This past Sunday’s Zoom service, part of a month-long look at Sabbath, contained an intriguing aside about a “location of divinity.” That phrase was paralleled with the suggestion of a “location of authority.” The immediate context was having the listeners consider themselves as a “hero”, someone with agency.
Divinity and theology are often ungrounded when referenced. The addition of a source of authority to be exercised by ordinary people clarifies much. Divinity is not an either/or. It, like theology, cannot be grounded outside the realities of creation or the participation of people (hopefully people aware of more than their bounded self).
To connect divinity with authority begins to ask different questions than those based on call or servant or doctrine or hope. New questions can go beyond the usual limits of G*D being an endpoint, whether through theosis or incarnation.
More fruitful than some incorporation into a corporation divine or corporeal, is a question of interpenetration of (non)divine and divine. Is such a relationship intended to please some G*D? To aggrandize some Hum*n? Where does accountability go if there is a unification of sacred and secular under the aegis of the sacred? How might a question be asked?
Asking about Divinity and Authority comes to bear on a democracy, at least an intended or purported democracy. In some sense, a democracy is a response to a divine-right of kings. It seems that democracies also struggle with divinity—a divine-right of democracy. Eventually, there must be a reckoning with raising individual liberty above a common good. This temptation is clarified when the major operant in a democracy is not personal but is contrary to human life, turning it into a resource for impersonal capital to benefit fewer and fewer people in thrall to it.
At some point, it must be noted that the basic operating principle of democracy is transparent information. An ill-informed populace cannot function democratically without this transparency. In recent years, ever so slowly and then rapidly, “alternative” facts shut down critical choices. The alternative “weed” chokes out both reason and the experience of the marginalized. Voting patterns are broken and come to be the mechanism whereby an election confirms divinity upon one false messiah or another.
It isn’t easy at this time to see a clear path forward. Revolutions can circle back to a previous time on a wheel. Evolutions are notoriously sporadic and unpredictable in either scope or duration; results cannot be predicted. At best, we can try to clarify non-negotiable characteristics that might travel beyond divine-right and universalized authority.
I do look forward to the Sunday speaker offering further reflections on the locus of divinity as it appears to be a persistent category in human experience. Limits to divine-authority are worth investigating and experimentally applied. I’m also interested in the response of readers here—what locus of authority is active in your decision-making?