Recently the head of the Catholic Church made his first visit to the United States. About that time, Lone Star State child protective officials removed 416 children from a West Texas compound run by the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints after receiving a phone call alleging child abuse.
Now Pope Benedict VXI has gone back to the Vatican, and the investigation into FLDS treatment of the children now in state custody must run its course. Apart from the Catholic Church’s own child-abuse scandal, do these two events have anything else in common?
They do indeed–even if neither side would care to be compared with the other. And, ironically, child abuse is a common symptom of exactly that which links the two.
Both are institutions attempting to exert ultimate power over their followers by claiming the only way to God. These institutions insist that they speak for God, and that God will not accept or love those who do not follow said institution’s rules or believe said institution’s creeds or dogmas
Asserting the one and only hotline to Divine approval and acceptance is to claim ultimate power. Think about it carefully. The Catholic Church, the FLDS, its mainstream successor (the current Mormon Church), and many other institutions have tried or still attempt to assert ultimate supremacy. Scientists and/or atheists don’t get off the hook here, either. If we claim there is no God and insist that others who believe are stupid or illogical, we are still trying to assert ultimate control over them.
The Catholic Church, the FLDS, other religions and sects, the scientific community all share at least one common trait. All of them want to interpret our reality for us, and to define the meanings of our lives and beings. In doing so, they usurp the kind of power, authority, and control that leads straight to child and many other forms of abuse. (Even atheists/scientists behave like theocrats if they demand that others conform to their nonbeliefs.)
Enough already. No one has the right or the wisdon to step between another person and God, or to order people’s lives to such a degree. But we cannot blame the theocrats entirely when abuse occurs. Theocrats obtain power only when the rest of us cede it to them. They rush in to fill that vaccum created when we refuse to be responsible for our beliefs, our thoughts, our feelings–in other words, for our lives and our beings.
Power-mongering theocrats flourish to a great extent because we fear responsibility instead of embracing it. So we shall redefine responsibility to make it much less fearful.