Most of us do…. I know I do. The instinct to compete and the drive to win is deeply ingrained. I suspect there were evolutionary advantages that granted an edge to those more driven than to those less so.
Like many human traits, this “drive to win” isn’t subject to easy moral analysis. There are many ways in which driven-ness has enriched individuals and groups, and many ways in which it has proved highly problematic.
One of the ways in which it proves troubling is when it morphs slightly into desire for dominance. Even though we are familiar with dominance as a relatively benign concept in sports, in many contexts the exercise of dominance becomes dehumanizing. It becomes dehumanizing when the capacity to dominate blinds the one able to dominate to the perspectives and situation of those dominated.
Majorities historically dominate minorities. They dominate consciously and unconsciously. They dominate benignly and perniciously. The dominate in ways trivial and in ways devastating.
I am convinced that this is at least part of the reason why Biblical values are so self-consciously oriented to the welfare of those on the margins. Almost by definition those on the margins are minorities. They are not always minorities in terms of sheer numbers (though often they are), but certainly in terms of influence and power they are “minor.” And the Biblical narrative insists that they are to be seen and considered.
We know this. We don’t always live it out as well as we might, but we do grasp the principle.
Imagine, for a moment, that the tables are turned. How does it feel when a once majority becomes marginal? What does the once influential do when they are no longer influential?
That question is huge and it is not (I don’t believe) given to any single or simple answer. If the question is difficult, all the more reason it be contemplated, partly because avoiding the question hinders the capacity of the faithful in churches like our own to figure out our place in a shifting buy prevacid online cultural and ecclesiastical landscape. To put it bluntly, mainline Protestants have decades – yea centuries – of experience at being ecclesiastically dominant. At various times and places we’ve used that dominance for good but also for ill. But in the last several decades we have slipped from dominance. Instead of being “mainline” we are more honestly “old-line” or even “sideline.”
Like many others, I’m tired of this reality being a cause for lament. Instead I’m fascinated at whether it might become an invigorating opportunity. There is a Biblical theme that I think we must study. It is more a Hebrew Bible theme than a New Testament theme (though it is not absent from the NT) – it is the concept of “the remnant community.” The challenge for the remnant community is not one of dominance – it is one of creative and perhaps sly influence. It is one of bearing witness more than imposition of one’s will. It is one of shrewdly making one’s voice heard even when one’s face is invisible to the majority.
The God we serve often invites us to affirm the most ridiculous notions and among the more extreme of these notions is the one we find in II Corinthians 12:9 where the Apostle reports hearing the voice of the Lord this way: “…. power is made perfect in weakness.”
This concept requires an awful lot of unpacking – much more than I’m able to offer in this short article. Still, I doubt this assertion of power in weakness is intended to endorse either quietism or passivity, but certainly it eschews dominance. Apparently it’s possible to be powerful but not dominant.
Church: Are we willing to take our remnant status seriously and instead of bemoaning it as a curse, accept it as God-given opportunity?
I think we must. Let’s start figuring out what faithfulness requires of us.
With MUCH hope!
UCC in Iowa