Tag Archives: authority

Worldviews and Circles

I have a lovely Christian friend who is willing to listen and talk about our different worldviews and beliefs. Today we disagreed on whether the Christian worldview is like a circle. He didn’t think so. He said it is something between a circle and an unnamed, unnameable shape. We came to the end of our drive before we ever came to any agreement, and I came rather late to the idea of seeking first to understand, before I sought to be understood.

I think the term I was actually looking for was “closed system.” Good old dictionary.com says a closed system is “a complete and seemingly unchangeable set of doctrines, ideas, or things; a self-contained system that is unaffected by outside influences.” And while my former faith, in its history, has had changes in doctrines over the years, there is still an aspect of it that is closed. 

Closed does not equal closed-minded, although certainly there are adherents who are closed-minded. With any belief system, when you have basic tenets and assumptions that the rest of your system in based on, then the system is going to be a closed system.

I’ve been thinking about the abortion debate a lot lately. Let’s say someone believes that an abortion is the act of taking the life of a human being. They will start with the belief that each fertilized egg is a human, not simply a “potential” human. With that underlying assumption, then each act of abortion, no matter the circumstances or how far along the pregnancy is, will be taking the life of a human. This someone also will believe that it is wrong to take the life of a human. And will most likely believe that it is up to those of us who have power and autonomy to take care of those who are not able to take care of themselves. I would think this person would also believe then that a woman should carry a pregnancy to term. Maybe this person would allow for killing the baby or terminating the pregnancy if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, but that idea can be expressed in multiple ways.

So, if a pro-choice person and a pro-life person are going to have a discussion, how can there be any agreement when the fundamental assumptions are completely opposed? The circle of belief for the anti-abortion person would be as follows: Every fertilized egg is a human. We respect and value every human life. We believe that babies should be protected in their mothers’ wombs, and should not be able to be killed, no matter how young they are and how viable. Therefore, abortion is wrong. Do not do it.

The pro-choice person on the other hand may also be opposed to abortion personally, but surely has accepted the idea that no one has the right to tell another woman that she must carry or must not carry a pregnancy to full-term. They may use the term “products of conception,” rather than fetus, or baby.

It seems to me that there are two very different belief systems at work here. One says the unborn child is the priority. The other says the rights of the woman are the priority. Do I have that right? That’s my understanding. Therefore, if this is the case, pro-choice and pro-life people do not have any common ground whatsoever.

I hear people talking about how pro-life people are opposed to free contraceptives, paid parental leave rights, subsidized pre-school, and other family support systems. When I hear people talking about how Someone should hand out free condoms, I wonder if they really understand that there are plenty of men who are not interested in using condoms, and plenty of women, seemingly, who are willing to have a sexual relationship without one rather than insisting on using a condom. In other words, I think you actually could make contraception free to every person in the US and that would not reduce the abortion rate by much at all. That is my intuition: This article gives some data about the facts of the matter.

Nowhere do I ever hear anyone talk about the fact that there are times when a pregnancy is unwelcome, but ultimately transforms into a welcome or even life-changing experience.

I suppose the bottom line is actually do I have to submit to any other authority other than my own? I suggest that pro-choice people tend to answer that question NO, and pro-life tend to answer it YES.

Back to my original thesis. Christianity, as one of many belief systems, is a closed system. When a Christian and an atheist or agnostic have a conversation, the Christian starts from the point of view that God created everything, God is in control, and the Bible supports that and more. It just seems logical to me that if the atheist or agnostic believes in evolution and therefore not in God as creator, believes that the Bible is a book that is important to many but not the authoritative manual for everything, and that there doesn’t seem to be anything or anyone in control, then the conversation is going to be like two people in burst-proof bubbles shooting comments back and forth and ultimately nothing changes.

Unless the two sides of any debate can decide on some common ground, how can there ever be consensus? I think part of my role in this life is to be a person who finds common ground with others, and who helps those with opposing views to find common ground. Not exactly sure how that is going to work, but I do feel like it is part of who I am and what I want to bring to our world.

We Are All to Blame; We Can All Be Part of the Solution

I used to be friends with someone who saw a lot of conspiracies in our government. She was always ready to believe the conspiracy theory. I, on the other hand, have never been a conspiracy theorist. Maybe that has been to my detriment, since it means I am always trying to see both sides of the issues.

In re: the videos we have been seeing of policemen who were in the process of using violent means to subdue citizens. The worst video I saw was on Facebook the other day. It was a mashup of multiple instances of violence being administered by law enforcement officers. The reason it was the worst was because the maker of the video had looped the most inflammatory clips, so the overall effect was just horrifying.

