Is Power Always A Bad Thing?

December 18, 2013

How should followers of Jesus think about the use of power? That’s a question Christianity Today executive editor Andy Crouch addresses in his latest book, Playing God. I had the chance to ask him about this and other questions in a wide-ranging interview for Leadership Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

Your latest book, Playing God ventures into what you might call the “third rail” of evangelicalism, the idea of power. It seems we are afraid of power—is that due to so many examples of corruption and tyranny?

Evangelicalism inherits the legacy of dissenting churches that were disenfranchised (by choice or by others’ force) from their culture and the more established churches, and folks who found themselves in a minority position. It’s also a movement that has always leaned towards individualism and away from institutionalism, for better and for worse. So it’s not surprising that power is a topic that has seemed distant or downright dangerous for many evangelical Christians. Power is what Rome or the Church of England had in the 18th century, or the mainline Protestants had in the twentieth century, or “the culture” has today—not something “we” have.

But I’ve discovered that almost no one really thinks they have power. Everyone can quickly come up with a list of people who are more powerful than they are. And this can become an excuse for not being accountable for the power we do have. I think it’s time for us to be more honest in owning the fact that we have power.

It’s easier to do that when you come to believe, as I argue in the book, that power is not the same thing as violence and domination. Power is meant for flourishing, and especially the flourishing of the vulnerable—and in fact, the vulnerable do not flourish unless others exercise power. This is true for every single one of us, by the way, not just the poor—because all of us were babies. Every human being has been and will be vulnerable; and every human being, created in the image of God, has power that can be used for the flourishing of others. With that perspective, it’s not something to be afraid of, but something to be accountable for.

Read the entire interview here: