The image of “king” as representing God or Jesus has, in recent decades, become problematic for many people, especially in feminist theology. The reluctance to use that term expresses itself in various ways. For example, some prefer to speak of the “kindom” of God, as opposed to the “kingdom” of God. The final Sunday of the church year may be referred to as the festival of the “Reign of Christ,” rather than “Christ the King”—although, admittedly that second example is less of a change in tone than the first.
In any event, I can understand the aversion. Beth Tanner says in The Psalms for Today that “this image of God as king can seem strange and possibly even too hierarchical for many in today’s world. Monarchs are either quaint relics of a former period or tyrannical powers to be feared.” (40) Really, what do we lose by ditching the symbol of an outdated form of government?
Of course, we may be thinking more politically than theologically. Kings and queens in our human realm are clearly prone to abuse of power. To automatically transfer that tendency to the divine is to look at things backward. It’s also true that during most of the Biblical era, monarchy was probably the best (and only?) form of government people knew.
Tanner says of the complaint with the image that it’s “only when we acknowledge God as the supreme ruler” that the “sin that created the very power dynamics that oppress women and others can be named and subsequently abolished.” (48) This is a version of the Christ-versus-Caesar dynamic. Saying that Christ is King means that no political system can take prominence.
Long live the king (or queen)!