Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Powerless

Between twitter and Facebook and my blog-feed, I get a tremendous amount of Jesus data poured at me on a daily basis.  One of the most striking characteristics of that wash of information is just how much of it is dedicated to disagreement.

A blogger will say something, and a dozen others will chime in their opposition to that thing.  A pastor-provocateur will make a public pronouncement, and it will be the genesis of a thousand snarky tweets.

I have done this myself, frankly.  As we stand in relationship to one another, we naturally respond to one another's perspectives.  It's so very tempting.

But those responses are so very often ferociously polar, assuming the very worst about a soul.  I wonder why we respond in the way that we do.  Oh, sure, we're speaking the truth to power.   But how much power...real power...does any one other voice have?

Take, for example, Mark Driscoll, whose big bold provocations seem to be mainlined catnip for progressive Christians and their bloggery.    I've been seeing a whole bunch of Driscoll lately.  Maybe he has a new book coming out, and is turning up the volume.  He declares that there's no point in caring for creation, 'cause God's just going to destroy it when Jesus comes back.  Them's fighting words, says anyone who cares about the Garden.  He smacks down women in leadership, with a smug certainty that has launched a thousand outraged posts.

He's an "influential pastor," and the Mars Hill church he serves is rather on the large side.  With fifteen thousand attendees and a few thousand official members, it's hardly a teensy little thing.  Couple that with a media ministry, and that influence is there.

Sort of.   I mean, really, what is the reach of any individual pastor?  Here we are, a nation in which 246 million individuals claim to be Christian.  Driscoll leads, what, 15 thousand on a good day?   That's six-one-thousandths of one percent.    What authority?   What power?  None but that we give him.

None of us have the right in this nation to force our perspectives on any other.  It's the great blessing of religious liberty.  So if someone wants to say the universe is only 6,000 years old, they can do so...but I do not have to believe it.  If someone wants to argue that women should be subordinate, they can do so, but they cannot ever coerce any person into agreeing with them.  They can stand on zealous certainty, or rant, or attempt to spiritually bully, but ultimately, they can do no more than that.  It's a threat display.

As much as I disagree with positions that to me seem diametrically opposed to both reality and to the grace of the Gospel, I wonder at the point of umbrage and rancor.

Those positions are meaningless to me.  I know they have no power.  They cannot rule me, because I do not let them.

Do I need to exist as if they do have power?  Or can I simply name them as the powerless, empty things that they are?

It seems that the most potent response is simply to say, we are free.  We were created free.  You may listen to me if you wish.  Or not.

You may listen to the one who wants you to feel weak, if you so choose.  But you do not have to.  He has no power over you.