When None Will Follow
Authority & Obedience in Our Stories
Our American society cultivates in us a strong distaste for obeying authority. Anyone who desires evidence of this need look no further than the heroes furnished by our popular media. To compare the heroes of our modern movies or TV shows with those of traditional Western literature (Hector, Aeneas, Charlemagne, Aragorn, etc.) is to compare two radically different sets of archetypes. Each has its own distinct approach to authority and to the practice of submission, and each implicitly values a different kind of behavior in a human
In traditional epics, the hero frequently has a band of men at his command. Beowulf lands on the Danish shore with fourteen armed warriors at his back; at the close of his story, he is the king of Geatland, and meets his noble end still leading a troop of his vassals against a dragon. So also in other traditional works: Aeneas musters the survivors of Troy; King Arthur rules the knights of his Round Table; Aragorn marshals the armies of
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Christopher Hoyt is the author of Under Authority: Practicing Submission in a Rebellious Society (Anglican Liturgy Press, forthcoming). He teaches the humanities at Good Shepherd School (Reformed Episcopal) in Tyler, Texas. He is the general editor of the hymnal The Book of Common Praise/Magnify the Lord, an Adjunct Professor of Sacred Music at Cranmer Theological House (Reformed Episcopal), and the organist/choirmaster at Good Shepherd Church in Tyler.
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