Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 14, 1999
Outside the market, there is no salvation
John Ralston Saul, in his book The Unconscious Civilization, writes: "We continue to struggle with the old question - which has been with us since Gregory the Great in the sixth century - of whether to obey a superior even when the order is unjust."
We are familiar with the example of Thomas More who struggled with the question, refused to obey Henry VIII and lost his head.
Insubordination is not a light matter. If not your head, you stand to lose your job, future promotions and whatever else you hold dear. At the same token, the responsibility that comes with authority is not easy either.
At the Nuremberg trial, the mantra "Befehl ist Befehl" was heard over and over as each accused war criminal tried to hide behind the virtue of obedience to authority.
Where does this authority come from? Popes, monarchs and presidents over the centuries have claimed that this authority comes from God.
Gen. Augusto Pinochet believed he acted on God's behalf. All authority invested in people, down to the lowliest person in charge of even "lesser" persons, was an expression of God's dominion over all of creation.
The hierarchy of authority has shifted from one century to the next. Sometimes popes would appoint monarchs and other times monarchs would appoint popes. All of this was explained as the Holy Spirit active amongst her people.
Sometimes the people themselves would be seen as the most reliable channel through which the Spirit operated. In this manner, St. Ambrose was elected.
Far too often through the ages, authority was confused with power as in "might is right." Those on the summit of power played God, lorded it over others and considered themselves above the law, while those at the bottom mistook fear of this law for obedience.
This is more or less how faltering humanity bungled and stumbled from age to age - each generation sacrificing those at the bottom to satisfy the ambitions of those at the top. That is not to say rulers who promoted the common good were totally absent from human history, but our history is by and large one of violent conquest.
In what respect has our belief system influenced the way we have structured the world? White Western Christian males on top and the rest of the world in descending order below us is more than a freak coincidence.
Although we live in a secular world, the notion of superiority is rooted in our Christian belief that we possess the truth.
In a secular world we lord it over others in the name of "democracy," the free market, moral superiority, superior technology and superior values.
Martin Koestler irreverently observes: "On the path of the victorious Church of Constantine follows the blood-stained genocide of believers of other religions. After the council of Nicea (325 AD) the individual believer is completely at the mercy of the institution of the Church and its doctrine. Such a church carries her share of guilt for the disaster that time and again has come upon humanity."
In a corporate world our god is mammon, our religion is finance, we worship at the stock exchange, our prophets and church fathers are the economists and investors, while our defenders of the faith roam the heavens in stealth bombers.
We have built our banks on top of cathedrals, but maintained the arrogance of the Constantine church as we proselytize our faith in the system and bring the "lost sheep" into our free market orbit. For outside of the market there is no salvation.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
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