on February 7, 2012
The insight that drives this book is the sociologist Max Weber's distinction between power and authority. Power is the ability to make people obey. It does not have to be used but the threat is always implicit. State troopers have the power to make you pull over even if they don't actually have to use force. By contrast, authority is when people voluntary want to obey. Now, power has obvious sources - the barrel of a gun, democratic elections, and size and strength. But where does authority come from? Campolo persuasively argues that authority comes from acts of love - more precisely, from acts of *sacrificial* love. When you choose to sacrifice what you want to help people that you love, you will gain authority.
Campolo illustrates authority with the story of Elias Santana. He was a Christian who went to medical school in the United States and who could have stayed here, but instead he went back to his homeland, the Dominican Republic. He made a lot of money performing surgeries in Puerto Rico for high paying American clients, but used the money buying medical supplies for the poor in the Dominican Republic. Campolo visited Santana while he was passing out free medical supplies and care, and at the end of the day, Santana began to preach and attracted a large and interested crowd. Campolo nudged a Marxist that he knew in the crowd and joked that there would be no more socialists because Santana was winning everyone to Christ. Through clenched teeth the Marxist said, "he has earned the right to speak." That's authority.
Of course, Jesus had the ultimate authority. He set aside His divinity and became human. The devil tempted Him with power Jesus refused. Instead He lived penniless life serving others, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Luke 9:58). And Jesus chose to die on the cross to penalty for the sins of humanity - the ultimate act of sacrificial love. As Campolo points out, power is not necessarily bad. When Jesus returns He will return in power. But Christians are called to authority.
Problems happen when people choose power. Everyone wants a deeply fulfilling loving marriage, but Campolo points out the research of William Wallard, the sociologist who found that the person who showed the least love was the one who had power in the relationship. So husbands and wives play power games of withholding love and affection from the other. Tragically, these power games can end out hurting their love, and certainly prevent the couple from growing in their love together.
Of course, religion is where people play some of the nastiest power games. I'm sure every Christian has stories about this, and Campolo has a couple, including some very humble stories of when he himself got caught up in power struggles with members of his flock. It is not accident that Jesus had the harshest words for the Pharisees - the religious leaders of His day. Campolo points out that both the religious left and the religious right have their own Pharisees and they have played power games in the futile hope that they can force the world to become a better place. Now, Campolo does not argue that Christians should withdraw from politics, but he does believe that Christian involvement should be grounded in authority - in sacrificial love, not power.
on May 6, 2012
As a sociologist and academic, I thoroughly understood and appreciated this work. As a Christian, I adapted the information to my needs and expanded my knowledge on the topic using Dr. Campolo's perspective. His writing style helps the reader to capture his intent. Using authentic illustrations personalizes the information in ways that allow the reader to relate to the material.
on August 9, 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book - best I've seen from Campolo, and he has written some pretty good books. What I liked about this one was the straightforward style. He made his points by down-to-earth examples and explanations. I didn't feel as if I were being lectured or preached to. Lots to think about in this volume, a different worldview, a challenge to accepted logic. That's what made it worth five stars to me. (Got it at a bookstore.)