The death of obedience

Andrew Sullivan considers the iconic role of traditional marriage for many conservatives in a very nice piece entitled Modernity, Faith, And Marriage. He writes of Rod Dreher, who…

… longs, as many do, for a return to the days when civil marriage brought with it a whole bundle of collectively-shared, unchallenged, teleological, and largely Judeo-Christian, attributes. Civil marriage once reflected a great deal of cultural and religious assumptions: that women’s role was in the household, deferring to men; that marriage was about procreation, which could not be contracepted; that marriage was always and everywhere for life; that marriage was a central way of celebrating the primacy of male heterosexuality, in which women were deferent, non-heterosexuals rendered invisible and unmentionable, and thus the vexing questions of sexual identity and orientation banished to the catch-all category of sin and otherness, rather than universal human nature.

To tell Rod something he already knows: Modernity has ended that dream. Permanently.

And he continues:

If conservatism is to recover as a force in the modern world, the theocons and Christianists have to understand that their concept of a unified polis with a telos guiding all of us to a theologically-understood social good is a non-starter. Modernity has smashed it into a million little pieces.[…] The only way to force all these genies back into the bottle would require the kind of oppressive police state Rod would not want to live under.

Naturally, Sully has the answer: his Oakeshottian attempt to infuse faith with doubt, and thus accept…

… that our civil order will mean less; that it will be a weaker set of more procedural agreements that try to avoid as much as possible deep statements about human nature.

But to achieve this, we must confront the institutions of reaction; the ones that demand “obedience”. Andrew and I both grew up in a country in which Queen Elizabeth the Second was “Fidei Defensor” (Defender of the Faith), and Andrew still professes membership in a religious institution of which the head, Pope Benedict XVI, frequently exhorts his followers to “obedience” and bemoans the evil influence of education.
Obedience is dead. Ditto deference, and all forms of argument from authority. The Enlightenment made them absurd; pluralism makes them unworkable.
Here’s an amusing bit of cognitive dissonance: imagine a Pope such as John Paul II and Benedict claiming that they were “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”? Silly, isn’t it?

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