The Purpose of Power

Let’s get awkward…

We are in this season at Multiply Church we’ve been calling Clash of Kingdoms. In this season, we are examining the Kingdom of God for certain values and behaviors of those living as citizens of the Kingdom. Many of these values and behaviors are countercultural to what we regularly see put on display in our earthly kingdoms. This conversation can get awkward quickly…especially when we focus on politics, poverty, and racism.

Now for our next topic: power and equity in our society

But first…why are we even talking about these things?? You might be thinking…can’t we just preach about the love of Jesus? After all, shouldn’t this be what the church is about? Love, forgiveness, etc.

Love and forgiveness are great and, yes, we could simply just preach about these concepts every week.

But to be honest, there have been countless preachers living homogenous lives and just preaching the love of Jesus to homogenous congregations for centuries. And this might be related to the fact that the church hour on Sunday mornings continues to be the most segregated hour in our society. Therefore, I will preach about the love of Jesus, but not just the love of Jesus. We also have to preach about how the love of Jesus commands and empowers us to address biblical injustices in our society today.

Ya dig?

I recently had the opportunity to attend an extremely eye opening and difficult racial equity workshop over the course of two days thanks to our partnership with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. The information in this workshop was not necessarily new to me, but the order in which it was compiled and presented made the experience especially powerful.

In this three-part series of posts, I will give you some high level learnings from this workshop, along with a framework to better understand power and equity in our culture. Then there will be some examples of the inequity in our society. Finally, I will answer what this has to do with the Gospel. (Remember, the Gospel is the good news that the Kingdom of God is near.)

Let’s go!

Let’s start with a definition of power. Power is the ability to do something or act in a particular way. Power is also the capacity to direct or influence the behavior and actions of others. As we consider the concepts of power and equity, the biggest takeaway from the workshop for me serves as a great metaphor!

The workshop facilitators used this helpful metaphor to frame the narrative of inequality in our nation. Allow me to explain…

If you go to a body of water and you see a single fish floating upside down on the water, what question do you ask? Most likely, you wonder to yourself, “Huh, I wonder what happened to that fish?”

If you come to that same body of water the next day and there are hundreds of fish floating upside down, you ask a different question. Your curiosity shifts from the fish to the water…to the environment in which the fish are swimming. In other words, what’s wrong with the water?

Now to the best part of the metaphor:

Did you know that 94% of the freshwater in the world is underground? This water is cleverly called groundwater and groundwater feeds all of our rivers, lakes, and other bodies of freshwater.

When it comes to power and equity in our society, we have been reared and trained to blame the fish. The fish have defects and deficiencies. That fish is lazy. This fish is unintelligent. And we become a nation of fish fixers. The problem is that the root of the issue is not with the fish. The real issue is with the groundwater.

So we can try to create programs that address the so-called defects and deficiencies of the fish, but the environments in which the fish swim remain the same. Our fish-fixing programs are good, however, they do nothing to address the real deficits in the lake and the toxicity of the groundwater.

So this is the framework to better understand where we are in our society. You may be tempted to disagree, and I totally understand that pressure, but the real and the full history of our nation leads to this conclusion.

Next, in part two, I will begin by providing some real-life examples of how this metaphor plays out in our society. Stay tuned!

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