Archive for October, 2012

My Rant On Authority

October 29, 2012

Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God.  Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence.  Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases.  Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”  Ecclesiastes 8:2-4.

 

I have a bad attitude about and towards authority…well, more to the point, politics in general.  In my short lifetime (I’m 52 while writing this) I’ve seen a lot of abuse of power where those in control of the laws make sure they and their cronies are profiting even if others are suffering.  Cynicism knocks at my door quite a bit to the point I find myself struggling to enter into the whole of the human experience over checking out of this phase of it.

So, with that explanation, anyone reading this will get why my gut reaction to this passage was less than harmonious or the text seen by me as anything other than Solomon (a king) planting blind obedience to his authority into a book on wisdom.  Recently, however, while I typed it out, a different meaning began to dawn on me as I opened myself up to wisdom over my emotional rejection.

Once I believe someone’s motives are not what they seem, I see dark shadows behind everything they say.  You don’t want to be in a car with me when I’m listening to a politician sidestep direct questions with platitudes, misdirection and rants that only serve to take the spotlight off of their own stuff.  Yet whether I like it or not, rulers exist and MUST if order is to be maintained.  My “favorite” power mongers, though, do so with a hint of discretion and subtlety, at least; never really cheating the public blind but using minor graft (pennies on the dollar) to fleece their constituents.  I know that sounds cynical, but my view of most of politicians is they love being in charge first and foremost, developing good policies is secondary to the power and money.

Once I read the statement in context, however, Solomon said something different than my gut reaction made me want to think.  Herein lurks a big problem for all of us, I believe:  Instead of listening we sit or stand ready, preconceptions in hand, with our agenda on the tip of our tongue ready to pounce the moment someone takes a breath.  Never mind that they are probably not even on the same page philosophically as us, our goal is to get our words down on the page before they can convince us otherwise.  In other words, we desperately want to convince them before they persuade us.

A wise good king is preferable to a foolish president.

A people who base their very existence on whether or not they have a big screen TV (or the equivalent) really don’t care who’s in charge as long as the powerful leave them alone, take care of the roads, etc, and generally make sure there’s enough money to go around.  This latter type of person dominates the world, from what I know of it.  The average person couldn’t care less about the powerful, all they want is to make a good living and enjoy life.

Unfortunately, good kings and presidents in general are in short supply.  But the problem doesn’t stop there does it.  No, the attitude of capricious rule permeates even the family structure—down to elder siblings “lord-ing” it over the younger.  The perception that age brings knowledge and, by default, wisdom makes sense only in theory, since those with habitual spiritual, social or whatever myopia tend to think they are “in-the-know” whether or not they really are.  It’s like the educated “expert” declaring the best way to make bread by decrying all other methods.  These critics usually confuse style for content.  What they refuse to acknowledge about style is it is neither right nor wrong but simply different.  Bread goes together a certain way in so much that it won’t bake correctly unless specific steps are taken.  While the basic methods remain the same, the time allowed for raising, kneading, baking and cooling dictate how it turns out.

The powerful only get the last word because someone below them agrees with their viewpoint or lets them get away with it.  When several “someone-s” agree to follow the leader, we get a government for better or worse.  Herd instinct (tribalism) runs deep in the human psyche to the point that the toughest alpha “dog/human” attracts those like-minded to his or her cause and thus a command structure is born.  Every despot ever in power did so at the behest or capitulation of the ruled in some form.  Just as every abused spouse stuck in the marriage for reasons that still baffle those unwilling to do such a thing.

Solomon points out that the king’s word is supreme.  What he doesn’t need to mention is that the king rules by the agreement of the ruled not by any invincible, all-powerful or godlike abilities in and of themselves.  The ruled choose a king based on who makes them feel safe or good about themselves.  A king cannot be obeyed unless others agree that he should be.  Again, a king cannot command a person killed for treason unless his sycophants agree and take steps to carry out the sentence.  History is pockmarked with examples of kings who were assassinated or deposed for a variety of reasons.  A man is just a man no matter his title, which is proven time and again throughout annals of human interaction.

The American Declaration of Independence only stated the obvious by acknowledging that “We hold these truths as self-evident…”  A king will do as he pleases sans the objection of his ruling cabinet.  Psycho rulers like King George, Hitler, Stalin and Hussein enacted their atrocities with the full agreement of their underlings otherwise they could not have pulled it off.  A lot of participants must agree in order to kill 6 million Jews and millions of other innocents.  No one pulls off such evil on a large scale without complicit help from a nation of those with either the same belief or the herd instinct played to perfection.  The democratic system has always been in place though, up until recently, it was only available for a few at the top with the rest being simply fodder for their pleasure.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Yet, Jesus claimed something which affects both the meaning of Solomon’s declaration and thus our understanding of it.

 

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  John 5:39.

 

Christ’s government is not based on a democracy but a dictatorship.  A friend of mine who is fluent in Hebrew and Aramaic claimed the word used in Isaiah referring to God as the absolute ruler is the root word from which we get the word “despot”.  The difference between Jesus and human despots, however, is that the Master already holds all power and has shown His willingness to forgive through redemption, reconciliation and restoration.  Human despots?  We have plenty of examples to show what they do…

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