Monday, April 4, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven

In Ridley Scott's movie, The Kingdom of Heaven, Baldwin IV, Frankish King of Jerusalem, is dying of exhaustion and leprosy. Concerned about his succession and the welfare of his domain, Baldwin makes an offer to one of his subjects, Balian of Ibelin. If Balian will agree to marry Baldwin's sister, Sybilla, he will inherit the kingdom through his wife. The simple complication that Sybilla is already married would be resolved by the execution of her present husband, Guy de Lusignan, who has been something of an impediment to Baldwin's policy of religious tolerance and the brittle peace between Baldwin's people and Salah-ed-Din's more numerous muslim subjects.

Balian renews his pledge of loyalty to Baldwin, but rejects his proposal on the grounds that Jerusalem is a kingdom of conscience, or it is nothing.

Frequently, we tend to perceive the world in terms of absolutes - because we know that we're right, anyone who disagrees with us must necessarily be wrong. Their ideas are dangerous, their actions are immoral and their words are blasphemous. We believe that we have clothed ourselves in  the Armour of God, and we are prepared to withstand and repel the heretic and the infidel with fire and sword.

We rally behind the strongest person who agrees with our viewpoints or who promises to uphold our values. Our cherished financial institutions safeguard his country's wealth - for the people, of course, but in his name. If thugs and brigands threaten his legitimate rule, we can supply him with better weapons and military advisors. If worse comes to worst, we can send children from our own poor neighbourhoods to uphold his rule.

But do we really have the belt of truth buckled around our waist when we support the rule of tyrants? Are we wearing the breastplate of righteousness when we ignore poverty and need? When we make war on children, are our feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace? Surely, that would mean that our shield of faith, our helmet of salvation and our sword of the Spirit offer us less defense than we might have expected.

I believe that it is possible for the Kingdom of Heaven to exist on earth, and that the ones who will live there will be people of peace and of principle like Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Zealots and opportunists will find nothing in it to their liking or advantage.

It could be a place of justice, equality, peace and tolerance. It could be here today, because those live within each of us.

It is a kingdom of conscience, or it is nothing.


  1. I like it, Lee [but change "a" to "an" in the 1st para, last sent, please...]. But I don't believe the Kingdom of Heaven is achievable on Earth with just conscience. Our consciences can't transform the animal kingdom into a kingdom of herbivores - only the Spirit of Christ in the hearts of mankind can do that. If everyone allowed His Spirit into their hearts, then I do believe the "lion shall eat straw like the ox" and I'd shout "HALLELUJAH!!" because I could then enjoy nature programs! :-)

  2. You'd think that this silly thing could proofread itself by this time. Harrumph! Thanks again - nice catch.