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Love, power and the State of the Union

Bishop Beckwith at the U.S. Capitol, March 2013

Like many of us, on Tuesday evening I watched the President’s State of the Union address. President Obama offered an impassioned appeal for us as Americans to provide help and hope for everyone in the country. Everybody deserves a shot, he said; and he went on about our ability to overcome adversity through hard work and investing in hope; and providing opportunity through initiatives that will level the uneven playing field.

Yet beneath all the challenges issued and the vision expressed, there was a subtext; and the subtext was power. Who had it, who has it now – how can it be best deployed; who is going to win. As the camera panned the House chamber, you could tell – from the President on down, that the State of the Union evening was the opening act for upcoming displays of and battles for power.

Also like many of us, a week or so ago I went to see the movie “Selma.” It is a captivating movie, mainly because it dramatically and honestly depicts a battle for power: the desire for the power to vote against the power to prevent the right to vote. The film called to mind Martin Luther King’s reflection on power, which he offered two years after the Selma march: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

King’s power was rooted in love. God’s love. And was directed toward justice. God’s justice. King kept going back to God – in prayer and in scripture. Like the prophets before him, King joined power and love together. And it prevailed. It will continue to prevail. That is the promise.

The State of the Union address set up a power dynamic that will eventually produce winners and losers. It will be frustrating to watch. Many of us will get drawn in. At times it will be perversely entertaining – like it was when we watched a schoolyard fight.

Dr. King’s power is gospel-driven power. Christ-centered love. This power turns the current political calculus upside down by daring to make the claim that power only works if everyone is declared a winner.

That is the challenge. That is our work.


Our Bishop, Mark Beckwith. compares different types of power as described by President Obama and Martin Luther King. These men, the Bishop, the President and Martin Luther King, demonstrate the power of words to reach a goal of love, compassion, understanding of the poor disenfranchised minority in our midst. Power may shift within the rank and file in Washington, however, it is up to us to affirm and speak out on the rights of all. We are able to speak out, wherever we are, whenever we can and vote in anyway possible to effect change. Inequality is not quality for the minority or what I call the majority of sufferers of neglect and proper representation. It is taking a long time for progress,and to move forward. Love or Agape is all that is necessary. Can we sway the naysayers? Hopefully.

An excellent review of King's position on power. The article shows a deep perception on The Bishop's part of the exclusiveness of power...once anyone is excluded from it, all of us are losers! Leaving politics aside, shared power, even by degrees, has a ring of charity about it. And what is charity if not love!?

Time, talent, and treasure are what we have to contribute as gifts. Finding the right proportion of each to share with others is basic to our survival and the survival of others - "our neighbors."

We are told that the love of money is the root of all evil, and I believe our economy shouts out this truth about our love of money. We are also reminded that in giving we receive, first for ourselves in the joy of giving and in the productivity of what we give to others. I am saddened by the decrease in sharing with others, not only in our time and talents, but especially with those who mainly store up treasurers for themselves. Those who have more than enough, are morally obligated to share their excess with others who are lacking and in need. This is the way any society promotes justice within the community. So, according to our Constitution, everyone has the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and we the people, through our govermental process, make that happen.

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