Posted by: rogermitchell | September 28, 2014

What’s the alternative to meeting ISIS violence with violence?

All three mainstream political parties have agreed to a 3rd Iraq war.
Once again the assumption that the greater the violence and brutality of the enemy, the greater the justification for a violent response, rules the day. But if violence breeds violence, then this response will only breed a greater violence. Nevertheless, the “peace through sovereign power” model that has ruled the day throughout Western history and beyond has no other answer to give.

So what is the alternative?
If kenotic, life-laying-down, enemy love is a genuine source of political power, then it does apply in situations of extreme violence and brutality such as those inflicted by IS.
There are seven strategic components:
1) the infinite demand of love
Simon Critchley presents this inescapable motivation to love that extends beyond confessional limits in his book The Faith of the Faithless Disciples of Jesus get this, or frankly they are really not disciples yet. Others get it too, thank God. That love not hate wins. That restorative justice not retribution works. That we have to stick with nonviolent methods whatever the cost. That there’s an infinite demand.
2) deep structural subversion of the Western way
Serious examination of the genealogy of the West suggests ongoing deep structural links between the violence of militant Islam and the violence of the West. See my The Fall of the Church Unless we undo the underlying violent structures of the West there is very little hope for a parallel end to extreme brutality against it.
3) the fruit of lives laid down
The good news of the incarnation, that is to say the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is that loving one’s enemies to the death actually does consume evil and triumph over it. In which case the extraordinary bravery and determination of some to remain on the ground in situations of extreme danger to maintain a strategy of love is crucial.
4) dangerous opportunities for dialogue
There need to be alliances between Muslims, Christians and other peoples of faith, who have some empathy or at least understanding of where IS is at and why. Peaceful people of faith who are ready to take the immense risk of meeting extreme self-designated islamists for dialogue even if it leads to beheading and death. How much worse is that than incarnation and crucifixion?
5) leadership example
Recent episodes of 24 had Jack Bauer rescuing the fictional US president from a situation where he was ready to give his life to terrorists in exchange for peace. A similar proposal by George Bush Junior on the eve of the War on Terror might have saved a lot of lives and prevented the current bloodbath. The jingoistic refusal of such political action in 24 highlights the deep structural mindsets of the West that honour yet reject such a path.
6) prayer
Those of us committed to prayer such as need to be praying for a change of heart among IS funders, commanders and troops; for strategy and courage to engage them non-violently on the ground; and new ways of introducing creative, love-based, initiatives for peace to be discovered.
7) giving
I added this last, because sending money somewhere can either be to assuage guilt at inactivity or making the false Western assumption that money is the ultimate answer. What I mean here is giving our technical, creative, rational, financial and above all our emotional and relational giftings to the cause of peace through love.

Posted by: rogermitchell | August 14, 2014

enemy-love still the only lasting hope

Despite the disproportionate brutality of the state of Israel’s response to Hamas rockets and the inhuman behaviour of the advancing IS militants in Northern Iraq, the politics of enemy-love are still the only lasting hope for peace.

Here are two reasons why:
1. The first is very unpalatable, but, in my view undeniable. Hamas, IS, and the Western representative democracies have the same foundational base.

IS is simply more extreme and manifesting its foundational violence in the now. But both IS and the West are the result of accepting the principle that says the only way to peace is by the exercise of the instruments of sovereign power in the interests of the culture and desire of me and my group over the other, the different and the alien. These instruments consist in taking territory by violence, maintaining it by our own particular version of law, and sustaining it through economics of one kind or another. In the days of Roman empire and the Christendom partnership that followed it in the formation of the West, this was the way to the current democratic ‘peace,’ such as it is, and it is superior fire power, nuclear capability and unequal advantage in the global economy that maintains it. Western representative democracies are simply overlaid on this deep structural system, and will last only as long as our military, legal and economic advantage does. Unless the deep structures of violence, law and money are replaced by enemy-love, restorative justice and hospitality then the west will be constantly challenged by extreme forms of its own image, whether the Third Reich, the Soviet Union or the IS Caliphate and however we vote, the poorest and most vulnerable of the human multitude will continue to pay the price.

2. The second may be easier to see, but is hugely challenging to live out. The poor and the vulnerable at the violent edge of sovereign power are the real leaders of the future.

