Posted by: rogermitchell | May 26, 2016

For love’s sake vote Remain

For love’s sake vote Remain!

In my view the greatest deep-structural delusion of the western world is that peace comes through the exercise of sovereign power. There is another way, peace through love, which an exciting network of my friends and fellow activists call kenarchy and this blog is all about. Kenarchy attempts to outwork the kind of love characterised by the life of Jesus and defined by Thomas Jay Oord in his book The Nature of Love as “to act intentionally, out of empathetic, sympathetic, response to God and others, to promote overall well-being”.

Nationalism, imperialism and the nation state are all forms of sovereignty that uphold the western delusion of peace through sovereign power. This is why, for me, it’s a no-brainer to see that the best place to outwork kenarchy is within a wider situation than a single national institution of sovereign power. Much better to be in a situation of sovereignty shared between states such as the European Union. Of course within such a union where sovereignty is shared between 28 states we need to work hard to ensure that the EU does not ever become a single sovereign power. But it will be much easier to do that inside a union deliberately based on the idea of shared sovereignty rather than in a single nation state, especially one that wants to leave behind shared sovereignty in order to strengthen its own.

So while there are many things wrong with the European Union that I want to see transformed by love, I see far greater chances for such transformation within the EU rather than in a deliberately strengthened sovereign power outside it.  I have other reasons for encouraging readers of this blog to vote Remain in the coming referendum, but this is the overriding one.

If you want five other reasons to think through and reflect on, here they are, presented compellingly by my dear friend Dr Andy Knox. I’m with him all the way! https://reimaginingthefuture.org/2016/05/25/why-im-voting-remain/#comment-2521

 

 

 

 

Posted by: rogermitchell | April 30, 2016

De-mystifying church

The word ‘church’ carries so much baggage that for many, both inside and outside it, it is no longer a helpful expression of what it means to be Jesus’ body.

This is why, in company with many others (for example http://www.ekklesia.co.uk), I tend to use the word ecclesia, from the original Greek word for church in the gospel narratives (cf Mtt 16: 18) and New Testament epistles (Eph 1:22 et al). However, this does little to deal with the double problem of how so many people understand the church as a religious organization with a tendency to hierarchical control and fail to recognise its potential as a movement for overall peace and well-being today. This is especially true given the pressing need for just such a movement in the fast decomposing political system of the west, and the current re-emergence of the church to fulfill this need. While I am well aware that to counter this problem we need Jesus’ followers to embody his loving behaviour, what I and others around this blog call kenarchy,  I think we also need to explain what’s gone wrong when we have the chance. Hence another post along these lines.

The true body or the mystical body?

One of the most significant historical reasons for the problem with the word church is the process by which its direct link with the Jesus story was broken and transferred to the institution that oversaw the ceremony of the bread and the wine, what the Roman Catholics call the Eucharist, the protestants call the communion and some more radical types call the breaking of the bread. In my books Church, Gospel and Empire and The Fall of the Church (Wipf & Stock 2011 & 2013) and my December 21st 2010 post “Not much Jesus”, I refer to Henri de Lubac’s work. He describes how, culminating in the twelfth century, there was a trend in how church was understood that resulted in a lasting swap-over of what in the Latin was known as the corpus verum and corpus mysticum, that’s to say the true or real body, and the mystical, mysterious body. This meant that the simple but profound truth that the church was a movement of love for God, self, neighbour and enemy and the bread and the wine were a mysterious resource for this practical Jesus way of love, was pretty much lost. Instead it gave way to an understanding of the primary role of church as centering round a mysterious cultic ceremony of worship presided over by priests, or other professional religious experts. After the reformation this ceremony tended in protestant churches to center around preaching, again usually by institutionally trained qualified experts, and after Pentecostal renewal around the gifts of the Spirit and the ‘presence’ often induced by sung worship. As a result the primary meaning and experience of church has been lost for many.

The plan of the mystery or the mysterious plan?

