The other day I observed a Twitter exchange between Pope Francis and Miroslav Volf.
Pope Francis (@Pontifex) Tweeted:
“God does not reveal himself in strength or power, but in the weakness and fragility of a newborn babe.”
To which Miroslav Volf (@MiroslavVolf) replied:
“@Pontifex How true! And yet the babe grew and taught with power and authority, and the crucified one was raised from the dead in glory.”
Since moving to the Navajo reservation more than a decade ago, I have done much thinking, studying, praying, and reflecting on the dynamics between power and authority. And God has given me a few insights over the years. So when I read these tweets I had an instant desire to jump in and be a part of the discussion. But there was a problem. Pope Francis is the leader of the Catholic Church with more than 1 billion members worldwide. And he has 11 million Twitter followers (between his various accounts in nine different languages). Miroslav Volf is a national, even global, voice in his own right. He heads the Center for Faith and Culture at Yale University and is described as a Croatian Protestant theologian and public intellectual who is often recognized as "one of the most celebrated theologians of our day." And he has 11 thousand twitter followers.
And then there is me, Mark Charles. I do not lead any organization nor do I work solely for a specific group, ministry, or church. I am merely the son of an American woman (of Dutch heritage) and a Navajo man, who is living on our Navajo reservation and trying to understand the complexities of our country’s history regarding race, culture, and faith so that I can help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for our people. And I have a grand total of 710 twitter followers (@wirelesshogan).
In terms of power, platform and voice, Pope Francis is Goliath, Miraslov Volf is David, and I am Jesse's long-lost nephew, the youngest son of his stepsister's fourth cousin. On a power scale, I have no place in this discussion. And even if I were to tweet something in response to Pope Francis or Miraslov Volf, the worldly chances of actually being heard by either of them are almost non-existent.
But to me, that is the beauty of Pope Francis’ tweet. God’s rules are different from the world’s rules. God does not use the mighty things of this world to proclaim his glory, but the weak, the forgotten, and the overlooked. And that is the hope that I both hold onto, and preach to our Native peoples and communities throughout the country. For living on the reservation is very lonely. Our nations and peoples have been pushed aside to scraps of land that are largely unwanted and out of the way. As a result, a majority of the country is unaware that Native communities actually exist. And of the few who are aware, those who do come to visit us are either giving us charity or taking pictures at the “Native American Zoo,” and then quickly leaving before any real relationship can be built.
And so, after many years of living in solidarity with my people, studying the scriptures, and looking closely at the model of Jesus, I can wholeheartedly agree that, as a rule, "God does not reveal himself in strength or power, but in the weakness and fragility of a newborn babe."
But, Miroslav Volf is also, mostly, correct when he says, “The babe grew and taught with power and authority, and the crucified one was raised from the dead in glory.” Yes, Jesus did teach with authority and yes, he did rise from the dead, in glory, three days later. But the overemphasis that Dr. Volf places on power, making it a method equal, in the ministry of Jesus, to authority, I believe is inaccurate. Click here for Mark Charles’ full article.
Mark Charles is the son of an American mother (of Dutch heritage) and a Navajo father. He lives with his family on the Navajo reservation and seeks to understand the complexities of our country's history regarding race, culture, and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for the nation. (Twitter: @wirelesshogan, Web: wirelesshogan.com)
Photo: Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock