All power and authority

Digby Anderson on the oft-denounced virtues of humility and submission, and authority

What were the virtues of Our Lord Jesus Christ? We must know what they were for we are bound to embrace and exhibit the virtues we find in his character and in his deeds. Perhaps the most important was love. Then there were courage and perseverance and dedication to truth. But there is a group of virtues which are of special current interest. A title for them might be the Majesty of Divine Humiliation. Our Lord condescended to be born in the likeness of men as a baby in a stable. His life was one of meekness and humility, that of a servant. Finally he was obedient, to death even to death on a cross. He humbled himself. In his trial before that death he abased himself. Chambers gives as other words for meek and abased, submissive and lowly. Look again at that list; condescension, humiliation, humility, service, obedience, meekness, abasement, submission, lowliness. These were the virtues he willingly embraced.

The quest for power

Now travel 2,000 or so years, put aside Holy Writ and take up an advanced feminist tract. What are the characteristics of women’s wretched condition under patriarchy which are roundly denounced? Why, humbleness, meekness, humiliation, service, obedience, submission and lowliness. Women must be strong and refuse these conditions. What Our Lord taught, his very own virtues, the Sisters must reject. Instead they need power, the very thing he explicitly rejected when confronted by Satan, before Pilate and from the cross on Golgotha.

Power, of course, is the key. The opposite to each of the list of Our Lord’s virtues is power, earthly power. Advanced feminism is a child of Marxism – one of many. For Marx and even more for Lenin, power was the key. The relationship between classes, capitalists and proletariat, men and women, was dichotomic. The wealth of the capitalist was at the expense of the proletariat.

The submission of women was caused by the dominance of men. The losers in relationship could only be helped by the expropriation of the winners and the redistribution of power and wealth. The relationship was one of struggle for power. Should you be interested, you can still find this nonsense among the liberation theologians. There is only one way for poor countries to become rich and that is buy redistribution.

Despite the proof of the contrary in China, India, Brazil, countries where economic success has been achieved by other means, and by the Soviet Union and eastern Europe where massive, confiscatory redistribution actually impoverished the lower classes, there is no shortage of useful idiots happy to embrace it. Perhaps the new pope will find it attractive. Certainly the feminists are still obsessed with empowering their sex and disempowering men. The first of these is simply anti-Christian. The second is worth considering. A persuasive case can certainly be made that some men are obsessed by power, power over women, power over other men, over children and even domestic pets.

An ugly spectacle

A dedication to power certainly makes such men very poor Christians. They have much to learn from the gentler sex and the Church should encourage them to do so; if it can find enough members of that sex who are still gentle (gentle being another term related to meekness).

However, the true problem with the different obsessions with power among feminists and powerful men is with the concept itself. There are two problems. Neither Marx not Lenin and the feminists ever explained why the powerful wanted to achieve and keep power. The obvious answer is that power enables you to have whatever you want and having what you think you want makes you happy. Does it? Certainly some men who feel obliged to compete in the power race find that burden heavy. It is not, of course, riches but the pursuit of them that is the source of evil. However, even using power to consume happy goods can prove a burden too. The spectacle of men or women in full and exclusive pursuit of wealth, power and status is plain ugly.

Embracing the call

The second point is fundamental. Power is not the same as authority. Our Lord had authority even before Pilate and on the cross. There are both men and women called to tasks of authority, probably different tasks. The call to authority should not be denied but embraced. Doctors, entrepreneurs, craftsmen even manual workmen can be called to serve others. They may acquire wealth in so doing. That should be taken lightly and spent generously and well. Authority may or may not bring earthly happiness but it can, unlike power but with difficulty, be combined with the Majesty of Humiliation.

It is time to ditch the language of class rights, equality and power and the politics of envy. It is time to rediscover that of vocation and status obligation.

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