Empowerment for Goodness Sake
by Paul Chaffee
Empowerment is a tricky word, wrapping itself around a particularly complex word – power. For half a century empowerment has been popular cultural theme, particularly in management circles, albeit not without controversy. Empowerment makes a tyrant more dangerous, just as surely as it makes a good person able to realize unimagined, ‘miraculous’ achievements.
The transfer of power in Washington DC later this month is a particular challenge to the global interfaith agenda, ranging from climate to immigration to diversity to social, racial justice and much more. Throughout the interfaith world these days are signs of a disheartening, palpable sense of impending disempowerment. To be fair, in response faith and interfaith leaders have been detailing the silver lining to the dark clouds we face. Despair is out of fashion.
This issue of TIO is all about empowerment for goodness sake, a resource for progressive faith and interfaith groups as they gird themselves to deal with the imminent clash of values. It is full of examples of how to be empowered for the good and why that is important.
From an interfaith perspective, it is hard to imagine a person more empowered with the Spirit in all its manifestations than Huston Smith. In this issue’s memorial reflection, his death last month brings to mind what is possible in terms of interspiritual, interfaith relationships. Katherine Marshall’s scathing analysis of corruption in the world is a plea for interfaith activists to take on this toughest of issues. Marcus Braybrooke’s profile of Michael Servetus, a 16th century, deeply empowered interfaith forerunner who was burned at the stake for his religious views, clearly demonstrates how dangerous interfaith empowerment can be. And Vicki Garlock’s conversation with her kids following the election is gold for us all.
The rest of the articles this month are examples of empowered people learning how to make a difference and remain inspired in times of difficulty and doubt. Young and old – visionary and dirt-scrabble practical, empowerment for the good can be found everywhere if you look these days. The final two offerings this month come from Pakistanis – a couple who became American citizens and then, to the nation’s astonishment, dramatically, powerfully stood up for what is best about their new home. And a young girl from Lahore is startled into her own empowerment journey during a visit to a diplomat’s dining room.
Finally, don’t miss this month’s Interfaith News Roundup. Like the rest of this issue, you’ll find stories about a variety of empowered interfaith activists worth noticing.