Posted by: rogermitchell | April 5, 2021

Core theology in bite size chunks

I have blogged previously on the way that intercessory prayer prepared the way for intercessory theology. That is to say that in the forward movement of the life of the kingdom of God, at the dawn of what might be the third millenium after Christ, the trinity prompted our collaboration first in prayer and then in radical theology. This past Good Friday my friend Martin Scott recorded four 12 minute interviews with me on some of those aspects of theology that I regard as core. The idea is to make my books and writings more accessible by offering a brief way in.

Please excuse my occasional over-enthusiasm that causes me to insert my head too far up the camera!

You can find these on YouTube as follows

basics:

sovereignty:

the cross:

the politics of love, or kenarchy:

If you want to dig deeper, then as well as trawling this blog you might want to have a look at my Academia site:

https://wtctheology.academia.edu/RogerHaydonMitchell

Posted by: rogermitchell | March 19, 2021

Coming out the other side!

Like so many, I’ve been thinking, listening, conversing and strategising with those I love and trust about coming out the other side of the pandemic. As a result I have some resources to recommend and look forward to adding more in the coming days and weeks.

To begin with, I’m excited by The Kenarchy Journal Volume Two. If you haven’t encountered it yet you can do so here: http://www.kenarchy.org.

Volume One focused on three of the primary foci of kenarchy: instating women, advocating for the poor, and reintegrating humanity and the environment. Volume Two, published earlier this week, builds on the starting points of Volume One with articles focusing on prioritising children, restoring justice to prisoners and welcoming strangers. I particularly commend Sunita Abraham’s article on Reparative Love and Marisa Lapish’s on Casting Stones at Laws Cast in Stone, although I heartily recommend it all! The Journal exists to promote applied research and activism around the values of love that are the real hope for any configuration of “building back better” or “levelling up” that doesn’t amount to just another version of the old normal. We are now inviting submissions for Volume Three which will focus on healing the sick with a particular emphasis on the theology of nations and their healing. You can submit an abstract here: https://kenarchy.org/contact/

Secondly, I would like to draw attention to my friend Lee Ann Thompson’s recently published book Finding Veronica: Essays in Feminine Restoration.

As I have made clear on this blog over the last year Patriarchy is truly “weighed in the balances and found wanting” Daniel-style, and must surely now come down! See https://rogerhaydonmitchell.wordpress.com/2020/07/20/undoing-structures-of-patriarchy. Lee Ann’s collection of essays is packed with thought provoking material that instates women and there is surely no way ahead otherwise. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Lee+Ann+Thompson%3A+Finding+Veronica&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Thirdly, if you haven’t yet read Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger (London: Aster, 2020) you should!

This is revolutionary love with gut wrenching authenticity from a Sikh daughter of peace to challenge and catalyse disciples of Jesus to embrace the intersectional human others as they seek and find the kingdom of God with ever increasing intensity. This raises plenty of inescapable and crucial questions about what love is, what non-violence is, who and what we can and can’t embrace and what happens next, but hers is an undeniably prophetic voice of the moment.

What all these recommendations have in common is a vision and commitment for a different and sustainable future for people and planet in line with Jesus’ prayer to an utterly kenotic loving Father, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”

Posted by: rogermitchell | February 23, 2021

Why the NASA Mars initiative bothers me

I just turned off BBC newsnight as Emily Maitliss began a very upbeat introduction to their item on the Mars landing and the extractive investigation of the solar system that it embodies. She said that it was a good antidote to staring at our restrictive four walls in the pandemic lockdown. I found myself wondering why I immediately and quite aggressively turned it off and what my irritation was based in. After all I believe the whole cosmos to be the outworking of the loving intentions of an amazing creator whose image we share. Why am I not overwhelmingly intrigued and motivated by such an extraordinary scientific achievement and the opportunity to see photographs of Mars never previously seen?

It didn’t take me long to articulate why, and here I am writing it down. We are in the middle of a climate emergency of humungous proportions https://climateemergencydeclaration.org/. Our extractive engagement with our own planet is currently destroying it and we need all the scientific expertise and finance available to solve this now, for our planetary coinhabitants and our children’s children. Hands off Mars and the rest of the solar system until we have proved ourselves capable of writing the wrongs done by humanity to our own planetary home. I suppose it is remotely possible to argue that if we discover that there was intelligent life on Mars in the past we might discover that they too ruined their planet and how and why. But how much more urgent to act on what we know already about what we have done to our earth and do what we already know we need to do to remediate it before it is too late!

Posted by: rogermitchell | December 31, 2020

A dire day and little rant!

I am so sorry that today has come and tomorrow the UK will be outside the EU.

