how some of our own struggles were echoed in the series — being taken seriously as a young woman in a position of authority, making decisions about our families in light of being a public figure, and navigating the tension between our individuality and the role that we play in public.

Throughout the series, but especially in the second season, I was struck by the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II as a Christian. Rarely do we encounter a portrayal of someone like a head of state who takes her faith seriously, prays frequently, and relies on Jesus without any bombast or demand for attention. Both in journalism and in fiction, Christians are often caricatures: the over-the-top television preacher, a rigid member of the Religious Right, or a public religious figure like the Pope.

In one episode in season 2, Queen Elizabeth II requests a meeting with the evangelist Billy Graham. While some of her advisors and family members are turned off by his style, Elizabeth wants to talk to him Christian to Christian rather than in her role as Queen and head of the Church of England. In the fictional scene, we get a sense of a woman who values and draws upon her Christian faith for guidance and sustenance. The real-life Queen Elizabeth II is no different, remarking in her annual Christmas message this year that Christ’s generous love and example has inspired her through good times and bad.

Those of us who are pastors likely recognize this quiet, steadfast faith from many of the people in our pews. It is a faith that is not readily acknowledged when the word “Christian” comes up in the media nor is it a faith that prompts pageviews or Facebook “likes.” Instead, it is the vocation of prayer and service exercised in the daily tasks of work, managing households, and relationships with loved ones. Certainly, the lives of many of my parishioners look quite different from Queen Elizabeth II’s, but the carrying out of their faith is remarkably similar.

I don’t anticipate that television shows or news programs will rush out to cover the lives of ordinary Christians, the ones who are faithful in prayer and worship, who quietly volunteer in their communities, who seek the Lord’s guidance in their lives. More than the Christian celebrities, more than the bombastic politicians or even those of us who are religious professionals, it is these steadfast Christians who do the work of God’s Kingdom. Whether a blue-collar worker or the actual Queen of England, may all of our lives be as undergirded by prayer that seeks out the will of God in our lives and communities.

comments powered by Disqus