Thursday, February 2, 2012

General Authority

One of the things I was taught often in Fundamentalism, whether explicitly or implicitly, was that authority cannot and should not be challenged.  Authority is never wrong.  And if the authority is wrong, you are not the authority, therefore you do not have the authority to challenge it.

Sometimes it was blatant; others it was couched in more "reasonable" terms, such as, "Well, you placed yourself under this authority, so you should follow their rules while under it."

Sorry, I don't buy it anymore, and there are two main reasons why.

The first is because I'm starting to read the Bible for what it says, and not through the filter of what I've been told it says.  For example, a few Sundays ago at church, we read I Samuel 3.  This is the chapter where God calls Samuel at night to deliver a very disturbing message to the High Priest, Eli.   God uses a very young child - someone with no power at all - to rebuke and confront the biggest human authority in the nation of Israel.

Now, when I was in Fundamentalism, I heard this story often, but the emphasis was on Samuel's obedience.  The second half of the chapter was usually ignored; or if it was included, the judgment of God upon Eli was emphasized.

However, reading this passage again, taking in the entire chapter at once, I awoke to the real ethos of the story.

The chapter opens saying "...the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision."  God wasn't speaking much, to anyone.  Of anyone, the High Priest would have been God's go-to guy for a vision or a word.  He was The Authority in religious and civic matters.

Yet to whom does God choose to speak here?  A young boy.  A nobody.  An anti-authority figure, if you will.

It takes Eli three times to even realize it was God speaking to the boy.  Perhaps I'm over-analyzing, but one would think the High Priest should be a little quicker on the uptake about recognizing God's voice.  No wonder God's word was rare.  Even the High Priest wasn't listening.

And then?  God tells poor Samuel that Eli will be the recipient of unavoidable, unimaginable judgment.  Why?  Because of Eli's sins.  The High Priest!  Full of gross sin?

Just think of it - a young child, a servant, a nobody - was tasked with confronting The High Priest of sin and judgment!  No wonder the poor boy was afraid.

I have to credit Eli at this point.  Once he finally figured out God was speaking, he wanted to hear.  He didn't seem to care who the vision came through - nor did he believe that only authority could receive a vision.  He even used his authority to prod Samuel to do the right thing - to tell him those hard pronouncements of judgment.   He didn't use his authority to quash Samuel's message at all; he actually used it to make sure the message was heard as intended.

How different from my experience in Fundamentalism!  Picture a young fundamentalist lad confronting The Preacher or The Administrator regarding wrong.  What is he first told?  Certainly not that he should be truthful and tell his heart.  He is told *he* is the problem for pointing out the problem.  He is told he doesn't have the authority to do that.  He is told he is not respecting authority by doing so.  He is labeled as rebellious, bitter, and a troublemaker with a wicked, carnal heart.  And if the young Fundamentalist happens to be a lass rather than a lad... well, she is an unsubmissive Jezebel to boot.

God *doesn't* have an "umbrella of authority" or a "chain of command".  He speaks to the one who listens, whomever that may be.  And He delights in speaking to the weak to confound the wise and powerful.  *That* is God.  And if the "authorities" in your life demand you toe a line that God does not, then they are not of God - in fact, they are trying to BE God.

Secondly, I don't buy into the "following authority because they're the authority" because it's illogical that any judge, The Almighty or otherwise, would find that a valid defense in a case of wrongdoing. What do you think?  Do you think God would accept an excuse that you didn't do the right thing because your authority told you not to?   Or that you did something wrong because your authority said you had to?  Even the authorities in Fundamentalism *say* they oppose such behavior - I remember constantly being told to "do right 'till the stars fall" and to stand up for what is right no matter who was on the other side.

Unless, of course, the one whom I opposed was a leader in Fundamentalism.  Then you either shut up or leave. 

When your leaders refuse to play by the same rules they demand of you, they are dishonest, abusive, and liars.   I promise.  Been there, done that, have the healed scars.

Praise God He speaks to anyone who listens.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN! But sadly, I think it took some of us until we were in our 20s - 30s to really understand this...the brainwashing was thorough...thank God we're free!