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All-Encompassing Authority   Leave a comment

This series is based on my research for Daermad Cycle, a Celtic-inspired fantasy series.

You can’t really argue that the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church did not act upon their own earthly ambitions for wealth, power, and political control. They even declared and participated in wars of conquest with the Church’s own armies under the command of the Pope. Consider the use of power by the Church during the Papal reign of Innocent III (1198-1216):

“Innocent forced the whole temporal power of Europe under his will. He not only interfered in all dynastic affairs, he even arranged the marriages of the temporal rulers and compelled them to obtain a divorce in case the union did not suit him …

“Innocent thought of himself as pope and Caesar in one person and saw in the temporal rulers only vassals of his power, tributary to him … By the establishment of oral confession and the organization of mendicant monks, Innocent created for himself a power of tremendous scope. Furthermore, he made free use of his strongest weapon, the ban of the church, which with unyielding resolution he imposed upon whole countries in order to make the temporal rulers submissive to him.

“In a land hit by the ban all churches remained closed. No bells called the faithful to prayer. There were neither baptisms nor weddings, no confessions were received, no dying were given extreme unction and no dead buried in sanctified ground. One can imagine the terrible effects of such a status on the spirit of men at a time when faith was regarded as supreme.

“Just as Innocent tolerated no equal power, he likewise permitted no doctrine which departed in the least from the usage of the church, even through entire imbued with the spirit of true Christianity … The dominant ambitious spirit of this fearful man balked at no means to guard the unlimited authority of the church.” Rudolf Rocker, Nationalism and Culture (1947)

The unbending tyranny of this theological authoritarianism expected obedience from everyone. Even Innocent III himself became enveloped in this all-encompassing power, saying “I have no leisure to pursue other worldly things; I can scarcely find time to breathe. Truly, so completely must I live for others that I have become a stranger to myself.”

Image result for image of persecution of catholic hereticsThe Church’s position made it unique in another way, because its domain was neither a single country nor region. By the 7th century, its offices and representatives were located in every part of the European continent in which Christianity had triumphed.

The Church’s representatives shared a common value system – Christian church doctrine. They all spoke through the common language of Latin to share religious, philosophical, and administrative discourse. The Church’s outlook, in other words, was international. This cosmopolitan quality to the Church carried consequences:

All those monks and friars spoke the same unclassical Latin; they heard the same Mass wherever they went; they were formed by an education that was the same in all countries; they professed the same system of fundamental beliefs; and they all acknowledged the supreme authority of the Pope, which was essentially international: their country was Christendom, and their state was the Church.

National divisions did not mean to them [the Church’s representatives] what they came to mean in the sixteenth century [with the rise of the modern nation-state]; nothing in the whole range of Dante’s political ideas is so striking as is the complete absence of the nationalist angle.

The result was the emergence of an essentially international civilization and an international republic of scholars that was no phrase but a living reality. St. Thomas was an Italian and John Duns Soctus was a Scotsman, but both taught in Paris and Cologne without encountering any of the difficulties that they would have encountered in the age of airplanes.” Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (1954)

The Edict of 1041 (The Truce of God) emphasizes the significance of the Church’s authority in temporal affairs. The wars between the nobilities and the kings and princes had become so fierce and disruptive of social and economic life that the Church declared Thursday through Sunday as days of devotion and prayer, during which battles and bloodshed were declared sins against the Church. As a consequence, war diminished for a period of time and ceased through large parts of Europe. The cost of maintaining, paying, feeding, and housing sizable armies of mercenaries who could fight only three days a week – Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – was often too great a financial burden for the lords, noblemen, and princes who employed these professional soldiers.

While this partly succeeded in reducing or stopping fighting among many of the Medieval knights and their soldiers, the “sinfulness” only applied to violence between Christians. The prohibition did not restrict violence against non-Christians, so aggression against Jews, Muslims and “heretics” was still considered “moral” activity since they were against the “enemies” of the Church and the Christian faith.

Posted November 5, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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Power Corrupts   2 comments

As a writer, I think a lot about human nature. As a writer working on a book series about the destruction of society, I think a lot about how human nature and government interact.

So here I am living in this world and thinking about it, trying to find useful parallels for my fiction. In the last few days, I’ve seen a lot of reasons that explain why my apocalyptic is my bestseller. Cops are shooting civilians who seemingly did not earn such treatment. In the meantime, a lot of my friends (and truth to tell, myself) are appalled that the Director of the FBI has chosen not to charge Hillary Clinton with mishandling classified documents.

