Thursday, September 6, 2012

Power and Surrender

Yesterday I discovered a new-to-me blog, From Two to One, whose author composes well-written, thought-provoking pieces on topics I resonate with. Over the past two days she has written a solid two-piece look at how we turn our worldviews into idols. I encourage you to read what she's written in part one and continue with part two. I think she's very much on target with her analysis.

I agree with the summary her teacher gave of politics: that ultimately it's about power. The citation from Thomas Friedman hits the heart of the issue:

“People with power never think about it; 
people without power think about it all the time.”

This year I have been on a journey, an awakening really, as I begin to understand how much my worldview has been shaped by my background of power. Not that long ago I would have argued that I didn't have much power. Based on some scales I don't. But I come from a privilege class of white men living in the most privileged and powerful countries in the world. I have had the opportunity to live outside of this country for many years, which has helped open my eyes and my mind to seeing and understanding the world differently than most people like me. Now that I'm back in the United States I continue to have my worldview stretched, expanded, deconstructed and reconstructed as I begin to listen to voices that previously I had not heard. It's a challenging, often painful process. It pushes me to change my behaviors, my beliefs and my actions. Sometimes it compels me to be silent where previously I might have spoken out, and at other times it compels me to speak out where before I would have remained silent. It has left me feeling like an outsider and stranger in many of the social circles in which I live.

I feel more and more that the American church, at least the more conservative branches of it in which I have generally been at home, has come to hold to a worldview shaped by a particular cultural lens more than the Kingdom of God. Yet we have managed to blur the two so thoroughly in our theology and practice that we cannot see the difference. We have, as the author of From Two to One argues, made our worldview into an idol, and now we fight viciously and desperately to protect that idol from all threats. In the process we present a false image of Christ, we promote hatred and injustice and all the while claim to be God's ambassadors to our society. Thankfully there are many voices, represented by From Two to One, Kathy Escobar, Caris Adel, Julie Clawson, the Sojourners and others, that strive to speak for the truth of the gospel even though it runs contrary to the worldview idol that many in the American church strive so hard to defend.

What would it look like for the American church, and I'm thinking particularly of the conservative evangelical community, to surrender power and authority rather than fighting so hard to preserve it? What would happen if we allowed God to demonstrate love through us, if we opened our doors to those who are different from us, if we welcomed them not with the goal of “fixing” them but simply with the goal of listening and entering into their stories? What if we stopped fixating on being “right” and admitted that we've been wrong far too often, that we have judged too quickly, that we have far too often caused more hurt than we've healed? Isn't this the model Jesus gave us?


  1. Weren't those posts amazing? I'm getting to meet Danielle in a couple of weeks and I'm so excited. Have you read Myth of A Christian Nation? That book totally wrecked me on politics and the church.

    "if we welcomed them not with the goal of “fixing” them but simply with the goal of listening and entering into their stories? " Yes....stop seeing people as projects.

  2. Caris, I'm SO jealous! I would love to meet you and Danielle face-to-face. If you ever get to vacation in Arizona we'll have to get together.

    I have not read that book but it is on my to-read list. Sounds like I need to move it higher on the list.

  3. My sister lives in Yuma, so maybe some day! And yes, anything by Greg Boyd needs to be moved to the top of the list! I got to meet him a couple of weeks ago when he was preaching in Grand Rapids and I told him he was the 3rd most influential person in my life, so that was really cool.

  4. And I would say if you're ever in the Midwest, please let us know, Andrew! Also, we can speak Russki together.