Krish Kandiah is a UK-based speaker and author and founder of Home for Good, a fostering and adoption charity. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
You know things are serious when “Senior Royals” in Buckingham Palace let it be known that they are “hurt” and “disappointed” over a decision made by one of their own. The revelation this week that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, intend to step back as senior royals and instead seek a way to become financially independent has received not only public challenge from the royal family but also a high degree of criticism from pundits and the press.
The tone of reporting in the United Kingdom has felt very judgmental, with one of the main critiques being the couple’s lack of consultation with the wider royal family. However, over the past few months, the Sussexes have made no secret about their personal and professional struggles. In October, they issued an official statement in which the prince said he could no longer be a “silent witness” to his wife’s “private suffering.”
Markle continues to bear the brunt of the angry reaction, which some see as both misogynistic and racist. Despite the scandal over Prince Andrew’s relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the tabloids have nevertheless focused on her surprising choices: to wear jeans to Wimbledon; to ride on a jet with Elton John; or to guest edit Vogue magazine. The media’s obvious problems in dealing with Markle as a progressive American woman of color with ideas and opinions is born out in the stinging criticism that has been directed at her over the step-down, in what some are calling “Megxit.”
Prince Harry has been the first to compare the hounding of his wife to that of his mother, Princess Diana. He has made it clear that he cannot stand by and watch history repeat itself. This has led him to break protocol before, when he helped lead a campaign on mental health issues and opened up to his own need for counseling two decades after he lost his mother at the age of 12. Unsurprisingly, the general public has always had a great deal of sympathy for the prince.
While there are some who are very critical of the couple for abandoning tradition—accusing them of dereliction of their taxpayer-funded duties—others like myself are more supportive of the Sussexes’ progressive stance. Their desire to prioritize one another, be financially independent, and champion causes close to their heart despite great sacrifice is praiseworthy. Many are hopeful that this will catalyze the modernization of the monarchy and facilitate it to further its positive contribution to the UK’s and the Commonwealth’s public life.
Christians should consider carefully our response to this latest episode with “Harry and Meghan.” The church and the royal family have more in common than we might at first imagine. Both are ancient institutions struggling with recent scandals of high-profile members failing to deal adequately with accusations of sexual abuse; accused of being biased against women and non-inclusive of people of color; and now apparently losing the allegiance of a new generation.
For many years, the Barna Group has been analyzing generational engagement with churches. In his book, Faith for Exiles, David Kinnaman states that in 2011, 59 percent of young Americans who grew up Christian had stopped attending their churches. Less than a decade later, the number has now increased to 64 percent. Despite numerous initiatives to try and reverse the trend, we have not managed to sufficiently engage young adults with Christianity.
This speaks to a major challenge to the mission of the church: for all the evangelistic initiatives, for all the church planting, for all the populist fears of immigration diluting the Christian population’s majority, the biggest challenge to the Christian church is our inability to disciple our own children and help them transition from childhood faith to adult belief.