Monday, April 18, 2011

On Blind Obedience

Just don't.  Don't do it.  If you are a chrismated Orthodox Christian, you have been given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and you need to keep attuned to Him.  You need no man to teach you, says Christ.  The Spirit of Truth will guide you in all things.

Yet we do have teachers.  We do have spiritual guides.  And yes, obeying them is a major, major virtue.  But it just isn't supposed to be blind obedience.  It's supposed to be the kind of obedience to which your own conscience, informed by the Holy Spirit, gives full and free approval. 

Blind obedience is demanded by people who wish to control you, to gratify their own passions.  And, conversely, to offer blind obedience is a temptation to those who wish to duck responsibility, and leave all decisions in the hands of someone else. 

That's not what obedience is all about!  Obedience is about learning humility, about learning to stop demanding to have everything our own way, about not trusting our own fallen ideas and conclusions, about learning the path from someone further along it than we are.  But we still do not get to duck responsibility.  And a good spiritual father or mother will not let us. 

A false one will, and when we combine someone who lusts after control of other people with someone who wants to evade responsibility and decision making, the combination is toxic.


Anam Cara said...

More trouble for your friends?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Just a further reflection upon what happened to them, stating their desire in their own terms, by the way. It's what they say they wanted.

They've seen the error, but I fear they may still think "blind obedience", which they have now rejected, is something Orthodox. Mustn't toss out the baby with the bathwater.

Steve Robinson said...

The problem is people who seek out control freak spiritual fathers are predisposed to blind obedience, it is usually symbiotic unfortunately. You generally can't get talked into something you don't have a weakness for. Most of the "monastery satellite" people I know are in the market for what they are selling. sigh.

DebD said...

On the other side of this debate is people who decide for themselves. I know a priest who switched jurisdictions because he felt he knew better than his bishop concerning baptism. I dunno, but it left a bad taste in my mouth listening to him explain himself. Sometimes it's not so black and white. Was this priest right not to follow his bishop in blind obedience or was he in delusion about his own counsel?

Dixie said...

Deb, I wonder if it is the same convert priest I know who did the very same thing and split a parish over it in the process. I was greatly saddened when I heard the story because sometimes I visit the parish he is so very lovely and full of pious Orthodox Christians. Then the jurisdiction he went to eventually joined communion with all the other jurisdictions. What a terrible pity for all the pain caused.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yup. There's blind obedience and then there's blind conscience.

Perhaps the key, when conscience and obdience conflict, is to keep struggling. In humility, we should ASSUME the problem is in us, we just are missing some perspective. We should question (instead of just blindly obeying) and keep questioning until we see where our error lies - or until it becomes clear we must not obey.

Disagreement over how converts are to be received is just no reason to inflict all that pain... I, too, disagree with my own jurisdiction; I think every convert ought ideally to be received by Holy Baptism. But that hasn't prevented me from having a goddaughter and a godson who were both received by Holy Chrismation.