Recently I have been catching up again with Giorgio Agamben’s work and particularly his book The Kingdom and the Glory (California: Stanford University Press, 2011). In this he highlights an early approach to Paul’s writings, similar to the trend in understanding church as mystery underlined by de Lubacs. Whereas Paul speaks of “the plan of the mystery” hidden in God but now made known in Jesus Christ (Eph 3:9-10), early church writers increasingly came to swap these words round and speak of “the mysterious plan”. So instead of the mystery as to how society can find peace being made known in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, what now lies at the heart of Christian theology and practice is a mysterious plan that theologians have tried to decipher ever since. So church becomes the institutional context for trying to work out a mysterious plan instead of being the movement that lives out the obvious practical way of love that the story of Jesus embodies.

 

Posted by: rogermitchell | April 5, 2016

With God, love comes first

I have found Thomas Jay Oord’s innovative theology hugely helpful. This is particularly true of his definition of love in his The Nature of Love, (St.Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2010) and his developed concept of essential kenosis in The Uncontrolling Love of God, (Downers Grove , Illinois: IVP Academic, 2015). While I wish to make it clear once again that I believe all theology, and indeed all knowledge, to be relational rather than propositional, it is still helpful to have a definition of love as we work out the relational consequences of being loved and loving others. In fact I think that it may have been a lack of such definition that explains why some readers of this blog and the related books have not always grasped what us kenarchists are on about. Although it has been useful to escape the baggage that the phrase kingdom of God has carried for some people and in some contexts, love is essential to it, and the politics of love is another way to describe it. So providing a definition of love may help us, and this is what Oord provides.

“To love is to act intentionally in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others, to promote overall well-being.” (The Nature of Love, p. 17).

When I first read this I did a double-take. Love is surely more emotional, immediate and far less rational than this bald and careful statement. For me, it is true that love is first an encounter, an experience, a connection with another. But the advantage of Oord’s definition is its capacity to differentiate the love encapsulated by the incarnation, from the friendship, desire and familial bonds indicated by the other original Greek words for love. While they can all entail or include the love for God, self, neighbour and enemy that sums up Judaeo-Christian love, they are not love at all without it. Above all, what Oord’s definition does is to disclose the fully political nature of love. Coupled with his concept of essential kenosis which sees this kind of loving as God’s very nature, it puts the politics of love at the very core of God’s image and therefore of both creation and us human creatures. This is why Oord’s work is such a complement to kenarchy.

The practical implications of this are massive. It means that everything I encounter as love is qualified by the condition of overall well-being. Secondly it means that this condition is achievable – indeed ultimately inevitable – because love is the nature of God and the end of all things. So to add love to any situation is to suffuse it with hope.

Posted by: rogermitchell | November 19, 2015

The Love Politics Initiative (working title)

I am about to initiate a new phase of applied research into the politics of love in the context of the emerging new political space. I first blogged on this  a year ago on November 4th 2014 (see below). Then ‘the new politics’ was almost an unknown term, today it is everywhere. As I see it, if there was doubt then that there was real need for a new ethical politics there is none now.

As has been my practice over the last decade, this applied research will be in collaboration with the growing kenarchy research community that has been forming during that time. But there will be new partners too, because what is different now, and very encouraging, is  that the desire for populating this space with a politics of love is appearing simultaneously in a whole variety of networks and places. This has made clear that it is time to be more strategic in research focus and to make collaboration more deliberate and specific.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to research in the context of the Politics, Philosophy and Religion Department at Lancaster University and to be able to offer the postgraduate certificate of accreditation in Political Theology for Peace via The Richardson Institute that is located there. They have just renewed my honorary research fellowship until October 2018. Next July we will be holding the annual conference of the British Sociology Association Sociology of Religion Study Group (Socrel) in the department, focusing on the power of religion in the public sphere and which will hopefully have a new politics element (http://socrel.org.uk/) . There are other exciting developments in the pipeline.

However I’m convinced that what is also needed is a wider more relational research collaboration that recognizes the complementary opportunities offered by a number of different Universities, departments and institutes, and also the need for a support group that sees the relational deficit that the increasing commodification of higher education often causes and helps meet it in a way that’s for the good of the researchers, staff and academic institutions out there.