This was true of the most famous examples such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela but it is true of all who non-violently resist including the tortured, raped, martyred, beheaded and crucified who refuse hatred, vengeance and violent response on the front lines of the clash of empires. When Jesus said “they will put some of you to death … but not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:16-18) he set the hope for the future that his own life, death and resurrection opened the way for. Those who needs must die daily are the ones with the most glaring public opportunity to overcome by love and prove whether the resurrection really can be the first fruits of a new humanity. We need their stories, and in the days and years to come they will become the foundations of a new culture of peace. This is why those who take their lead from Jesus must do all we can in prayer, giving, going to stand in the gap and non-violently resisting with and on behalf of the innocent. It is also why we must resist the status quo of violence, vengeance and affluence at the foundations of the Western system. It is why our lives wherever they are positioned have to become channels of mindset change, behaviour change and a new politics of enemy-love that can yet carry the day. This is the call of our time.

Sojourners have an excellent blog post on this (scroll down)


Posted by: rogermitchell | August 2, 2014

The new politics

I’ve been giving papers at conferences related to a “new politics” in some interesting places lately.
Such as the Chester University conference Missio Dei: Evangelicalism and the New Politics back in June and the Manchester University conference in July on Postliberalism, Individualism and Society.
So what do these ‘new politics’ refer to and what do they look like? Chris Baker, one of the convenors of the Chester event described them to me as the space identified by ‘all the posts’: such as post-secular, post-Christian (or post-Christendom), and post-political. Graham Ward in his splendid The Politics of Discipleship (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2009) adds the postmodern and post-material. So there are a lot of posts! By this account the new politics really refers to space for a new politics, rather than the content of such politics. The title of the forthcoming William Temple Foundation 70th anniversary event Reclaiming the Public Space, this November, bears this out. Come if you can:

So is there really space for a new politics opening up?
While there is certainly a need for it in the face of the ‘tame’ xenophobia of UKIP or the brutal violence in Gaza, the lack of reasoned response or diplomatic will in both cases looks like more of the same old destructive recipe of peace through sovereign power. Victimisation and violence continues to rule the day despite the lessons of the hundred years since the war to end all wars But another way of seeing the current xenophobia and brutality is as evidence that the old politics is overreaching itself and plumbing the depths that a new politics must encompass to embrace the stranger and love the enemy. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear there is always evidence of the triumph of love; Salim Munayer and Lisa Loden’s groundbreaking book Through My Enemy’s Eyes (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2014) Nevertheless we cannot possibly minimize the challenge that achieving mindset change on a societal and global level demands.

However, if the ekklesia truly is the life-laying-down, enemy-loving, body of Christ, then people of faith can expect the move of the Spirit to renew its role.
Despite the horrific record of the subversion of the church and gospel by imperial power, there is real evidence that a significant section of the church is right now repositioning feet-first into the new political space, as I argue in the previous post of April 3rd. Now we need to do all we can to catalyse the mindset change that must follow. In the meantime we thank God for the body of those who despite, or in reaction to, the corruption of the church, are finding their way to the new politics without us, although not without God, whether they know it or not. Kenarchy offers some of the tools for both bodies to find their way to becoming friend to the ethnic other and lovers of their enemies as the soon-coming Discovering Kenarchy (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, Autumn 2014) attempts to set out.

Posted by: rogermitchell | May 24, 2014

probing questions from the kenarchy perspective

Q1 What to do with the passages where Jesus says things that don’t sound or seem consistent with kenarchy?

opportunities to deepen and expand our understanding of kenarchy
Kenarchy expresses an attempt to find a new word for the kingdom of God without the baggage of Christendom, or in theological terms, free from subsumption of transcendence by sovereign power. So in responding to Hardy’s questions from the previous post, I will not be defending the conclusion that kenarchy epitomises the teaching and example of Jesus in the gospel narratives, or that Jesus’ message was counter to the Roman imperial construct of peace through sovereign power. This is the heart of my thesis and I have defended it elsewhere (see for example Church, Gospel and Empire: How the politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2011, particularly Ch 7.) So the question I address to the statements from the testimony of Jesus that Hardy identifies is ‘how do they expand our understanding of kenarchy?’ This positions such comparatively rare and potentially ‘problematic’ passages or seeming aporias as opportunities to deepen and expand our understanding of kenarchy.

