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Christian Union
February 11, 2014

Andy Crouch Challenges Leaders in New Book

Crouch__2While Lord Acton may have believed "absolute power corrupts absolutely," author Andy Crouch, Cornell '89, believes that power can create beautifully.

Crouch is the executive editor of Christianity Today and the author of a new book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. This fall, he spoke about the book during "An Evening Conversation with Andy Crouch and Mike Gerson" at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Gerson, a columnist with the Washington Post, was a speechwriter and advisor to President George W. Bush, Yale '68 and Harvard MBA '75.

The talks, co-sponsored by The Trinity Forum and InterVarsity Press, were presented as part of Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy lecture series, "The Moral Sense in Politics and Policy."

Crouch shared the fundamental message from his book that power is a gift from God to His image bearers on earth. Power, he purported, is about creation and not coercion. However, it is a gift that is often misunderstood, even by those who possess it.

Many people of power prefer euphemisms like influence because of the negative connotations attached to the word, contends Crouch. Through his book, he encourages the powerful to see themselves differently.

"We are to bear His image in the world. What it means to be a true image bearer of God is go to the heart of systems of idolatry and show there is another way of holding power." —Andy Crouch, Cornell '89

Referring to the words of the Apostle Paul, Crouch reminded attendees that "the whole creation is groaning for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:22).
"The creation is waiting for the return for true image bearing that would cause the whole cosmos to flourish," he said. "True image bearing would lead not to diminishing, but to flourishing, and creation groans for this kind of power to be exercised."

Crouch's emphasized the good that can come from power well used, as it leads to a flourishing that multiplies and edifies. To test one's use of power, Crouch suggests asking questions such as: "When I use whatever power I've been given, does it deepen relationships?" "Does my use of power balance vulnerability and authority?" "Does my power make escalating demands of others, exploiting others, or lasting abundance?" "Does my power lead to flourishing or mere affluence?"

"Andy proposes to tame and direct power with character and the spiritual disciplines; and that is deeply, personally challenging to those of us in Washington and anyone who reads his book," said Gerson.

While it has implications for politics and all institutions, it is not a Republican or Democrat issue; rather, Gerson said, it is an issue of social justice.

"As soon as you start reading this book, you're hearing a wise, balanced, sophisticated distinctive voice," Gerson said.

Crouch and Gerson spent part of the evening taking questions. In response to a question about how to guide young people of influence, especially "strivers," Crouch referred to his experience as a former campus minister with InterVarsity at Harvard.

At Harvard, Crouch said he saw three kinds of students: "legacies," who assumed they should be there; "strivers," who walked with their heads down, oblivious to the beauty around them, and solely focused on success; and "children of grace," students with an amazing sense of delight and surprise. To children of grace, Crouch said, "their whole experience was a gift."

The challenge inherent in rescuing the strivers, Crouch said, is that striving is working well for them. "Most idols work really well for a while," he said, "The most powerful (ones) work for a long time."

And so, in the heart of the nation's capital, where abuse of power is often manifest in selfish pursuits, Crouch spoke about redirecting the way God's gift is perceived and encouraged attendees, and readers alike, to embrace their power as image bearers and impact the culture with flourishing.
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