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Hierarchy November 28, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

When we are talking about your problem and not mine, there is a hierarchy.” – Bill Doherty

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton

One of the assumptions of postmodernism is that hierarchies are bad. Hierarchies have to do with power – who has it and who doesn’t. The people with more power use it to their advantage over people with less power. People have differing levels of power. In a social context that means hierarchy.

As a therapist, there is always a power dynamic going on between me and my clients. In church there is a power dynamic between church staff/leadership and church membership.

Now, in the helping professions, theological professions, and educational professions, how can there be no hierarchy? If I am there to help, then I must have some power, or at least a perceived power. The power I appear to have is the reason the person comes to me. Is that not true also in education and church?

I tend to think that the postmoderns have something when they say hierarchies are not good, but at the same time, what can you do about them? People seem to form them naturally.

Ah, but then look at the “power tactics” of Jesus. He seemed to use his power for people who had so little. No, he released power to these people. He made some people untouchable – the most powerful person around. Take the “adulterous woman” for example. She walked away with power. The “woman at the well” is good one as well. She had the power to tell a story. She must have had clout since so mnay people listened to her. Think Lazarus, Peter, and on and on. Jesus was all about investing power by giving it away. He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it sure smacks of relinquishing power to him.

At the same time he seemed to use his power to crush existing power structures. He turned things upsidedown. He used his power not only to give, but also to take. Jesus never flinched when the Pharisees were asserting their power everywhere. Jesus matched them word for word and exposed their hypocrisy. He took their power from them. It really ticked them off, so they killed him.

So, I think Jesus is an excellent model of what to do with power. Find people without much power and release your power to them. Find those who have accumulated power and lord it over people and take it from them.

Think economy. Think positions. Think social status. Think race/sex/religion/age/appearance etc.



1. Matt - November 29, 2005

Chris- I am really fascinated by this idea, particularly the way it works among the GenX/Pomo crowd.

Don’t want to distract too much from the point of your post – which is well-taken, but I also think there is lip service to eliminating hierarchies amongst X/Pomo, but there is still a tacit recognition that some people are more “cool” than others. “Coolness” becomes a new social currency that separates the powerful from the wannabes.

I blogged about this quite a bit a few months ago. The idea of being “uncool for the uncool” so to speak is figuring more and more prominently in my way of thinking about discipleship in the emerging culture.

2. TCS - November 29, 2005

It seems that to Jesus the correct use of power is to free people as opposed to controlling them. I don’t mind following someone, I just don’t like feeling like a prisoner.

Maybe that’s your point.

3. Anonymous - November 29, 2005

Matt, I think you make and excellent point (you too, Chris). It’s similar to the old “anti-establishment” movement…but all those groups had an established leader(s) before long, and some are pretty high places right now.

More often that not, it’s not really about being anti-power, or anti-leadership, or even anti-hierarchy…it’s about being anti-anyone but me in power. So, just shift it from a form of hierarchy where another would be higher to a new standard where I’m at the top, and I’m good to go.

4. HolyInheritance - November 29, 2005

In my weakness is my strength.


5. David U - November 29, 2005

Fantastic post, Chris! In the topsy turvy world of the Gospel, as holyinheritance just said….weakness equals power. That hits us below the belt. In our world, control equals power…..and you can’t have control unless you are STRONG!

God help us to be weak,

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