Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Money and Power and What To Do With Privilege

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood - meaning the abolition of control, not whiskered men with bombs) ... The most improper job of any .. is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.
— JRR Tolkien

Power is the new black.

Or the old black. Or something. It just seems that the old fashion "power grab" has come into vogue in recent months.

Primary elections are evidence of this.

So much talk and trumped up drama (hmm. No pun intended) surrounding who will win the "race to the white house". Political commercials and debates have looked and sounded more like advertisements for the WWF, rather than any kind of historical civil dialog. While some may find the circus act surrounding those applying for the job of "most powerful person in the world" entertaining, the entire process has taken on a surreal caricature. If one didn't know better, the nightly news and televised "debates" (again, using that word in it's most liberal form) have become an ironic study in the theatre of the the absurd.

Based on what I see and hear, it appears that Americans will soon be choosing our own tyrant.

Power is a strong elixir that produces a mutinous and frightening beast. Those who drink its dregs are susceptible to transformative corruption and base abuse. Once the drunken stupor is firmly set, the beast emerges. Those with less power are devoured in a flash of white teeth and blood.

To be fair, politicians are not the only ones vulnerable to this addiction.

Pastors. Teachers. Wall Street tycoons. White men in America (or men who are members of majority culture, any place in the world).

A place of power is a place of strength, and that easily becomes a position of abuse and tyranny.

Sometimes it's more subtle than the person in power becoming the next Kim Jong-Un. The faded lines of abuse of power are crossed more often than we think.

  • An employer takes advantage of her employees, because she can - leveraging fear of demotion or job loss to get her way.
  • A pastor subtly leverages influence over his leadership team to gain advantage and browbeat his way through a board meeting.
  • Someone who lives inside the granite walls of majority culture considers those outside as less-smart, less-capable and more likely to be criminal.
  • The person of means uses money as a weapon and a chain to control and enslave those who who have little means.
  • Assuming that money and power are "my lot in life" and those who don't have what I do should work harder, believe stronger or do things they are currently incapable of doing to better their own lot.
  • Power and means are my hard earned "blessing" and not something for which I am accountable.

I hear echoes of my immature, pre-teen self, having earned money for the first time.

"It's my money, I can do what I want with it," I arrogantly announced to my father.

"No. It's not" was his simple, wise and patient reply.

As a person who is now ultimately loyal to Jesus, I understand my Dad's wisdom more deeply now.

Means and power are not mine to hoard.

Of course, money and power are not inherently evil.

The abuse of money and power is completely evil.

So what about those times we find ourselves in a place of power and means? As Americans, we experience this more than most, at least when considered from a global perspective. What do we do? How do we respond? Does power always have to result in an oppressive and totalitarian regime?

Not necessarily. At least, I don't think so.

However, we have to make some different choices.

Majority culture should leverage the power of the majority to empower the minority.

Those who operate their lives from a place of strength ought to use that strength to bring dignity to the weak.

Those who find themselves in a place of plenty and use #blessed on various social media status updates should recognize that blessing is never meant to be kept to ourselves, but rather to be repurposed for the blessing of others.

That's quite the opposite of tyranny. That's generosity, compassion and kindness - and (I believe) a mindset rooted deeply in Christian Scripture.

Sodom wasn't destroyed and Rome didn't fall because of gay sex. The demise of those cultures was because they were arrogant, overfed, unconcerned - and they didn't help the poor. (See Ezekiel 16:49)

This rings an eerie tone of familiarity.

It is a curious thing, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who have leadership thrust upon them and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.
— Albus Dumbledore