The Secular Relevance of the Church

by Gayraud Wilmore

Gayraud Wilmore a contributing editor to Christianity and Crisis, recently retired as professor of church history at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

This article is an excerpt from his book of the same name: The Secular Relevance of the Church. Published by Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1962. This article was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


The majority of the laity are loyal churchmen, but at the same time, they do not see themselves as the special people of God who have a secular task to perform for his whole people.

1. The great bulk of the people in the pews do not really believe in "the church." They believe in religion. They believe in the voluntary, inchoate fellowship of worshippers whose lives should, all other things being equal, set an example of the best that America offers. But they do not believe in the church as the bearer of a radically new orientation toward the world, as a revolutionary power that penetrates the world in order to help it become attentive to its own purposes. They do not see themselves as the special people of God who have a secular task to perform for his whole people.

2. This is not to say that the majority of the laity are not loyal churchmen. They love and respect the church they understand, and what they understand about the church is due, in no small degree, to the halfhearted, truncated doctrine of the church they have received from the clergy and from the cultural image.

3. These people are the "friendly enemies" of the mission of the church. They are dangerous in the sense that their ignorance of the meaning of the church weakens everything it does in the world. And even when this ignorance is dispelled by "Christian education", they will not tolerate a church that gives up spiritual things to mix itself up in the business of the world. They will not break through the walls of their socioeconomic ghettos and chummy coteries to contact and enter into dialogue with the unconventional or alienated people of the community. Their role in the American churches today is extremely ambiguous. For that reason it is not inappropriate to call them the "friendly enemies" of the church in its secular posture.

4. The church is like a huge moving van lumbering down a narrow road. A U turn, even if it were desirable, is not possible without jackknifing. The only way to turn around or to move in a different direction is to take one of the secondary roads to the right or to the left. In either case, those roads must be reconnoitered. Someone must know what problems of maneuvering and what obstacles lie along the way. That task belongs to a small group on motorcycles who will not only have the courage to probe unknown routes but will be bold enough to take over the wheel and steer in a new direction.

5. "The power of God,’’ writes Charles West, "the reconciling work of Christ, operates not in a church which meets on Sunday morning and perhaps once or twice during the week, not on the edge of the world, but in the middle of daily life, and thought." In our situation this must be the task of small groups, perhaps of one core group of laymen who become the agents of the congregations infiltration of the world.

6. And to be quite candid, if a group of laymen is repudiated by a congregation that will not permit it to act in the name of the church, such a group would best continue its work outside the local church with, however, denominational recognition and support if at all possible.

A Reconnaissance and Intelligence Force

7. Any congregation that is committed to Christian action in its community needs to have at its center or very close to it, a group of men and women prepared to be -- to use military language -- the reconnaissance and intelligence force of the main body. While a "reconnaissance and intelligence group" must welcome all who would join it, it must be conscious of its own integrity and maintain its own disciplined group life and service.

8. There are three stages by which a congregation develops and employs a central core of laymen for this task -- calling, training, and deployment. Let us now describe them in turn.

9. When we speak of calling we are not referring to the customary methods of "adding members to the church’’ by appealing to their religiosity. We have under estimated the power of Christ to make his first contact with people through other means. In many cases people who have known little concern for the church as a "religious enterprise" will be called to this work of the congregation. More precisely, many of them will not know what religion is about unless it has to do with loving involvement in the world at the points of injustice and need.

10. This is not to say that these people should be appealed to on the basis of activistic "do-goodism" rather than the Word. It is rather that the Word and the church will be interpreted to them as God’s will for the freedom of man to live a human life, to fight against the demonic forces of his own nature that seek dominion over social as well as personal life, to order his life by structures of love and justice relevant to the conditions of society. The church is held forth to these people as the militant company of those who are called not out of the world but into it to affirm and bless worldly life and to help to structure it according to justice, freedom, and the loving service of one life to another.

11. What kind of training is needed to prepare a core group for the task of reconnaissance and intelligence in the world? The first thing to be said is that the training of this group is not a once-for-all, isolated experience. What is needed is a program of "continuing education" that will be tailored to fit the particular congregation and situation, and will be flexible enough to meet the needs of lay theologians in various stages of development. This may have to be group training, but a great deal will be lost if special attention is not given to each individual and the secular vocation and cultural activities in which he or she is involved.