kenarchy encompasses both good and evil ‘otherness’ with love
In his correspondence Hardy cites Matthew 13:40-42: “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the culmination of the age. The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather from his Kingdom every cause of sin and all who do evil, and they will cast them into the furnace of fire. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” So taking note of the wider context of Matthew’s narrative, we notice that there is real evil and an actual devil (vv38-39), something that I contend is central to the testimony of Jesus. These statements of Jesus are a reminder of this. That is to say, from the point of view of kenarchy, to love my enemy is not to suggest that he is not my enemy, but that love is the only way to relate to her or him, or overcome the real evil that she or he might represent. Of course not all apparent enemies are evil, and the “other” is a crucial and necessary category of love, discovery and growth. But kenarchy encompasses both good and evil otherness with love, and therefore such love includes the enemy in its focus and operation.

kenarchy meets the devil and all our enemies with life laying down loving, not violence
In my contribution to Discovering Kenarchy (Wipf and Stock, 2014, forthcoming) I point out the way that Jesus deals with the devil in the temptations. There is no inconsistency here, for Jesus does not use violence against the devil but engages in conversation with him, having deliberately gone out to meet him (Lk 4: 4-13). What draws the devil and everything else to the cross is Jesus’ life-laying-down, kenotic love. The cross is not God’s violence against sin and evil, rather it is God’s embrace of every form of human and satanic evil and violence against both divinity and humanity. In the light of this, the incarnation is the climactic demonstration that kenarchy meets the devil and all our enemies with love, not violence. Hence the inclusion of things that cause sin and those who do evil in the kingdom of God (v41 above). So what is the implication of “cast them into the furnace of fire” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth?” Rather than some default to the retribution and vengeance at the heart of sovereign power, this is the profound reality that I was trying to configure in Hardy’s “zinger,” in the previous post, in which I stated “To put it another way, the cross is a gateway into a cosmic cesspit, or in Jesus’ terms a Gehenna.”

the furnace, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth is the conjunction of unconditional, forever, kenotic love and implacable, selfish autonomy
I have never been an advocate of universalism, although I have no hesitation in stating that love is as universalist as possible. But I don’t see how love and universalism can possibly fit together, because love cannot be forced. Otherwise it is rape. Kenarchy in no way suggests that love for the other, for God, or for my enemy is obligatory for those who do not want it. How could it be without it being domination and sovereignty all over again? So the point at which “every cause of sin and all who do evil” encounters the unconditional, unstoppable, life-laying-down love of God is the climax of the cross. Of course there is weeping and gnashing of teeth at that point, how could it be otherwise, but the greatest weeping and gnashing is on the part of the one who loves. Those who weep and gnash in utter frustration and fury need to be contained in the weeping and gnashing of the unstoppable love at the heart reality. The furnace, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth, are the conjunction of unconditional, forever, kenotic love and the implacable, selfish autonomy that sin, evil and Satan represent. This is what I am referring to as a cosmic cesspit, or in Jesus’ terms a Gehenna, which the cross is the entrance to. The Psalmist puts it clearly “where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold you are there” (Psalm 139:8 KJV). Seen from this perspective, God does not flee violence and evil, God confronts it with love, carrying the pain of it in the vault of love in the heart of divinity. The good news is that in partnership with him humans can access this for one another.

Posted by: rogermitchell | May 19, 2014

Reactions in advance!

I’m really glad to report that Discovering Kenarchy edited by Julie Aram Tomlin and Roger Haydon Mitchell is nearing completion and will shortly be with the copy editor.
Consisting of an exciting and grounded assortment of contributions from Julie and myself, Martin Scott, Mike Love, Sue Mitchell, Stephen Rusk, Andy Knox and Peter McKinney, it will once again be published by Wipf and Stock. It should be available by late summer/ early autumn. I’ve been trying out a draft version of one of my chapters “The Heart of Love” on one or two close friends in Mississauga. One of these, Hardy Steinke, has indicated his willingness to bring his thoughts and questions onto this blog, in the hope of wetting appetites for the coming book and pursuing the important issues that he highlights.

