Monday, May 05, 2014

Implosion of the State Through Education Only?

One of the things that has been hard for me to grasp as a recovering statist is the notion that "you can't use the state's methods to topple the state."  I agree with it wholeheartedly, because I'm not into violence, and I don't think that libertarians getting into power, then enacting their own laws, would create anything better than what we have now.

But at the same time, as a behavioral scientist, I know that when most people come accross new information, particularly if it goes against what they believe, it's unlikely they'll absorb it in any helpful way.  That is my instinct anyway, and my observations in my own half-century one rat study.

Something clicked for me yesterday as I pondered my Christian beliefs, my (limited) knowledge of history, and the history in particular of liberty.  And now I'm thinking, maybe their have been times in the past when the State was toppled, or at least challenged, by those who wanted to educate their fellows that it was simply an imaginary construct that they could shrug off whenever they were ready.

Topling the state by education has already succeeded in European history, namely, in the Reformation.  Yes, the  stories of the Jacobites (revolutionaries) and Huguenots (victims of French & British prosecution) are filled with violence, as with that of other denominations throughout Elizabethan/Jacobian and colonial history.  But if you look back at the seeds of the Reformation, especially in Germany with Martin Luther, there was very little violence as the German speakers in droves and droves left the Catholic Church and started turning toward a Christianity that spoke to them plainly in their own dialect.

In this way, the first chink of the armor of the Holy Roman Emporer, and in particularly the Vatican, was made, without a shot.  Martin Luther even got off without being burned at the stake, which is pretty remarkable, considering a lot of powerful people wanted to light the match.

But it wasn't just the "freedom" to avoid chanting a bunch of Latin phrases that Luther was responsible for (in his little part of Europe).  His teachings also emphasize what is sometimes called "the priesthood of all believers."

To understand the power of that idea, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the poor farmer or middle-class guild member in early fifteenth century.  You're not a candidate for a higher education because you're not a cleric (The State--which then for all intents and purposes was the church-- decided who would be educated).  So whatever information you get about the big, wide world (and beyond) is disseminated by the priest.  Your purpose is to go to heaven.  Heaven is a lot nicer than earth.  And how do you get to heaven....?

Orthodox Christian teaching suggests that no one can get to heaven on our own; we need to acknowledge our sins and accept redemption from Jesus Christ.  There's nothing else we can do or not do which can effect our ability to get there.  There are a variety of teachings on where good things people do come in; it's the fruit of the spirit and is how others recognize you as a disciple of Christ; it comes naturally after salvation./....but salvation is apart from Luther would say, "by faith alone."

But by virtue of the biblical illiteracy of the 14th century common man or woman (almost as bad as the biblical illiteracy of today) there were all sorts of things the less-than-honest cleric could do to scare the faithful into, well, giving them money.  The most famous was the selling of indulgences, relics which were supposed to be "exchangeable" for a certain amount of time in heaven.  Sort of went against the "faith alone" thing.

So you've grown up being told that you have to go to the priest for everything; confession of sins, absolution of those sins, and information about what's in the bible, cause your Latin is mighty rusty.  Then along comes this OTHER guy, who not only spilled the beans on how simple the concept of suffering and recemption was, but how you were equal to the priests, equal to the pope, equal to any person in front of God, as a child of God; and you had just as much ability to read the bible (now that it was in German), speak directly to God, pray, and pass the word on to others who might not understand it yet.

Why do you need a pope?  Why should only clerics go to school?  Why do you have to give your money to the Powers that Be so they can give you Jesus' left toenail to get 14,000,000 years in heaven, when you get ALL of heaven just through accepting the atoning sacrifice of the lamb of God?

This was anarchy in action.  Millions of people simply started to turn their back on the Roman Church (the State of its time), and the idea of the equality of all men and women before God passed down through the ages, at one time being quoted (by a Statist, but it's still true) as:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"  So I think it's not a stretch to say that this was the birth of a certain kind of anti-statism.  

What I am not suggesting is that Martin Luther was a "Great Man", in the style of the Great Man Theory.  As a matter of fact, although he held up the idea of a priesthood (read:  liberty) of all believers, he meant believers, and not Jews.  Particularly not Jews.  And he has certainly been shrouded in a garment of worship himself, despite how he might protest that.  He also was not the first to promote the ideas of translations of the bible into the vulgate, which had actually been done already by the Catholic Church in some areas.  But I think it's interesting how the little part of the Reformation that surrounded him was absent the sturm and drang we think of when we wonder how we're going to educate people about the State.

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