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

Dominating Power

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Good and Bad Power

Dominating Power
Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Contemplative teacher Beatrice Bruteau (19302014) understood domination, what I’ve referred to as “power over” others, as the cause of much of the world’s suffering. Jesus by contrast models a loving, self-giving alternative to domination power. Here is Bruteau’s description of domination:

The theme that I believe is basic to many of our political ills is domination. We are all familiar with domination. We see it in the way decisions are made in our families; in the way orders are given at work; in the way social life is structured in our city by gender, race, and wealth; in the way our industry or profession relates to its competitors or its market or its clientele; in the way governmental agencies function. . . . Domination is a relation that does not work the same in both directions. One commands, the other obeys. One shows respect, the other accepts it but does not return it. One gains privileges from which the other is excluded. [1]

In the CAC podcast Love. Period., my friend and host Jacqui Lewis interviewed Native American activist and author Mark Charles. They talked about the long-lasting effects of racial domination in the United States and how it might be possible to choose love, even with the painful histories of the abuse of power: 

Mark: Race, whether you like it or not, is defined or centered by whiteness. . . . It’s technically the white, landowning Christian male that’s at the center. And then every other group is kind of defined in these circles beyond that. . . . The Black race was constructed through the one drop rule. If you have a single drop of African blood, you’re Black. Blacks were the enslaved. Having that population grow and expand was beneficial to whiteness because that was the labor pool.

The American Indian race was constructed through the blood quantum rule—you’re full, you’re half, you’re an eighth, [then] you’re bred out of existence. This was because, well, the myth was [that] America was discovered. [That] there were no people here. There are treaty obligations to Native peoples, and so they want as few of those as possible. So they construct the Black race to multiply and they construct the American Indian race to eventually be bred out of existence.

Jacqui: This idea of the erasure of a people is kind of a heartbreaking truth around our nation. I write in my [forthcoming] book Fierce Love, “What happens to the children of the people who were disappeared?” . . . What happens to the children of the Indigenous [people] who watched their families burned, pillaged, raped; who were snatched, kidnapped out of their homes, who were trying to have the Indigenousness, the Indianness of them cultured out? I’m thinking about that in terms of love, and I’m thinking how do we love ourselves? How do we love ourselves, stay in love with ourselves, remain in love with ourselves when those are the stories in our psyches? [2]

[1] Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis Books: 2005), 7, 8.

[2] Jacqui Lewis with Mark Charles, July 7, 2021, in Love. Period., season 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2021), podcast, MP3 audio.

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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