The Broken Signposts of N.T. Wright: Part 6, Power

The next broken signpost is power.

As N.T. Wright points out, we really don't know what to do with power. He observes, "Power has been a dirty word...But we really can't do without it." We think power is contaminating. As Wright notes, "Some have therefore suggested that power is straightforwardly bad." And yet, welding power is integral to creating and holding together a just and safe society: "No society, then, can survive without someone exercising power, but the world has known for a long time that power needs to be exercised wisely and held in check."

But whenever good people enter into the political sphere, seeking to weld power wisely and well, they often find themselves in horribly compromised systems. As Wright observes, "Generation after generation of politicians have gone into public life in the hope of gaining power to make their world, their country, their region a better place, but this always proves more elusive than they had supposed." Politics quickly gets reduces to grabbing and holding power and never gets around to using that power for the good and betterment of others.

And so, as with justice, beauty, truth, and freedom, power is a vocational signpost, "part of the basic kit of what it means to be human." But once again, power is a broken signpost. We find power confusing, necessary but also defiling.

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