12. Secondly, it should be obvious that the actual involvement of the laity in ministry is the primary occasion for learning about the ministry itself. The deliberate movement toward the world is a learning experience. The very fact that we do not know precisely what engagement with the world means, that in most situations we have not even identified the enemy, means that laymen must "learn as they go."

13. Thirdly, a body of facts, general information, and technique must be gathered together from laymen themselves. One of our problems is that we have not asked the laity to make available for the mission of the church what it already knows about the world in which it lives, which is so often a world different from the one the parson preaches about. A sociologist who had been invited to address a denominational study conference on community power structure said: "This is the first time the church has asked me to make a contribution out of the knowledge and skills of my own profession. I’m usually called on for money or asked to give a Saturday afternoon to painting the Cub Scout room or repairing furniture in the Ladies Parlor."

14. No amount of printed resources, filmstrips, and lectures will ever be a substitute for the strategic information laymen possess, often unconsciously, about the real world. Not all laymen, of course, are aware of what is going on around them. Frequently they express astonishment that secular information is relevant to the purposes of the church.

15. But once laymen understand what the church is about and the intelligence it needs for mission, they will share important information and educate one another. Knowledge about individual community leaders, the history and development of a town, the way decisions are made in its institutions and social groups, the deals being made in the world of politics and business, the norms and values in the arts and sciences, the presuppositions and operational concepts of the professions -- this is grist for the mill of a core group which has the responsibility of planning strategy for the mission of a particular church in an American community. Laymen have this knowledge. In one sense, training has to do with encouraging them to recall it, share it, and analyze it theologically.

16. Undergirding this kind of practical information and savvy there is undoubtedly a place for a more formal and systematic study program. Basic theology for the laity, the nature and mission of the church in an urban society, social ethics, ecumenics, and approaches to Christian social action are some of these.

17. Lay training for mission, however, is not an armchair exercise. Theology and social ethics are developed in the field, in the task of reconnaissance, and in the little skirmishes that every good reconnaissance group sooner or later runs into. News should be made, not simply reviewed by the church. There is a necessary rhythm of formal study and "action research" that together comprise the training program of the core group and may hopefully spill over into the congregation in the form of conferences and forums.

18. Let us be clear that this is not a matter of gaining more knowledge about everything that has to do with worldly life. What we already know and what we discover needs to be ordered in accordance with the Christian understanding of the nature and destiny of man and society. It needs to be organized and shared in such a way as to assist in the task of what may be called a sociotheological analysis of the world. It must be directed to the specific objectives of a given church in a given community and not canned in a denominational manual or disseminated haphazardly as general information of religious interest.

19. Finally, we must speak of deployment, because it is the stage in which action really begins and it is our main interest here. Deployment refers to a strategy of Christian action implied by what Hans Ruedi Weber and others have called "the scattered church," And it is certainly true that through the vocational life of the laity the church is already scattered in the world. When we speak of deployment, however, we are implying a more deliberate and delicate approach to the world; one that does not depend primarily on the individual decision of each person to bear witness in his own place, but upon the decision of the core group to maintain, through one or more of its members, an outpost in some sector of the community that is the objective of corporate action. Indeed we may speak of corporate action itself as the strategic deployment of the church in the structures of society.

20. A few congregations have actually assigned laymen to community organizations that needed help or to which the congregation felt a need to be related. This is, in the narrow sense, what we mean by "deployment." lt. is the strategic infiltration of areas of need and centers of decision-making in the community for the purpose of mission.

21. A reconnaissance and intelligence group, to recall air military analogy, does not deploy itself for carrying on private surveillance of the enemy or engaging in little individual wars here and there. It operates by an agreed-upon plan of scouting the terrain immediately before the main body and reporting back in order that the combat team might move forward and secure the next objective.

22. Like all analogies, this one has the disadvantage of raising problems which are not intended. W are not suggesting that the church has a series of "objectives," which by attaining brings it closer and closer to the total occupation of the territory of the secular. This may be the strategy of the Communist Party. It is not the strategy of the church. Such an interest has already been barred from our consideration, What we are saying is that particular objectives of Christian action require some technical information, "inside" contacts, some deployment of a core group which opens the way for the congregation to achieve its ends.

