Years and years ago, when I lived in Bridgeport, I met a man at a diner and we discussed organizing, Jesus, and making the world a better place. Still getting my feet wet in ministry, and finding my way around in Bridgeport, I struggled with my authority as a pastor. Wanting to mostly be a nice guy, I didn’t believe in coercion or telling people what to do. I should have known better. My psychology model, Virginia Satir, says that politeness is a good way to make sure things never change (and, therefore, never change for the better). Still, I was young and not sure of myself when Pat Speer introduced himself and said, “Don’t be afraid of power. Do you know what the definition of power is? It’s ‘the ability to do work’. ” Furthermore, he added, “there’s a lot of work to be done”. On that we agreed. Pat had a strategy on how to do that work, and I never really bought in with my heart and soul. My friend Leigh did and she and Pat did incredible work in New Haven, Connecticut.
I tend to live by my instincts and, even if I never really took him up on his offer, I liked Pat. I still do. Pat sees Jesus as the model for social justice, and I agree, but I like to see Jesus as a model for life — personal vs. collective. By this time in my life, I think I have given up politeness and worrying about what others think, so I’m closer to Pat’s view of life now, but I’m an introvert (I think) so… well, who knows. In any case, I have learned that Pat is right — power is the ability to do work. I’m still not a big fan of “power over others” in the slightest, but my own power — my own ability to do work– that I believe in.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Donald Trump, who also believes in power, and loves his ability to make things happen. Just today, he decided to undo years of work which allowed us to live on this planet via repealing EPA regulations and the Paris Accords on climate change. Trump wants you to know he has power and can do anything he wants with it. The man wanted tanks for his inauguration parade. He has money. He likes winning. He wants you to know he’s a man! Furthermore, he’s President and you’re not.
So, Pat, Trump, and I are all men. We each have power and all of us are leaders. Pat and Trump like winning. I’m more into accomplishing things than winning over others. Neither Pat nor I have money, but that’s our choice, somewhat and — as my wife would point out–we both make way more than most people in most countries. What wealth Pat and I have in comparison to someone in Zimbabwe, for instance, is what Trump has in comparison to us.
At the end of my life (and all during it, as well), I’d like to be closer to Pat Speer than Donald Trump, regarding power. That’s because Pat and I use Jesus as a model. Donald Trump, whatever else you may say about him, clearly does not use Jesus as a model for anything. He and Pat will be fighting as long as they both are alive. Maybe they should be.
The thing that I have, that neither Trump nor Pat (I think) have is… a love of Superman comics… or, frankly, any superhero or super heroine . Here’s why: Superman, like Pat, Donald, and myself all have power and yes, we’re all men. We can all get things done. We all have the ability to — the power to, if you will — do work. We all believe we have a mission in the world.
Superman holds the key for me. It’s not whether or not you have power(s). It’s whether you use them for good or evil. Pat uses his for good, Trump for evil. Pat, to build. Trump, to destroy. Pat, to serve. Trump to be served. Pat, to follow God. Trump, to pretend he is God. Pat, to be a part of humanity. Trump, to be above humanity.
As I write this, it occurs to me that Pat may get more accomplished in life than I will, because he’s more … mature than I am. For now, that’s ok with me. I want to be the best me I can. If folks agree and think I’m leading, that’s ok. Pat wants us to to be the best us we can be. Trump calls us to be the worst he can be. We all find our way in the world. Whichever works for you (well, ok not Trump’s way) is fine with me.
If you want to check out Pat, he’s at the Christian Activity Council in Hartford. He’s a good man, doing good things. Trump is in Washington, of course, and people like him will keep people like Pat and me busy for a long time.
Me? Still in West Hartford, now preaching in Goshen, CT and doing therapy in Springfield, MA.
Whatever you do, whatever you choose to do, always use your powers for Good, and not Evil. Ask Superman…. and maybe ask Jesus which is which before you do.
Resisting with Peace,