Truth Speaks to Power Week 1: Introduction

Truth_Speaks_to_PowerOur reading group is starting this week! Hopefully you’ve read some of Truth Speaks to Power and are ready to participate.

Feel free to discuss whatever you want from the introduction (pp. 1-9). Post in the comments section below and let’s get the dialogue started.

Here are some possible quotes and topics to which you can respond:

  • What do you make of Brueggemann’s distinction between “truth from above” and “truth from below”?
  • How does Brueggemann describe the idea of power?
  • How can people “from above” read “from below”?
  • In what ways do ironic readings contribute to this practice?
  • “…we are, as readers and interpreters, always contestants, whether we recognize ourselves as such or not” (8).


Comments & Responses

10 Responses so far.

  1. Mary Langer Thompson says:

    Institutions create and foster “truth from above” with the goal of maintaining the status quo. “Peasant truth” is truth from below and comes out of lived, raw experience. In education where I come from we call this “the hidden curriculum,” referring to the conflicting messages we send kids that are coming both from on high and from what many see as reality and anti-authoritarianism.

  2. patty wbk says:

    Public power – those who have or control wealth, also try to control power. It interests me that the truth from below has always found a way. Toronto recently celebrated a Caribbean street festival and some of the musicians talked about calypso music historically being a means of communicating news to outlying communities. Never thought of calypso music that way. Those in power ignore the truth from below at their peril, it always finds a way.

    The discussion of ironic reading intrigues me. Made me think of a recent message from Jesus’parables comparing the kingdom to the wheat and the tares and the mustard seed. The speaker turned the parables over and I saw subversive truth there that I had not seen before. Looking forward to this book.

    • Petra says:

      @Those in power ignore the truth from below at their peril, it always finds a way:

      This is very posively framed- I am not so sure if truth will always find a way… Foucault was also quoted by Brueggemann and I wanna refer to punishment and discipline- in a society that is under surveillance and the punishment is internalized , there will be no breaking forth of any kind of truths…

      • patty wbk says:

        But Petra, it always finds a way. No matter how repressive the power structures are, truth always finds a way to communicate. While truth may need to be quiet for a while, subversive and underground, history demonstrates that it always finds a path. I am also interested in the parallels of social media and blogs vs. main stream media as a vehicle for truth. MSM is owned by it’s advertising revenue and can no longer be relied on for legitimate truth telling. Social media has problems of a different nature.

  3. Marilyn Auvermann says:

    Walter’s assertion that we cannot make “direct moves toward or connections with contemporary issues” as we explore the interface of power and truth gave me pause. Further reflection, however, brings an awareness of our tendency to do just that. We may not act on our understanding, just congratulate ourselves on our newly found wisdom without changing any of our behaviors.

  4. Petra says:

    Dear fellwo readers,

    Is the distinction between “truth from above” and “truth from below” not too simple.
    If one argues with something coming from below should it not be truthS (in plural!)- so the pluralistic expereince is the one opposing the one monolitic experience put down from above?

    What do you guys think?

    How can one, who is always partially participating in dominant system (white, male, straight,academic…) surpass the truth from above and solidarize with truth from below- this is: Can you understand if you yourself are not marginalized?
    Do we access the truth form below through a process of rational refelection?

    Furthermore: How did you understand his term of system?

    By the way- I really liked the Ricoeur quote.


  5. R K Bruner says:

    The attempt to understand truth from above and below has its limits. It is difficult enough to truly understand those who think like us, much less those whose range of experiences are vastly different. Yet, even if we begin by confessing that we will never completely bridge alterity (otherness), it does not excuse us from attempting to do so.

    Brueggemann does points us in a helpful direction, though. In the telling of narratives, the narrator sometimes clues us in to places where they tell the story differently from those who unquestioningly uphold power. Those differences, often ironic, are clues. If we listen to those who tell the story differently and ask careful questions, we can sometimes elicit an entirely new narrative. As Brueggemann notes, the biblical narratives we elicit may not speak directly to our immediate political situation (as much as we would like for them to do so). The methods, though, that we learn from those narratives equip us to better read our own narratives of power and truth

    The simplest of narratives become multivocal (speaking more than one truth) and multivalent (evoking more than one emotion) when spoken in the presence of multiple interpreters (Urban Holmes III). In a world equipped with so many ways of telling the same story, we need to approach the idea of possessing truth with humility (Aquino – epistemic humility). Our lack of an unbiased perspective, along with our possession of power or our desire to use power in a way that we perceive to be more equitable, colors our perspective and our telling of the story.

    And then there is this little idea of interpretation . . .

  6. Mary Langer Thompson says:

    Petra, I don’t think you yourself have to be marginalized to empathize with either side. What matters are your actions to either maintain the status quo or question it, questioning being an action, often a dangerous action. And it’s dangerous and risky to question the status quo.

  7. J. Gautreau says:

    I was struck by the close of introduction more than any other part. For all to remember we are also contestants not just observers. I think this concept should speak to many in the churches who hold the “power,” to realize that they themselves are also contestants and always will be. The seat they hold does not come with any exemption as such. The truth from above as Dr. Brueggemann points out is only a part of the truth and these chairs of influence can never truly own a monopoly on the full truth. An acceptance of that truth might return people to the church pews.

    • Mary Langer Thompson says:

      But if the church is following Jesus’s declaration of “I am the way, the truth and the life,” then that is not a “part of the truth” whether it comes from above or below.