To this end a bunch of potential doctoral and postdoctoral researchers are meeting next weekend (November 27th-29th) with three objectives. i) to set out the practical research that needs to be done to bring a politics of love into a full-orbed body of work that can be culturally embedded in the newly emerging political space; ii) to identify research locations and potential academic supervisors where this could be pursued; iii) to raise a primary source of funding to undergird a three to five year research project; iv) to create a core relational and strategic research fellowship, taking the apostle Paul’s use of the Greek word koinonia, translated in English as ‘fellowship’ and which in Philippians 2 is aligned with love and kenosis. Some of us have been inspired in this by the achievements of the historical Clapham sect and the mythology of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring!

An invited core is already in place for the coming weekend, but the plan is to then widen the collaboration with a meeting in February or March. So can I please ask for your help to carry this vision forward whether or not you are in the frame for the coming weekend, by inviting your comments along the lines of the following questions:

i) What do you think that a full-orbed applied research initiative in the politics of love would need to cover?

ii) Which locations and academic supervisors would you particularly recommend?

iii) Do you have any funding ideas or sources? – We are looking for primary funds that we can then make available for researchers so that they can submit proposals to the relevant institutions with their funding already in place, rather than them having to bid to academic and research agencies for funds from which only something like 6% of such bids are successful and relevant agencies often have criteria unsympathetic to a politics of love. Realistically a full time PhD costs £12,000 over three years in fees which with a contribution to living expenses of a further £12,000 per year comes to £48,000.  Full time post-doctoral research posts generally earn £24,000+ per year.  So we are looking for something in the region of £360,000 over three years to cover something like four doctorates and two post-docs, and including some shorter term postgraduate researchers in the field.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

Posted by: rogermitchell | July 19, 2015

Squaring the circle of Jesus versus Paul

Matthew Porter engaged my friend Jane Almond in a discussion on Facebook beginning with the question “How does the Kenarchy approach deal with Paul and other NT (New Testament) writings without down grading them please? I am clear on its frame for OT (Old Testament) and post Constantine, but not post Gospels NT.”

Jane responded ” I’m not an expert Matthew… Better to ask Roger Haydon Mitchell about that one… You’ll get a proper reply. Roger?”

I said “I’m happy to attempt a ‘proper reply,’ Matthew, but as I don’t know your approach, could you put the “without down grading them” point a little more clearly please? My incarnational hermeneutic does prioritize the gospel testimony, but I don’t see this as downgrading the other NT writings, but I don’t want to brush this off with a simplistic answer.”

Jane retorted “Simplistic???? #theologicalhumour!”

And Matthew said “You are v. kind not just to say “buy my book!”. I would have taken Jane’s gloss happily but here goes:
I have engaged on your Kenarchy blog a few years ago, and you and Sue even longer ago have been to Newham to speak to leaders through the auspices of my predecessors at Transform Newham and its forerunner, Newham Christian Fellowships. Through other reading and my own ponderings I am hitting the reality of the Jesus hermeneutic and would be pleased to ‘square the circle’ of Jesus vs Paul. Thank you very much.

This all led me to say that I think to “square the circle of Jesus vs Paul” is an important ask, and ask Matthew and Jane whether they were willing for me to import this conversation onto my blog and continue it here, as it is complementary to my last post. Jane said “Wow! Will look forward to that! Matthew Porter I wasn’t avoiding you but am teaching all day so have my head in History GCSE right now…” He replied “Yep, fine. Others’ contributions will no doubt add.”

So here we are moving the discussion over here to my blog where more people could engage with it, so come on all you followers, surfers and clickers engage away!

I have four main points with which to “square” this “circle”:

1. The Jesus story is not primarily for the church, it’s for the world, and therefore we need to have this conversation in and for the public forum. While at this stage it may seem irrelevant to a post Christian society, the testimony of Jesus and the new humanity it announces are both the origin of much that is good in our Western history and the inherent prophetic critique of what has gone so badly wrong. I’m not too bothered about whether of not pet Christian doctrinal positions are offended, but rather to provide the resources for a politics of love that humanity so desperately needs right now.

