School Shootings and Sacred Authority
The tragic shooting at the grade school in Newton, Conn. will result in calls for gun control, tighter security, guards in schools, new laws that some think might have prevented the shooting, more money for mental health programs, post-traumatic stress counseling, and other things. Yet these are only band-aids which do not address the basic cause of this tragedy. There is one cause and one practical solution.
Cause: The decline in Sacred Authority since the 1950s and the attempt to rely on rules, regulations, and laws to control behavior. Everyone agrees that this has occurred, yet there is no agreement on whether it is positive (progress) or negative (decline).
Solution: To put more effort into developing, supporting, and maintaining Sacred Authority. Note that this runs counter to what postmodernists (progressives) want.
The culture of the United States has dramatically changed in the last fifty years. Many of these changes have been positive, yet we need to recognize that there is also a dark side. As it all human affairs there is a need to keep Yin and Yang in balance. The senseless killing in Newton should be a wakeup call for all Americans. The correct relationship of Secular Authority and Sacred Authority needs to be examined.
Secular Authority (rules, regulations, and laws established and administered by government) provides the stability essential for a framework of order. Without the enforcement of laws, there is anarchy. With such enforcement of laws there can be either order or the possibility of tyranny.
Sacred Authority is what shapes the inner compass of individuals so that each person can make judgments that will result in good, right, moral, compassionate, and just behavior. While religious doctrine and teaching are among the most common ways for individuals to internalize values and attitudes, which then become the Sacred Authority of an individual, there are many other ways an individual gets his/her inner compass. Morality and ethics are obvious ways. An individual's inner compass can come from words and actions of family, friends, enemies, associates, etc. It can come from education, entertainment, sports, reading, or experience. Postmodernists (progressives) want to control behavior with rules, regulations and laws, i.e. Secular Authority, and do not recognize Sacred Authority as being of equal importance.
Developing, supporting, and maintaining Sacred Authority requires customs and traditions that sanction discrimination against behavior that is bad, wrong, immoral, untoward, and unjust. This is both judgmental and runs counter to many interpretations of the legal concept of "rights".
One definition of the word "sacred" is: "devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose." This often results in misunderstanding the meaning of Sacred Authority. "Sacred" also means: "devoted or dedicated to, and reverence for some idea, conviction, principal or moral code." This has always been the meaning of the word "sacred" ias regards Sacred Authority. It is reflected in the customs and traditions of humans in that they are more than animals responding to basic instincts and external stimuli.
Today we are dominated by a mindset that sees everything in terms of Secular Authority. There is no mantra more accepted than "Rule of law, not rule by men". Yet this was not the vision of our Founders. They wanted our country to be governed by common citizens with civic virtue and strong moral character. The question they wanted to be asked before any decision was: "Is it right?" -- Not "Is it legal?", not "Who gets what, when and how?", not "Does it make me feel good?".
The failure of pure Secular Authority could not be more obvious. Will we do what is necessary to renew Sacred Authority in our country?
Dr. Sam Holliday, Director, Armiger Cromwell Center is a graduate of West Point, Univ. of Pittsburgh, and Univ. of South Carolina.