Service instead of Domination

From Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, July 2018

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. —2 Corinthians 13:13

Without the nondual mind, it’s almost impossible for us to find another way of doing politics. Grounding social action in contemplative consciousness is not a luxury for a few but a cultural necessity. Both the Christian religion and American psyche need deep cleansing and healing from our many unhealed wounds. Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love.

Contemplative Christians can model a way of building a collaborative, compassionate politics. I suggest we start by reclaiming the wisdom of Trinity, a circle dance of mutuality and communion. Humans—especially the powerful, the wealthy, and supporters of the patriarchal system—are more comfortable with a divine monarch at the top of pyramidal reality. So Christians made Jesus into a distant, imperial God rather than a living member of divine-human relationship.

Spiritual power is more circular or spiral, and not so much hierarchical. It’s shared and shareable. God’s Spirit is planted within each of us and operating as each of us (see Romans 5:5)! Trinity shows that God’s power is not domination, threat, or coercion. All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous power.

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—giving away and humbly receiving. This should have changed all Christian relationships: in churches, marriage, culture, and even international relations. Isaiah tried to teach such servanthood to Israel in the classic four “servant songs.” [1] But Hebrew history preceded what Christianity repeated: both traditions preferred kings, wars, and empires instead of suffering servanthood or leveling love.

Since this is so ingrained in our psyche, we must work hard to dismantle systems of domination. I emphatically state, together with my fellow Christian elders and leaders:

We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. . . . 

We reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. . . . Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority. [2]

What if we actually surrendered to the inner Trinitarian flow and let it be our primary teacher? Our view of politics and authority would utterly change. We already have all the power (dynamis) we need both within us and between us—in fact, Jesus assures us that we are already “clothed” in it “from on high” (see Luke 24:49)!

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