2. As I understand it, good theology explains events when or after they are happening. A good example of this is Peter’s speech on the day of Pentecost. Who would have been able to extrapolate the events of that day from the words of the Jewish Old Testament prophet Joel before the astonishing events of that day took place? Likewise Paul’s letters take the events of the incarnation that we read about in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as their source and rationale.

3. The generally held view that one or another of Paul’s epistles chronologically preceded or paralleled one or another of the gospels is unproblematic in this light. It is not a question of Paul’s gospel being followed by the church’s gospel but Paul drawing on the oral testimony which was being written even as he was teaching and applying it. So I read Paul in the light of the gospel testimony in which I believe he was writing.

4. However, I have no awkwardness in saying that the testimony to Jesus found in the gospel narrative is the primary source for me. It altogether explains the love encounters with God and people that have characterised my life since childhood. This is in keeping with the point about good theology I made in (2) above. As I see it all knowledge is first existential and relational and only secondarily historical and rational. That’s not to say that I regard the gospel narratives as unhistorical and irrational, but that experiences of self-transcendent love de-imperialise truth. Which is exactly the opposite of what set doctrines, systems or programs tend to do. The latter establish an exclusive body of truth that can be used to curtail progressive thought and the coming fulness of the new humanity whereas the good news of life-giving love, or kenarchy, breaks open new social and political ground in which the multitude of humanity can thrive.

Your comments please!

Posted by: rogermitchell | June 26, 2015

Authority and the Bible

I am honoured to be one of the only non Roman Catholic contributors to the newly published Towards a Kenotic Vision of Authority for the Catholic Church (Council for Research in Values in Philosophy, 2015) and to speak at its launch at the University of London Heythrop College last week. The whole book can be downloaded from the Council for Research and Values in Philosophy http://tinyurl.com/q3vpjxm and my chapter “Authority Without Sovereignty” can be downloaded from my Academia page http://tinyurl.com/novfaov. The chapter has received quite a lot attention, and reflecting on it has caused me to think still more about the far-reaching theological and practical implications of a kenotic understanding of authority.

This morning I have been re-reading Lucy Peppiatt’s important contribution to our understanding of Paul in Women and Worship at Corinth (Wipf & Stock, 2015), preparatory to blogging about it here and reviewing it for a journal. In a nutshell, she proposes that Paul was using a rhetorical strategy to argue against the Corinthian practices of head coverings for women, speaking in tongues all at once and banning married women form speaking out in services. I was struck by her introductory statement “Those who believe that the Bible contains authoritative instruction for Christians in the present are not really at liberty to ignore these passages.” I realized just how differently a kenotic understanding of authority and a sovereignty understanding of authority really are, and I thought again of Derek Flood’s distinction between “unquestioning obedience” and “faithful questioning” in our approach to the scriptures in his book Disarming Scripture (Metanoia Books, 2014) about which I blogged so enthusiastically several posts back. I think it’s the case that the unquestioning obedience approach to the text goes with a sovereignty understanding of biblical authority, whereas the faithful questioning approach fits with a kenotic one. With this in mind it seems to me unlikely that a fully sovereignty approach to biblical authority would ever have given rise to Lucy Peppiatt’s revealing, innovative and I think almost certainly accurate reading of Paul.

This has caused me to recollect again how deep-structural and basic to pretty much everything this issue of the nature of authority is. If it is the exercise of hierarchical power over others, whether it’s for the benefit of the Pax Romana or the supposedly common good, then it will always be the matter of insisting the superiority of one set of ideas and behaviors over another. If it is about a relational, mutual sharing of power for the peace or common good of the multitude, then it will be about finding the maximum potential for collaboration, even including paradox, which “holds together seemingly contradictory truths in order to locate a greater truth” as John Paul Lederach perceptively notes in The Moral Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2005).

I’m reminded of two seminal experiences along the path of life.

