Author Archives: David Loewen

Your Real Mission: Understanding Hegemony

I hope your start of the year has been good. Mine has been super busy. Why is it that, no matter how much I prepare for that busyness, I am always surprised by it? All that said, there is something that speaks deeply to vocational fulfillment when I fall into bed exhausted by a day well spent in what I believe is kingdom work, submitting it all to God and trusting him to bless it through me, and at times, in spite of me. I hope you feel passion and fulfillment in the leadership work you do for the King.

For the past year, I’ve been using this blog to share thoughts on the intersection of power and Christian school leadership. I’m hoping you’ve drawn something from those thoughts to reflect on and, in your own way, allowed it to shape your practice and beliefs. We’ve spent some time looking at factors at play in the arena of power (remember gender, charisma, theology?). I’d like to shift gears a little to deepen our understanding of how this plays out in our schools.
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Charlottesville, Power, and the Beatitudes

This summer I’ve spent a little time reading in and about the Beatitudes and reflecting on how they shape a more faithful view of enacting power. I was reading Darrel Johnson’s (2015) book on the beatitudes the weekend of the Charlottesville event when my Twitter feed exploded with updates. I went from reading and reflecting on what it means to be captive and captivated by the kingdom to watching clips of people being beaten and mowed down by a car. I was overcome, and I wept. I was overcome by the hatred, but I was also deeply moved by the clergy who gathered together to promote peace—followers of Jesus standing peacefully in solidarity and singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

Since then, I have heard a lot of political rhetoric and blame that just adds to the sadness. So much of what was happening in Charlottesville is a grasp for power, a grasp for power that is more connected to personal fear and the oppression of others and has nothing to do with human flourishing. In a word, it is evil; it flies in the face of the life of Christ and must be named as such.
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Knowledge Is Power, but Wisdom Is Transformative

Have you ever been in a room where someone asks a question and the presenter answers with vocabulary and information that seemed designed to make the questioner look stupid? I can. I have also witnessed a presenter being asked a question that was less a question and more a clear opportunity to demonstrate superior knowledge over the presenter. I can even remember doing something similar myself when I was feeling threatened.

Knowledge and intelligence (please note that I am certainly NOT talking about wisdom here) can be wielded to gain power. This can happen on so many levels. There are people who have inside information and release it in a way that gives them status or power. There are those who have expertise on a topic who can be tempted to use their knowledge to gain power and authority. And there are times when knowledge is used to intimidate others into letting one have one’s way.
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Leadership and Charisma

Over the course of this year we have been looking at the idea of power and leadership, and we’ve done so through the lens of critical theory. That means we have tried to expose behaviors, practices, and norms—be they implicit or explicit—that limit us from fully flourishing as followers of Jesus. We have addressed gender, theology, culture, and status, and have yet to engage charisma and intelligence. I invite you to stay with me on this journey, as the most exciting part is yet to come: the post-exposure part where we explore what we do moving forward to ensure our enacting of power is more aligned with the Kingdom.
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What’s Your Status on Status?

At the outset, I want to acknowledge that the topic of status is challenging to think about. I think that is the case because it is often a hard reality to identify and impossible to quantify. I’m talking about the connection between a person’s status and the power they wield due to that status. And by status I am referring to one’s standing in a community
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Power and Culture

My neighbors moved in across the street just under a year ago. There is an older couple that appear to be grandparents, a younger couple with two small girls, and I think one other adult. The older gentleman’s name is Milkiet; he speaks very little English, is very gregarious and friendly, and is a pretty solid volleyball player, although our family has noticed that the techniques he learned playing in India are very different from the ones we learned.

It strikes me as funny that his volleyball techniques stand out as a difference when he also speaks a different language, dresses differently (including his turban), eats different food, and worships differently.
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Theology, Psychology, and Power

Last month we talked about one of the “Big Six” factors that influence how power plays out in our schools. I shared some reflections on how gender impacts access to positions of power and how power impacts gender.

In this entry, I’d like to look at the “theological” factors that impact the power dynamics we work within. I put quotation marks around the word “theological” because I think there are times when this word is misused, or at least used without reflection on whether it is the most accurate word.
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Gender and Power

In my last entry (“Power and the ‘Big Six’”), I introduced six factors that influence how power plays out. I’d like to spend some time reflecting on the first factor – gender.

To begin, a disclaimer: I’m a white, heterosexual male talking about gender issues; I am writing not as an expert, but through the lens of my experience. That said, I think my own experience is telling. I became a vice principal at the age of 26 and a principal of a school of over 400 students at the age of 29. Looking back, I believe my “maleness” played a significant factor in my movement into leadership – into positions of power.
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Power and the ‘Big Six’

I grew up as one of three boys, all of us physically active and rambunctious. That meant several things: we were rarely inside the house except to eat and sleep— kind of like a pet cat; a lot of stuff seemed to get broken in our house – windows, drywall, bones, etc.; and I knew where I fit in the social order. I was the youngest and therefore the smallest (until I was an adult; I’m now the biggest when IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER).

As children, my oldest brother was the biggest and strongest and was therefore at the top of the sibling hierarchy. He generally got his way amongst the siblings, while my middle brother just quietly did his own thing and never ruffled any feathers; he seemed to slide into opportunities unnoticed. As the youngest, I knew I had to suck up to my older siblings in order to be included in their shenanigans.

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Baby Power

So far we’ve talked a bit about the idea of critical theory in leadership—the work to expose norms, values, and practices that limit human flourishing, introduced some of the founders of social theory, and recognized the reality that, wherever there is human interaction, there are power dynamics, regardless of the official roles people are assigned. I promised that our next post would focus on some of the factors at play in the arena of power; however, I’m going to break that promise in light of the season we are in.

Instead, I want to share with you how the Advent of Jesus impacts my ideas of power and leadership.

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