23. The field of secular vocations which has been the primary focus of the scattered church discussions, is certainly not eliminated by this action-oriented approach. Laymen need to be helped to understand the meaning of work in our society and to plan together about how the gospel can become relevant to themselves and to others on the job. If laymen have been encouraged to do this by a core group, and if they share their problems and receive advice in conversation with other members, this too is deployment.

Influencing Decision Makers

24. The organized groups and decision-making centers of a community have not received enough attention as possible areas for the planned dispersal of the laity. In our great urban communities, rapidly becoming the normal context of American life, the influence of the church in many important collectivities may decide whether the public good or selfish interests will prevail. In some cases, such as in a community planning body, this influence -- initiated perhaps by several members of a core group may well be overt, The church will openly advocate certain measures with regard to zoning or relocation through its representatives. Here it participates along with block clubs, the merchants’ association and other groups.

25. But it is not necessary that every instance of deployment have as its objective the manipulation of power factors to achieve some policy goal. If only the church’s conventional image is changed from a self-centered, indifferent institution to that of a deeply concerned observer of public affairs -- by simply being in the places where policy is being hammered out -- this alone is warrant for deployment in the structures of the community,

26. We must realize the variety and complexity of Christian action when it is dealing with power configurations. In many cases a labor union, the local Chamber of Commerce, a realty board, a mayor’s commission, the P.T.A., or some community organization may be the key to the solution of some local problem, or the means by which "the secular relevance of the gospel" can be made manifest.

27. Because of their exposed economic position -- except when they are working for conservative causes -- laymen have not usually been involved in really rough-going Christian action. But this may be more the fault of their ministers than of the laity. We have not known well how to inspire, train, or deploy laymen for sophisticated and effective social action. Ministers alone cannot carry this responsibility of the church. A core group of courageous laymen, working with the clergy and, most desirably, representing a majority of the churches in a community, needs to be deployed in the right places, learning the facts and pulling the right levers. With quiet resolve, with love even for those they oppose and concern for the human values at stake, such a group can make the difference between a community in which the church is merely a cultural parenthesis and one in which it is a factor to be reckoned with.

28. With the rapid development of metropolitanism few American communities will escape the concomitant problems of residential segregation, deteriorating public schools, physical and social planning, and a host of other problems that will have to be solved by the people who move most decisively and swiftly.

29. As Robert Christ, the minister of the Seventh United Presbyterian Church of Chicago, has said, "Mission does not just happen." It requires a group of people an intelligence and reconnaissance vanguard that will also provoke a fire fight when it is strategic. It needs laymen who are called by God for the purpose, trained with all the wisdom and sophistication experience can give, and who are willing to take the risks of using the forms of power available to them to do the works of love.

30. The church has always been afraid of the prophets who believe that God has revealed to them the course it should take and want to assume command for its execution. And properly so. There is one leader of the church -- one Prophet, Strategist, and Commander -- and that is Jesus Christ. It may be too much to assume, however, that the main body of American Protestantism is under his direction today in terms of its mission. Faith in him has not ceased in the church. The word is still preached --occasionally with power to deliver. Men, women and children continue by the grace of God, to come into a deeper knowledge of themselves, of the meaning of life, and of his claim upon their own lives.

31. But as for the church in its secular vocation, as for its concern for justice and freedom, as for its witness to the judgment and grace of Christ in the affairs of the world, we may well question such a church exists in most American communities today. And to the extent that it does not exist we may well wonder whether Christ or the gods of false secularism command and direct the church in this sector of its life. If there are prophets among us who know the way back and are ready to lead the church to obedience -- let them speak and let us follow them.

32. There is indeed a danger of pride and self-righteousness in developing a group of elite Christians who, by virtue of superior knowledge and commitment, presume to renew the church. And yet it may be that whatever the danger of the core-group concept, it must be courted in this generation if the church is not to surrender to the principalities and powers that have declared their absolute autonomy apart from the Lordship of Christ.

33. It may be assumed that God is calling some men and women to a radical new relationship to the world. A relationship characterized by reconnoitering the frontiers of the secular where, both in the name of the church and outside of it, the gospel can be declared in new ways and with a new display of its power to build and transform to plant and to uproot, to burn and heal.