The first was when working together interdenominationally with friends who read Paul on women as meaning they could share ‘inspirational’ leadership with men on an equal basis, but not what was regarded as ‘governmental’ leadership. Our friendship had led to a serious working relationship, I think because our common love for the cities of the nation and readiness to lay our lives down for them was pragmatically our deepest value. That’s to say kenotic authority was undergirding our work together. One day, after some months of working together, my friend suddenly blurted out, “I know why you don’t have a problem with women in governmental leadership. You don’t practice or believe in governmental leadership at all – not even for men! In my friend’s assumption about leadership it had to be sovereign, to be over others, if it was governmental. But once he came to realize that it was kenotic authority that was bringing peace to the city, his view of the necessity of sovereign authority fell away.

The second experience related to an anecdotal remark made to me by an official of an evangelical organization when several of us were encouraging them to give more scope to those of us pursuing a radical agenda. I was at first shocked by his response, which was that when he came into his position he had been advised that the proponents of the more conservative agendas were the ones to appease because they were the ones who caused the most trouble, whereas the radicals tended not to insist on their own way in the end, because that was their theological position! Behind the anecdotal advice lay the two kinds of authority, the sovereign and the kenotic. It was, I think, a rather backhanded acknowledgement of where the real spiritual authority is to be found!

Posted by: rogermitchell | June 1, 2015

the radical potential of holy business

I don’t know what you made of the general election result, or what you think about the fairness or otherwise of our current electoral system. But what is for sure is that even if a party had won with an actual overall majority of the votes cast rather than a mere 36.7% it would still be no guarantee of justice, equity or the common good. As I pointed out in the previous post unless there is a change in the individual and corporate values underlying our western democracy the system will continue to give us a world where the rich and powerful always dominate. But most people appear to believe that we have a political system where equality of opportunity really is vouchsafed by the freedom to vote, and that this is somehow enshrined in British history.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the ballyhoo surrounding the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta this coming June 15th. The Magna Carta is frequently pointed to as the closest thing to an original British Constitution enshrining freedom for all. The Scripture Gift Mission, for example, in their special edition of John’s gospel to celebrate this anniversary, describe the Magna Carta as “a charter of liberties signed by King John in June 1215, which established rights and privileges for all.” In fact it was a charter that set out a power stand off between King John and 25 barons, and included various rights for a few aristocrats and freemen but completely ignored the majority of the population.  At the least it marked the progress of the bifurcation of sovereign power and at most the beginnings of its multiplication. It had nothing to do with freedom and justice for the poor and marginalized, but instead ratified the supremacy of the power and wealth that remain the pillars undergirding our society.

Arguably the most deep seated assumption that needs tackling today is that economic considerations should come first in our decision making. This is why I am so encouraged to be questioning this assumption as part of the Host event organized by Business Connect in Jersey this week. For while financial benefit is placed before justice, mercy and love, whether at a personal or a societal level, we will never see real peace and prosperity. Despite the prevailing economic assumptions, there can be no benevolent market without these crucial ethical priorities. If this is obvious to anyone it should be to followers of Jesus and members of his church. “Man shall not live by bread alone” and “seek first the kingdom of God” are central tenets of the Christian testimony. The question of how they have become so displaced and inverted that financial considerations are regarded as determinants for individual and corporate success for all sensible people, Christians included, has been central to my theological research, as readers of this blog and my books and papers will be well aware (See http://lancaster.academia.edu/RogerHaydonMitchell). Walter Brueggermann’s splendid Journey to the Common Good (Louisville Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010) gives a thoroughly complementary perspective.

This week I will explore the radical implications of kenarchy for the holy business of entrepreneurial trade and commerce. I will suggest 1) true financial stewardship is the outworking of love or “seeking first the kingdom of God,” something that Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls the cantus firmus of creation that carries the promise of all the essential resources of food, drink and clothing (Luke 12:31; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, The Enlarged Edition, ed. Eberhard Bethge, London, SCM Press, 1971; 2) this has deep ecological implications because of the exploitation of the planet consequent on the sovereignty system; 3) the personal and corporate cost and challenge of faith involved is great but no more of a faith position than the benevolent hand of the market; 4) the shaking of the financial system since 2008 is a new opportunity for radical change.

