Gospel, slaven, King: Markle introduceert zwarte cultuur bij wit bolwerk

Met een gospelkoor en een Afro-Amerikaanse predikant drukte Meghan Markle haar stempel op een normaliter oerconservatief feest.

Predikant Michael Curry tijdens de 'royal wedding'. Foto Owen Humphreys/AFP

Dat deze koninklijke bruiloft onderscheidend zou worden, daar waren alle analisten het van tevoren al over eens. Omdat prins Harry de zesde in lijn van troonopvolging is, hadden hij en zijn verloofde meer vrijheid om de dag naar eigen smaak in te vullen dan bijvoorbeeld broer William die in 2011 met Kate Middleton trouwde. Maar op welke manier de biculturele feminist en actrice Meghan Markle haar stempel zou drukken op het normaal zo oerconservatieve evenement bleef lang onduidelijk.

Na afloop kan alleen maar geconcludeerd worden dat door Markle de zwarte cultuur sterker dan ooit aanwezig was in een van de meest elitaire kringen ter wereld, het Britse koningshuis. De gastenlijst bevatte een reeks zwarte beroemdheden als Oprah Winfrey, acteur Idris Elba en tennisster Serena Williams, een goede vriendin van Markle. Het gospelkoor The Kingdom Choir zong tijdens de dienst Stand By Me van Ben E. King en de burgerrechtenhymne This Little Light of Mine van Etta James. Ook de 19-jarige cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason trad op, de eerste zwarte muzikant die de prestigieuze BBC-wedstrijd voor jonge muzikanten won.

Stand By Me door The Kingdom Choir:

Martin Luther King en slaven

Maar wat wereldwijd het meeste indruk maakte was de preek van de Afro-Amerikaanse predikant Michael Curry. Hij hield een pleidooi voor de liefde, waarbij hij refereerde aan de zwarte burgerrechtenactivist Martin Luther King. Hij haalde ook een lied aan dat werd gezongen door slaven in de 19de eeuw in de zuidelijke Amerikaanse staten.

De keuze voor Curry, de eerste zwarte kerkelijk leider van de Episcopaalse kerk in de Verenigde Staten, was even bijzonder als logisch. Bijzonder, omdat Curry bekendstaat als een on-Brits passionele spreker, zich uitspreekt over seksueel misbruik en homorechten en bovendien geen speciale band had met het bruidspaar. Maar ook logisch gezien de biculturele achtergrond van Markle, die een Afro-Amerikaanse moeder en een Iers-Nederlandse vader heeft. Curry was volgens The Guardian aangeraden door aartsbisschop Justin Welby, die het paar trouwde.

De kracht van liefde

Curry begon zijn toespraak (hieronder volledig te lezen) door King te citeren over de liefde:

“The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.’”

Om aan te geven wat liefde allemaal kan bereiken, haalde hij een door slaven gezongen lied aan, There is a Balm in Gilead:

“If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform.

“They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says ‘There is a balm in Gilead…’ a healing balm, something that can make things right.

“‘There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.’”

Met de woorden van de Franse jezuïet en wetenschapper Pierre Teilhard de Chardin legde hij het verband tussen “een van de grootste uitvindingen van de mensheid”, het vuur, en de liefde, het ‘geestelijk vuur’:

“And he [De Chardin, red.] then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love - it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.”

Bekijk de dertien minuten durende toespraak van Curry:

‘Ze hebben laten zien: we zijn geen blanke kerk’

Volgens theoloog en predikant Joost Röselaers liet de Anglicaanse Kerk zich zaterdag van zijn multiculturele kant zien. “Ik zag allerlei kleuren: zwart, blank, een koptische priester. Daar is zorgvuldig over nagedacht.”

Röselaers kent de Anglicaanse Kerk goed. Hij was tot vorig jaar predikant bij de Nederlandse Kerk in Londen en sloot het eerste kerkelijke homohuwelijk van het Verenigd Koninkrijk: “Die kerk is van oorsprong Engels, maar is inmiddels ook groot geworden in Nigeria, Azië en het Midden-Oosten. Ze hebben heel goed laten zien: wij zijn geen blanke kerk, maar een internationale kerk waar alle achtergronden bij elkaar komen.”

Ook de keuze voor het gospelkoor en de jonge cellist betekende een breuk met de klassieke Anglicaanse geloofsbeleving, aldus Röselaers: “Normaal hoor je passages uit het populaire Book of Common Prayer. Die teksten stammen uit de 16de eeuw.”

