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Center for Action and Contemplation
Good and Bad Power
Good and Bad Power

A Communion Paradigm

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Good and Bad Power

A Communion Paradigm
Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The contemplative theologian Beatrice Bruteau explores how Jesus took his intimate experience of Trinitarian love and empowerment into his ministry. Of course, when we read the Gospels and the New Testament, we see how difficult it was for even Jesus’ earliest followers to follow his example in their treatment of others. However, that doesn’t mean we give up! Rather, I hope we are encouraged to keep thinking in circles rather than pyramids. Beatrice Bruteau writes:

Under the Domination Paradigm, people are encouraged to think of themselves as identified by their descriptions and to see themselves as real insofar as they are distinct from others. . . . “I am I by virtue of being not-you.” So defined, people feel the insufficiency of their being, which is always vulnerable, always at risk. Consequently, people are insecure and anxious. Strongly pressed to preserve and enhance what being they have, people are easily tempted to believe that helping others may hurt themselves and that hurting others may be the best way to help themselves. After all, the others are “others,” and our first priority is ourselves. “My” well-being has to take precedence over “yours.”

In the Jesus Movement, several things happen that undercut these views and feelings. First, Jesus offers people unconditional positive regard. He gives full attention, sympathetic support, respect, and something else. The something else is that he does not interact on the basis of one’s social description. In by-passing the description, he is going to something deeper and more real in the person. When he turns his unconditional positive regard on this deeper self beyond the descriptions, that self has the opportunity to wake up, to experience itself. When it does, it discovers itself as full of being; it no longer feels deficient. . . .

Second, Jesus explains to people that each person is a child of God. . . . God does not play favorites. God loves all equally. Children of God are supremely safe in this love (but not protected in the world), and children of God are themselves capable of this kind of loving. . . .

Third, Jesus gathers people into communities in which . . . each person does the same thing that Jesus originally did: loving another person on the level beyond any description, beaming full attention (with all one’s heart, soul, mind, strength) of positive regard. This can awaken the sense of selfhood in one who has not yet known it, and in this way the community expands. . . . [In the community] all people are absolutely equal and each is absolutely unique. The sharing within the community is thus richly textured and very creative. Being unified, loving, and creative, the community is the “outreach” of God, the very Presence of God as world.

We now have what we may call a Communion Paradigm. . . . Here I am I by virtue of being in-you/with-you/for-you, not outside and not against—not even separate.

Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis Books: 2005), 69, 70.

Story from Our Community:
I am looking for a way to exist that is driven by Love. Both my “conservative” childhood and my “liberal” young adulthood felt steeped in what to be against. In reading Father Richard’s words, as well as the many voices he includes in the Daily Meditations, I am more able to see and center on the Love that is God—both in myself and the world around me. —Jenna F.

Image credit: Charles O’Rear, A Hundred Mile Ribbon of Sand Dunes (detail), 1972, photograph, California, National Archives.
Image inspiration: A desert has the potential for phenomenal beauty—but if you want to survive, you wouldn’t enter it without food and water. Likewise, power in itself is neither good nor bad, but requires our precautions and awareness to navigate and apply with great care.
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