We gave our readers a one-word writing prompt: "power."
When I was assigned to fourth-grade safety patrol, I relished this first whiff of raw power. Of course, I had no authority whatsoever.
While I happen to think that refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding that isn’t even happening at your own church is a distortion of what it means to follow Jesus, this is more lament than argument. It makes me sad; and our religious freedom tradition, quite rightly, isn’t particularly concerned about my sadness. What’s far more frustrating than pro-RFRA sentiment itself is the lack of empathy displayed by some who hold it.
We may have the power and privilege to avoid having to work in a sweatshop. But we feel powerless to prevent such horrors from existing.
Anyone who is familiar with Star Trek knows about the Borg, a seemingly soulless race of cyborgs. The Borg’s main task is to assimilate other species and bring them into the Collective. Science fiction geeks everywhere know the Borg’s catchphrase: “Resistance is futile.” Resistance is futile. Jesus is sitting around talking to a crowd when some Pharisees come by. Looking agitated, they make their way to Jesus.
I got hired at a restaurant recently. I’ve worked food service in the past, but those were all front-of-house positions. This time, they’ve got me washing dishes. Now, I knew ahead of time that dishwashing would be among my duties, and the task is relatively simple: get the dishes, clean the dishes, return the dishes to their rightful places. Regardless, the managers had a trainer show me the ropes and then watch as I duplicated the steps, proving I could get my first solo shift.
It seems like all anyone wants to talk about is power. And the best show on television about power is Game of Thrones.
You might want to learn the rules in order to use them, to know when they are being used on you, or to reject them. Whatever you decide, just know that around every boardroom in America, they’re playing the game. And you’ll be playing it (even when you don’t realize it) at your church.
“Speak truth to power.” The phrase resonates with the biblical prophets and the courage it takes to challenge those preoccupied with maintaining their power at the expense of truth. The phrase rings true in Robert Mugabe’s rule over Zimbabwe, or in the stonewalling silence of a church in the wake of a sexual abuse crisis.Yet in American culture, and especially in mainline Protestantism, the phrase has become hackneyed. Pastors invoke the phrase in sermons; seminary professors use it in classroom lectures; groups organize around it. One person even suggested that the phrase is the very heart of the pastoral vocation. Is it really?