II. The Faithful Use Of Power

34. "The politics of change, whether seen as orderly revolution or as an armed upheaval, is not choosing abrupt change over a more desirable evolutionary change. The unwarranted introduction of the evolutionary idea into social and political thinking has been a deceiving curse. Societies do not evolve. They do not obey unconscious laws of their own nature. They are the deliberate creations of men. They change when men decide to change them. The changes are not always wise or even understood by the changers, but what happens is the outcome of conscious, purposeful action." Nicholas von Hoffman

God’s Active Power

35. Christians take for granted that the God who has revealed himself through Jesus Christ is active in the world through the power by which he sustains, uproots, and transforms men and nations. By his sovereign will and purpose, by his manifest power, he judges and redeems, restrains and directs, the processes of human events.

35. Against every attempt to pick God out from the husk of the world, as one picks the kernel from a nut, against every effort to eject God from the cockpit of his world, the Christian church makes this confession of his living presence and his sovereign power. By his word and will, the world is created, judged, and redeemed, and this is not "once upon a time," but in this place and at this time and for all time to come.

37. The black banner headlines in the morning paper speak of the power and action of God as surely as do the words of the prophets and the New Testament witness. Notwithstanding the fact that there is no easy formula for knowing how and to what immediate ends God is moving in the restless flux of happenings, the Christian confesses that the hand of God is behind, within, and against whatever transpires in the universe. He seeks, therefore, to discern, through the binoculars of faith what it is precisely that God is doing to accomplish that which pleases him and then to join him at that place and time with the human instrumentalities at his disposal.

38. It is difficult for us to believe in the living God. Most of us read the newspapers like unbelievers because, despite all the Easter sermons, we have restricted God to the period during which the Bible was written. But the history of our time is no less the stage upon which the drama of salvation is played out than was the history of the fifth century B.C. or the first century A.D. Accordingly, the Christian does not doubt that God is moving with power in the world today -- the world of African nationalism, thermonuclear politics, metropolitan planning, and space exploration, The Christian’s problem is rather to discover when, where, and how God is moving with such decisiveness as to create a crisis of decision for the church and to summon it and its resources into the struggle.

Age of Collective Action

39. One of the basic characteristics of present reality is the great shift of power from the individual to the group, and the pressures accompanying it. John R, Commons observes that we live in an "age of collective action." Few decisions of importance to the lives of individuals, few events, occur in the nation that are not conceived and carried out by organized groups.

40. The various groups and organizations that make up the American power structure are governmental, military, business, industrial and corporations; plus all of the voluntary and philanthropic organizations, such as: The National Association of Manufacturers, the three largest farm organizations, the AFL-CIO, the political parties, the press, radio, and T.V. associations, the League of Women Voters, the various health and welfare organizations, the veterans groups, the hundreds of philanthropic foundations, the National Education Association, the scouting groups and the national recreational and travel organizations. And these groups through their subsidiary bodies reach into every city, town, village, into every home, church, and school in the nation, and they largely determine the ethos of American society.

41. These countless collectivities give us our images of ourselves, our impressions of others, our prides and prejudices, our myths and traditions, our tastes and preferences, our values and attitudes about everything from loyalty to God and country to kindness to dumb animals. They give Americans their peculiar folkways and mores, their public behavior and private opinions, the patterns of their social skills and know-how about everything, from building a family fallout shelter to performing the latest dance step. The decisions that a man makes about where he will live, how he will furnish his home (the women’s magazines, of course, will make this decision in co-operation with the furniture manufacturers), how he will discipline his children, what radio and TV commentators he will listen to, what newspapers and magazines he will subscribe to, and what organizations he will join in his community -- all of these daily decisions are, to an inestimable but unquestionable degree, influenced by the legislation, education, and plain ballyhoo daily propagated by these groups and the power centers that control them.

42. Now the church has demonstrated a naive and moralistic approach to this social reality. It has often assumed that it could eschew power and still its "social concern" would be influential. "A kind word, a warm smile, and a hearty handshake," wrote one spokesman in a national Protestant magazine, "is more effective for church strategy in race relations than all of its social and political action programs." This is a typical Protestant response to the question of how God is acting in a crisis situation and what is the church’s responsibility for power.

43. In American society today we must take two facts of life with utmost seriousness. First, the reality of socioeconomic structures of power that institutionalize and "regularize’’ decision-making in every area of modern life. There may be ways of bypassing these structures. But let us not be deceived. Political, economic, and social organizations and interests have a way of disguising themselves within the "nonpolitical," informal ways decisions are made.

