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Thou Shall Question Authority
November 15, 2003
By Rev. Marie D. Jones

Excerpted from Looking for God in All the Wrong Places, by Rev. Marie D. Jones - Paraview Press, 2003.

Did you know that there was an eleventh commandment? It got left off the tablet because Moses broke the chisel and lost his spare and the closest Home Depot was twelve miles away by donkey. When it comes to professors, politicians, lawyers and doctors, Thou Shall Question Authority. They can teach us, they can protect us, they can lead us, they can even cure us, and they can even get us multi-million dollar settlements when we stupidly spill hot coffee down our shorts. But they can't save us.

We so often look to authority figures as if they were Godheads. We swear our college professors are the keepers of all wisdom. We put our lives and our livelihoods into the hands of politicians who make the laws and rules we blindly obey, even when it gets us killed. We expect lawyers to take the responsibility for our actions off of us and put it on somebody else, preferably somebody with money.

We bestow Divine powers on our doctors and medical experts, whom we beg to heal what they can really only cure. We keep looking to world leaders to bring peace on earth when in fact it is our responsibility as individuals to each live in peace. Peaceful individuals lead to peaceful communities, which lead to peaceful cities, which lead to peaceful countries, and so on. Remember the song, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!"

Because so few of us are mentally, emotionally and spiritually equipped to lead, we let others far less equipped do the leading for us. It's easier, and it takes the blame off of us, where it belongs. We place these leaders on pedestals they rarely, if ever, deserve to be on.

Just look at the prevalence of political and corporate lies, secrecy, and corruption and it's easy to see why we feel so powerless. We've given ourselves over to idiots, morons and fools, not to mention greedy thieves and power-mongers anxious to turn the world into their own private playground. We ask, "How can they get away with it?" The answer is simple. We let them get away with it again and again and again. That's why our prison cells are filled with so few white-collar criminals and crooked politicians. We'd rather glorify them with an "E! True Hollywood Story" than sentence them to hard time.

Millions of people in Germany let a man named Adolph Hitler "get away with it." Millions of Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, and others died as a result. It was not the first time a human was given the power to commit mass murder, and it won't be the last, unless we wake up to our penchant for misguided trust. Think Pol Pot, Stalin, Mussolini. We like to let people get away with it. Victim-hood is much easier than having to take action.

You've heard the saying, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. We fall for anything way too often, all because we don't have the courage, fortitude or conviction to make waves with those in charge.

Unlike those Baby Boomer era toys, Weebles, authority figures wobble and they DO fall down. Just turn on the evening news and you're sure to hear about the political scandal of the week, or the latest college professor or well-respected priest to be caught with his pants down. It happens all the time, whether we want to admit it or not. Leaders stumble and come up short.

Is it their fault for not being the Divinely moral and just creatures we so desire them to be? Or is it our fault for expecting them to be anything other than what they are? Human. We, the people, put up the pedestals and then we put other people on the pedestals and when one of them shows some semblance of human frailty, we bitch and moan and wonder why are leaders are so morally inane, so ethically inept.

You get your butt up on that pedestal and see if you end up any different.

In some cases, we the people even allow our leaders to commit crimes against democracy, take away our freedom, abuse our trust and corrupt our values, and we let them get away with it all because they are in positions of power and roles of authority. Question the actions of the President, Congress, and the Judiciary? Never! We rarely call our government to question for its abuses, and there are many. Just read the headlines on any given day.

We even more rarely question our religious leaders, despite growing evidence of abuse and corruption. Once someone takes on the trappings of priest, monk or minister, the public forgets that underneath the robes and hoods lies a human being, not a God, with all the faults, lusts and temptations that the rest of us face. I think now about the recent allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the news, and the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims whose lives will never be the same because of violated trust. Many of those victims hesitated to come forth and tell the truth because of the backlash they feared by the public, the media and especially the priests themselves. When we dare to question authority, we are usually asking for trouble.

We forget that authority figures are people, and so we treat them as more important, more special and more deserving than ourselves. We give them carte blanche with power, not realizing that absolute power corrupts absolutely. We worship them with our pocketbooks, give them a tenth or more of our income, and never bother to wonder why they own three Rolls Royce's and live in Beverly Hills, despite their pulpit message that vanity is evil and the love of money even more so.

We become their emotional and sometimes even physical slaves, eager and anxious to be preyed upon so that we can have someone else to blame for our powerlessness. Just visit your local fascist country and see what happens when leaders are given Godlike authority over average working citizens who are too tired and busy from making a living to see the police state rising up around them.

Stop looking for real leadership in people. People are people. People screw up. People mislead. People lie, cheat, steal and make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes cost millions of innocent people their lives. People kill, destroy, abuse and violate. People make messes that only people can make (you never see dolphins nuking each other, do you?).

Real leadership, real authority, comes from that still, small voice within. It comes from the wisdom of experience, the steadfastness of faith, and the desire to serve others. It comes from trust and love, not blind belief and lemming-like conformism.

Follow it, and you will never be mistreated or misled.

Rev. Marie D. Jones is the author of "Looking For God In All The Wrong Places," Paraview Press, 2003. She is also a minister, a mom and a progressive activist who is really disgusted and pissed off with the Bush Administration.

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