Powerful Practices

Taken from the work of James Wm. McClendon, Jr. and Nancey Murphy, powerful practices suggests that one should not be too optimistic about practices but should understand that practices are themselves corruptible and throughout time go through a series of “decline as well as progress.” (fn)

Practices can be taken over and infiltrated by the powers (recalling Walter Wink’s work). The goal then is to be on the alert for the ways in which the powers muddy down the practices.

Here are a few key things McClendon says about this:

“Governments are not all as wicked as they can be, though all exercise power. Not all churches, nor all religious rites, are beneficent, and they are powers, too” (94).
“…We are free to inquire, instead about the actually history of a particular power: the degree to which its politics and claims are functions of the creative and redemption power of God in Christ, and the degree to which these are corruptions of that power.”
“To see the church as a set of powerful practices is to turn from dogmatic blindness [sic] to the** empirical reality of church. Not every “church” is a font of Christian practice and faith, nor is every liturgy life-breathing, though it be called Lord’s Supper or Eucharist most holy. That nevertheless many are, even in spare spiritual times, is a matter of divine gift and promise (Matt 16:18).”

Finally, McClendon believes that even corrupted powers can be redeemed, which can then be applied to practices as well.

A second aspect, which I took from Nancey Murphy‘s work is that: the will to power is real and that some radical faith traditions, like Anabaptists and Quakers, have worked hard to create practices that blunt the effects of the will to power.

The communal Quaker decision-making process is one such powerful practice that blunts – I’m not sure about fully eliminating – the will to power through political means. Another is the practice of non-violence, blunting the will to power through violent means.

Here is a suggested list of possible powerful practices that Quakers have or could have or could develop further to help counter Liturgies of Empire.

(fn) The Practice of Community Formation” by James Wm. McClendon, Jr. where he writes about “Community formation as Powerful Practice.” 93-94