Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bring on the Feudalism

As one reads about the continuing blogflap over kneeling in the Diocese of Orange County, I've run across a couple comments from contra-kneeling advocates that kneeling was adopted in the West (the Eastern Rites generally do not kneel during the Divine Liturgy) as a carry-over from feudalism. When taking an oath of fealty, the vassal knelt before his lord and put his hands together in what we know generally recognize as a praying position (palms together) . The lord clasped his hands around the vassal's hands, accepted his oath and invited him to rise.

Okay, so perhaps some of our cultural language of gesture in the West still bears the stamp of feudalism. So?

People often talk about feudalism as some knuckle-dragging form of idiocy which enlightenment humanity has now grown far beyond. Yet for all it's weaknesses (and there were some times and places where feudalism did some terrible things, both on a grand scale and as a matter of everyday cruelty) feudalism is simply another way that people found, over the years, to govern themselves. Having been developed by humans, it reflects certain truths of human nature -- different truths, certainly, than democracy, but truths nonetheless.

Among its virtues was the fact that the feudal system recognized a hierarchy of obligation, with the vassal owing loyalty and service to the lord and the lord owing protection and faithfulness to the vassal. These obligations could be played out in the context of vice and cruelty, as in the mob which operates on essentially feudal principles, or in the context of virtue, as in the case of some of the sainted monarchs of medieval Europe.

Democracy, a more ancient system with its own history of cruelty and abuses (none more so than in Athens) reflects other important truths of human nature, such as the inherent equality of the human person, regardless of functional ability.

Feudalism employed a vertical symbolic language, in which the vassal offered obedience and service in return for protection and benevolent care. Though no human institution can reflect the perfection of God's relation to his creation, our feudal past provides a better set of symbols for relating to God than our egalitarian present.

So if kneeling with folded hands is feudal, I say, "Bring it on."

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