Sunday, July 26, 2009

Respect For Authority

I don't have it. The first authorities are always parents. The worse they are, the less likely their spawn will be able to respect authority.

I live as lawlessly as I dare, given that I live in a paternalistic, authoritarian, theocratic state. I live at odds with the culture around me and have learned, usually, to live quietly and as invisibly as possible, and to find the other rebels in my neck of the woods. Amazing how many of us there are. Repressive theocracy breeds quiet but passionate rebels.

I do believe we have a great set of rights and obligations set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But we have a bunch of stupid state and federal laws and statutes that are unconstitutional. Drug laws, for instance. We tolerate a homegrown terrorist organization that escalates from intimidation to murders in the name of protecting a zygote. Potential life trumps the living person. The right-to-lifers are always pro death penalty. And they always claim to be driven by some religious zeal. I've known a lot of people who claim to be christian, but I have known very few who truly lived up to the dogma. Judge not, is a big one. Covetousness is another difficult test for christians. Love thy (strange) neighbor is another problem. There is something in there about the poor, the disabled, the elderly too, I'm sure.

I've done my time searching for a religious fit for myself. Couldn't be done. It started when I was in my teens and ended in my fifties. The best I did was find a congregation and a pastor who spoke to me in many ways that satisfied something in my heart that was mostly about having a sense of community. They were welcoming and kind, generous and accepting. And the pastor was smart. He was an intellectual, an academician, an author, an activist. And yet, a kind and modest man. He walked the walk. It was a predominantly black Baptist church.

The first draw for me was walking past the open front doors on a warm spring day and hearing the sound of a great band and a swinging gospel choir. Hot damn. I'm coming back. Great entertainment for a $5 contribution every sunday at a civilized hour? You can't beat that. Women wearing nice dresses and hats. Oh yes, I could do that. I loved it. It had nothing at all to do with faith or belief. It had everything to do with the collective spirit of those people, the personality of the preacher, the humor in his sermons, the great music, all that kept me coming back. And then I hooked up with one of the nicer looking older bachelors of the congregation.

We became a couple. And then it seemed as if I had an obligation to believe in the dogma. I wrestled with that. The man was a catch. He looked like Morgan Freeman. He was a retired homicide detective. First black homicide detective in Salt Lake. But even retired, he was still a man who represented The Law. He followed The Rules. (Didn't mean I had to) He believed The Dogma. And in order to keep going out with this sexy man I eventually had to choose or admit how damn shallow was my faith in anything or anyone.

I did get baptized. But in my interview with the pastor, I said I believed anything was possible and that no religion was THE ONE TRUE religion. He let me skate on that, but talked obliquely about the foolish belief that Christ is not the One True Savior in next Sunday's sermon. Even so, even with the disclaimer, they dunked me. It didn't change a thing in me. I was still the same old skeptic. Still the same old pot smoking sinner. Still the passionate supporter of a woman's right to chose, an opponent of the death penalty, the same woman who just couldn't learn to honor her father and her mother.

When the bachelor asked me to marry him and move to Mesquite, Nevada, I bailed. No more church either. It felt like a package deal.

One of the things I learned during that period of time was that white men, even those not in a uniform of authority, find the sight of a black man with a white woman an affront to the laws of nature. And some white men are so insecure that a badge gives them license to commit all kinds of legal and moral offenses just because they wear a badge and carry a gun. So respect for authority does not come easily to those of us who have been abused by authority young and then observed authority break laws every day of our lives. But I'd love to live in a culture where we were all treated equally under the law, and our differences respected. Until then, I'll keep my skepticism and do my smoking at home with the windows closed. And I've given up dating.

I do think it's nice that our first black president has invited his friend the academic, and the cop who arrested this small, elderly black man on the porch of his own home to the White House for a beer. And I'm glad he called the behavior of the policeman who arrested his friend "stupid." It has started the conversation going again. Racism is still an issue in this country. Racial profiling is tolerated in every police force in the country. We are a nation of bigots even if unconscious of that bigotry. You probably learned it early at home or in church. Just saying. I guess if you respect the authority that taught you your bigotry and claimed it was your birthright, you just fall in line. And if the Jesus in your picture books is blond and blue eyed, I guess you think he's yours alone.

But if you know that authority isn't right about everything, then you just might turn into a questioning rebel.

16 comments:

jadedj said...

Utah...Christians ain't Christian, has been my experience. Especially when it comes to equality.

I am sure you have probably seen this, and even if you haven't, it's worth a revisit. George Carlin on the Ten Commandments. My sentiments precisely. God how I loved that man. The only voice of reason I've ever heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkRYaMiP4K8

jadedj said...

