I had to have a discussion with the preacher I heard yesterday. In a sermon on the peace of Christmas he rightly chose to talk about “letting go” – that efforts to control our lives when there is so much that cannot be controlled robs us of peace. But then he started to stray and talked about power as the antithesis of service. You see, power is not antithetical to service; power properly understood is a means of service – that is both the Christian and the American ideal. It is the misuse and abuse of power that is antithetical to service, but not power itself.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Europe at this very moment. This headline is most telling, “EU figures rule out concessions as May postpones Brexit vote.” Like a child that simply wants to make the decision, not let its parent make the decision, the EU throws a tantrum when the UK has made its desires absolutely transparent. That is an abuse of power. The EU was created and given power to serve the European states, not lord over then as unelected masters. The Yellow Vest Protests are another example. Remaking entire economies is not a necessity in response to climate change. Trying to control climate, even given the apparent reality of an anthropogenic contribution to the changing climate, is kind of like trying to contain jello with rubber bands. Talk about something we need to let go of!!! Maybe we just need to deal with the changing climate, you know like mankind has done throughout history, rather than try to prevent the change. It is amazing that the average joe-on-the-street in France can figure that out while the bureaucrats seem to be having real trouble with the concept. Again, we see an accumulation and use of power for its own sake rather than in service.
The administrative state collapsed in the Soviet Union under its own weight – all that was really necessary in the West was to apply a small amount of pressure in the right place and let nature take its course. The same thing seems to be happening in Europe right now. I pray that here in the US we can accomplish its eradication without the spectacular crash, but only time will tell. What is clear is that power exercised in other than service, is self-defeating. As it says in the Declaration of Independence, “just powers from the consent of the governed….” This idea, this law of human behavior – that power exists to serve not to be served – is the beating, living heart of Christianity.
Most Biblical scholars believe the passage in Philippians 2:5-11 to be an early Christian creed – a small, concise statement of Christian belief/doctrine. As it appears in the text it is unknown if Paul authored it or is quoting it to get his point across, but either way it served a creedal function in the church long before Constantine started to get things highly organized several hundred years later. I have quoted it on this blog many times. Consider these words:
…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Please allow me to rephrase that a bit – the ultimate power in the universe, bigger even than Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet, the power of creation itself, chose to serve. Clearly God had the power to accomplish what Jesus came to accomplish by deific fiat. He could have, as He did at creation, have spoken and it would have simply been. But that is not what happened. The ultimate power served, it did not exercise power for power sake. By His own actions God forever established that power exists to serve, not to be served.
In the former Soviet, one tyrant has simply replaced another. Putin’s administrative state, onerous as it is, is not nearly so onerous as the Soviet Union was. Putin controls the church rather than outlaws it. And as such he controls the place from which the true nature of power emanates. Britain, by my observations, has a more vibrant Christian life than the continent. Thus it is unsurprising that they would lead the way in casting off the misuse of power that is the EU. If the US is to shrug off its own administrative state and not end up in the same kind of nasty mess now so evident in Europe we are going to need a more vibrant Christianity than we have currently.
America really is a Christian nation.