Yes, videos can be doctored and there is information presented to the jury that the public will never see. Also, yes, she knew these were classified documents because some of them were marked “classified” and there was a rule against using unsecured email servers in place for nearly two years before she became Secretary of State. I want to see her charged not because I hate Hillary (though I admit I have zero use for her), but because if you or I had done this thing, we would be jailed pending trial and probably not allowed bail.

The events of police brutality and the news that Hillary Clinton is not like the rest of us may appear unrelated, but at bottom, they concern the same fundamental problem: impunity.

Impunity is power which, Lord Acton observed, tends to corrupt. What is power? It’s not simply the capacity to exert unjust force or the ability to impress your will on the flesh or belongings of someone else. We fail to think critically when we don’t see that it is more than that.

Pretty much anyone can wield unjust force. Bullies do it all the time as do muggers and wife-beaters. Isolated incidents of aggression do not constitute power. The strong-armed thug tends to have a short reign until the community recognizes him as the menace to society that he is and neutralizes him.

Power is not so much about the exertion of unjust force as what follows the exertion. Some perpetrators go to jail and others do not. Systematically avoiding punishment for aggression ( impunity) is where power truly lies, which is what makes agents of the government different from other bullies. State agents can violate rights with reliable impunity because a critical mass of the public considers the aggression of state agents to be legitimate exceptions to the rule of law that says you may not abuse or kill another human being without consequence.

Impunity is power and power corrupts.

State impunity is the root of police violence. The police are seen as knights of safety and order. I like living in a safe community as much as the next gal, but the populace grants cops a dispensation to commit violence that would be considered criminal if perpetrated by anyone else. Most of us have heard of the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” but we don’t really know what it means. In a 1967 case (Pierson v. Ray), the Supreme Court created a special right for cops. If they were sued for constitutional violations, they could raise the defense of “qualified immunity” and escape paying for their violation of a person’s constitutional rights. When victims of police violence or their heirs seek redress and are awarded monetary payments, it is taxpayers rather than cops who pick up the tab. Additionally, police officers are rarely criminally prosecuted for violence inflicted while they’re on the clock. Occasionally one will offend so egregiously and publicly that he will be fired, but he will more likely be suspended with pay, which looks more like a vacation as a reward for bad behavior than a discipline.

Thus insulated from responsibility, officer treatment of ordinary people has grown predictably irresponsible. Confident in being sheltered from consequences by their “blue privilege,” officers are far more prone to indulge in violence and place “officer safety” so far above civilian rights that they are willing to gun down a stranger at the slightest whiff of potential danger. This week’s events are a prime example of this. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were exercising their natural right to carry a gun. Alton Sterling was a felon, but felons are also human beings and fellow citizens who deserve rights and due process. The neighborhood he lived in sounds like a place where a man might legitimately need a gun to protect himself. Philando Castile had a license for his gun. Neither threatened the officers with his weapon. There was no brandishment. In both cases, becoming aware of the guns sent a cop into a murderous panic that resulted in these men both being fatally shot multiple times in the chest.

Before you try to justify the cops’ actions – just hit PAUSE for a second. I know people who are armed at all times. I live in Fairbanks Alaska where every 10th person is concealed carry. I am sometimes armed myself. On Saturday, we were coming back from the woods (where the bears live) and the guy in front of me at the coffee shop reached for his wallet and I happened to see he had a gun in a back holster under his shirt. I don’t know what he was armed. Maybe he’d been out hiking too. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t doing anything violent so I didn’t pull my 45 and shoot him dead. He would have had to start shooting before I would have reacted to him with deadly force. Presumably, I am less well-trained in violent encounters than a cop, but I don’t have any impunity to exercise, so my gun stayed in my holster as did my fellow customer’s. We all got our coffee and nobody died.

State impunity applies to elite policy makers too and they are as corrupt as the regime’s low-level enforcers. The FBI let Hillary Clinton off the hook for secrecy violations she committed as Secretary of State, even though these were much more egregious than violations that have earned lower-level personnel decades in prison. She used technology that was more open to being compromised by spies and hackers in order to avoid legal and public scrutiny of activities that have caused untold death and misery around the world, including to Americans. Just because they let her off doesn’t mean she’s not guilty of what she was accused of. It just means there’s one system of justice for you and me (and Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden) and another system of “justice” for people running for president who are in same political party as the sitting president. Ooops, did I state a truth? I most certainly did.