Here are some of Hardy’s favorite bits of my chapter, or ‘zingers’ as he calls them:
“Divinity yields to love for the other, including one’s enemies…”
“No, if the cross does not go all the way to forgive the unrepentant we have a huge problem.”
“The nonviolent God and his new humanity embrace a cross, not because of any desire to punish, avenge or be appeased, but because there needs to be a place to which all the violent and destructive consequences of empire and enmity can be diverted and exhausted while at the same time the embrace of love continues to encompass everyone, including the most implacable enemy.”
“To put it another way, the cross is a gateway into a cosmic cesspit, or in Jesus’ terms a Gehenna…”
“Unless the cross can be shown to substantiate a love that actually does incorporate our enemies, then kenarchy has nothing truly revolutionary to offer. If it can, then kenarchy really is good news.”

Thankfully, Hardy also found extremely helpful the way that the chapter explores kenarchy in the light of the positive contributions and possible shortcomings of Christus Victor theology, Rene Girard, Simone Weil, Thomas Torrance and Miroslav Volf.

This all provoked Hardy’s thinking to the point that he responded “Here now, is where I would want things pushed even further!” As part of the group that somewhat playfully constituted themselves ‘the Canadian chapter of kenarchists’ [sic] these are his probing questions from the kenarchy perspective:

i) What to do with the passages where Jesus says things that don’t sound or seem consistent with kenarchy?
ii) Does the kenarchy way of loving and forgiving reach beyond the cross and right on through into the age to come? Are the unrepentant loved all the way through and in the age to come?
iii) ‘What is the Bible?’ Do we need to come right out and acknowledge that parts of the Bible (both OT and NT) reflect pre-Christian, tribal, polytheistic, Platonic and many other flawed and immature mindsets and perceptions about God?

I will embark on what will hopefully prove to be a collaborative discussion around these questions over the coming days …..


The focus of attention among forerunning expressions of church is at last shifting from self focus to other focus, from the community of the church to the family of humanity.
Some have been pioneering this for a long time now, as I was reminded only yesterday when connecting with Together for the Common Good an initiative of the late Bishops of Liverpool David Shepherd and Derek Warlock. I’m remembering how much I gained from my associations with the early years of Frontier Youth Trust and the Evangelical Coalition for Urban Mission that David Shepherd was such an inspiration to many moons ago. What is so good is the new alignments now taking place between what used to be called ‘liberal’ and ‘social gospel’ Christians and evangelicals, pentecostals and charismatics, together with lovers of humanity from other faiths and none. Many of us have been longing for this. Once we enter the common human space of the incarnation we rediscover what Jesus was talking about when he distinguished between those who display their credentials for reasons of power and self-aggrandisement and those who do the will of the Father whether or not they fully realise it (Mtt7:21-23).

A profound vocabulary change
Last Autumn my good friend medical practitioner Andy Knox and I were together facilitating a kenarchy course in Mississauga, Toronto’s less well-known twin city. While there we had the opportunity of attending a meeting of the Canadian transformation network facilitated by good friend Richard Long and listening to reports of developments from across Canada. It was immediately obvious to us that a profound vocabulary change had taken place. We left acknowledging the significance of the change, to us evidence of the real impact of the prayer movement, the Holy Spirit outpourings of the last three generations and the fulfillment of the voice of true prophets for those with ears to hear. The language was no longer centered around the gathered church, but the needs of the poor and marginalized. With our ears newly attuned and our hopes raised it’s hardly surprising that on our return we read the symbols and heard the statements of Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin as signposts to a dramatic shift in the positioning of the church. With Francis’ warnings about global capitalism and Justin’s about pay day lenders ringing in my ears I attended the UK Charismatic and Pentecostal leaders gathering in December. I like this grouping because of its breadth of representation within the life of the Spirit, having been co-hosted by Catholics and Protestants since its inception forty or so years ago, and bringing together those with a recognition of the centrality of Jesus and his life in the Spirit without dogmatic doctrinal demands. Here once again the shift in vision and vocabulary was obvious. The church is becoming obsessed with the poor and the marginalised once more! There I discovered the impact of FaithAction and their great resource Faith With the Sleeves Rolled Up and the fine example of the Dagenham Community Resources initiative Students from the Political Theology for Peace programme that I convene for the Richardson Institute in the PPR Department here at Lancaster University, were able to taste the kenarchic politics for themselves at a day workshop in February.

