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Christian Article

The Crisis of Authority 
by John Melia 

The conference of Anglican bishops meeting at Lambeth Palace, London, last week is just one instance that highlights the current crisis of Authority permeating all levels of Society. The opposing factions are labelled, as usual, with the terms “traditionalists” and “liberals”. The slide from “traditionalist” to “old-fashioned”, then to “out-of-fashion”, then to “out-of-date”, and finally down to “wrong” easily occurs. On the other hand “liberal” has connections with “liberty” and its synonym, “freedom”. A further move associates “freedom” with “rights”, but especially with “the right to one’s own opinion”. The end result is the contesting of Authority and a chaos of values.

The Lambeth conference demonstrates the crisis in Religion. This crisis is matched by similar crises in the area of public order, instantiated by the continuing increase in crime statistics and crowd violence, in the area of the family by the rise in the divorce rate, in abortions, and in the ever-widening spread of pre-marital and under-age sex, and in the area of publicised morals by the defence of gay and lesbian rights.

Of course it is argued, as has been said, that everyone has “the right to his/her own opinion”. It is seldom realised that the essential meaning of “opinion” refers to a belief or attitude held with the possibility of its being wrong. Most proponents of this argument usually lay stress on the owner (i.e. themselves) of the opinion rather than the evidence for it. But this seems to be because of the emphasis on the rights of the individual as opposed to the claims of legitimate Authority.

The so-called “differences” experienced by the Lambeth Conference bishops conceal the fact that the opposing attitudes reveal a straightforward contradiction rather than a mere “difference”. One group claims that the appointment of an actively homosexual cleric to the episcopate is wrong. The other group claims it is right. Whichever claim is correct, they BOTH CANNOT BE RIGHT. One at least MUST BE WRONG! The question then arises: which one? Hence the chaos.

Relevant here is the argument by which gays and lesbians always protest their “rights”. Their argument is usually based on the claim that sexual orientation is genetically transmitted. But what would happen if the actions of murderers, rapists, and thieves were defended by the same argument? After all, there are those who would explain away such destructive behaviour by claiming that, although not genetically transmitted, criminal tendencies can be the result of upbringing or an unfortunate early environment, over which the murderer, etc., had no control.

Lest, however, this counter-argument be seen as putting the active homosexual on the same level as the murderer etc., it needs to be pointed out that it is NOT the similarity of activity, which is being stressed here, but the similarity in the INVALIDITY of the conclusion. If the only defence a homosexual can make of his activity is that he was born so, then this condition does not NECESSARILY confer the RIGHT to enjoy homosexual relationships. If on other grounds active homosexuality can be shown to be wrong, then talk of “rights” based on a tendency transmitted at birth is irrelevant. Christians of course maintain that those other grounds are found in the Christian scriptures.

Consider also the abortionist defence of “a woman’s right to choose”. The use of the concept “right” can only assume the goodness of that to which the right is claimed. It does not prove it. Here again, if the termination of any pregnancy can be shown on other grounds to be unjustified, then the woman concerned can have no “right to choose”. Again those other grounds, according to anti-abortionists, are that the deliberate termination of nascent life or of potentially nascent life can never be considered legitimate.

The century, which has just come to an end, has been called “the century of the common man”. I often wonder what has happened to the search for the common good.

-- by John Melia

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