44. Second, the necessity, in most instances, of consolidated policy and corporate action to effect change or to influence the social system to any considerable extent. We are using the words "policy" and "political" broadly, as any decision by any group or organization that can be calculated to influence the attitudes or actions of people outside of itself. In this sense, for instances, the decision of the Masters Barbers’ Association to open neighborhood shops until church time on Sundays is just as surely political policy as an ordinance passed by the city council.

45. Yet many church groups conduct programs of "public affairs" as if persons are autonomous units, isolated from the influence of power entities in their communities and able to regulate their behavior under all circumstances by dint of sheer moral will.

46. A group of Presbyterian elders who were also realtors in a Pittsburg community were asked by their pastor to open the way for a cultured Negro family to purchase a home in their neighborhood. After a lengthy discussion in which they consulted Scripture, prayed, and generally agonized over a decision, they summoned their minister and reported: "Our duty is clear. We know that as Christian men we ought to give the word that would make it possible for this man to find a house here, but, God help us, we cannot do it. Most of us have spent a lifetime building up our businesses. The reprisals from the realty board, the banks, and certain other groups would be more than we could take and stay in business. Not only our businesses but families would suffer all kinds of threats and social ostracism. We just can’t do what we know we ought to do as Christians."

47. The call to obedience always is a call to deny oneself and to suffer with Christ. No one can relieve these men of the guilt and shame of their unfaithfulness to what they saw as an imperative of the gospel. Only Christ himself can absolve them. And yet, no one can fail empathically to brood over the realities of this situation, the inevitability and rigidity of the institutional sanctions to which these "good" men were pitilessly exposed. To expect people lightly to make choices without respect to the contexts of power in which they have to live and work is to delude ourselves with pious hopes. The church has a responsibility here to demonstrate a corporate fellowship of love and power that is able both to uphold these men in forgiveness and to point the way to an obedience for which the church itself is willing to suffer. Unless the church can be responsible enough to the reality of an organized society, and faithful enough to use the economic and cultural power of its own to change the situation, it cannot be indignant if most laymen, much less of people outside the church, find it impossible to do what they feel morally obligated to do.

48. It is greatly to the misfortune of the churches that they have helped successfully to restrict the province of religion to the socialization of children, affability, and the sphere of individual morals and beliefs. Many other groups are not so handicapped. The spheres of their power interests impinge upon some of the crucial areas of a person’s life. When the requirements of participation and the definitions of life situations that are promulgated by these groups are not seriously challenged, middle-class religious institutions are no match for them.

49. In so far as people in our culture act in segmentalized roles are defined and required by organized groups able to apply social and economic power, the church that makes no demands upon its members, gives them no stronghold from which to fight, and is afraid to use its own institutional power when it is necessary is simply eliminated from the struggle. It leaves a power vacuum to be filled by other organized interests.

50. The church would hopefully determine under what conditions and to what ends it would defer to other groups. It is precisely because it regards the secular seriously that the church will be aware of the structures of collective power and will seek to change them and to take some share in the determination of individual and group behavior in the critical spheres of modern life.

51. There appear to be no real alternatives. It is a question of fishing or cutting bait. It is not a matter of the church’s trying to do what political parties and great corporations are better equipped to do. That would be both impossible and undesirable. It is simply a matter of the church’s doing what is possible for it in each situation; to use faithfully the modicum of power it can generate and call a halt to the retreat from the firing line and the pious pretension that God works only through the weak and powerless.

Consolidated Policy and Corporate Action

52. Let us be clear about the fact that individuals can and do "change the world." At a strategic time one man with an idea and enough determination and skill to see it through, can accomplish much even under a rigidly totalitarian system. From Moses in Egypt to Vinoba Bhave in India -- neither of whom, we might note incidentally, was Christian -- God has chosen occasionally to use a single individual to accomplish great reforms. This truth should make the church exceedingly careful never to sever the nerve of individual action. We should consider, however, if it is not also true that God has more often used two or three or twelve or ten thousand, and if, in an organized, power-wielding society, it is not a matter of urgency that Christians consolidate their positions and undertake united action on certain issues of public concern.

