Green Lantern's Power Ring

Green Lantern’s Power Ring
Image: JD Hancock

This last week I had the opportunity to gather with Sisters and Brothers of the United Church of Canada to discuss what intercultural ministry means for our denomination and – in particular – in the context of Winnipeg. This day gathering saw us engage in small groups to discuss what our hopes might be and upon what we might need to reflect to make those hopes a reality. One of the consistent themes that seemed to arise during this time was the idea of power and intention.

Power is a funny topic to explore (a previous A Deacon’s Musing, during Lent 2012, examined it in connexion to Authority). For some, it’s an energising discussion and for others exploring it can be anxious-making, perhaps even (understandably) fear-causing. The ways such a conversation can unfold are many and varied and – in particular – how it is framed from a faith-based context can add layers that lead to uncertainty. I thought, therefore, that I might frame power in the following manner for the sake of this particular blog:

I admit – that’s a lots of words – so perhaps an example from a church perspective when we have (unfortunately) been culpable in the way power has normalised in a manner that has been experienced as hurtful and destructive. I would suggest, therefore, that we consider our ongoing work around acknowledging our role in colonialism and the residential schools.

Looking at that aspect of Christian history, power was and continues to be experienced overtly (removal of children from families, corporeal punishment, the force of law and inappropriate sexual interaction). As well, power was and has been experienced subtly through the use of laws and legal processes that use(d) Treaties as a means by which to acquire land and resources by dispossessing those who calle(d) the land home. Furthermore, through the use of addiction, poverty and education, colonialism has led to a use of power in which individuals and indigenous cultures internalise what ‘normal’ looks like. For those who do not conform, the internalised message of brokenness and ‘otherness’ protects those who are ‘normal.’ This subtle and frightening form of power leads to stereotypes that flatten a person to a thing, a diagnosis, and a pathology: ‘drunk Indian,’ ‘violent nigger,’ ‘Arab terrorist,’ ‘white trash.’ These are just a few examples of the subtle use of power that ensures that resistance – challenging how power normalises – remains suppressed.

intercultural

intercultural
Image: Richard Manley-Tannis

I am aware this analysis may be new, perhaps even unfamiliar, and I am most open to furthering a possible conversation about power. So – for the sake of the blog – let me try to highlight what being intention implies in this respect; and, particularly, looking at power in this manner from a Christian context.

If we – as church – can (uncomfortably) accept that we have (unintentionally) supported a process of normalising that has hurt others, perhaps even caused soul-trauma, then we may recognise the need to ask: what next? How do we undo, apologise, and/or begin to seek forgiveness for such complicity? What do we do in a globalised context as various expressions of power’s normalising now mixes?

• I wonder what might happen
if we intentionally acknowledge power as present
and begin to share it in a way that invites multiple voices.
• I wonder what might happen
if we hold up our understanding of normal:
that all are loved, that diversity is worth celebrating
and defending if all are to have dignity.
• I wonder what might happen
if we harness power with intention
to nurture that vision of normal.

These wondering implications are exciting and … daunting. When the church challenges from the margins, we are enriched, but we also find that solidarity could mean danger.

The final question – for this blog then – is: (as we consider intercultural ministry) are we willing to let go of the way in which we have previously been involved with power? If so, the possibilities are awesome …

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