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I’ve Got the Power: Dunamis and Community Belonging

Keeping dunamis at the core of the work being done at the Office for Community Belonging will assist our efforts to treat each other as we should be treated.

J. Goosby Smith

For music buffs or children of the 1980s like me, the word “power” will likely bring to mind the hook of Snap!’s 1990 hit song famously featured in the film Bruce Almighty or perhaps the Public Enemy track opposing it altogether. “Power” may remind fans of a television show starring 50 Cent and Omari Hardwick about the double life of a clever businessman or the multi-hued Mighty Morphin Power Rangers who battled as a team against various forces of evil. As these cultural artifacts show, we are perennially interested in power. But what is power? And how does it relate to promoting a sense of belonging among the members of the Pepperdine community?

Power is potential. It has the capacity to make an impact, which means that it exists whether or not it is deployed. In the New Testament, the Greek word for power was δύναμις, which translates in English as “dunamis.” While other words were used to connote the concept in the New Testament, dunamis was the most frequently referenced—117 times. In the Office for Community Belonging, we employ the word as an acronym:

  • Dialogue - Conversations that encourage mutual understanding
  • Universitas - An appreciation of how our different roles contribute to a united whole
  • Neighbor - An altruistic concern for those in our community
  • Agility - The ability to adapt and innovate
  • Mindfulness - An intentional commitment to creating a sense of belonging
  • Imagination - The willingness to envision a better tomorrow
  • Service - An egalitarian generosity toward our brothers and sisters

God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). It is this power, of and from God, that we invoke, welcome, and allow to guide our efforts to create and sustain a community of belonging at Pepperdine. Without this godly focus, we risk fixating on the most divergent needs of individuals, rewarding bottom-of-the-barrel behavior between opposing factions, encouraging the vilification of those with different perspectives, and relentlessly stoking irrational and unjustified fears. Relying solely on our natural inclinations and power to do this work is insufficient. It is through dunamis that we will transform this world and resist being conformed to it.

My hope for the Pepperdine community is that when we disagree, we look past each others’ shortcomings and gift each other with benevolent assumptions. I hope we remember the power in our tongues to speak life into each other, articulate the way to a better tomorrow, and consider each others’ needs alongside our own when we can’t quite muster the mercy to consider the other’s needs ahead of our own. I hope we remember to greet each soul on campus—as we rush to classes, meals, rehearsals, and meetings—with brief and authentic eye contact and a passing “Hi” or at least a smile, acknowledging that “I see you.” Finally, I hope we remind ourselves daily to acknowledge and respect one another’s humanity, identities, experiences, and perspectives with compassion, grace, and empathy. Keeping dunamis at the core of the work being done at the Office for Community Belonging will assist our efforts to treat each other as we should be treated—as miraculous examples of God’s creation who are fearfully and wonderfully made.