Highly motivated people positioned in the gap created by a government desperate to recover economic stability for the rich and powerful
Lest I start to sound too triumphalistic, the February launch of the Christians on the Left in London did reveal something of the old tension between social action and social justice, something that the testimony of Jesus never divides. However, the room was packed with a very representative cross section of highly motivated people positioned in the gap created by a government desperate to recover economic stability for the rich and powerful amid the implosion of capitalism while trying to hang onto power and the vote. In the enthusiasm of that launch I found my way to a subsequent event co-sponsored by Christians on the Left in Liverpool. Here I connected with Together Lancashire and discovered encouraging evidence of the same repositioning happening locally right here on my doorstep… here’s one example Pretty certainly it’s happening on your doorstep too, so please add your evidence to ours by commenting on this post.

Posted by: rogermitchell | March 4, 2014

Jesus and money: reblogged from Philip Evans with thanks

I thought that this post of three days ago by Philip Evans of the All Souls Clubhouse was so good that I have copied it verbatim.

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Jesus of Nazareth

I’m surprised that none of Jesus’ listeners challenged his assumption that people serve money. The first time the statement is recorded is in the Sermon on the Mount; the second was as Jesus confronted the religious establishment, which professed to serve God but who in fact were ‘lovers of money’ (see Matthew 6:19-34 & Luke 16:13-15). He never said anything similar about other vices: he didn’t, for example, say, ‘You cannot serve God and sex’. Nor did he say the more obvious, ‘You cannot serve God and the devil’!

Today, we take it for granted that people serve money. Money is the driving force of modern society and economic theory is a primary means of studying and explaining human life; maximising profit is the goal of modern business and every personal, moral choice has to be financially viable. Money itself is the global status symbol, promising freedom, security, purpose, power, happiness – and even love. Some people make its accumulation their life’s goal; others see it as the path to fulfilment or the things it can buy as defining who they are.

But it hasn’t always been this way and that’s why older translations of Jesus’ statement don’t say ‘money’ but ‘mammon’. The difference is still important. Money is a tool, invented at various times in history in various parts of the world, as if for the first time, to enable people to exchange goods and services easily. That’s why there’s no sin or evil in being rich, although wealth brings with it responsibility and many challenges.

But money evolved and took on a life of its own. It became more than just a tool for living – even an indispensable tool – and acquired the power of ‘the force of an idea whose time had come’. That’s why generations of artists have portrayed mammon as a demon. When enough people began to give disproportionate importance to money, entire societies began to revolve around it. Everyone else had little choice but to rely on money too. That is, unless they trusted God sufficiently to underwrite their obedience to living by his criteria.

The Sermon on the Mount describes a lifestyle that puts God and people first: not first ‘by a head’ but way ahead of every other consideration. I’m sure Jesus included his statement about serving God and mammon so his followers would not be deterred from living the way he described by the financial consequences.

Most people today, including most Christians, would say that they do put God and people first, and they would be sincere in saying so, but in my experience financial issues often come such a close second they divert attention and compromise rationale and behaviour. I’ve experience this in my own lifestyle choices and seen it in others. I’ve also seen churches submit what they believe to be God’s will to financial criteria, not quite believing that God will provide the resources for what he calls them to do but waiting for the money to be banked before taking even a first step of faith.

Money is system of trust. This was the case when everyday things like seashells and coloured beads were used as the first money. It remained the case, to some degree at least, even when coins were made of gold and silver but today it’s more true than ever. Almost all money now exists as data in sophisticated banking systems and there is so very much of it that Planet Earth lacks the resources to convert it all into material wealth. Even the 2-3% of money that are coins and banknotes exist in the real world only like a novel, giving expression to an idea but not really real.

This is another reason why we can’t serve both God and money. We can either live in grateful dependence upon God, using money as the tool it was created to be, or we can rely on humankind’s ultimate system of trust, loving and serving the money we think we need to live. The Pharisees who listened to Jesus were prime examples of this: they purported to serve God but loved money. Next weekend, I plan to look at why Jesus called their wealth ‘unrighteous’.

© All Souls Clubhouse Community Centre & Church and Philip Evans 2014.
Please feel free to copy, print and share these Reflections on a non-profit basis.

Posted by: rogermitchell | March 1, 2014

Fellow Europeans of Ukraine hang on in there!

At the beginning of the century I helped initiate a prayer partnership for Europe. It was a partnership that involved the US and Canada as well as the nations of Europe including Ukraine. Some of you clickers and surfers on this blog were part of that. Tragically when 9/11 hit, it exposed the chasm between those who advocate peace through sovereignty, and its violent defense, and those who who follow the non-violent politics of Jesus. When some of us pleaded for people of faith to choose the way of peace many engaged in the so-called war on terror instead. No good came, only more violence, suffering and the displacement of human beings from their homes and their hopes.

