Thursday, November 15, 2007

On the Wisdom of Submitting to Corrupt Authority

I hope you have made it a habit to check out the communal blog effort at which I am a contributing writer. Last night I posted this piece there by Greg Walgenbach, who was a student in a class I just finished teaching in my former diocese of San Joaquin. Greg has an M.Div. from an eminently respectable institution, so he's no theological slouch. I encourage you to check out his fine work. Here's a snippet to whet your appetite:

David is grieved at the death of God’s anointed and punishes the offender. His response is penitence at the death of his King and beloved friend, Jonathan. It is the glory of Israel, and hence God’s glory, that is tarnished. Despite his corruption and tyranny, Saul’s death is an occasion for mourning and penance—because he was the LORD’s anointed..

How much greater the mourning now that we serve the Anointed Lamb that was slain, the Son of David who calls not for retribution but for us to love our enemies, who bids us take up our cross and follow him! How much more are we called to be a people who submit to God’s authority given in the shape of the Church and her practices! Such submission is radical for it must trust God’s presence—even in the dark, in His judging absence, as space for the Holy Spirit’s work. We are called, in Reinhard Hütter’s phrasing, to “suffer divine things.” We do so perhaps even knowing that the ‘divine things’ might include suffering and temptation at the hands of malevolent spirits.

Such a reading of Scripture offers strange comfort. It leaves little room for gloating. David’s immediate struggle was ended; yet that ‘victory’ was painful. Yet it does allow us to see Christ’s presence in the structures of authority in the Church, even the corrupt ones. It is this grace that prepares us to see that we were and are complicit in the very structures of authority that killed the Anointed One, Jesus Christ.

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