Rod Dreher, "an intellectually serious and culturally engaged Christian," discusses authoritarianism. Or, as he puts it, Truth.
The question of authenticity depends on authority. A friend and I last night were talking about authority and the Catholic Church, and he made the important point that authority only has meaning if it has been accepted by the people.
That is far more true than people realize. Power is given, not taken. We tell ourselves that the powerful control us but they do so only with our permission. If we revolted as other nations did when their living conditions became intolerable, we could take back control and the elite would be in their graves.
What we see among many, many Catholics today is a rejection of traditional Catholic teaching about authority, and the installment of the subjective individual as one's own Magisterium.
The reason conservatives hate the 1960s is because people of different sexes or races or ethnicity refused to accept white males' description of and opinion about them. They rejected the absolute authority of the white male and his proclamations of what everyone should and should not believe. White males said that everyone else was stupid, lazy and slutty, and without them, white Christian males, the entire world would collapse. Any visible signs of this rejection drives them into a fury, such as overt homosexuality, women in pants, men with long hair, or successful Black and Hispanic men and women.
These are the times we live in: the essence of modernity, or at least one essence of modernity, is the radical exaltation of the Self.
You hear that, people? If you don't obey White Males, you are elevating yourself over White Males, and that's very bad. Bad, bad, selfish woman or dark-skinned man, to think that you know what is right instead of your White Male Authority. And since God is a White Male Authority, you're even going against God! Who is White! And Male!
Yet my friend is certainly correct: authority, even external authority, means nothing if it is not inwardly appropriated, and furthermore, if that inward appropriation is not shared by others.
This just knocks my fucking socks off. Dreher realizes, dimly, that the people in power impose their version of reality upon others, and that his and their authority means nothing if they can't brainwash people into accepting it and have an entire society constantly reinforcing it.
A revealed, dogmatic religion like Roman Catholicism will have a very difficult time in conditions of modernity, precisely because we are all conditioned to think in terms of the Self as the final arbiter of truth.
Poor, poor Catholic Church. How it suffers because women look at the Church's teachings about the role of women in society and decide that they will follow their own heart and make their own plans, instead of thinking and feeling and doing only what they are told is okay for women to think, feel or do. And let's not even get started on the gays. You see, if you think for yourself you are rejecting the authority of White Males, from God on down to that guy at the convenience store who orders you to smile because he doesn't like to see a pretty young woman with a frown on her face because women should look pleasant and biddable at all times.
To exist in proper relationship with the Truth, I believe, requires passionate inward appropriation of external, objective realities.
In other words, to know if something is true, you must go to the authority and they will tell you what is true. Whatever they say is your Truth. To determine the truth for yourself is selfish, wrong, and immoral, because only the God-backed Authority can do that. And you and everyone else must embrace this Truth with all your heart, or people will question the absolute authority of the Absolute Authority.
The key point is faith that there is a such thing as religious truth independent of my own subjective judgment. If people don't believe that, I don't see how a religion like Christianity is sustainable over the long term, at least not in any meaningful sense.
Since you have no way of knowing if your Authority is correct or not, you must have Perfect Faith that they are correct. The more faith you show, the more obedience you show to your Authority. The crazier your beliefs, the more faith you show.
And we wonder why our country is in so much trouble. We obey our Wall Street Elites and can't believe that they were stupid and dishonest. It must be the fault of the brown-skinned Community Reinvestment Act, since White Male Authority can't be wrong. We cheer our military and give them whatever they want, all our money and our sons and husbands, yet we lose wars anyway. It can't be that our White Male Authority betrayed us to sell guns and grab oil-rich countries. It must be the fault of those brown, immoral Arabs. And what happened to America's jobs? It can't be that the White Male authority is trying to ground down wages to third-world level. It must be the fault of women and illegal brown people for taking jobs away from white men. Authority is always right. Authoritarian followers are always right as long as they are obedient. And everyone else is a threat to the social order, because if even one small child points out the Authority has no clothes, all of Western Civilization will crumble.