But the politics of love and kenarchy flowed out of that prayer partnership nonetheless and is constantly gaining ground among grassroots people. And so we plead with people of faith in Ukraine today, including its interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, a baptist pastor, CHOOSE THE WAY OF PEACE whatever the Russians do. Go to Moscow, go to the Crimea, go in peace whatever the consequences and ultimately resurrection will come into the situation. After all, the evidence is there in the recent history. It was not violence and war that brought down the iron curtain and the Berlin Wall, it was prayer and forgiveness and love for one’s enemies, and it is only more of this that will ultimately bring freedom and human flourishing for all the people of the Ukraine, and Europe as a whole.

Posted by: rogermitchell | February 12, 2014

love that substantiates a new humanity

It’s high time that I concluded this set of posts on the authority of love!
As sometimes happens I’ve been waylaid by other writing deadlines and also this time by working with the ace bunch of students who are currently tackling the Richardson Institute for Peace Studies distance learning module in Political Theology for Peace. If any of you clickers and surfers are interested in registering for this module in 2014/15 please let me know. I am now working on a second module on Politics of Love in Places of Conflict that I hope will also be up and running in 2014/15. Use the comment box below if you are interested in either of them.

One of the writing deadlines was a sudden opportunity to contribute a chapter to a book considering the nature of kenotic authority with a view to providing resources for the ongoing reform of the Roman Catholic Magisterium – an opportunity too exciting to miss! The book should be out over the next few months. Watch this space for more information. The former posts on the authority of love provided good resources to work on for that book, so thank you, all of you, that contributed to the discussion. This post is adapted from what became the final section of that chapter and makes the following three basic points:

1. By displaying the authority of love in a human being, the incarnation of Jesus not only reveals the divine nature, it restores the image of God back into human nature. This is of course, in part, a recovery of what Christians believe that God did when he created humankind in his image in the first place. But it goes far beyond that. Now a human being is in the heart of divinity for ever, and a divine human is substantiated in the heart of human history. Let no-one say that the incarnation didn’t change things! If it happened, then God and humanity are for ever changed! The theologian Thomas Torrance speaks of this in terms of the vicarious humanity of Christ (See Incarnation. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic 2008, 125ff). That is to say that Jesus lived the life of a human being in the fullness of the divine nature, and did it on our behalf so that his life would be available as a resource for any human who desired it.

2. In order to substantiate this new humanity, it was necessary for Jesus to take on all that stood in the way of the authority of love. Undoing empire, disarming the powers, empowering the powerless, as the previous three posts have articulated, are all necessary to demonstrate the authority of love. It is because empire ultimately identifies and kills those who oppose it that the power of death has to be overcome for the authority of love to be demonstrated. Similarly, the powers are the powers of death, and the powerless are the raw material of a system that ultimately eats them up. So in order to manifest the authority of love, love has to be stronger than death.

3. The authority of love is life laid down in love for one’s enemies, to the point of death itself. The new humanity is defined by this characteristic. The gospel narratives continually emphasise Jesus’ repeated statements about needing to go to Jerusalem and be crucified and slain, and rise again on the third day. The disciples, with their sovereignty understanding of power, simply did not understand this. Even post-resurrection, as Luke describes in his account of the incident on the Road to Emmaus, this prevented them from recognising who Jesus is. When they had grasped it then Luke quotes Jesus linking his death for his enemies and the subsequent resurrection to the promised authority carried by his message of forgiveness to the nations. The writer of John’s gospel makes this clear when he explains the time qualification to Jesus’ description of the coming of the Spirit: “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified”( John 7: 39.)

From the believers’ point of view this is the real substance of the uniqueness of Jesus, and the reason that it needs to be included in political discussions in the public forum. In articulating this I wish to underline that I am not making an exclusive claim that says only Christians can love their enemies. What I am doing here is focusing on a significant resource for positive peace. If we can find it elsewhere, great. But here is an extraordinary articulation of it from the heart of a tradition that something like a third of the world’s population embrace. It is not a matter of excluding the others, but activating the displaced heritage of this multitude on behalf of the rest.

