December 08, 2004

Jimbo 5:1-5

One of the things I have learned by hanging with Quakes and other fringeworthy Christians -- is the difference between "power-over" and "power-with".

Wealth is about control. It is buying power. And when we have enough of it we get to buy people too -- literally or figuratively. Power-with is about mutual aid and mutual empowerment.

I start with that comment because I think it has something to do with being a gospel people. This passage from James makes us want to dwell on the spiritual message. So does the story in the gospels about the rich young man Jesus told to give up his wealth. We want to spiritualize it. If we have detachment from our wealth its alright to be wealthy. When the plain sense of these scriptures is that to have wealth is to have a kind of power contrary to the gospel.

On other websites I rail against Bush's foreign policies. I'm sure folks read me as a Republican-hating Democrat. I'm not. I can't even vote in American elections. If we take this passage and others like it seriously, then no President of the United States can be a Christian -- by definition.

The best and most righteous President ever imaginable, must still exercise the power of office of the world's most powerful nation to preserve and protect that power and privilege that belongs to that office and nation. A Christian would be obligated to give that power away to empower those who are yet enemies. And a Christian in the role of Prime Minister of Canada, or Britain, or even of some small, African nation is in no better position.

So what do I do with that?

Well. I waffle.

I have a retirement fund. I've dipped into it during my recent unemployment. And I collect government funds during this unemployment. And when I was working I made decisions that affected other people's lives.

And I know that there were followers of Jesus who did not abandon ALL their wealth but used some of it to support the ministry of Jesus and other travelling prophets.

So now what?


At 1:00 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

David wrote:
"The best and most righteous President ever imaginable, must still exercise the power of office of the world's most powerful nation to preserve and protect that power and privilege that belongs to that office and nation."

I can't completely agree with that, David. The present exercise of power is driving our nation rapidly to its destruction. "They that take up the sword shall perish by the sword". I believe that with the core of my being, and believing that, I tremble.

From the standpoint of pure self interest a Christian president would recognize, admit, and confess that much of what has happened came about through our neglect and power aggrandizement. He would take steps to bring about more wealth for the needy, and call upon us to share with the hungry of the world. And in doing that our nation would grow stronger, rather than weaker, as is happening now.

"power-with" will always trump "power-over".

At 2:15 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

Wow, there are a lot of conflicts in this area ... Ignatius would say this is good - lots to discern :-).

My idea of a christian pres would be one who helped the poor and marginal in society and who was a pacifist. Hard to weild power, financial or political, for the good except perhaps in myth ... King Arthur - might for right :-)

OK, it's hard to have "spiritual poverty" when you are wealthy and powerful, but If there is one thing I believe, it is that it's also not a good thing to be poor in the material sense. It is not a good thing to be poor/powerless. Poverty doesn't equal automatic spiritual maturity and I hate the belief that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger - lack of power over your circumstances may bring humility but it can also crush your spirit ... I challenge anyone to be spiritually sanguine as they watch their children starve or die of diseases for which they can't purchase medicine.

There's a distiction between spiritual and actual poverty, between spiritual freedom (for and from) and power ... sometimes they go together, sometimes they don't.

At 5:45 p.m., Blogger RW Spryszak said...

"A Christian would be obligated to give that power away to empower those who are yet enemies".

Why do you feel a Christian has an obligation to show that kind of poor stewardship of the interests of those who are trusting him for their well being? Where does scripture tell you this is an obligation?I don't see such an obligation whatsoever, anywhere in scripture.

But I do see this relative to this Christian President's calling now that people have elected him;

A Christian President would be required to "make his yea, yea and his nay, nay" and when he promises (if a Quaker than not by oath but by simply affirming yes when asked) to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution he implicitly is acknowledging that he has no right or authorization to "give that power away to empower those who are yet enemies" because that power is given him by the consent of the governed and is in his stewardship - not his gift!

At 5:55 p.m., Blogger RW Spryszak said...

sidenote: doesn't anyone find it interesting that the two US Presidents who had Quaker backgrounds were both Republicans?

At 5:59 p.m., Blogger david said...


Tricky Dicky and who else?

At 7:08 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

Herbert Hoover, Dave; the humanitarian hero. At the Gainesville FL meeting I know of only one Republican, and he came by it honestly. He was a young child at the end of the First World War.
He's convinced that HH saved his life providing milk for the starving children in Germany.

Unfortunately he also adopted most of HH's political values. But he had the grace to marry a Quaker and live happily with her.

At 7:11 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

>>Well. I waffle.

Waffles are yummy with syrup.

Sorry, the discussion is too political for a purple person like me.

At 8:18 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

RW, you want to take credit for Nixon? :-)

It's hard to see how a president who strives to follow in Jesus' footsteps could at the same time uphold "republican" vakues ... from what I've read of him, Jesus was a pacifist who wanted his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless and visit prisoners ... he sounds more like a liberal democrat to me - hehehe

At 9:35 p.m., Blogger RW Spryszak said...

I think Hoover and Nixon were ironies (considering the current political prejudice of our Society) more than anything else. I was just telling a joke, really.

Governments exist by the consent of the governed. The consent of the governed is the source and abode of the "power" we're talking about "giving away", not the President.

I think I am reacting this way because I am of the opinion that the premise is faulty here.

There is no Christian edict obligating a Christian to "give away" anything that doesn't belong to him. But there are edicts obligating a Christian to do stewardship over that which he has been entrusted with.

I guess maybe this is one of those times I am very glad there is an implied separation between church and state. Apparently I would want neither a liberal Quaker or a conservative Baptist in the White House, as it appears - by the lead article - that neither have any notion what their job was supposed to mean!

At 10:28 p.m., Blogger RW Spryszak said...

OH! And speaking of Herbert Hoover... while on a business trip a couple of months ago I stopped by to visit the Pipe Creek Meeting in Maryland.

Check out this roadsign.

At 5:46 a.m., Blogger david said...

I did not quite expect this level of energy from my bog.

I take RW's point that the President hold's his powers in stewardship and not in ownership. Although I might point out that St. Francis stole products from his' Father's stores to sell and give to the poor. St Francis, while a model of charity, may not be someone to emulate in quite that respect.

I'm quite serious about this conflictedness though: I do see the gospel as enunciated by scripture as calling us to levels of community and to lifestyles that I'm not really sure I'm able to live up to.

and Marjorie: purple?

At 7:09 a.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

In the election, states are tracked and colored red if they are mostly Republican and blue if mostly Democrat for graphics in magazines and on TV. Red and blue make purple -- thats me (I tend to be socially liberal, financially conservative. Red Daddy, blue husband. I did a post on unclimber about being purple -- undecided in the last election season).

I think part of this discussion depends on how you view the role of the president -- as trustee or as representative. A trustee (if I remember correctly) means the people trust the prez to do what is right while the representative is to do what the people want. Perhaps this doesn't apply to the prez, I learned in the context of Senators and Congressman.

At 7:34 a.m., Blogger david said...

Purple. I get it.

Funny how the republicans got "red" in this election thingme. I alsways thought it was us left-wing pinko types who were the "reds"

At 12:35 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

yeah, I thought that was funny, too. I especially enjoy referring to Republicans as Reds, it makes me giggle. Nothing against them, I'm half red.


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