A Quick Reflection on Submission in Democracies

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : July 12, 2006

Americans love their democracy. And the growing rejection of authority within Christian circles, while a somewhat good thing, misses the mark. In recent efforts to destroy the clergy/laity distinction and allow every member to be priests and ministers, we have too quickly drawn from democracy. When everyone gets a “say” but no one must submit to the group, you are left with an ephemeral church, a group lacking in substance, a community that is utterly incapable of group discernment. You cannot adequately discern the Spirit’s leading in a democracy. Instead, you get the lowest-common denominator. Group decision making without mutual submission is dead.

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7 Responses to “A Quick Reflection on Submission in Democracies”

  1. espiritu paz on July 13th, 2006 2:05 pm

    Well put and absolutely the case in every respect–but–how does one set a new example and compel the self-directed into mutual submission? teaching? Usually that ends up in just a lot of talking. What else can motivate people in the right direction, aside from gunpoint conversions?

  2. blorge on July 13th, 2006 2:08 pm

    Mark, my attempts to comment on this eventually morphed into a whole post on my own blog.

  3. Van S on July 13th, 2006 4:03 pm

    Blorge…which post is it? I can’t find it.

    Espiritu, great question. I think you have to start with the handful of folks that can agree together to mutual submission. This is why I think there is a growing number of “new monastics.” Monasticism requires submission. I think if someone were to come into a community of mutual-submitters and experienced hospitality and shared in their way of life it would be compelling. But it requires that we give up on the notion of large churches who attract folks with good sermons and good programming in order to really experiment in ways of having “deep” community. There are many communities in the US–some have actually grown to comparatively large sizes–that foster such submission and have become places of healing and hospitality.

  4. espiritu paz on July 14th, 2006 3:09 am

    There are such communities in the US?! Please. Pray tell. You’ve been holding out on me.
    I suppose though, if they were communities of people who had chosen into the life-style of mutual subission, one would then immediately have to ask, where and how was the mutual submission learned or imparted? I AM suggesting there are better and worse examples to follow.

  5. Van S on July 14th, 2006 11:23 am

    Usually, these communities of mutual submission are communal in nature:

    Church of the Sojourners
    Reba Place
    Rutba House Community
    the simple way Community
    Bruderhof Communities

    Missio Dei is trying to follow these examples. That is why we’ve spent the last 9 months working towards shared spiritual experiences, a shared commitment to the West Bank, and a shared “rule” of faith.

  6. blorge on July 17th, 2006 1:37 pm

    It’s called Doormats and Godzillas

  7. espiritu paz on July 23rd, 2006 6:10 pm

    Oh, the groups mentioned from that article from the Christian Century Magazine. I read it too. You know they seem sincere and committed and on the way to fulfilling their innovative design. But the Bruderhof is likely the only one that actually has a lived out history of community.

    The trouble with leaping from the “idea” of mutual submission directly to practice is what one imagines into action is often a very deficient implementation of the idea itself. Experiential learning from recognized and unrecognized communities steps up the success rate because it brings one into the realm of another’s particular success, where innovation can be added to tweak a time proven experience.

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