I will propose three crucial aspects of kenarchy central to rethinking business: 1) The strategic direction of the 7 foci of kenarchy as economic ethics: instating women, prioritizing children, advocating for the poor, welcoming strangers, reintegrating humanity and creation, freeing prisoners, caring for the sick; 2) The relational nature of all aspects of kenarchy becomes the basis of trade and commerce (“make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16:9); 3)  Kenarchy is not a top down imposed program but a rhythm of subversion and submission that becomes the means to infuse the existing system with the primary motive of love.

Posted by: rogermitchell | April 19, 2015

the selfish vote

Who should I vote for?

This is actually a very ambiguous question. It could be asking which candidate or party should I vote for, or it could be asking on whose behalf should I vote. I think for many people the latter interpretation is obvious, it’s me I should be voting on behalf of. The autonomous me, and my safety, my prosperity, my job, my future. Or if I go a bit wider it would be my family, my social or economic group, my tribe, class, race, locality, age-group and so on.

If I’m moral shouldn’t I vote for the others?

The next generation, the poor, the marginalized, the stranger, those on the receiving end of our government’s economic or foreign policy. I think the answer is yes, for sure. But how many voters are moral? Isn’t the whole idea of the autonomous individual that is at the heart of our western democracy primarily a selfish concept? I think so, and I think it it undermines democracy.  The word democracy comes from the Greek word demos and referred to the common people of the ancient Greek state. So democracy is government of the people by the people for the people. It’s not about autonomy, it’s about the common good, the good of everybody. If I vote for what’s good for me as an individual rather than what’s good for the common people, what Jesus called the multitude, then it’s not a democratic use of the vote but a selfish use. And it’s immoral, sinful, although perfectly legal.

Our current western values need to change

I believe that our values are changing and that many people want, and are working for, moral cultural change throughout society. They need encouragement and resources. Next weekend I’m participating in the Manchester University Lincoln Theological Institute Conference on Self and the City. The aim is to provide serious discussion on how to understand ourselves and how to behave in our changing world.  I shall be giving a paper and chairing a panel discussion on Do Cities Make us Selfish? http://religionandcivilsociety.com/self-the-society-april-2015/?SSScrollPosition=0 Of course we don’t just need theoretical resources, we need the relationships, connections and finances to change the way people think and behave. It takes time, but its happening. Until we change our common morality, the popular vote and our politicians and their parties will continue to promote selfish and partisan policies. The signs are that the British people no longer want business as usual. I hope and pray that the coming election will open up a lot more space for real democracy.

Posted by: rogermitchell | March 9, 2015

doing theology the way Jesus did

As I write this post I am in Mississauga, the overshadowed sister city to Toronto, the original location of the mid nineteen-nineties Pentecostal-Charismatic eruption sometimes known as the Toronto Blessing. It was more properly a Mississauga one, with its roots, as far as I understand them, in the extraordinary egalitarian relationships between early Pentecostal settlers and the Mississauga first nation Canadians. I return here regularly to engage with local facilitators seeking to work out the implications of these recent and more ancient past events for the reversal of hierarchy and the reinstatement of the marginalized, displaced and the poor of the city today.

One of my reasons for being in Mississauga this time is to engage with other thinkers and writers attempting to work out how to do theology the way Jesus did it. Tomorrow I’ll be getting to know new friends who I will be sharing in roundtable discussion with; C. Baxter Kruger the trinitarian thinker well known for his book The Great Dance, and Paul Young, well known for his book The Shack. Other friends will be joining, including Mike Love from Leeds. Michael Lafleur and David Peck will be facilitating and Sam Cooper and the Meadowvale Christian Reformed Church will be hosting. The idea is to make some of these discussions available online and I will provide links via this blog and twitter in due course.

