Sometimes issues that are reported in the newspaper are a good lead in to a discussion of some priciple or other. Just the other day one such issue appeared, on the front page. It was about a school girl who painted her face blue. She did this to show her support for a Prostate Cancer Charity, but when she arrived at school the principal told her to wash her face. She refused, and soon some fifty more girls at the school had their faces painted, in support of the girl and also for the charity she was advertising with her blue face.
While my initial reaction was to sympathise with the girl, and support her response to the principal I quickly realised that this was not the correct response. Like all humans, and therefore all sinners at heart, my natural instinct (inherited from Adam) is to rebel against authority. I liked the idea of a school girl standing up to the principal. She reminded me of myself when I was younger. Many times in my childhood I wanted to defy and refuse all teachers and their rules, and all parental commands too. In fact I always liked the idea of being king of the world, and answering to nobody… but in the case of the school girl I realised I was missing the point. The issue had very little to do with the cause the girl supported, and a great deal more to do with the authority of the head of the school. This was about a young person disobeying an adult’s rule over her. It was legitimate rule, and reasonable rule. She was in the wrong, however much I admired her.
As I understand it, principals in schools are put there as a nominated authority, a representative for all the parents who send their children to that school, and as such he or she represents and speaks for the parents. The authority of the parents, through the election of principals and teachers, devolves on to the shoulders of the people so nominated, the teachers and the principal. They are put there to lead.
The girl in question was therefore under the authority of the pricipal, who was also under the authority of the parents. When she was given the quite reasonable directive to remove the paint from her face, she should have obeyed, not turned the situation into a prostate cancer protest. Like all kids when cornered, she tried to divert the pointing finger away on to something else, in this case a very worthy cause. Sympathy votes were assured. Fifty supporters rallied about her and she had an army set to destroy the principal.
Suppose every child in every school, or home, for that matter, decided to turn disobedience into a protest for a worthy cause, we would have the complete breakdown of authority. Imagine how confusing it would be if every time a ref blew a whistle, the rule-breaker called for the support of his or her team and marched in protest arond the playing field until the ref changed his mind? Imagine if every motorist stopped for speeding called hundreds of other motorists and staged a mass sit-in around the police station (on the pretext that they wanted more freedom for faster cars) until the infringemnt was cancelled?
The sad irony of this school girl’s protest, if you carry the principle along its logical path, would be that all children would become the victims of a social disintegration which they themselves helped bring about. Like the man who sits on a branch while he saws it through, young people often fail to see that those in authority over them are actually the branches holding them up.
In the Old Testament there is the story of king Saul, hunting for David. All Saul wanted to do was kill David, but God delivered Saul into David’s hands more than once. David could have killed Saul, but he protested that it was wrong for him to harm “the Lord’s anointed”! David recognized that, even though Saul was a bad king, and not worthy of his position, God had placed him where he was, and as such David had to respect the rank Saul held. In a similar way the principal of the school is there by rank. His or her authority is defined, and even if every child in the school absolutely loathes the principal, they ought to respect the rank that person holds.
This is why the Bible says to children: “Honour your father and mother.” It does not say “Honour them if they are good, kind, generous and attractive”. Some children have terrible parents. God expects children to obey HIM first, and respect the rank of the parents, regardless of whether the parents are worthy of this respect or not. The school girl failed to recognize this rank and authority of the principal, and struck a blow for anarchy instead.