Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Authority is dead and the modern period killed it...

This Christmas season my wife and I have listened on Messiah incessantly. One song has occupied my thoughts more than any other. On disc two "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates" is a beautiful song with the interplay of male and female voices, but it's the lyrics that got me thinking. They go like this:

"Lift up your up your heads, o ye gate and be ye lift up the everlasting hosts and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory?... The Lord of hosts..."

Listening to that tune, I realized that I don't really relate to the words "king", "lord", and "glory" and yet they are littered throughout scripture (king 332 times, lord 6513 times, and glory 284 times) and these songs speak of perfect power, authority, justice and love with such ethereal beauty that I long to relate. The interesting thing is that Handel and his audience didn't seem to have this problem...

Over the coming weeks I'm going to try to catalog some topics that may or not be interesting to talk about in a postmodern theology group. Without further ado here's the first installment.

Disclaimer: I'm not a scholar of history or theology.

The modern period (by which I mean 1450ish - 1950ish) killed authority and is the reason why I no longer relate to the words above. In the early modern and modern age we see the following (very roughly):

* The fall of feuadalism and rise of capitalism
* The fall of monarchy and rise of liberal democracies
* The fall of the authority of the church and the rise of the authority of reason

All of these de-emphasize authority and emphasisze the individual. No longer am I a "vassal" subject to a "lord"; I make my wage however I choose in my capitalist economy. No longer am I a subject goverened by laws that I do not choose; my voice is heard (at least in theory) and the laws that govern me are my laws and I can change them. No longer are there institutions that have an authoritative claim on me (like the medieval church); I will think what I want and reason will be my king.

But I'm not really interested in talking about the modern era. The question is "do you think that authority is dead? will authority return in the postmodern era and what will it look like?"

I'll close with this small thought. At least in American culture we are starved for community (see Bowling Alone) and it seems to me that technology is trying to fill that void (text messaging, blogs, instant messaging, social software, 43 things ;) I think that with the postmodern age community will rise, and with the rise of community we'll see a different kind of authority. I don't really know what those authorities will look like (thought leaders? experts? connectors?) nor do I know the extent to which they might influence our ability to rekindle the ancient concepts of power and authority, but it seems worth thinking about. I'm too tired at this point to know whether tha last paragraph was thinking about.... I'll post a follow-up when I figure that out ;)

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