This is the third in a series of three blogs by Dr. William Malcomson, our theologian-in-residence. They are based on an Adult Learning class that Bill taught this spring.
1. A traditional view of Power, found in many spiritual traditions as well, is that of power over. Power as force. Sometimes a view of God as omnipotent, all-powerful, in the sense of being able to force something to happen--defeat enemies, overcome evil. This is the kind of power that is affirmed in wars--killing power, massive destruction, the wiping out of those who threaten us. It is the kind of power we employ in competition, when the desire is solely to win, rather than to realize one's potential.
2. But there is another way of looking at Power. This is power with, power seen as empowerment. We might think of it as "shared power."
A. When Knowledge is shared, knowledge is powerful. To know the truth is to become powerful, full of power. This was the kind of power that was so central to the Buddha. He shared the knowledge of how to deal with suffering, anxiety, selfishness, egocentrism. This knowledge, he said, could lead to enlightenment, or what we might term the transformation of the self. To know the truth led to becoming the truth. This was the kind of power proclaimed by the sages of India for many millenia.
B. To speak the truth learned from the spiritual wisdom of humanity, to speak the truth to those who believe in the power of dominance, power over, that is a very powerful use of knowledge. But it is not a power over, it is an empowering power, if taken seriously, rather than as a threat. Speaking truth to power can be very liberating, for those who speak the truth, and for those to whom the truth is spoken.
C. We may speak of Servant Power. This is the power experienced in serving, not dominating other persons. It involves identifying with persons other than myself. Jesus is an example of this kind of power. He dealt with the domination of Rome and of its domination of the priestly establishment with this kind of power. He identified with the oppressed, he spoke the truth of Hebrew scripture to the oppressor, he exhibited servant power. In doing so, he empowered the oppressed. This is what Gandhi called Satyagraha or "soul power," which he used to liberate the people of India. This is the power that Nelson Mandela learned to use after his use of dominating power failed. When he became president of South Africa, he was a proponent of empowerment. This soul power, servant power, empowerment was the power evidenced in the work of Dr. King as he pursued the non-violent way.
3. I believe that Spirit Power is the most powerful power there is. This is empowering, liberating, transforming power. We draw in this power when we are loved by others. We share in this power when we identify with others. Spirit Power is always present. We do not create it. We participate in it. We draw from it. We are empowered by it when we share deeply, when we rejoice in the healing of others, and when we share each other's grief.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." ~ Mother Teresa
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist