April 23, 2005

Power Uber Alles

It's ironic, I think, that this is such an age of contrasts in the U.S. & Europe. It's an age of anxiety amid affluence. And it's an age of rage against the use of power when power in the secular realm has never been more fully shared (i.e. so many democracies) or in the religious realm more legitimate (see popes John XXIII thru John Paul II and then see the pre-Reformation popes). The more we taste of power the more insatiably we desire it. For many, hatred of George Bush concerning the Iraq war was less about the merits or demerits of the war but simply that he had the hubris to want to exercise power over their personal objections and perhaps the objections of a plurality of the world. Right or wrong is less interesting than whether my influence is being registered back to me in a palpable way.

I think this rage against the use of power comes in part because in this culture we are constantly encouraged to identify ourselves as aggrieved and discriminated against. This has the great positive of helping make society more just, but seeing ourselves as victims has emotional and financial rewards which assure that the sense of victimhood will continue long after justice is served.

So it seems at least some of the angst over the appointment of Cardinal Ratzinger is that he won't allow us to continue seeing ourselves as victims. He asks we carry our crosses knowing that we have already won, rather than turning them in for immediate recompense. He nailed it in the quote excerpted below but it seems modernity will not be shaken from its desire to see all power, including God's power over us (heaven's a democracy, right?), as something that should emanate from my group, where my group infinitely approaches me:
There is an ideology that fundamentally traces all existing institutions back to power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the Church. Here is a concrete example: If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed. And then the question of, for example, women's ordination, as an issue of power, becomes imperative. I think this ideology produces a totally false point of view, as if power were the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it. If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association.

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