Het optreden van de 19-jarige cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason:

Curry’s toespraak was tot slot een duidelijke verwijzing naar Pinksteren, “het feest van de geest en het vuur”, dat deze zondag wordt gevierd, zegt Röselaers: “Aan de hand van Jardin zei Curry dat het vuur opnieuw geboren moet worden.”

Dat Curry de preek uit zijn hoofd deed was “risicovol”, zegt Röselaers. Hij had wel een tablet voor zich, maar keek daar nauwelijks naar, terwijl de dienst van minuut tot minuut was gepland. De predikant zelf leek daar ook even rekenschap van te geven. Tegen het einde van zijn toespraak zei hij:

“And with this I will sit down, we gotta get you all married.”

Op sociale media werd euforisch gereageerd op alle referenties aan de zwarte cultuur:

Elamin Abdelmahmoud, een Canadese journalist:

Twitter avatar elamin88 Elamin Abdelmahmoud A black reverend preaching to British royalty about the resilience of faith during slavery is 10000000% not what I thought I was waking up for, the royal wedding is good

Anthony Black, een Amerikaanse blogger:

Twitter avatar MrAnthonyBlack Mr. Anthony Black This was officially the blackest royal wedding the U.K. Has ever seen. A black cellist and a gospel choir singing “This Little Light Of Mine” as they walked out of the church! Come thru Meghan! #RoyalWedding

Een priester uit Indianapolis:

Twitter avatar charlesharriso5 Rev DrCharles Harrison @FOX59 As a Methodist Pastor I really enjoyed the royal tradition of the wedding ceremony mixed in with the black church.

De volledige tekst van de toespraak (via de BBC):

“And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

“From the Song of Solomon, in the Bible: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

“The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.’

“There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise it. There’s power, power in love.

“If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to centre around you and your beloved.

“Oh there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it - it actually feels right.

“There is something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love, and our lives were meant - and are meant - to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.

“Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives. There’s an old medieval poem that says: ‘Where true love is found, God himself is there’.

“The New Testament says it this way: ‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God.’ Why? ‘For God is love.’

“There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.

“There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.

“There’s power in love to show us the way to live.

“Set me as a seal on your heart… a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death.

“But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.

“But it’s not just for and about a young couple, who we rejoice with. It’s more than that.

“Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and he went back and he reached back into the Hebrew scriptures, to Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and Jesus said: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.’

“And then in Matthew’s version, he added, he said: ‘On these two, love of God and love of neighbour, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world… love God, love your neighbours, and while you’re at it, love yourself.’

“Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.

“A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world - and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.

“I’m talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.

“If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform.

“They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says ‘There is a balm in Gilead…’ a healing balm, something that can make things right.

“‘There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.’

“And one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said: ‘If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.’

“Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead! This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. He died to save us all.

“He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t… he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world… for us.

“That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.

“If you don’t believe me, just stop and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.

“Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.

“Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.

“Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way - unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.

“When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.

“When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.

“When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.

“When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.

“When love is the way, there’s plenty good room - plenty good room - for all of God’s children.

“Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well… like we are actually family.

“When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.

“My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.

“And let me tell you something, old Solomon was right in the Old Testament: that’s fire.

“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - and with this I will sit down, we gotta get you all married - French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.

“Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, scientist, a scholar, a mystic.

“In some of his writings, he said, from his scientific background as well as his theological one, in some of his writings he said - as others have - that the discovery, or invention, or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history.

“Fire to a great extent made human civilisation possible. Fire made it possible to cook food and to provide sanitary ways of eating which reduced the spread of disease in its time.

“Fire made it possible to heat warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates.

“Fire made it possible - there was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire.

“The advances of fire and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good.

“Anybody get here in a car today? An automobile? Nod your heads if you did - I know there were some carriages. But those of us who came in cars, fire - the controlled, harnessed fire - made that possible.

“I know that the Bible says, and I believe it, that Jesus walked on the water. But I have to tell you, I did not walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here.

“Controlled fire in that plane got me here. Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other.

“Fire makes all of that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history.

“And he then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love - it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.

“Dr King was right: we must discover love - the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.

“My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.”

Correctie (23 mei 2018): In een eerdere versie van dit bericht stond dat de moeder van Meghan Markle Afro-Afrikaans is. Dat moest Afro-Amerikaans zijn.