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No Domination in God

Good and Bad Power

No Domination in God
Friday, August 13, 2021

Jesus seems to recognize that it’s either a world of domination or it’s a world of love. To understand Jesus’ paradigm of love, though, we must first understand the Trinity in whose image God says “Let us create” (Genesis 1:26)! The Trinitarian God is the loving, relational flow who flows through everything since the beginning. We will continually misinterpret and misuse Jesus if we don’t first participate in the circle dance of mutuality and communion within which he participated. We, instead, make Jesus into “Christ the King,” a title he rejected in his lifetime (see John 18:37). He never sought that kind of power.

People are more comfortable with a divine monarch at the top of pyramidal reality. So we quickly made the one who described himself as “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29) into an imperial God, both in the West (Rome) and in the East (Constantinople). This isn’t the naked, self-emptying Jesus on the cross. This isn’t a vulnerable, relational one who knows how to be a brother to all creation. The Greek Zeus became the Latin Deus—and then we no longer knew Jesus in any meaningful sense that the soul could naturally relate to (which was the main point of the Incarnation!).

Circles are much more threatening than pyramids are, at least to empires, the wealthy, or any patriarchal system. What if we actually surrendered to the inner Trinitarian flow and let it be our primary teacher? Our notion of society, politics, and authority—which is still top-down and outside-in—would utterly change. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:13) should be our circular and all-inclusive ecology for everything, including love, power, mercy, and justice.

The Trinity shows that God’s power is not domination, threat, or coercion. If the Father does not dominate the Son, and the Son does not dominate the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit does not dominate the Father or the Son, then there’s no domination in God. All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous and self-serving power.

Brené Brown writes wisely about vulnerability and power. She observes that “The phrase power over is typically enough to send chills down spines: When someone holds power over us, the human spirit’s instinct is to rise, resist, and rebel. As a construct it feels wrong; in the wider geopolitical context it can mean death and despotism.” [1]

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinite flow of trust and mutuality. This should have changed all Christian relationships: in marriage, in culture, and even in international relations. Instead, we continue to prefer kings, wars, and empires to a world leveled by love.

References:
[1] Brené Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts (Random House: 2018), 96.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 40–41.

Story from Our Community:
How fortunate I have been to find Fr. Rohr’s meditations. For too many years I felt alone in my belief system, only to find I was one of many! Rohr and the CAC provide the words necessary for my continuing journey. Without fear, I express these deep beliefs with others in a nonconfrontational manner. I am finding so many of my fellow Baby Boomers open to new thoughts—millennials are even more willing to hear and learn. God’s great inner peace to all. —Pamela W.

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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