Bringin’ Back Monarchy

Written by Brandon.D.Rhodes : July 9, 2008

Us Jesus Radicals should have the best of holidays - we’ve been personally swept up by the King into his revolution of love, peace, justice, and messy grace.  How can we not celebrate this mighty liberation?  If Jesus is risen, then we of all people ought to be partying!

Yet we are also the least likely to celebrate North America’s conventional holidays.  Unto us Christmas is commodified, Easter inaugurates a new age of processed sugars, Thanksgiving expresses gratitude through gluttony, and Independence Day brings forth into our neighborhoods only new damnations.  Well: great!  For some of us, our refusal to participate in these parties (different from celebrations) only serves to further alienate us from our families, friends, and neighbors.  We’re those judgmental, unpatriotic, embittered what-have-you’s that deny America’s “deep Christian roots.”  No wonder Paul sardonically says we are the scum and refuse of the world.

But why should the pagans and patriots have all the fun? There’s room in the kingdom for Jesus Radicals to throw holy-days of celebration and barbecues of blessing, too!

It is time to re-imagine the old holidays beyond the puny superficialities draped over them by the present powers of greed and jingoism, and re-center them on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These unholy-days could use some Holy.

That’s why a few of us in Portland decided to re-imagine the Fourth of July around our King.  While America celebrated their independence from the British monarchy of King George with colorful explosions that dazzle crowds, we celebrated our dependence upon the Heavenly monarchy of King Jesus with creative invites that disturb the status quo.

We called it “Bringin’ Back Monarchy 2008: Pledge Allegiance to the Triumphant Lamb”, and we invited all and sundry.  Brian, who lives in a bicycle trailer; Jason the compassionate businessman; Steve the pastor of a church of homeless; Alan the stay-at-home father and humble carpenter; Stephen the piano-jammin’ Methodist; a couple of ex-Psalters; many house-arrested undocumented immigrants; children, homeless, students, and the mentally ill.  What a messy smorgasbord it was!  It pushed my boundaries of what to expect at a party I was helping to throw, but in the best way possible.  I saw in this ragamuffin crowd on Clinton Street one of the purest and merriest snapshots of the Kingdom of God to ever grace my eyes.  I saw a parable lived.

Beneath a banner with the ancient image of the Triumphant Lamb, among hydrangeas saved from dumpsters and tomato plants growing out of salvaged paint buckets, we celebrated for eight hours what it means to be patriotic to the kingdom.  The talent show featured a State of the Kingdom speech, a beat-poet jam, acoustic hymns and confessions, a ballad or two, and even a kid unveiling to a ragtag audience her favoritest of riddles!  We also had a patch-making table, and a written-contemplation table where the answers to such questions as “what does it mean to be patriotic to the kingdom of God” will soon be compiled into a series of ‘zines.

I don’t talk it up this way to brag or feel amazing about it all.  Such a commotion would never have occurred to us if Jesus hadn’t whirred up so many wide-invite kingdom parties himself!  Our King kicked it with the so-called dregs of his day, and told story after story about how God’s kingdom is like a big party full of people you never thought you’d party with.  The rich are surprised to be partying with the poor, and the poor with the rich!  No, this wasn’t our idea: it was Jesus’.

We’re excited for how much bigger this can be next year, and hope the vision of “Bringin’ Back Monarchy” can spread to the other colonies of the Church across the empire.  This year, we only had two weeks to plan this holy day; next year, … well, we’ve already started planning for a much bigger celebration of King Jesus for July 4th, 2009.

Here, at the end of the empire, just as its bottom is falling out and its emperor exposed for having no clothes, we are excited to express into the years to come our faithful love to King Jesus, whose empire shall not end.  Will you join us?

  • How have you seen American holidays subverted with a radically Jesus-centered twist?
  • What holidays do you most wish to see redeemed and re-imagined for the gospel?
  • How can we lovingly encourage our fellow Christians and countrymen (American or otherwise) what true patriotism should mean?
  • How might your community be able to celebrate next year’s Independence Day, but around Jesus?
Brandon Rhodes lives, works, and worships in Portland, Oregon. He finished this article over six mugs of coffee. He is also one of the co-editors at Jesus Manifesto.

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