The royal wedding preacher who stole the show
Can love change the world? Poverty, war and injustice could all be made history if we embrace the power of love. So declared Bishop Michael Curry in a show-stealing royal wedding sermon.
“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”
It was with this rousing Martin Luther King Jr quote that Bishop Michael Curry began his fiery sermon on Saturday — a speech which exalted the world-changing power of love and confirmed him as the royal wedding’s unexpected star.
His very presence at the pulpit was radical. Protocol usually states that senior Church of England priests speak at royal weddings. Yet here was Michael Curry: an African-American bishop famed for exuberant preaching and political campaigning.
And with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and two billion viewers watching on, he did not hold back.
“When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again,” he exclaimed. “When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream… When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields.”
A striking moment came when he invoked the words of an old slave song There is a Balm in Gilead — its message that even through the darkest suffering, love can be a “healing balm”.
In the sermon’s final movement, Curry considered the power of fire and how it propelled civilisation in the modern age. “If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire,” he declared.
At the heart of this grand message lies a deeply personal idea too. According to Christian theology, the source of all love is God, and the greatest example of this is the sacrifice of Jesus. Curry stressed that it is this “unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love” which is most powerful.
And he pointed to one simple teaching to sum it all up: “love thy neighbour.” In that one phrase, and his references to civil rights, justice and fighting poverty, Curry spoke in the tradition of Liberation Theology, which holds that love is a political force and that Christians should all fight social injustice.
Can love change the world?
Of course, some argue. Love is the most powerful feeling humans know, and is common to all cultures and creeds. Curry spoke as a Christian, but his message is universal. Humanity’s future will be directed by the countless daily choices we all make — if everyone was more compassionate, the total effect would be enormous. Love can change the world.
Not so fast, others respond. Curry’s message may make you feel good, but in practice the world is more complex than that — love will not end poverty without hard-nosed economic policies. Businesses need to prioritise profits over love, because otherwise they will not survive. The world is too difficult for love alone to be enough.
- Did the royal wedding live up to the hype?
- Is love the most powerful emotion?
- Using the top link in Become An Expert, watch Bishop Curry’s sermon for yourself. Then write a 100 word review explaining what you liked or did not like about it. Make sure your language is as clear and precise as possible.
- Using the BBC link in Become An Expert read the full text of Bishop Curry’s speech. What interesting descriptive language does he use? List all the different rhetorical techniques in the speech (e.g. repetition or power of three). Which one line do you think is the most effective and why?
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“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”Martin Luther King Jr
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Bishop Curry’s sermon lasted for 14 minutes, during which he said the word “love” 58 times. Harry and Meghan did not know Curry personally prior to arranging the wedding, however the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recommended him as a “stunning preacher”.
- What do we not know?
- Exactly what other members of the royal family in the congregation thought of the sermon. Kate Middleton, Zara Phillips and Camilla Parker Bowles appeared slightly uncertain as Curry went through his unconventional address. Others were more forthcoming with their praise, for example The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson called Curry a “star” and praised his “wonderful” sermon.
- Martin Luther King Jr
- An American civil rights campaigner, he is most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.
- Curry is the first African-American to be head of the US Episcopal Church.
- Political campaigning
- He has been a vocal advocate for LGBT and civil rights.
- There is a Balm in Gilead
- A traditional spiritual. Spirituals are generally Christian songs written by African-Americans recounting Christian values as well as the hardships of slavery.
- Acting to save someone from sin or error.
- Love thy neighbour
- This teaching is attributed to Jesus Christ. It can be find in the Bible verse Matthew 22:39.
- Liberation Theology
- Mainly developed by Latin American Roman Catholics as a way to address poverty and social injustice. Its concern for the poor and working classes takes influence from Marxism.