In modern society, it has become common, thanks to modernity and, more specifically, the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment, that we question authority. Almost everything that has good and beauty in itself is questioned, as long as it doesn’t conform to the emancipation of individuals from dependence. Critical thinking is, of course, nothing new. What is new is the modern “will to disbelieve”, “will to subvert”.
It is interesting that Nietzsche has accused Christianity for starting that, by refusing to believe in all but one God. Alain de Benoist seems to have a similar perspective. But I believe that the centuries of Christian monarchies and the hierarchical structure of the Orthodox Church (as well as the Roman Catholic) have shown that the problem cannot be, intrinsically, Christianity. Certainly, Christianity insists that it is important not worship false gods, and that the negation of what is false is a duty. Indeed, Orthodox theology is primarily based on the experience of revelation. But in theology, unlike in modern empirical science, the argument from authority is to be taken seriously. A Christian as the duty to at least try to submit to Holy Tradition and believe, he must have the “will to believe” towards the Truth which has been experienced and once delivered unto the saints. A Christian can refute as much falsehoods as he sees, and still things will not crumble, because of the direct experience of Truth, of God’s uncreated energies. Man can be in communion with Truth, Truth is not (like the, in a way, Gnostic modernity says) “unattainable”.
God has created all things good, and depravity is certainly not total. Thus, like the pagans, the Christians also serve to their rulers and their fatherland, they also respect the fatherhood and priesthood. What was adored was now venerated; the old natural gods were now the venerable and beautiful creation of God. The cultural, spiritual and social benefits of this mindset were enormous – society was sometimes thriving, and rarely decaying as ours does perpetually. In the same time, individuals lived lives of humility and simplicity, and were more advanced to the realisation of their personhood than modern, vocationally and TV educated man.
People, in Christendom just as in Pagandom, were informed that man can be malevolent but this didn’t mean that humans should mistrust each other. They knew fathers and kings can abuse their authority, but also knew that these cases were the exceptions, not the rule, and that authority should be obeyed the most often possible, at the expense of self-interest and desire. This is devotion, the thing that our society of free “love” seems not to have in abundance.
I will propose, here, two explanations which are not self-serving to modernity that can tell how we have arrived at this point where authority is seen as inherently untrustworthy and human rights as axiomatic. The first one is the abuse of authority by imperfect men (clergy, nobility, husbands, etc.) as having created suffering, doubt and finally rebellion, led by a desperate desire for emancipation. This narrative can be seen in this essay by Abp. Lazar of Ottawa. The second explanation is the adoption of a dogmatic principle of negation by the Enlightenment, who decided that they will refute all authority and leave the individual free to become educated and good. This article by David Withun seems to speak about the prejudice in this very principle.
What seem to have happened are indeed both of these things. Sometimes through telling the truth, sometimes through slander, revolutionaries have subverted the traditional Christian authorities in religion, politics and culture. The immorality among the clergy and the impiety of certain monarchs have lead the leaders of the revolutions prefer not to eliminate these authorities because they were immoral, but because they didn’t let everyone else do the same. Dry spiritual atheism became also cultural and political.
Of course, the outrage that hypocrisy itself created was a honest phenomenon for some, but others only shouted down hypocrites because those hypocrites defended the gates to complete freedom and well-being.
Today, we can see that they were wrong (in beliefs, at least) not only from a Christian perspective, but from a post-modern perspective as well. They were prejudiced, like the “Dark ages” they so despised. They held the prejudice that it is the default view that man has freedom because of his supposed “state of nature”, that men are equal because of the unjustified belief in an inherent dignity of the animal homo sapiens, and that authority is a social construct – but somehow human rights are not.
The post-modernists, of course, have prescribed the wrong cure – through their prejudice. They saw fit that it is more desirable to leave the individual to be liberated from all cultural “conditioning” and be the only source of his beliefs and opinions. On the other hand, I think that it is necessary to re-establish authority within culture, if individuals are to get along at all. The family, for example, is being destroyed; nay, men-women relations are being destroyed by the constant questioning of the trustworthiness of the one by the other. Women must be encouraged to take the leap of faith, at the risk of suffering, and to trust unconditionally that men will not rape or disrespect them. Men must be encouraged, culturally, to take the leap of faith, at the risk of suffering, and to trust unconditionally that women will not put them in jail or dump them for an alpha male.
And in order that we establish a culture of trust, we must establish an authoritarian culture where authority is not seen *only* for the mutual benefit, but also for the very preservation of what makes us human. Men must be seen as good by women, and women – as good by men, community and family – as unquestionably good. Where there are rights, there is a provider/protector of rights – and it is him that the beneficiary of these rights must obey. Rights are only one part of the very principle of the community (rights and obedience on the side of the ruled/weak, duties and authority on the side of the ruling/strong). These rights don’t exist outside of the community! (It may seem repugnant – but prove me wrong!)