Make that, even if you have. Jeez J.

Utah Savage said...

Yes, I have seen it, and he verbalized what I felt so well and with such humor. He was a bit like our Mark Twain only in a different medium.

susan said...

I've always been glad I wasn't raised here and having arrived at age 30 at least meant I'd attained some maturity along with the outsider viewpoint. I'm not saying Canada or Europe are perfect places by any means but it's always appeared to me that most Americans seem to revel in perpetual adolescence. It's unfortunate and jadedj is right about Christians not being Christian. How anybody can take Revelations and the Book of Daniel seriously and not pay any attention to the Sermon on the Mount is beyond me.

Carlin had it right.

Beach Bum said...

Every point you make in this post I can agree with and very much relate to as well.

I'm not big on biblethumpers, I find all to be far too certain of their own sainthood and ability to judge others.

It wasn't always that way, the church my grandparents attended had a humble but learned man for a preacher. His sermons were about forgiveness and doing good works. He stayed out of politics and actually worked in the same papermill as my grandfather.

That appears to have completely changed now I find my audience with the All Mighty walking next the ocean and looking at the stars.

As for human authority I don't have much use for them either being that you don't need to be a biblethumper to have a huge ego and believing a tin star makes you Lord of the earth and another man's porch. Don't care how racially trained Crowley is suppose to be something about that situation irks the hell out of me.

Mauigirl said...

Very well said, Utah. I agree, and I've always been suspicious of authority too.

gfid said...

what's that saying? something about power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely. authority is power.

darkblack said...

Honestly, I think we should just trust authority in every decision it makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

;>)

The Peach Tart said...

My grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister and he was a walking hypocrite. I've despised organized religion and authority since.

Gail said...

Hi Utah-

We are ole hippies here - rebels indeed, and like you, stay just this side of the law and keep a low profile. Every now and then we "rise up".....
A co-worker-turned manager and a friend for a decade visited me yesterday. The waters have b een mudied as she allied with an oppressive, inhumane, blaming management style and I maintained my free spirit, everyone has a a voice, and do all things w/love approach... we are at odds. I tried for five years to separate the friendship from the management role, and I was successful for a while. Over time, as she grew in management it became impossible for me to separate her the friend from her the manager. I grew not to like her or trust her much at all and certainly lost respect as I witnessed and experienced who she has become. All quite sad actually. Especially when she fell into her role well by saying - "You have issues with power and I have watched your hatred for management grow over the years".I tried to reply and said I have issues with mis-use of power, but it fell to deaf ears. And so it is, so it goes........

so ya, I dislike authority especially when it is mis-used, as is so often the case. sigh.....

love and peace
Gail

themom said...

I've found that just about all religions are chalk full of hypocrites. One church I attended, an older lady once said, "you can bring a gallon of ice cream into this church, and it would NOT melt." I was impressed.

La Belette Rouge said...

I love this tour through parents, church, authority, love, and loss. You know what I find really interesting is that like you my original authorities were not deserving respect but I have a fierce Super-Ego and am always worried what authority figures think and I am frequently disappointed by them.

Sherry said...

i've finally found the time and the age to be what i am.

i've always cherished the good things of the 60's but i never had the time or the feedom back then to say much openly. i've always been a quiet protester and champion of principles. i've worked a little at a time for the long haul.

now, at 57, i am more vocal(and a bit more openly strange for the area)

but, i don't care much about what people think of me. the people that know me, even if they look at me a bit odd know and readily admit that i'm a nice person and i can be counted on.

so, if i want to get a tattoo or dance by myself to music or tell them i'll light a candle, they just smile.

that's o.k. by me.

a ball of Light said...

as i read further in your post, and through these comments, i became convinced that you were holding up this halogen studded focussing mirror showing me my own thoughts. except the part about the batchelor, although i too have Come to Jesus to get some...

as for living (mostly) on this side of the law -the pater noster poster, and allowing negligible and tentative impact from and with that environment while finding commonality where you will sounds like what i've come to call fringe dwelling.

iam personally really tired of feeling that need to be a fringe dweller these days. as if the fringe was becoming less so. maybe fringe dwelling is the new fall color...

Randal Graves said...

I'd respect The Man more if he paid me a higher wage and/or increased my booze supply.

up and down town said...

i think we're going to get along just fine. ;)
i'm a very well-behaved rebel, by choice/nature. but independent thinking was necessary, growing up.

(ps i tried to provide some clarification in response to your comment, in the comment box, re. my captions.)