The Briefing with Al Mohler
How a marriage announcement about the British royal family reveals the entire sequence of the sexual revolution
Given worldwide fascination with celebrity, Monday’s announcement that Britain’s Prince Harry is going to be marrying an American actress, who was also an American divorcee, got a great deal of attention. From a Christian worldview perspective what’s most important here is the intersection of this announcement with history, and more importantly, the intersection of that history with theology. This is of course not the first time that a British prince has fallen in love with an American divorcee, we’d have to go back to the 1930s when the British prince was then Prince Edward the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, and the American divorcee, later twice divorced, was Wallis Simpson. Of course you know the story that prince became the king, King Edward VIII, he eventually abdicated his kingdom and married Wallis Simpson, later becoming the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and moving to Paris. But what’s most important to recognize is that the king was required to give up the throne because the king of England is simultaneously the head of the Church of England and the Church of England did not recognize legitimate marriage after a divorce if the spouse were still living. In the case of Wallis Simpson, by the time she married Edward VIII she actually had two former living husbands. The abdication of Edward VIII was one of the most controversial and memorable events of Western history in the 20th century and that’s really saying something, and many Americans lately became introduced to the story for the first time through the popularity of the Netflix series “The Crown.” But that same series in its first season also introduced many Americans to the fact that the current Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was forbidden to marry a divorced British Air Force officer precisely because of the issue of divorce, and thus they had to break up what was expected to be their engagement, another major controversy concerning the British Royal family in the 20th century.
But let’s fast-forward to 2017 and wait just a minute, the current Prince of Wales Prince Charles is himself both divorced and married to a divorcee, but when Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles they were forbidden to have a major public wedding in the Church of England, and instead had to resort to a civil ceremony, later euphemistically blessed by a cleric of the Church of England. But what makes the announcement on Monday so remarkable and of interest in terms of the Christian worldview is that the current Archbishop of Canterbury has indicated that he has no problem with the prince marrying this American divorcee, and he has no problem with the fact that they intend to get married in a church of England church. That’s the really significant development, and it’s reflected in a headline from Religion News Service. The article’s by Catherine Pepinster, but the headline is this, “Prince Harry will Marry a Divorced American — and the Church is Fine With it.”
In a statement released yesterday, Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, said of the couple,
“I wish them many years of love, happiness and fulfillment and ask that God blesses them throughout their married life together.”
In an apparent reference to the fact that the couple has chosen a public wedding within the Church of England, the Archbishop went on to say.
“I am so happy that Prince Harry and Ms. Markle have chosen to make their vows before God.”
All of this should remind us that the normalization of divorce was one of the essential preconditions for the normalization of the entire sexual revolution. As I made clear in my book We Cannot Be Silent, we bear responsibility as Christian churches for legitimizing divorce, at the very same time undermining marriage. Most weddings attract far less attention and celebrity than the wedding of a member of the British royal family, but in terms of theology and doctrine, in terms of biblical issues, we need to note that every single marriage is of equal importance, and every single compromise is thus equally dangerous. We should also simply note that in the years from 1936 with the abdication of the king to 2017 with the announcement of this wedding, there has been an entire theological revolution in the Church of England. The succession in terms of this question from King Edward VIII to Princess Margaret to Prince Charles to Prince Harry is a progression in terms of the sexual revolution, a progression deeply injurious to the institution of marriage and to the witness of the Christian church. Or put it this way: What in 1936 required a king to abdicate his throne, now produces appreciation from the Archbishop of Canterbury? That just about says it all.