53. By consolidation of public policy we refer to a unified conception of some long-range goals, some immediate objectives, and the specific means by which to seek them. It has finally to do with agreements about what the church ought to do in the society, when and how, and the allocation of resources and the co-ordination of forces to put proposals into action. Again the matter-of-fact, cold-blooded way we have stated these policy questions does not mean that they have to be cold and mechanical either in consideration or execution. These things cannot properly be programmed for an IBM machine. We are talking about people -- meeting, planning, working, in the mission of the church in the real world in which we live today and must live, with millions of new and unfamiliar peoples, in the future.

54. By corporate action, we refer simply to "acting as a body." This may involve the official, authorized action of a congregation or of a delegated group in behalf of a congregation; or action by a group of churches or by that delegated body that is able to act in their behalf. It will be clear, therefore, that by corporate action we mean to imply action as an organized power group which may not be able to deliver all that it promises in the way of effective power, but which has, nevertheless, some of the resources and some of the institutional weight of a corporate entity behind it.

55. This rather naked description of church corporate action should not frighten us merely because of the words "organized," "power," and "institutional." Every church and every assemblage of churches has institutional characteristics, power, and organization. The important ethical questions concern not their existence, but how they are put together and used. These questions cannot be ignored by the Christian church if it intends to be relevant in the world to which it has been sent.

56. Nor does corporate action exclude individual action or action in collaboration with other individuals or groups outside the church. When laymen are asked to take responsibility in certain community groups and to report back to the congregations as in the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., or as the Church Federation of Chicago sends representatives to the Citizen School Committee which provides a list of candidates for the school board, this is a kind of corporate action, carried out by individuals.

57 Corporate action does not mean that "everyone agrees and everyone goes." It can mean quasi-official representation. It simply means bringing to bear upon a situation as much united power as can be organized, with the result that something is moved or inhibited outside the acting group. It is unrealistic and injurious to the effective witness of the church to suppose that we cannot act without unanimity or without clearing with whole constituencies.

58. Let us hasten to insist that this is no invitation to power-hungry people to join in an amoral play of power politics within the churches. We must be aware of our pretensions and of the temptations to infallibility. But the mission of the church in today’s world is a serious business. It demands savvy, skill, and faithfulness to use power in such a way as to rout the wolves without killing the sheep. The church will not save the world. But if it has any message for modern man, if it has any place for him to stand and fight against the demoralizing and tyrannizing structures of a culture that has been severed from its true secular responsibility to serve human need, then those Christians who know this must speak and act. They cannot falter before the hard decision to employ responsibly the power and prestige of the church to help it become the catalyst by which the culture can fulfill its obligation for the humanization of the life of man,

59. Let us confess that no Christian nor organization of Christians is wise enough to know precisely what God is doing in every situation. But this much we can say with confidence: at every point of suffering and wrong, in every situation where man is being divested of his essential humanity, the judgment and the grace of God is operative through some human agency. The church of Christ is not called merely to be a spectator to this drama of reconciliation. The church must make decisions about "what is going on" even when this is not clear. It must be willing to fight, even when most of its members prefer to go fishing.

60. The responsibility of the church for power does not mean bidding for sovereignty over the structures and institutions of society. It means penetrating them in such a way as to be able to instruct the world concerning its purpose of serving human need, concerning its original foundation and the end toward which it moves. It means so energizing these structures and institutions, within their own provinces and with the spirit appropriate to their own function, that they can act as the true creatures of God they are. To perform this task today requires the faithful use of power. This ministry is not forbidden to the church by its Lord. For the church does not serve obsequiously -- a flunky, bowing and scraping with hat in hands -- but rather as the sophisticated English butler who has more brains, is more of a gentleman, and has more resources for helping his "master" become a real man than the master can muster for himself.

61. If God is a living God, he is acting in the world through the existing apparatus for getting things done. The organized church is a part of this apparatus and the institutional power it possesses has the legitimate function of placing it in the spheres where God is at work. This power is far from being a sinful possession, a hindrance to the reconciling activity of God. Rather, power is his gift to the church in order that, with a due sense of humility and a prudent appreciation of its demonic possibilities, it may be used faithfully to the glory of God.

62. It makes no sense for the church to disclaim power or to refuse to use it responsibly when occasion demands. It is, in the sociological sense, the ability to affect another person, through one’s own action or inaction. As Walter Wiest has said, "Power is strikingly reminiscent of the definition of the ‘neighbor’ in the Christian sense, as anyone whose welfare is affected by what I do or fail to do."