Who has the Power?

Monday, October 27, 2003



Time for some trivial pursuits...

Q: Who are the ten richest people in the world?
A: According to Forbes, in 2002, Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) topped the list, followed by Warren Buffet, Karl and Theo Albrecht, Paul Allen (another MS billionaire), Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), and Alice, Helen, Jim and John Walton (the founders of Wal-Mart). Note that all but one of these people is white (if we call the prince non-white), and eight are male. None would easily bear the label "liberal" or "progressive".

Q: Who is the top adminstrator of the world's largest religious institution?
A: Pope John Paul II heads the largest single religious body on earth, the Roman Catholic Church. He has selected Cardinals who will decide his successors from an exclusively male and largely white and conservative population. Almost no leadership in this religious body would easily bear the label "liberal" or "progressive". In the United States, Catholicism is the largest denomination followed by the predominately conservative Baptists, and there is a fast growing number of conservative Evangelical Protestants who call themselves non-denominational. Conservative religious ideology is deeply part of white male culture in the West.

Q: Who controls the government in the world's richest nation?
A: George Bush, a white male, is the president of the executive branch of the world's richest and most militarily poerful nation. The legislative bodies of this nation are currently controled by members of his own conservative party, and are heavily dominated by white males. The judicial body was predominately selected by conservatives presidents from among republican judges. Only two are woman, and only one is black, and they are moderate to conservative. The federal reserves in this nation are controled by Alan Greenspan, a white male who was appointed by a republican, and does not easily bear the label of a "liberal" or "progressive". Conservative politics is deeply part of white male culture.

Q: Who controls the the rest of the world's wealth and military power?
A: That's a broad question that is difficult to answer, but I want to point to pattern here. Here are the names of what may the closest rival leaders of nations that follow the United States in power: Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin. Both are white men.

Q: What about the non-white males? How are black men faring?
A: If a white male in his late teens or early twenties is arrested on a drug charge, a jury may decide that he is just going through a phase (especially if he is in college), and his sentence will be a slap on the wrist. The black male counterpart will almost certainly go to jail.

Furthermore, if blacks wonder into white neigborhoods, they are under tight scrutiny by the police, while whites who wander in black neigborhoods are largely left alone. Though a common misperception exists that this is dangerous for whites to traverse in black neigborhoods, a case can be made that the opposite is true. It is more dangerous for a black man to enter a rich white neigborhood than a white man to enter a predominately black neigborhood.

The end result of this racism is that blacks make up the vast majority of inmates in the prison system, and nearly fifty percent of black males are arrested, if not convicted, at least once in their lives.

While there exist laws barring job discrimination in hiring, affirmative action has been challenged. Furthermore, either consciously or unconsciously, white employers and managers tend to select those who are like themselves to mentor for career advancement. When work-force reduction is deemed necessary, those at the bottom of the totem pole are cut, meaning that black unemployment has run higher than white unemployment for decades. When educated black males speak up about these issues, they are labeled by white males as "radicals".

Q: What about women?
A: We have seen significant improvement in the condition of women over the past century. As noted above, there are now some women on the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as women legislators and two women int he top ten richest people on earth. Furthermore, one of Tony Blair's predecessors was the famous Margaret Thatcher.

Yet, in general, women still earn less than men, even when they are performing the ssame jobs. Those very few women who have ascended to high positions tend to be required to defend the conservative white male world view. Women are completely excluded from all decision making authority on religious matters in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and a large number of the largest Protestant denominations.

Q: But don't liberals control the media?
A: It is somewhat true that journalists and hollywood executives are more liberal than the general population and those in power. Nevertheless, these institutions are ultimately controlled by advertising dollars, and the executives that run the companies that advertise are more conseravtive than liberal. While the media does give voice to some liberal concerns, the conservatives have the final say on what is issued. Furthermore, there are conseravtive journalists and media executives that run such publications as The Wanderer and Crisis or other conservative outlets.

Q: Why am I asking these questions?
A: The pattern that emerges here is simple. Wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of white men. When I speak of power, I am referring to all forms of power: economic power, military power, political power, and even religious power (the ability to shape consciousness and stir passions through symbols and theological discourse). Conservative ideology seems to be aimed at maintaining this power structure, though many adherents of conservative principles are unaware of the hidden motives for their own positions.

Q: It seems that conservative ideology of the white male is firmly protected. Why do white males among the working middle class of middle America tend toward an almost irrational fear of things liberal or progressive?
A: The working and middle classes are caught in a gray middle area of neither being completely powerless, nor being completely in control of their lives. The threat of losing everything feels very real to them, especially in difficult economic times.

Those who have real power (all those mentioned above) are able to appeal to the fears of white male in this condition with a stick and carrot approach that helps those in power to maintain their own power. On the one hand, the carrot is offered that wealth and power will trickle down to those who work hard to increase corporate profit.

