To touch on a matter that seems particularly significant to a site devoted to Christendom, Catholics today celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. We acknowledge Jesus Christ as the King over all.
But what does that mean? What sort of kingship are we talking about, and how far does it extend?
First of all, when Christ speaks of His kingdom, it seems that his references are first toward the spiritual reign over our hearts and souls: “my kingdom is not of this world.” And “the kingdom of God is like a man who goes out to sow seed,” and “the kingdom of God is like a vineyard.” Christ establishes quite clearly that in His teaching, His kingdom regards the rule of the mind and heart and soul, a way of ruling that is not visible (though its effects are visible to those with eyes to see). He sorely disappoints the disciples who expect His kingdom to be political.
And yet, when we celebrate the kingship of Christ at the end of the church year, we are also celebrating the last things, including the final complete reign of Christ over every other sovereignty:
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Cor 15)
It seems that in the long run, His kingship will be exercised not solely by way of the spiritual realm, but in every sphere of sovereignty. And this suggests that Christ will reign over all the nations visibly and in concrete terms – or that He will reign over all the peoples, and nations will wither away to nonexistence, and Christ’s reign will take the place of political authority insofar as that applies .
Then the question comes up: since we know that His kingship over spiritual matters is now, and does not wait until the eschaton, does this have bearing on the situation for political authority now? What is the relationship between Christ’s kingship and current political authority? Is Christ’s kingship so much “not of this world” in this current age that current kings and presidents are not obliged to submit to His reign in temporal matters?
Or if they are, then in what sense do we mean that? Do we think, like the Islamic theocrats, that a theocracy is the only normal form of government? Do we really want to institute a government with the Church in charge of everything?
Not likely. Christianity started by rejecting the notion that the religious authority and the temporal authority must be unitary at all times: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's." It was the Egyptians, and the Persians, and the Romans, who insisted on the political authority being suffused with direct divine authority, by assimilating the king or emperor into the divine ranks. Christians did otherwise: the God-made-man went back to heaven to leave men to work out their lives without His visible hand at the till: He is content to work (politically) invisibly and interiorly in this age. Therefore, the authority of the Church is a distinct authority from that of the state and does not subsume it entirely.
And yet, Christendom as a concept assumes that there is a relationship between the 2 authorities, for God who is above both, and the maker of both, makes all things ordered. Orderliness implies that there is a model of inter-relation that provides a sound basis for peace and harmony between the 2 spheres of authority. Tension between them, given that men are fallen and not angels, is realistic; but direct opposition is a defective situation that cannot be allowed to remain. This is the thesis of Christendom: that any theory of politics that assumes the church and the state are at odds, or are fighting over the same piece of turf, is bad theory; that political science ought to endeavor to establish models under which the state and the church can cooperate, and succeed each in its own mission better for that cooperation.