Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Ashton would aver, and many of us who have forsaken hierarchical religion are ready to see all power as bad, oppressive, stifling, tainted, evil ...

In a religion that doesn’t talk much about evil, it is interesting to see how easily we demonize power. We have an unattractive (and maybe unhelpful) habit of exhibiting fear about power. We think that those in power use their power in unjust ways—the corporation that runs rampant over the environment; the politician that calls himself a servant but rules as a master; the commission or authority that skirts the law to impose undemocratic measures for the sake of development. We see bad power everywhere. We fear that the Minister will exert too much influence on the church’s decisions. We are wary of a Board that acts decisively and sets a direction. We are curious about the power of “those people” in the religious education program, or the choir, or the kitchen...

You may disagree with me, but I think we have plenty of lived evidence that we think that there is something wrong with power.

But let me tell you something: it is not only power which corrupts, but powerlessness corrupts. Powerlessness leads to corruption, to individual survival behaviors that are not inthe interest of other individuals and the community, to escapism in wacky religion and mind-altering substances, to bribery and favoritism to gain the approval of the ones with just a little more power. Powerlessness corrupts!

— From Rev. David Carl Olson's Jan. 3 sermon, "The Problem of Power"
Read the full text and other sermons at First Unitarian Church website here.

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