God and Power

Currently listening to: Stay Positive by The Hold Steady

We have become so accustomed to the “power” language of military and political might that we can scarcely image God as anything other than dictator, king, conqueror.  Few recognize that their theological notion of power is essentially the same definition that worldly dictators and warlords would use.  Power, in our human experience, is the ability to crush our enemies, to rise above any obstacle, to do anything we desire.  To be unstoppable.  So, our theology has taken these human power structures and cast them onto the cosmic scale.  Our God-images are essentially portraits of human military and political might on a universal scale.

Peter Rollins, in his book The Orthodox Heretic, casts a radically different portrait of God; one that I think is worth paying attention to:

… the message of Jesus introduces us to a different way of approaching God–not as a violent power imposed from above, but rather as a powerless presence entering our world from below.  This powerless God still instigates a revolution against the powers of this world.  However, this revolution is not won through brute strength, but through weakness.  (Kindle loc. 1144-48).

Here we are confronted with the idea that God is not encountered as the highest being in the chain of beings but rather in the lowest and most humble of things. (loc. 1152-53).

Our conceptions of God must evolve away from the war-king and dictator models and away from such violent definitions of “power.”  History has shown us that war, violence, and the coercive use of power are destructive, diminishing our very shared humanity for the sake of an ideological goal.  Coercive use of power only leads to new systems of dominance and oppression.  To recognize this and yet continue to assert that these are the ways God relates to the world and humanity is to admit that God should be opposed.  The God of such power is a God of empire; the God of Jesus was a God of peaceful resistance against abuse, solidarity with the oppressed, and overturning of empire through cultivation of full humanity.

God must be freed from the power language of military and political might, and imagined in new ways that assert a different kind of power: the power of weakness, of solidarity, of love.


~ by eternaldode on 26 October 2009.

One Response to “God and Power”

  1. Nicely put, and I agree wholeheartedly.

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