Over time, Christianity has adopted the power and social systems of the world. We have read things back into the scriptures to create hierarchy and clergy. Not only that, but we have also overlooked our own tendencies toward exclusivity and elitism, our inability to truly love.
At the risk of harping on this subject, please let me explain. While exploring the topic of position and power, I feel like my eyes have suddenly been opened to an aspect of the gospel that I haven't understood before.
It is as if I am looking through a new lens. I find myself needing to go back and read through the gospels and the epistles because I need to see what they look like through the new lens.
It is difficult sharing an aha! moment because-- first, it just doesn't translate well, and second, it is probably not an aha! to someone else.
One of the neat things about the blogosphere is that usually someone has had the same epiphany already and explained it in better ways than I could. In this case, Scott at Theopraxis was exploring this topic last June and July.
In his post Politics of a Different Kind he says:
Jesus intended to create a new community, a new people, marked by a new approach to being people in community and characterized by a radical, subversive approach to authority and power. If this contention is true, and I am fairly confident in it, then what we must recognize is that the gospel calls us, as participants in and members of that very community, to follow in the footsteps of Christ in our relationships, in our approach to authority and power, and in our understandings of citizenship and politics in the more traditional sense.
Continuing in Scott's post about the Dynamics of Power:
But clearly, in example after example, Jesus subverts power through submission and service. He transforms dynamics rooted in domination to ones birthed in love. Not only that, but he holds out his example for all who would be greatest in his kingdom - it's truly an inversion of worldly power structures, creating a radically different community built around radically different dynamics.
As followers of Christ, we no longer have the option of wielding power in the ways of the world - we are called to something greater by virtue of being lesser.
And finally in his post Galatians as Politics he says:
This is why it is such a big deal that Peter sits with the cool kids at lunch. What the gospel means - what is so beautiful and amazing and mysterious about it - is that in Christ, all other social distinctives evaporate. Nothing remains but unity in Christ through the Spirit. For Peter to continue to observe the laws of segregation is nothing less than a denial of the very gospel itself.
Can you feel it? Can you feel how incredibly radical this is? This gospel that calls us to lay down any and all differences that would divide us - there is nothing else like it. Paul is preaching a politics of an altogether new kind, a social identity that is based not on ethnicity, not on gender, not on socioeconomic status, but that is based solely on belonging to Christ.
I'm a bit excited about this - you'll have to bear with me. Do you realize what kind of people we would be if we only recognized the depth to which the gospel calls us to set aside our differences?
(Can you feel the aha! or is it just me?)
Finally, Scott recently had a couple of excellent posts that are more specifically related to issues of gender and power in the church, The Boys Club and Church and Power. These are all well worth reading if this topic interests you.
Thanks Scott for the excellent work you've done in writing about this.
I'll get back to you with some final thoughts about what this means to me on a more personal level as soon as I finish reading the New Testament again.