Tuesday, October 1, 2013


This morning most of us woke up to the fact that the government of the United States of America is shut down. Most essential services are still available and Congress is getting a paycheck, no doubt. Vacationers whose plans included a visit to a national park or monument may be the most frustrated when they have to make new plans for the day since those government funded destinations are closed. Campers will have to pack up and move from national campgrounds. Unless we work for the government and are furloughed for a time most of us will feel little pain initially. The stock market may react with some down days and that hurts our retirement portfolios. But even if our pain and suffering today is not catastrophic, we might consider where we are at in this country. Politics used to the art of compromise. There would be budget battles and some give an take and then a budget would be adopted by the deadline. That was the work of government. Most of us didn't give it much thought. Today is not like those days. Today, some political groups are willing to shut down everyone's government if they don't get their own way. There is no compromise. There is no sense of the common good. It is my way or no way. The working relationship between Congress and the White House isn't working. That concerns you and me. Andy Crouch has written a new book entitled Playing God. Its about power and its uses. In this most recent Washington debacle we see power wielded in the most negative way and it reinforces our suspicions about power, that is, that power is always corrupting. He writes we see "the Tea Party can embrace a basically Nietzschean (the Will to Power) vision in which our society is like the small Texas town in an old fashioned Western, where the only hope for God-fearing good people is the arrival of someone who will wield decisive power to drive out the forces of disorder." There is no middle ground. Only one way is right. Power cannot be shared. Crouch's premise is that power is not bad; it can be a force for good. Think Creation. So he shares an alternative version of power: Power is the force that can be used "in the creation of flourishing environments for variety and life, and to thrust  back the chaos that limits true being. In doing so it creates other bodies and invites them into mutual creation and tending of the world, building relationships where there had been none: thus they then cooperate together in creating more power for more creation. And the process goes on." In Crouch's view power is not used to win a battle against our opponents but is used to create places where people thrive. Power is not used to force people to work together until one group sees the opportunity to grab all the power. Instead, power is the force we use to cooperate to create better environments in which people can flourish. In the Gospel we see the power to reconcile those who have great differences. In our country's current struggles we see very clearly the great differences among people on display. Each side wants to win but we all lose. One last thought from Crouch: "The worst fate one could wish for would be to end up alone with one's power, for then there would be no one left with whom one could tend and shape the world."