What Does “Mission” In Acts Mean In Relation To The “Powers That Be”? -- By: Steve Walton

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:3 (Sep 2012)
Article: What Does “Mission” In Acts Mean In Relation To The “Powers That Be”?
Author: Steve Walton


What Does “Mission” In Acts Mean In Relation To The “Powers That Be”?

Steve Walton

Steve Walton is professor of New Testament at the London School of Theology, Green Lane, Northwood, Middlesex, HA6 2UW.

My wife and I have recently worked our way through all seven seasons of The West Wing on DVD and greatly enjoyed the experience.1 This is a fascinating series which portrays a devout Christian President of the United States and his staff engaging in the world of politics. One incident caught my attention recently in reflecting on our topic today—for those interested, it is in season 4 episode 11, called “Holy Night,” set just before Christmas at the end of President Bartlet’s first term of office. A new character, Will Bailey, has been introduced to the West Wing world, and he is now helping Toby Ziegler, the White House Director of Communications, with the President’s second inaugural address, presently as a temporary appointment for three months. Bailey is cautious of power and has been working in a hotel and meeting Ziegler in the lobby of the White House to discuss drafts of the inaugural which they are preparing. This is frustrating for Ziegler, and early in the episode Ziegler moves Bailey to the office next to his. They have given the President a draft of a section of the inaugural and get three notes back from the President on this section, for review; what Bailey doesn’t know is that one of these notes is deliberately mistaken and is there as a test of whether he will notice it is wrong and say so to the President. Bailey raises his concerns about this “bad note” to Ziegler, but when Bailey has two opportunities—one alone with the President, and one with the President, Toby Ziegler and Leo McGarry (the President’s Chief of Staff)—to mention his concerns to the President, he does not do so. This conversation follows during the second occasion, in the Oval Office:

“In his defense,” Ziegler tells McGarry in front of Bailey, “he caught the bad note. He came to me, he made it important…. He wasn’t distracted by the fact that his office was filled with bicycles.”

“Excuse me?” Bailey interrupts, “You said that I caught the bad note?”

“Yeah, that was planted there to see how you’d do telling truth to power,” Ziegler tells Bailey.

“Not very well so far,” the President muses.

“I have no difficulty, Sir, telling truth to power.”

“Okay, except when I asked you to come into the Oval Office,” the President says (referring to a previous opportunity), “You said, ‘No. No, no. No, no, no, no.’”

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