Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Unnamed Power is unaccountable power

While meeting with my friend Ched, we were discussing issues of power, and my distrust of my own ability to hold it. When he said, "unnamed power, is unaccountable power" Now I have never heard this put in such a perfect way before, though I have spoken with other people about it. This phrase really is provocative and I think rings true.

Then he said, "many of these anarchist communities believe that if they just don't name power, if they just refuse to acknowledge it, it won't be a problem, but that is actually the reverse of what happens. By not acknowledging and naming power, there is no accountability, no checks and balances and the power can actually run roughshod over others"

My experience bears this truth out. In trying to pretend that our power is not there, or is less than it is, we often set up structures that allow for our power to be used in even more oppressive and manipulative ways. But if we acknowledge that some are actually powerful, that because of their knowledge, finances, personality or giftings, we can not only make sure those truly wonderful God given gifts are not used improperly, but we can set up structures that allow them to empower others with them rather than use power over.

In my community, if I deny the power that my wife and I yield as founders, elders and to some extent scholars, then I can basically use this power to control and manipulate the community. But if we simply name this power, (not with a title, but by admitting the situation), we can see it for what it is. I can be held accountable by my community, and challenged to be a servant, rather than a worldly styled leader.

In the practice of anarchic community, this becomes imperative. Where the goal is for all to be empowered, it is those with most power that need to share that power, to cede that power, and to reproduce that power in others. When that power is unnamed, it not only has the bad result of oppressing people, but also can hinder the empowering of those that have no power. The true desire of Christian anarchist thought is not that all power is bad, but rather that all power should be shared, and submitted to the God who laid down His power, and died for us in love. This is our goal. To walk out the truth of "There is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, rich nor poor, when we gather together", we must acknowledge that we actually are those things, and voluntarily lay them down.

I hope that made even a little sense.



Larry Wolcott said...

Makes a lot of sense Rev, thanks for posting that.


laduke13 said...

on of those iconocast episodes is on talks about this

David L. said...

It makes a lot of sense to me. We cannot hide, from ourselves or others, what role we play. Whether God places us in that role or not, whether we have power or not. To live in truth is a what Christ wants from us. John, you have a unique way of writing, thanks for making this point and sharing it.

Larry Wolcott said...

So power is OK, as long as it is submitted to the service of others, named, and accountable to them? And also is based on relationships, and not a title or position in a hierarchy?

Rev are there some kinds of power we should always avoid, like political or institutional power? Or is that more a thing we have to work out in every situation? Working for a big institution, where I don't have a lot of power, but do have some over others (especially the marginalized), I wrestle with these things a lot.

john jensen said...

great example, should I use my power of influence to tell you how to think like I do? or ask you questions to help you come up with your own thoughts? The point of this article is that if I admit that I do have power (in this case influence) we can more accurately make sure that even my questions arent just veiled manipulation.

In my opinion, we need to walk in grace, we need to seek help and communal accountability and we need to be very prayerful about our power. Because the truth is...

the corporations don't feel the same way about power, and they will not like you working in alternative ways.