Sovereign immunity has made Hillary Clinton reckless and cavalier about the havoc she has wreaked around the world. If she had even a thought she might be held accountable for upending entire countries, it’s likely she would have been far less warlike in her policies. She’s actually shocked that anyone cares that she put state secrets out on an unsecured email server that may have been hacked by Wikileaks. I don’t think that’s because she didn’t know it was against the rules. She was told multiple times by multiple staff members that there were rules against what she was doing. She did it anyway. My brother who can’t even text knows that an unsecured email server can be hacked. You can bet that a woman as sophicated as Hillary Clinton knew the risks of what she was doing. I’m willing to bet that someone told her about the risks while they were telling her about the rules against what she was doing. But it doesn’t matter. Thanks to her connections and her position in the government power structure, she faces no consequences for her crimes, and remains free to acquire even more immunity and power (impunity) as President of the United States.

Impunity corrupts and absolute impunity corrupts absolutely. This is true in police work, foreign policy, environmental regulation, the BLM … the list goes on and on. When outrages like this happen, the temptation is to address the wrong-doing (violation of State Department rules or police brutality), but in reality, that is just treating a symptom. The disease is impunity and you must treat that underlying condition if you ever hope to stop the abuse of authority. Make government agents subject to the same laws the rest of us are and cops will pause before they pump four bullets into a non-aggressive citizen’s chest and politicians like Hillary Clinton will have to run for President from a jail cell.

Allure of Power with Becky Akers   5 comments

Christian AnarchyLELA: Becky Akers has returned for more discussion on how Christianity aligns with anarchism, which is not a mainstream notion among Christians, although you will find elements of it in anabaptist traditions. Welcome back, Becky.

BECKY: Thanks, Lela. Last time we closed on a note that should utterly damn the State for every Christian: our arch-enemy, the one who mocks our Lord and gloated over His agony on the cross, who accuses us to God while seeking our destruction and eternal damnation, is the driving force behind political government. Satan owns the State. And he not only brags about that, but our merciful God recorded the conversation for us. Clearly, He wishes us to understand the State’s true nature lest political slavery ensnare us, as it has so many Christians over the centuries.

LELA: I think I know where you’re headed with this.

BECKY [smiles]: And here I consider myself a woman of mystery.

Political power is very, very alluring. Any power is, of course: strength, influence, the ability to get things done—all immensely flatter our fallen natures. “Look what I can do!” we say, whether it’s bench-pressing 500 pounds, chairing a meeting, or forcing people to do things our way. That last is particularly intoxicating, and I think it explains the State’s appeal, not only for politicians and bureaucrats but for their multitudes of victims who admire and, worse yet, cheer their depravity.

The Biblical prescription for changing the world relies on persuasion, reasoning, setting a Christian example, and, above all, waiting on the Holy Spirit to work, one heart at a time. This is slow, tedious effort. It’s often overlooked, usually unappreciated, and hardly glamorous. We don’t make headlines when we tell the cashier, “Here, you gave me back a dollar too much in change.” We don’t earn a Nobel Prize for remaining faithful to our spouse. Visiting shut-ins and prisoners, caring for widows and orphans, doesn’t make for scintillating press conferences. And the results of such patient example-setting, persuading, etc., are frequently obscure or, when noticed, disappointing. You teach boys in Sunday School for 15 years; you don’t know that one of them would have died of AIDS, three would not have attended seminary, and another 14 would have divorced but for the Scriptural precepts they studied with you. But you do learn that the kid who mouthed off in class any time his family bothered attending church becomes a serial killer when his mug-shot stares at you from Newsmax.

LELA: Christian work is a slow, labor-intensive process of loving rather than forcing. And it is a very voluntary process, with all the difficulties associated with a volunteer process.

BECKY: Exactly. Contrast that dissatisfying, boring method with the dramatic results that government—i.e., organized, physical force—achieves. Politicians pass a law, and bingo, behavior changes overnight. Bureaucrats begin regulating a new industry and entrepreneurs ten times cleverer than they must now obey them. A cop stops you at a checkpoint; you smile nervously and kowtow because the consequences of his displeasure can ruin your day or even your life.

That’s intoxicating stuff. Who doesn’t want results from his effort? Who doesn’t want all and sundry acknowledging his authority, even cringing at it? Compulsion achieves, and quickly. It succeeds where persuasion, reason and prayer fail, or seem to.