It’s probably no secret that I tend to come down on the side of law and order on most issues. My thinking has evolved as I have attempted to understand better that I am certainly one who experiences white privilege. By the same token, my license and plates are valid, I do not have any outstanding warrants; i do not drive while intoxicated; I am cooperative with the authorities when I have occasion to be in contact with them.

There are those who believe the police are out of control; who intentionally murder people, especially people of color; who use any opportunity at all to escalate small issues into confrontations that turn deadly.  The other side seems to be those who believe the police are basically always right, that if anyone, including people of color, simply cooperate, they will never be treated unfairly.

What I think it getting lost in the current internet flame wars is this: both sides are right and both sides are wrong. I was thinking about this man, Sam Dubose, who was killed by the UC policeman last week. I can’t agree with the people who watch the body cam or dash cam over and over and decide they know exactly what happened every second of the interaction, whether or not the entire thing is visually accessible. We can think we know, but we are limited in our understanding.

I didn’t know Sam Dubose, and I certainly would not have anything against him. What I do understand, now that I have had the opportunity to be a part of the legal system, is that once you are in that system, it’s really hard to get out. If you have been convicted of a drug offense and have lost your license and you get pulled over by a policeman who then discovers you are driving without a valid license, this can mean you are sent to jail because it violates your probation or it can prolong whatever sentence or diversion you are part of. It can mean you wait in jail until you can be brought before the judge to have that probation violation addressed, and/or receive the judge’s sentence regarding your violation. When you are pulled over and you don’t have a valid license, or you are driving uninsured because you couldn’t keep up the payments while you were in rehab or jail, or both, you now have multiple legal issues to face.

I don’t know whether Mr. Dubose had a license, but that’s not the point. The point is, there are many people in our country who are part of the justice system records for past or current violations. I can imagine that sometimes when someone is pulled over who knows there might be a warrant out for their arrest or knows that one more screw-up means jail time, ESPECIALLY if they are using drugs, their mind doesn’t think like a generally law-abiding person who knows there is nothing for the policeman to find when he/she runs their license through the database.

To me, this makes a difference. To me, it also makes a huge difference that policeman are dealing with situations very often that can escalate in an instant. They ARE making split second decisions and DO have a real awareness that their lives could be in danger.

When we see video of a woman who gets pulled over for not signaling a lane change, and then the incident escalates because she refuses to put her cigarette out, it is just so easy to think we have the whole story. It’s very easy to think the cop should have just let it go that she didn’t signal, but since he didn’t, why did she think it was ok to resist him so vociferously? It’s easy to say she shouldn’t have had to put out her cigarette in her own car, but since he asked her to do so, what could be the benefit of resisting that?

I guess I’m just wondering what the alternative is. If a policeman issues a “lawful order,” and the citizen refuses to comply, what do we think should happen? There are multiple options between the extremes of shooting down the citizen and cheerily sending them on their way, but those are certainly the two we see being bandied about for the most part.

Think about parenting. When a parent says no to a child, draws a line in the sand, as it were, what happens if the parent does not follow through? The child learns that he doesn’t have to do what the parent says, and pushes even further next time..

The police are not parents, and we are not children, but there is a comparable relationship when it comes to authority and power. A parent can overpower a kid with physical punishment and win, but that’s not the best choice by any means. The best situation is when a child and her parents understand that the parents are an authority and what authority means.

This type of relationship doesn’t preclude questioning. It doesn’t mean you can never disagree. But it does seem to me that understanding and respecting someone’s authority means that both sides understand that authorities have “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.”

So, it seems to me like the basic need is for those in authority to understand how to wield that authority, and those under authority to understand how to submit to that authority. Until those two conditions are met, there are no doubt going to be way too many altercations that go bad.

If I’m driving a car, there are multiple ways my car can be non-compliant with the law. Some I may not know about. Many times, those driving non-compliant cars are aware of the non-compliance. I think there is a mindset of trying not to get caught, especially in those who are enmeshed in the justice system to one degree or another. I guess it just seems to me like if you do get caught — speeding, broken taillight, window tint too dark, not stopping fully at a stop sign — you have to face the consequences. If you are compounding things by having drugs or drug paraphernalia in your car, you have to face the consequences. The consequences of a routine traffic stop should not be to be shot and killed, and I think it ceases being a routine traffic stop when you try to drive away while you are being detained.

Maybe a great place to start would be for each of us to ask ourselves what we think about authority? Who do we recognize as an authority in our own lives? What happens in a group or family or society when all of the members decide their only authority is themselves? Is it possible to recognize and practice our personal power while still submitting where appropriate? Anecdotally, we can all no doubt find examples of authority being wielded like a weapon, and authority which has no teeth in it at all. How can we find a place of unity in understanding each other, and working together for the common good?