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Date Posted: 09:38:37 10/22/04 Fri
Author: bruce
Subject: Order, Authority, and Authoritarianism

One thing I noticed about this forum and recent discussions is that everything comes down to a matter of UBF being authoritarian. It is fair to say that it is authoritarian because even its own members say so.

However, I noticed that there tends to be a very sharp black and white idea about this matter of authoritarianism vs. authority and order. It would seem that UBF members might feel that if the authoritarian aspects of UBF were changed that it would lead to disorder and collapse. In my studies of history I noticed this same conflict in Germany after WWI. Germans were reluctant to abandon the monarchy. To them the monarchy meant security, order, and beneficent paternalism. In many ways prior to WWI Germany led Europe with its authoritarian system in providing a high standard of living, education, and technical improvement. Germans viewed the authoritarian government positively and even despised democracies as being "mobocracies." So, when Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate because of defeat and the loss of credibility the Germans were at a loss. After some chaos the Weimar Republic came about but Germans did not appreciate it. To them democracy looked like conflict and chaos. How can anything get done when so many people are at odds with each other and leading in different directions?

So, the German elites conspired to do away with the Weimar Republic to restore an authoritarian system. Men like chancellor Franz Von Papen and Kurt Von Schleicher thought of possibly even restoring the monarchy with the Kaiser's son. All the German elites and many of the people agreed that the republic should end and some sought to use the NSDAP and Adolf Hitler for this end. The NSDAP and their leader had all the right watch words: authority, unity, and paternalism. However, I need not remind you how things turned out. It was a complete disaster for Germany and Europe. Germany thought it could only be strong and united under an authoritarian system. However, for a variety of reasons it ended up virtually destroyed by the democracies of the United States and England which they regarded as weak and ineffective. (Of course we must also give credit to the Soviets who also had an authoritarian system but we know how their story turns out too!)

The result was that after WWII Germany embarked again on being a democracy. The result has generally been very good. I don't think many Germans would trade their republic for an authoritarian regime anymore, is this right Chris and Mike?

I did not mean to turn this into a history lesson, but my point is to demonstrate through the example of Germany that although it might be natural to wish to cling to the security and comfort of an authoritarian and paternalistic system it is nonetheless irrational and in the end will not lead to necessarily more security or order than a more democratic system. In fact, when authoritarian systems do undergo change, it is usually because it is badly needed and overdue so the resultant "correction" can be cataclysmic. Examples of this include not only Weimar Germany but the fall of the Soviet Union and its associated satellites in the 1990s. Most of us remember the crowds surrounding an unrepentant Ceaucescu or thousands of Czechs demonstrating in Wensceslas Square in Prague.

My point is that we need never be afraid to do away with authoritarianism, especially as long as we have faith in Christ. Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Real freedom in Christ means freedom to speak, freedom to disagree, and even freedom to disobey people. Of course this does not mean we live a life of license, indolence, or selfishness. Rather, we grow into adults who can speak the truth in love to one another and act on these truths without fear of estrangement from one another or from God.

In conclusion I will say that order, authority, and obedience are good and Godly attributes. However, authoritarianism, and unquestioning obedience, and an eagerness to defer to others regarding the difficult truths and questions of our life is not a positive Christian attitude. Just as children must grow up and learn to make their own decisions and have their own ideas, and their own choices, Christians must eventually have the courage and faith to become mature enough to take responsibility for themselves before God even though it might be messy and uncomfortable at first. We should not be afraid of the freedom we have in Christ.

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