One of my persistent frustrations with my fellow Christians is a general lack of discernment and good judgment. As the bible makes amply clear, there are false teachers and bad shepherds out there yet everywhere I turn, I meet Christians who have fallen for con artists and cult leaders and false teachings by the boatload. When you see the wreckage of broken families, broken people … Continue reading Rules of Discernment, Rule 1: Authority
I read a story a while back about an anthropologist who was studying some tribal group in New Guinea. He noticed that everyone had at least one odd shaped, irregular scar. When he asked what the scars were from, he was told that they were from falling into a fire as a very young child.
You see, this tribe believed that all humans, including children, have a right and a responsibility for making their own choices. So when a young child would get too close to the fire, that was their choice and no one had a right to stop them from making it. Of course, the judgment of children is generally less than stellar, so inevitably, each child eventually fell into the fire. At that point, the adults or older children would quickly pull them out. If someone needs help, you help them after all. The end result was that everyone had a scar from the experience and everyone learned at a young age to be careful around the fire.
While allowing a small child to fall into a fire without trying to stop or warn them is inconceivable to probably all of us, it struck me when I read this that there was great wisdom in this story.
We live in a time when the challenge for us as parents is raising our kids to live in a world where they have almost complete freedom. Not so long ago, various institutions held a lot of sway over our lives. People generally trusted the church, community norms, the government, schools, employers and even the media to show them right from wrong. In that kind of world, teaching your children to obey authority, starting with your own, was of primary importance.
Today, authority just aint what it used to be. First of all, authority has been completely discredited for most of us. Our churches, government, schools, employers and media have all been shown to be corrupt, self-dealing, untruthful and untrustworthy. There are those who would like to see the institutions and their authority rebuilt.
However, it seems unlikely that people who have experienced what it is like to make their own choices and create their own norms free from the expectations and pressures of authority will go back to submitting to any institution. And given the problems amply demonstrated by human history of people engaging in the worst sorts of evil at the behest of the powers and social norms that be, this is probably a good thing.
The destruction of authority does, however, create a problem for parents. When all of a person’s life was going to be spent submitting to authority, it made sense for parents to raise their kids to be compliant and obedient. But the reality of the world our children will go into when they leave our homes practically demands that we raise our children differently than we did in the past. Continue reading “Raise Good Adults, Not Good Kids”
Sorry for the long break in blogging. I’ve been busy getting my gardens in order and just got back from a trip to Chicago. Of course, not blogging isn’t the same as not obsessing over things, so I suppose I’ll just jump right back in with the latest fun item to be taking up brain space . . . the potential purpose and role of authority in our lives. Sounds like a good time, eh? 🙂
I am a child of my age, and as such, I have always looked at authority as something to be handled cynically and derisively. I recognize that certain authority, such as law enforcement needs to be obeyed if only to keep us all from crashing our cars into one another. Much beyond that, any authority, be it parental, church, political or otherwise was held to a “prove it” standard. And not just prove it to someone who would approve those in positions of authority, but prove it to me, the person you would have authority over. Honestly, it’s hard for me to think of anyone whose instructions or thinking I would follow simply because they were “the authority”. Question everything and everyone has been my MO.
Fear of or respect for authority were punch lines in my book, certainly not anything by which I would make decisions. I would guess that a lot of people are like me in this regard. However, I recently realized something which has made me re-examine my attitude towards authority. You see, over the last 10-15 years, I have invested a lot of time and mental energy into constructing what you could call a philosophy of life. It’s my understanding of the nature of life, the rules by which we ought to govern ourselves in order to live happy, productive lives which are a benefit to our families and communities. I can provide detailed, well reasoned and thought-out explanations for what I believe. You may disagree with my conclusions, but it would be hard to argue that I am simply making things up willy-nilly out of religious delusions or to justify my personal desires.
I have been compelled to do this, I think, precisely because I did not feel that there was a source of authority for how to live my life and think about the important questions of life which I could trust. And now, at the age of 35, I have managed to construct a framework for living which I am pretty satisfied with. The problem is that in the absence of authority, we’re all going to have to go through this process. If we each need to figure out right and wrong and rules for relationships and all the important things in life for ourselves, we are leaving ourselves obscenely open to majorly screwing up our lives long before we have a chance to figure out what’s what. Continue reading “Wherefore art thou, authority?”