the church’s use of the language of power

the church's use of the language of power cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“The Language of Power” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

When we say we are inclusive, we are saying we are the center and we will let you in.

When we say we allow or permit, we are saying that we are the ones who hold the power to determine behavior.

True, the church used to be the most powerful institution in the world. Perhaps some would argue that it still is today. But it shouldn’t be.

Because of its inappropriate use of power, many are leaving the church.

It is in the spirit of Jesus to undermine power and the language it uses.

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9 Replies to “the church’s use of the language of power”

  1. Interesting thought. I agree that inclusive implies the exercise of power. Yet, in context, “inclusive” contrasts “exclusive,” and so it challenges where the center of power is itself by moving it beyond the margins. In an inclusive community, the power to enter is accessed by those on the outside. The only ones excluded are those who would exclude others, and then only because they are not allowed control entrance requirements…which leads to feeling uncomfortable and seeking a more comfortable atmosphere (the measure given, etc). So, relational-behavioral boundaries replace community/institutional boundaries, as all are by default included, until they exclude themselves.

    Having said that, it would be nice to have better language for this. I just don’t know what it could be yet. I would love to hear suggestions.

  2. Hmm. I’m going to have to chew on this one. Not sure I agree that a church or community which considers itself inclusive is operating from a sense of power. Is The Lasting Supper inclusive? Is that not a good thing, to invite others into your community? What are some labels you would consider not power language?

  3. IMO, part of the power language of Christianity is that even though Christianity is inclusive in that it is available to everyone (who accepts it) regardless of race, gender, or nationality, the inclusiveness is against a backdrop that if you don’t join, then you will X where X is “go to hell”, or “suffer eternal separation”, “not get to sit on God’s lap”, or various other notions within Christianity of the consequences of not accepting Jesus. If the Lasting Supper was offered within a backdrop where if you didn’t join then you are a moral degenerate, then its inclusiveness would also have power language.

  4. I would agree with most of this…I think the problem is much deeper than simply language…for instance if you teach tithing, then by inclusion you must preach a separate priesthood…which is exclusive by nature…I think the issue goes down to using power at all…Jesus demonstrated a Lamb on the throne and we all heard “lion”…we seek strength over culture and he supports weakness…we are simply on the wrong side of power most of the time…

  5. You may have a good point. In biblical theology, Jesus is said in the Incarnation to have “condescended” to become one of us, thereby including humanity in the divine communion. I have to acknowledge that simply by using the word inclusive–even in my attempt to be benevolent–I am claiming ownership and power over the gateway to God. Only God can (and has) condescend to include (and has!)… I wonder, then, what kind of language could we adopt that reflects this greater reality, and at the same time acknowledges our need for the “other” that we have excluded for so long?

  6. Maybe we are not saying “we are the centre” but we are saying “we have found something central(common), we are enjoying community around our commonality and you are welcome”

  7. Sorry, but I use the word inclusive to mean something positive and meaningful. Actively striving to avoid marginalizing and silencing people isn’t a negative thing, as long as it involves giving people a real voice, and real influence, in their community.

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