On the other hand, the stick of threats of joblessness is used to threaten those who will not comply. This threat can be made so specific that an a person can be made to cut his hair a certain way!

When things seem to be going wrong, those in power have devised a clever strategy. Rather than admitting that their own decisions may be messing up the world, they blame feminists, blacks, immigrants, leaders of developing nations, gays, Jews, or any other powerless group that they can associate with the problem. Then those in power draw a line in the sand and say to all white men who are not fully in power, "You're with us, or you're with them."

Q: Is Jcecil3 saying that the Pope is only interested in maintaining power? That sounds absurd!
A: I do not think the Pope consciously sits around saying to himself, "How can I maintain my personal position and personal power?" In many ways, I honestly believe that the Holy Father consciously sees himself as being selfless.

However, I do believe that popes makes some decisions by considering what it means to the office of the papacy. For example, is it possible that when Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, he was more concerned about what it means to the papacy for a Pope to reverse a teaching than he was concerned about what is morally right?

Is it possible that Pope John Paul II made a similar decision when he issued Ordinatio Sacerdotalis? In other words, is our current Holy Father more concerned with the power of the office of the papacy than he is convinced that there is a strong reason women cannot be ordained?

If his position on women's ordination is based on clear and compelling reasoning, why has he not articulated the argument in a very clear way? It seems the best he can come up with is "This is the way it's always been done. I'm not authorized to change it."

Well, that argument alone does not hold water, because the Church has abandoned or changed all sorts of things. Most notably in the life-time of many readers, we went from Latin to vernacular liturgy and stopped calling it a mortal sin to eat meat on a Friday. In history, we changed positions on slavery and loans at interest. We even admit that Popes and bishops have made some errors when not exercising extraordinary authority, such as the inquisitions, the crusades, and the Galileo affair.

Of course, the Pope is correct that he is only authorized to do God's will. On this, a conservative and progressive Catholics can actually agree. Yet, I am trying to point out that the way a Pope comes to a decision, not as Pope, but as a human person, needs to be moral. Fear of change due to what it means to the office of the papacy amounts to nothing more than than a fear of the loss of power, even if the Pope is not consciously thinking of it this way!

The Pope is authorized only to do what God wills. On this, I already stated we can all agree. What does God will? As Christians, we look to Jesus Christ for answers. On the one hand, the Pope argues that Jesus never ordained a woman. This sounds rationale at a glance.

However, Jesus never ordained a non-Jew. Nor did the Twelve ordain a non-Jew. There is no Biblical evidence whatsoever that non-Jews are eligible for ordination!

Furthermore, the whole issue of whether he did or did not ordain woman can be legitimately debated. A woman was first to see the resurrection, and a woman is called a deacon (Rom 16:1-2) and an Apostle in the New Testament (Rom 16:7).

There is no evidence that the Twelve were the only ministers, while there is abundant evidence that others were inlcuded. See Lk 10:1 for mention of 70 other ordained ministers, or note the presence of others than the Twelve in the Garden after the Last Supper indicating the Twelve were no the only people present at the Last Supper.

Rather than looking solely at what Jesus did or did not do, we can look at a broader criteria of whether the ordination of women is coherent with his message and manner of acting. Jesus made a deliberate effort in almost every passage of the Gospels to reach out to those who were excluded, marginalized, and considered weak, poor or oppressed! He associated with those who were publically known to be sinners and traitors. Jesus sharply critisized those who seemed to be trying on to their own power, status, and authority.

Indeed, in the Old Testament, God chooses the younger son, Jacob, over Esau. God chooses slaves over the power of Egypt. God chooses Jesse's youngest and smallest son, David, as the king. God chooses prophets on the fringe of society to oppose kings. God chooses to become incarnate through an unwed peasant girl in a colonized developing nation on the edge of the world's most powerful Empire. After the resurrection, the Christian movement abandons and changes Jewish disciplines to reach out to Gentile slaves and women, and develops a tradition of reaching out to widows, orphans, and the poorest of the poor, while standing up to kings and worldly power.

In this light, the exclusion of women from a position of decision making authority in order to maintain the status of an office appears to be chosing to maintain power over following the example of Jesus or the fundamental development of the tradition. Fear of change is the opposite of the first words Jesus preached: REPENT!

The word conveying repentance is derived from the notion of change and conversion. To be a Christian is to be constantly open to change and conversion!

Consider that the exclusion of women comes from a white male in power in a world that is globally dominated by white male power. In maintinaing the status of his office by refusing to change, is it possible that the Pope unconsciously colluding with the powers of the world that Saint Paul called demonic?

Of course, the conservatives will be in a tizzy if they have managed to read this far. "The Pope is infallible", they will say. The problem here is that neither John Paul II nor Paul VI exercised extraordinary papal authority in the examples I have given. Thus, progressives see a sign that the Holy Spirit saved the Church once again from the gross error of heresy. These disciplines can still change with no real threat to the office of the papacy.

