More Thoughts on Authority: Authority (Part 16)
I now understand why I always felt very ill-at-ease when someone challenged me respecting my understanding of authority. I was often seen as a rebel without a cause, when I was more of a rebel without understanding!
I now realize the reason I had those serious misgivings was more a matter of my intrinsically knowing that something was wrong with those who thought I needed a lesson on authority. My first clue was that those who were concerned usually presented themselves with a title, inferring authority. I had a hard time when being subjugated to comply with this claim.
I came to observe that power appeared to have the same characteristics, eventually concluding that giving an individual a title, a special hat or a pair of trousers with a stripe down the legs seemed to empower him or her to think they had a really important job to do which almost always involved telling people what to do. Somehow this was mistaken as having authority and was usually presented with some degree of pride and arrogance.
It is very important to know and understand what real power and authority is. Now to be sure, a gun pointed at the head will soon have most people “honouring” any claim to power and/or authority. I am not talking about being stupid, but then again, we should avoid mindlessly accepting every claim to authority.
Having a pretty good idea of what constitutes a legitimate authority has helped me identify a false authority. Sometimes, the reverse is true. That is, a false authority has helped me to see what the real thing should be.
In fact, a number of victories I have had when dealing with those claiming authority in educational issues has been because, from my faith perspective, I had a reasonable understanding of what government could and could not do.
For example, I was not convinced that the former Minister of Education would actually terminate our school. It is important to understand that I do not entirely believe this was because our school rightly stood on its religious convictions. It was just that the vast majority of students registered through the school are home educated which would mean a war with parents legitimately educating their own children.
While the Minister may have had authority over the schools the ministry had licensed, he did not have the legitimate authority over parents who understood that they had the God-given authority and corresponding responsibility to train and educate their children. It was with this understanding along with the knowledge that the Minister had previously lost another run-in with home educators that gave me peace in those trying times.
To get clarity on who has authority, one has to understand a few important things. Aside from getting directives from scripture, common sense is a good start. For example, and you heard me say this before, it makes no sense that government should have authority over children they did not create.
Another clue to the legitimacy of claims to having authority is to look at history. Knowing that God and His directives do not change, if claims being made today were not accepted in the past, there may be good reason to reject them in the present as well. For instance, did you know that compulsory government schools have only been around for the last 150 years or so? What did parents do before?
Authority and power are legitimate things, but they can be used illegitimately. We need to know the difference.
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