LELA: Which explains the rise of the Religious Right in the 1980s and onward … feeling like they were failing to influence society sufficiently by voluntary means, they sought the aid of government to achieve their goals.

BECKY: Yep. Like so many otherwise devout Christians, they fell into Satan’s trap of statism. Such believers tragically, inexplicably ignore the devil’s clear announcement of ownership in Matthew 4.

We’ve all heard or read this passage hundreds of times. Satan appears to a Jesus weary and weak from forty days of fasting in the wilderness. He famously tempts Him with three different ploys; let’s consider the final one:

 (Verse 8) Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (9) And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Lela, when you offer to give me something, you must own it first, correct? Now of course, you could proffer your neighbor’s cat or his boat—but I’d certainly protest, “Hey, wait a minute, you can’t give me that! It isn’t yours!”

LELA: The old saw that the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale? Yeah, you would hope people wouldn’t fall for that … at least nobody rich enough to afford it.

BECKY: Ah, but notice that our Lord doesn’t contest Satan’s ability to “give” him the “kingdoms of the world” (and the word “kingdom” in the original Greek is the same one for “government” that was so conspicuously missing from the passage in Romans 13. Its root is “basileus,” meaning “king” alone, unlike our use of “kingdom” for a whole country, including the people over whom a king rules. Our vernacular would better translate it as “politicians” or “government.” Satan is referring here specifically to the various political rulers over the terrain he and the Creator are surveying).

LELA: Strong’s says it’s the authority to rule not the kingdom itself.

BECKY: Exactly. Christ here tacitly agrees that Satan reigns in and through the world’s governments when He refuses to buy them by worshipping the devil.

This isn’t our only proof of government’s Satanic overseer. Let me ask, Lela: who tortured our Lord to death?

LELA: We did.

BECKY: That’s right: our sins nailed Him to that cross. But what was the actual agency of His death? The Roman government. Indeed, the Gospels emphasize that only government had the requisite force and legal authority to commit this murder. The religious establishment, much as they hate Christ and crave His death, is impotent: it takes the State to torture and impale an innocent Man.

And as it does so, its utterly demonic, hellishly brutal nature is highlighted for anyone with eyes to see. Pilate admits that Jesus is entirely innocent—yet he condemns Him to flogging. The kangaroo trial, the ridicule and degradation, the unconscionable cruelty of forcing the condemned to carry his own cross: these reveal the State in its true form, stripped of the fancy rhetoric, the flag-waving and appeals to “patriotism,” that usually cloak its horror. (I further explore the Crucifixion’s testimony of the State’s Satanic possession here.)

Christians ought to despise political government solely for crucifying our Lord. My gracious, if the State falsely accused our child, our parent, or our spouse and then electrocuted him (a quick and merciful death, compared to crucifixion), we would loathe the politicians and bureaucrats responsible, would we not? Would we ever trust government again, let alone pledge it our allegiance? Yet we prattle about God’s “ordaining” government and our “Christian” duty to “honor” the State when it fiendishly tortured our Savior to death. Where is our loyalty? Where is our decency? Where is the love, let alone worship, we owe our God? What unspeakable ingrates most Christians are as they cede the adoration and obedience due Christ to the very entity that crucified Him.

Lela, the State violates the Golden Rule, flouts the Ten Commandments, and infuriates our Lord by preying on the poor. It savagely murdered the Son of God while its owner laughed; it is the devil’s dominion. We should long ago have declared eternal, relentless war against it. Instead, Christians venerate the satanic State. They justify their idolatry with faulty translations of two Scriptural passages while deliberately ignoring a host of others, preaching and practicing subservience despite “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” Why?

LELA: Honestly, I think Christians like the idea of liberty, but we’re afraid of too much liberty. We know human nature is not a lovely thing since the Fall, so we believe that government is necessary to prevent human nature from riding society off the rails. It’s what James Madison said about “if men were angels, government would not be necessary.” I think we also realize that while many Christians could live under the authority of Jesus Christ and get along without government rules, many of our neighbors live outside the law of God and we fear they would take advantage of freedom to oppress those around them, including us. I admire anarchism for the message of liberty, but I hesitate to fully embrace it because I’ve seen the hearts of human beings. So I invite you to come back for more discussion on the subject.

 

Becky Akers is a free-lance writer and historian who has written two novels about the American Revolution, Halestorm and Abducting Arnold.

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