When women are ordained, the apologist will be able to excuse Ordinatio Sacerdotalis as a non-infallible exercise of ordinary papal magisterium! They will admit a Pope made a mistake, without needing to deny papal infallibility.

Yet, conservatives fear more than women priests. What they fear is that change of this magnitude signals larger changes, such as gay marriage. I respond, "So what. Maybe the Spirit wants those changes too. Afterall, gays and lesbians are among the most marginalized, and Jesus reached out to people like this. Trust the Spirit to guide us. Be open to go where the Spirit blows. As Jesus preached, be open to change!"

Herein lies the fundamental differences betwen progresisves and conservatives. The very word, "conservative" is derived from conservare meaning "to save". The conservative seeks to maintain the status quo, to save the order he perceives as good. In preserving the good news of the core of the Gospel via creed and sacrament, the conservative impulse has served the Church well.

What I am arguing, however, is that the constant openess to change is alo part of our real tradition. Our tradition is not mere legalistic adherence to meaningless form. Furthermore, unless you are a white male, this system - the law and order of the world today - is not really so good. That is why the Arabs hate us!

White males have created the Osama Bin Ladens, figuratively and literally! The CIA trained the guy and gave him weapons at one time. Rumsfeld and Saddam posed as buddies back in the 1980's. White male power has propped up dictators and, to paraphrase Kissinger on democracy in South America, we needed to squash it for its own good - a theme also echoed by generals who destroyed villages to save the village! The law and order of Dick Cheney and Halliburton is evil.

There are those who will argue that if I am right, why are there conservative blacks and conservative women, and even gay republicans? There were Hebrews who longed for th flesh-pots of Egypt, and it was oppressed Jews who handed the Jewish Messiah over to the Roman prelate. The spirit of Judas Iscariot can be found in all groups of people.

How can anyone in their right mind look at the very clear violations of just war doctrines in the war in Iraq, and then look at the hoopla over gay domestic partnerships, and not see that white male power is about a million times more threatening to goodness and human decency and security than what a handful of people in San Franciso are doing?

When religious leaders find themseleves supported by those who hold this power, those religious leaders need to be asking if they are really following God's will!

Why is it that political and economic conservatives are the strongest supporters of Rome on the issues of women's ordiantion and homosexuality?

Pope John Paul II is widely popular with polical conservatives. Yes, partly this is for his pro-life stance, and I support him fully on that one. I fault my fellow progressives for not seeing how the Gospel of life gives voice to the voiceless. Furthermore, John Paul II has felt more latitude to be "liberal" in some areas than his predecessors, such as on the death penalty and some social justice issues. However, progressives are asking if he goes far enough and realizes the depth of the problem. Is he really challenging the very structure of evil that has a grip on the world?

White male power has become corrupt and rotten fruit.

I say all of this as a heterosexual white male American. So, don't get me wrong. I am not advocating that everyone run out and kill a white male. Were the marginalized to do this, they would become like those who are currently saying "kill an Arab for Christ". The marginalized are to work for changes in the structures of pwoer in ways and means that are different from the methods of the dominations and powers and principalities that rule the present age of darkness.

What I am saying to white men is that those of us who have power are under a a severe judgment right now, and we will be judged by how we we use our power. I typically argue how the Gospel is good news, and try to avoid the threat of hell. Yet, Jesus was not afraid to speak about the horrendous reality of opposing God, and I must warn my conservative siblings that some forms of conseravtives appear to be evil. To knowingly support structures of evil could be sinful!

If we are to act as Jesus acted, we use our power to heal, to nuture, to empower others. The role of a leader is not to control others. The role of a leader is to mentor and coach and develop others to become the best they can be, and to rach their highest potential. This is what Jesus did for the Twleve and Mary Magdalene, and th eother disciples in the New Testament. We do not do this by excluding others from power, but by giving power away!

White males may be under a moral obligation to go out of their way to make sure women, non-whites, and gays or anyone considered marginalized becomes included in the system and included in the structure of power. We cannot react to others in fear, because to do so is to go against the will of God almighty! The First Letter of John tells us that perfect love casts out all fear, and Saint Paul tells us that where the Spirit dwells, there is freedom. Like Pharoah, if we fight God, we will lose! But like Nineva, if we repent and change course, we will be saved!

I am not saying that progressives are right on every specific issue or every specific tactic we might use. I have already mentioned abortion as a weak spot in some progressive circles. Perhaps someday I will come to believe that women really can't be ordained, and contraception is really a mortal sin even in marriage. This article is not really about the specifics so much as a general principle. God is on the side of the marginalized!

I do not believe that any truly objective analysis of world events and world structures and systems can lead to any other conclusion than that the abuse of white male power is a dangerous and wicked force on the earth. Regardless of the specific details of specific issues, the progressive is right to generally challenge the structures of white male power.

Peace and Blessings!

Readers may contact me at jcecil3@atglobal.net


posted by Jcecil3 8:12 AM

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