Authority, Love & Devotion
What God Has Joined We Must Stop Separating
It’s not common to speak of authority and love in the same breath. That’s a shame, because they’re closely related. Moreover, I will also argue that today’s crisis of authority runs in tandem with the rise of a loveless society. Expertise has replaced authority. As a consequence, a culture of utility is waxing, while the older culture of love’s adventures and devotion’s embrace is waning. Thus my agenda: to clarify the profound consequences of the modern eclipse of authority, and to suggest how we can recover authority’s power, which seduces, as it were, rather than coerces.
In his insightful essay on the virtue of love, Josef Pieper defines love as a disposition of affirmation. One says to the beloved, “It is good that you exist.” Most of our affirmations are contingent. I appreciate a good glass of wine for its pleasant taste and the way it makes my heart glad, as the Scriptures often put it. My fondness for rickety old cars has a similar quality. I cherish their discomfort, and even their unreliability, as visible signs of my resistance to the empire of utility that grows stronger by the day.
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R. R. Reno teaches theology and ethics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and is author of In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity (Brazos, 2002).
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