[su_note note_color=”#d5d5d5″ text_color=”#91201f”]The following is the Letter from the Editor for Volume 4, Issue 10 of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine: “Power Plays.” You can subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and you’ll receive a host of other benefits as well.[/su_note]
Power is a tricky thing. When used to influence or sacrifice, power is good. But it is not always employed that way. When used to manipulate or belittle, power is very bad, indeed.
Discerning the difference in power’s use isn’t always clearly defined. Even power employed for good can sometimes result in a negative outcome, causing some to shy away from power and label all uses as evil. This is too simplistic, too knee-jerk. Power cannot be inherently bad as it is one of God’s most evident attributes.Power cannot be inherently bad as it is one of God’s most evident attributes.
As God’s image bearers, He’s entrusted various types of power to us. But wielding it for good is the challenge. God’s people can misuse and abuse their power. We must be careful to consider imbalances in power and improper applications of power, for we are called to use our positions of influence and authority to call forth life for others. In this issue of the Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, we look at several aspects of power and how we can navigate the tricky waters of today’s power-hungry culture.
In “The Limited Power of the Dress Code,” Amanda Wortham explores the faulty messages embedded in our calls for modest dress:
“An unbalanced perspective on modesty ignores the beauty of a woman and the agency of a man. It betrays a desire to lord our power over someone else, to make others weak with our brute strength. It is a reductionist perspective, relegating both men and women to the context of their sexual relationships. It fails to account for the whole person.”
Wortham posits that today’s modesty measures have gotten twisted up in power plays. Life cannot be nurtured when we are bent upon comparing and competing and trying to gain the upper hand in the modest dress contest.
A desire for power over others can be much more dangerous than how we clothe ourselves, however. In extreme cases, power can lead to abuse. Maylin Tu speaks of such trauma from personal experience in “Jessica Jones, Abuse, and ‘The Courage to Be’ ”:
“Toward the end of the book, Tillich defines the courage to be as ‘the courage to accept oneself as accepted in spite of being unacceptable.’ This is one of my favorite definitions. God as being-itself accepts me ‘in spite of.’ As I embrace being, I experience the acceptance of a God who loves me. Even in the midst of trauma—in spite of trauma, in spite of the terrible, awful horror of non-being—I can courageously accept that I am accepted.”
Abuse is power at its most corrupt. As Tu so brilliantly explains, abuse is the opposite of life giving—it is life stealing. It is the enemy’s work. Which is why, as God’s Redeemed, we must work against such skewed, horrendous displays of power. The world needs us to use our power to expand God’s Kingdom for those who are lesser and least. We can do that in our vocations, in our acts of service, in our refusal to participate in status quo actions and attitudes that perpetuate the imbalance of power.
Power is a powerful thing. We must learn to employ it for good.