Wise rebellion

By John D. Pierce

Authoritarianism rules. And, boy (gender intended), do we live in a time of emboldened authoritarianism from the White House to the church house.

Calvinist Baptist John Piper, who pushes male-dominance “complementarian” doctrine, can always be counted on for a heavy dose of authoritarianism. So it’s was no surprise when he tweeted this parental advice last weekend:

“Read to your children the stories of the rebellion of Absalom against David (2 Samuel 15-15) and the rebellion of Sheba (2 Samuel 20) and the rebellion of Adonijah (1 Kings 1). Then look them in the eye and say: ‘Rebellion against the Lord’s anointed never, never, never succeeds.’”

To which author Sarah Bessey responded: “I read to my children the stories of the prodigal son(s), the sermon on the mount, the woman at the well, Jesus on the beach eating breakfast with Peter after his denials, and so many more and then I look them in the eye and tell them that THIS is Good News: God is love.”

Adding my two-cents worth, I suggested that Piper has not gotten that far into the book yet.

Authoritative Christian leaders fear nothing more than rebellion. Power is retained through the fear and dominance they create — often by looking into the eyes of their subjects and warning that “rebellion against the Lord’s anointed never, never, never succeeds.’”

And there is no guessing about who is to be considered as God’s anointed.

Christian authoritarians extract from the Bible a highly authoritarian concept of God who can be used to threaten anyone who might question their own authority or even abusive behavior.

It’s a simple approach that relies on selective portions of the Old Testament and a sleight of hand in transferring the fear of rebelling against God’s anointed to the authoritarian church leader himself and those under his sway.

To hell with humility and servant leadership as defined and demonstrated by Jesus! Authoritarians aren’t reading that far into the biblical story.

While my counter advice comes with no claims of unique anointment or authority, it is freely offered as a contrast to be considered:

Forget Piper’s advice for controlling children through fear and intimidation. Read on into the Gospels and teach them to love God with all their being and others as themselves. Remind them that Jesus — the highlight of the book — said that was the greatest commandment.

Teach your children to be rebellious against racism, sexism, dishonesty, injustice in every form — and against authoritarian leaders who claim or act as if they are unaccountable for their lies and misdeeds.

Beware of those who pretend to have a more direct line to God than you — and convey a sense of their superiority over your sense of inferiority.

Reserve respect for those who earn it through genuine humility, expansive love and self-giving service — the way Jesus drew people unto him. Jesus was truly the “anointed one” (the Messiah), yet he didn’t act like a power-hungry jerk.

Seek out leaders who most resemble him. And pass on authoritarians who become so enamored of heavy-handed earthly rulers that they can’t seem to make it all the way to Jesus.

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