Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Polar Ends on Authority

When I was working on sorting out what I chose to believe now as an adult, I got to the end where I left it last time, and wrote a note.  "Go on to talk about authority and accountability and emotions."  I just didn't have time then.  We had to do the typical emptying and storing of our household enough that another missionary family could move in while we are gone.  We had to get all our paperwork in order and pack for a trip.  So I left it for later.

Besides, I was still puzzled over this one.  I don't have it so neat and clean.  What I have is a slow sorting through the things I was taught and the things I was shown and how that impacted me growing up in the middle of it all.  I see storm clouds that gather in the future over some of these very issues and I wish that things were different.  I've learned over a very difficult path that "having my head" is not always the best way to be.  There is a place for good, Biblical authority.  There is a blessing in accountability.  There is also the potential for abuse of both.  However, the potential for abuse is not reason enough to shun either authority or accountability.  You can not throw out the baby with the bath water.

I grew up in an odd mix of complete disregard for authority and accountability, and a complete totalitarian approach to it at the same time.  As children, immediate, complete, unquestioning obedience and respect was demanded of us.  Seldom were we heard.  Our motives or intentions were not considered.  Our feelings not taken into account.  We were to obey.

[There was actually a time period in my life when I just decided that whatever I did in the day, I would end up getting a spanking when I came home, so I may just as well do whatever I wanted.  The end result would be the same.  A spanking at the end of the day was going to be as routine as a bedtime story for some.]

Yet in the same environment that total, unquestioning obedience with respect was demanded of children, the adults were modelling a disregard not only for authority, but also for accountability.  Rules were made to find an exception to.  Our family sought missions and churches which exerted little to no oversight, control, or requirements of its missionaries.  Our family functioned as "lone ranger" missionaries.  We left groups if they had requirements that were not acceptable to my parents.  Perhaps some of these disagreements with authorities were based on good thinking and choices, but the result was the same.  We disagreed, and usually we left.  We often would remain friendly with groups we left, but we would work alongside them, outside of their authority and not accountable to them at all.

The other example set before us was of walking away from people who attempted any confrontation or correction of thinking.  We were good at leaving things.  My family just functioned best as "lone rangers".  I was often taught about how the way we do things was so much better than how "they" do things.

There is something I appreciate about that upbringing.  I appreciate the ability to think creatively about a task.  I value the skill to think outside the box, to risk doing something that no one else has attempted.  That is a thing to keep.

The weakness of it was that we did not have modeled how to work together, how to set aside our views and cooperate.  We were not shown how submission to authority functions in a Christian environment.  We were not taught how to respond to authority and accountability.  (My husband would likely agree with me here, and our marriage has suffered for it.)

Authority and submission to it was shown either as total submission of mind, body, and will to a stronger power as a child would; or it was non-existent, an evil to be thrown off and avoided.  Neither are the right position that I believe God wants us to have about authority, but it would take me years to learn this.

1 comment:

Shan in Japan said...

Thanks for sharing this. I appreciated the way you pointed out the good things you learned even as you point out the things that were not so helpful in your upbringing.
Praying you have some quiet time to yourself today!