Posted by: rogermitchell | January 12, 2014

Love that empowers the powerless

Not only does the authority of love undo empire and disarm the powers, it empowers the powerless.
What I have elsewhere described as the kenarchy manifesto, and kenarchy’s clear sense of direction, is even better described as the empowerment of the powerless. For it is more than a statement of intention or priority, it is an actual release of power that empties out empire by reversing its direction. It’s important to understand that this is certainly not about using the hierarchical power of sovereignty to do something good or make peace. That would be to repeat the old lie. Rather it is about ending hierarchy and inequality altogether. Those previously at the bottom don’t simply become the new ones at the top. The bottom and the top become the same place, and the practice of empowering the powerless is how we achieve it. In the Magnificat, Mary embodies her insight into the divine nature as the authority that empowers the powerless: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.” In so doing she is herself an example of the way this kind of empowerment works for she becomes the evidence of the first category for the empowerment of the powerless in the Jesus’ story.

God’s choice of Mary as the means to the full manifestation of the divine nature to humanity makes the instatement of women the first category of empowerment.
Her focus on the hungry marks the second category, the poor. Altogether, as I have already pointed out elsewhere, there are some seven main foci of empowerment in the gospel narrative, instating women, prioritizing children, advocating for the poor, advocating for the marginalised and strangers, caring for the creation, freeing prisoners and caring for the sick. An old friend of mine remarked to me recently that he could find nothing particularly new in kenarchy. As he put it “I am not sure… how it differs from our normal understanding of an incarnate God who is imminent in all He does, sustaining the whole universe by His very being.” From what I know of him, he is someone who tries hard to empower the powerless in his daily life and work as a pastor. But I believe that the authority of love means more than that. The good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus announced, proclaimed a completely new politics. It still does. It means using whatever power is at our disposal to empower the powerless. We call it kenarchy to distinguish it from theological terminology that so often connotes the domination system that the church has fallen foul to over the centuries and is all too often obvious in the way the church and the world system operate.

I not am denying that a great deal of work to meet the needs of the powerless among people and the rest of the creation has already been done and continues to be done.

But it is often violated by the intrusion of the overarching, controlling context of sovereign power. When this happens in the context of the life of the church, instead of the followers of Jesus being a prophetic servant community able to challenge, or where appropriate support, the prevailing political power, they become a tool for the contemporary government or its opponents, or subside into an ineffective and irresponsible sub-culture. William Cavanaugh unpacks the twentieth century implications of this in his analysis of the church in General Pinochet’s Chile, Torture and the Eucharist (Blackwell, 1998) where the priests of the Catholic church at first supported and then acquiesced in the gradual erosion of freedoms which then led to disappearances and murders of those who worked for justice and equality. Thank God for those who began to embrace Jesus’ example instead.

Right now in the contemporary West we face government policies that are the opposite of empowering the powerless.
Specific policies are currently going through parliament that threaten the freedom of the streets;, the freedom to lobby and protest, and the freedom of the courts The government austerity measures continue to disadvantage the poor and the vulnerable to the benefit of the rich and the powerful As I have said before, the sovereignty system underlying Western representative democracy is only different to fascism by degrees, but it is on the same spectrum of power, as the strong support Margaret Thatcher gave General Pinochet witnesses.

The authority of love squares the circle of need and powerlessness.
As the apostle Paul saw so clearly, reconciliation and empowerment together make up the fulness of divine authority. God shares his throne with us and that changes everything (Ephesians 2:6). God is all about power sharing. This kind of authority makes government and empowerment a single, synonymous initiative, not mere associates, let alone competitors. Government without empowerment is an abuse of power. The practice of empowering the powerless soon tells me who my friends and enemies are, for if these seven groups are the primary targets of kenotic love, those individuals and institutions that oppress them are identified as enemies whether they are so intentionally or not. How I then treat these will mark the extent of love that is required for peace to be achieved. For as Dyfedwyn underlines in his comment to the previous post on Undoing Empire “loving the enemy also means loving those within your own community who choose to stick with the empire.” I attempted to set out what this looks like in the post on how the authority of love disarms the powers, two posts back, based on Jesus’ temptations. But I recognise that this is not an easy call. My wife Sue pointed out that in my interaction with my friend Dave over my book The Fall of the Church, I specified by name a group of Christians among whom I encountered dominating behaviour. She rightly thought that this was less than loving towards them. I’ve removed the reference and changed what I said. Love does confront the issues, but it does so with the authority of love, otherwise we are hypocrites.

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