I am sick of COVID, politics, and just about everything that is a headline. I’m sick of breaking news; most news is breaking me.
So today I’m writing an escapist column about King Raedwald. Yep, King Raedwald. You’ve heard of him, of course. He was the king of East Anglia a long time ago. You’ve heard of East Anglia, of course. It was a smallish kingdom on the east coast of Britain more than 1,500 years ago, home to the Angles of our Anglo-Saxon heritage. East Anglia is present-day Suffolk and Norfolk.
The good king Raedwald of the house of Wuffa (a royal lineage that belongs in the Westminster Dog Show) had his moment in the sun from 599-624 CE, a quarter-century atop the heap. That, in my limited knowledge of British royalty, would be a pretty long reign, except as measured against the UK’s present monarch.
There is very little known about King Raedwald. Archaeologists seem to have discovered his impressive burial site (in a ship!) at a cartoonish-sounding place called Sutton Hoo. Treasure galore has been unearthed from the Hoo mound and a new Netflix movie made about the 1939 discovery, but no signs of a body were discovered, which sounds like the making of a good conspiracy theory.
What attracts me to write about good king Raedwald is the tidbit that he was baptized and converted to Christianity around 605 CE. Christianity had just been introduced to that part of England by a monk named Augustine, who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and baptized Aethelberth (don’t you love those ancient “ae” combinations?), the next-door-neighbor king to our Raedwald.
Raedwald, perhaps in a “keeping-up-with-the-Jones” moment, was also baptized, his neighbor Aethelberth being his baptismal sponsor. Little by little, the kings of these little English kingdoms are forsaking their heathen past.
But in Raedwald’s case, forsaking his heathen history was more than a challenge, because when he returned to his own palace and all his wealth and to his temple erected to his pagan god or gods, he returned to his wife, unbaptized and unconvinced of the value of Christianity.
So Raedwald, the history tells us, chose the best of both worlds. He erected a statue of Jesus in his pagan temple alongside that of whatever Anglish-type god he already worshiped, thus keeping his wife happy, soothing the feelings of his mostly pagan subjects and still giving allegiance to his new faith at the same time.
It’s at this point in the column where the columnist makes the clinching argument that no person can serve two masters. It’s at this point that the preacher identified backsliders and describes in haunting specificity the sinner in all who try to limp along with dual convictions.
And I would do that except for one thing: Re-read my first paragraph. If you’ve made it this far, apply the lesson of the Wuffian king to your own circumstance. I’m ignoring headlines for a few days.
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