On the way over I read Derek Flood’s new book Disarming Scripture.
This is a crucial book, and having already seen excerpts, I’ve set it as a key text for the “Peace, Reconciliation and the Politics of Jesus” module that I will be teaching for the Westminster Theology Centre from September 2015 http://www.wtctheology.org.uk/  I made no mistake! His chapters on “Reading the Bible Like Jesus Did”, and “A Practical Guide to Enemy Love” are particularly helpful and complementary to my own work. I couldn’t recommend it more highly for those struggling to do theology the way Jesus did! His description of Jesus’ approach to the Old testament Scriptures as faithful questioning as distinct from unquestioning obedience liberates us from sovereignty-bound misunderstandings of lordship and rulership. It’s great stuff. He deals head-on with the infamous genocide passages and notes the way that Jesus and Paul boldly and unapologetically excised violent passages in their exegesis and application of the OT to their contemporary scene.

Posted by: rogermitchell | February 8, 2015

more on ISIS and loving one’s enemies

This coming week I will be getting down to work on expanding the paper I gave at the Lincoln Theological Institute conference on Post-liberalism, Individualism and Society back in the summer. This is for a volume my friend Benjamin Wood is editing that is due to be published later this year. Its title then was Individuals: our autonomous selves or the loved others http://tinyurl.com/loex9zx. The task is to consider the historical formation of these two perspectives. As I’ve been contemplating this I’ve been reflecting once again on how much our deep-seated mindsets influence the way we respond to practical political issues, and our ability to communicate our perspectives to others. Practical evidence of this can be found in conversations that continue on this blog arising from comments on my post several months back on “What’s the alternative to meeting ISIS violence with violence?”

A big thank you for all who have engaged with what was a very serious post on how to respond to violent enmity, and especially the one or two who took time to enter into robust discussion. One such is Sidney Cordle of the CPA http://www.cpaparty.net/ who seemed to agree with a lot of what I had to say up until the point that I suggested the need for dialogue between Christians, Muslims and other people of faith who have a heart for peace and have some understanding of what makes the ISIS extremists tick. It seems that his perspective on the Muslim scriptures simply does not allow him to believe that it is possible to be a true Muslim and a person of peace. He presented a list of Koran quotations to prove his point. My attempt to point out that this approach to relegating all Muslims to fundamentalism was foreign to the testimony to Jesus and his kingdom of peace simply elicited more of the same.

As I understand it Jesus’ approach to the ‘other’ whose faith was not the same as the Jewish tradition was not to argue theoretical points of belief but look for the fruit of their lives. Witness the story of the woman at the well, his commendation of the Roman centurion and the parable of the good Samaritan. With due respect to Sidney, a mindset on truth that holds people to the propositional statements of their scriptures rather than looking for the image of God and potential for the revelation of the Spirit is a sovereignty approach to God and truth rather than a loving kenotic one. The latter refuses to regard anyone from a human point of view, as Paul puts it “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor 5:16 RSV).

I contend that many Muslims are among those that Jesus identified as people of peace (Lk10:6). In any case on my reading of the testimony of Jesus even my enemies are the loved other and this includes ISIS extremists.  Muslim friends who pour their time and energy into community action and cohesion and search with me for kenotic sources of love for the other in their scriptures and faith tradition are no way to be lumped together with violent extremists. Sidney particularly takes issue with the Koran’s teaching about the cross and the resurrection, and of course I agree with him that their position leaves them with a diminished Jesus and loses the heart of the incarnation. Those familiar with my research on Church, Gospel and Empire will be familiar with the view that the partnership of church and empire in Western Christian history did something pretty similar (See Church, Gospel & Empire and The Fall of the Church). Nevertheless, the interest that my Muslim friends locally have in the person and life of Jesus seems to me full of exciting points of synergy for peace-building and nonviolent ways of dealing with ISIS. My participation in the recent Christian/ Muslim Encounters Jesus Conference organized together with the Richardson Institute for Peace Studies of which I am the external partnerships coordinator only served to confirm this.

So let’s continue this important dialogue please!

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