Take the news of a royal wedding, or the announcement of the expectation of yet another royal baby; both topics which have dominated our headlines in recent weeks. Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Harry and Meghan, I really am. I’m happy too for William and Kate; and the news of the arrival next year of their third child is, of course, a cause for great joy for them and their family.
And whilst the news of another human baby might be good news in and of itself, as indeed are tidings of the safe arrival of any child, it is only headline good news because the father will one day be king, and because of the power, wealth, and privilege of the family that the child will be born into.
And so the birth of a child, easily becomes a legitimation narrative to reinforce the ideology of inherited monarchy and entrenched privilege.
And in due course the Christening of that child, by the head of the established church, will similarly reinforce the symbiotic relationship between political power and established religion.
And it was ever thus.
In the Roman world, the birth of a royal child was trumpeted throughout the empire as ‘good news’. The Roman propaganda machine would go into overdrive, to eulogise the emperor as the ‘divine man’ and the birth of their child as the birth of a god. There is an ancient inscription, which reads, ‘The birthday of the god was, for the world, the beginning of the joyful messages which have gone forth because of him.’
‘Glad tidings of comfort and joy’, indeed.
The birth of the emperor’s god-child was hailed as ‘good news' because it ensured the perpetuation of the royal dynasty. And so we come to the first verse of Mark’s gospel, written to a culture familiar with the carefully managed ‘good news’ of the emperor cult:
‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Read the full script here: