Walter Brueggemann on How to Speak Truth to Power


Walter Brueggemann is one of the most prolific and influential Bible scholars of the modern era. He has earned two doctorates, has been awarded half a dozen more honorary ones, and is the author of many commentaries and books including, Journey to the Common GoodSabbath as Resistance, and The Prophetic Imagination, a modern Christian classic. Today, Brueggemann is retired from teaching and rarely accepts interviews, but I'm grateful he made an exception to share wisdom with RNS' readers. Here, we discusses his book Truth Speaks to Power and how Christians can live these concepts today.

RNS: You believe the Bible has a message for us about the nature of power and how we should relate to it. Summarize that message.

WB: Legitimate power always includes attentiveness to justice, When power is not attentive to justice it cannot endure. This is a summons to us to keep the agenda of justice for the vulnerable alive and front and center to maintain a kind of subversive stance toward power.

RNS: Describe the relationship between truth and power as we find them in the Bible.

WB: Power is the capacity to organize and administer social goods and social access. Truth is the structure of reality that is in the nature of things that cannot be violated by our capacity to administer it. Power can sometimes be administered in harmony with such truthfulness, but very often power is seduced so that it runs contradictory to truth. [tweetable]Truth is not a set of propositions in the Bible, but a cluster of relationships.[/tweetable] Those are relationships of dignity, well-being, security and respect. When power violates those, then those who administer such power learn is that they cannot finally withstand the force of truth. So, the truthfulness of God’s commitment to neighborliness does not give in in the long run.

RNS: How does truth relate to power in the Exodus story?