Brits like me, who see themselves as firstly European and only secondarily, in my case, as English, are now involuntary exiles, disenfranchised and without the freedom of movement with which we have enjoyed our extensive homeland throughout our adult lives. Earlier today the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured us that the UK is still part of Europe and we haven’t left the continent, only the EU, but that is small comfort given that we can no longer exercise our democratic vote, live and work anywhere we wish in our twenty-seven brother and sister nations and visit and receive visits from our European friends whenever and for as long as we wish. What is worse is that we have cast aside the real vision for the European Union, which was not primarily just a trading block but a growing community of peace and mutuality.

Worst still is that the misguided desire for the sovereignty of little Britain has won the day.

A dark stream that has long haunted our history, rooted knowingly and unknowingly in a horrid British exceptionalism, xenophobia and white supremacy has surfaced. Sooner rather than later the destructive implications of all this for human flourishing across our islands will become obvious, and the task of restoration will gain support. But I remain sad that this setback to overall wellbeing has come to pass. As I have said before in previous posts, I have friends and relatives who voted leave and who are good people. What I am not prepared to say is that they were right. I thoroughly love and forgive them, but I think that their action is having and will continue to have dire consequences on life in these islands particularly among the young, the poor, immigrants and asylum seekers and those to whom the kingdom of God primarily belongs.

Posted by: rogermitchell | December 17, 2020

The great deception

All my work, since I returned to academic research in 2005, has centred around the task of uncovering and resisting the deceit that peace and human flourishing comes through the possession of sovereignty. That is to say that the rich and powerful state establishment, and the institutions that they occupy or devise, are always and only the ones to be trusted to lead a particular people group forward. The very concept of the nation state comes from this deception. Our Western representative democracy is currently overlaid on this deception. Which is why those who manage to displace or replace the existing establishment only make a superficial difference and tend to become the rich and powerful themselves.

Kenarchy, a practice of life developed from the grassroots politics of Jesus and the divinely human emotions of love, care and solidarity has developed as an antidote to this deception. This is the subject of my seminal book Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West (Wipf & Stock 2011) and the related, more readable The Fall of the Church (Wipf & Stock 2013) and with Julie Tomlin and friends Discovering Kenarchy (Wipf & Stock 2014). Hence my opposition to Brexit, of course, which has been the most recent British manifestation of this deception. It is the reason that I have no confidence whatsoever in the current government that have come to power precisely on the basis of a hightened commitment to this long outmoded politics. They are now floundering in the shallows of chaos and destruction consequent on it and are about to take us further into its depths.

Fortunately, this deception has run its course, and while it is on track to ruin the central government of these islands, it won’t withstand the healthy, grass roots, more local movements of love, care and solidarity that are emerging everywhere. Thankfully, as I suggested in my last post, these movements are in fact urged on by the local response to austerity policies consequent on the 2008 economic shaking, and now by the response to the needs brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. It is my hope and conviction that the destructive effects of Brexit will provide similar opportunity and the government’s foolhardy attempt to supposedly restore our sovereignty will prove redemptive in the long run. But in the meantime, those newly joining the ranks of lived experience of poverty, and those whose urban and rural livelihoods are under threat are facing great privations as a result of the sovereignty deceit and those who prolong it. So there can be no apathy from those of us who understand this! Instead there needs to be renewed resolve to engage locally among strangers, friends and neighbours in our towns, cities, villages and suburbs to fulfill the angels’ famous words to the shepherds that first Christmas: “Peace on earth, goodwill among all people.”

Posted by: rogermitchell | November 14, 2020

Time to cultivate local social and economic space!

I don’t believe that central government can resolve the current needs of the UK at this time. Neither the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, the implications of Brexit, the NHS, education, community cohesion nor the social and economic circumstances or the poor, the disabled or the otherwise marginalised – in sum the issues of our time – can or should be left to them. Of course we should expose, challenge, disregard or affirm central government as occasion arises. But doing so is not the priority. Our local towns and cities and their rural hinterland are where we can make a significant difference and real change is possible. It is here that the horizontal politics of love can heal and transform our lives and ultimately undermine the domination of money, status and power that undergirds our current centralised government system. I gave a talk last year at the Morecambe Bay Love and Kindness conversations which spells this out and which you can listen to here if you have not done so already https://reimagininghealth.com/love-politics-part-3-roger-michell/

I am glad to say that both theoretical and practical resources are springing up throughout these islands to help us in our local action for overall wellbeing. Below are some that I have a hand in. My hope is that those who follow this blog, together with the clickers and surfers who pass through it daily, will comment with news and links to similar initiatives and help nourish and fertilise them. Some of you will be able to engage with what we are doing here, others will hopefully be encouraged and resourced to continue and expand what is happening in your own localities.

Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission http://www.morecambebaypovertytruthcommission.org.uk/

Morecambe Bay Love and Kindness Movement http://lovemorecambebay.co.uk/

The Lancaster University Centre for Alternatives to Social and Economic Injustice http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/casei/

The Lancaster University Social Action Research Group https://lancasteruniversitysocialactionresearch.com/

It is my hope that The Kenarchy Journal http://www.kenarchy.org will help undergird these many developments. I particulary commend Spencer Paul Thompson’s substantial article “The Commodified Christ and the Economics of Jubilee” https://kenarchy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Kenarchy_Volume1.7.pdf. Whether or not you are a person of Christian faith you will find it illuminating and challenging.

Posted by: rogermitchell | October 24, 2020

Why do Children go Hungry?

My good friend Dr Andy Knox has responded to the current UK crisis of child poverty in his most recent blog post. I’m with him all the way on this!! https://reimagininghealth.com/while-children-go-hungry/#top_page

Many Christians and churches across the world have been implying that the pandemic is God’s punishment for the sins of twenty-first century nations. I strongly disagree and encourage Christian friends who are tempted to think this way to think again. My good friend Brad Jersak deals with this question in the latest edition of Clarion: Journal of Religion, Peace and Justice. I recommend his response to you.

https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2020/07/qr-with-brad-jersak-2-chronicles-7-and-the-pandemic.html

Posted by: rogermitchell | July 20, 2020

Undoing structures of patriarchy

Those familiar with my theological research and writing will know that I regard our contemporary Western system as a continuation and consummation of empire. The good news is that this may at last be coming to an end, and the redemptive potential of the coronavirus and its aftermath is that it is accelerating this. In my view, patriarchy has been a core structure within this system and it too must come to an end if we are to find a new genuinely collaborative and loving way of life. It is my conviction that it is the task of the politics of love to hasten the end of the Western empire and the undoing of patriarchy. As you might expect, I believe that the gospels can help us with this.

Last week Sue and I were reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ address to the crowds and his disciples about the patriarchal empire system of his day of which the scribes and Pharisees were key promoters and representatives. This was clearly seen in their role in the world of fashion, culture, religion and commerce. As Jesus puts it “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men.”

Jesus then proceeds to make four very strong statements about the motives of these social pillars followed by three uniquivocal directives to his followers that undo the structures that this kind of behaviour upholds. “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.”(Mtt 23:5-10)

In exposing and cutting these deep roots of empire it seems to me that Jesus identifies a strategy that can begin to undo the endemic institutional structures of patriarchy. If we undo these three core elements of empire then other evils will begin to unravel with them. If no-one elevates the role of teachers, fathers and religious or political leaders over others then the demonic hierarchies of men over women and white supremacy will begin to come down. Let none of us think that this is going to be easy. It’s about both how we view others and how we view ourselves. Let’s be clear right away that this is not decrying teaching, fathering or leading. Jesus commissioned his disciples to teach the nations (Mtt 28:20), affirmed the exhortation to honour father and mother (Mtt 19:19) and gave the twelve leadership roles (Mtt 10:5ff).

At issue is the use of the roles of teacher, father and leader as a means of acquiring honour and position for oneself, compared to others, and thereby affirming the hierarchical organisation of the governing institutions of the social order. The key clarifying statement is later in the chapter which records the list of Woes that Jesus unleashes on these selfsame scribes and Pharisees. Jesus uses his famous metaphor of “white washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones” to describe them. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Mat 23:28). More than anything this is about an appearance of propriety which in fact covers up self promotion. Self promotion, or what the apostle Paul calls “vainglory” (Phil 2:3) is the fulness of lawlessness. Drawing on apparently proper laws and protocols it actually conceals “all uncleanness” (Mtt 23:27). Titles that harness teaching, fatherhood and leadership in the cause of self promotion are primary levers of institutional patriarchy, prejudice and injustice.

While it is good to be a teacher, father or leader it is not okay to turn these jobs into positions of power and authority over others. They are roles and can be callings, but they are not hierarchical titles or positions. Titles entitle and entitlement is one of the worst characteristics of empire. Entitlement carries the assumption that some jobs, tasks and identities are intrinsically and self apparently more worthy of respect than others. They are not. While the scribes and Pharisees were political players they were religious leaders. Given that Jesus’ woes were reserved for them and his warnings were directed to his followers and disciples, I conclude that the gravest kind of patriarchy is to be found among those men who use their expertise in teaching, fathering and leading to carve out for themselves positions of entitlement in the ecclesia or to advance their role in the workplaces of the world. Those familiar with my post-renewal ecclesiology will know that I understand the primary task of the ecclesia to be repositioned in the world for the overall wellbeing of the whole family of humanity and the cosmos. Hence the behaviour of Jesus’ followers within the life of the city and the spheres of society absolutely matters and is essentially counterpolitical. We are here to embody and embed the politics of love, not to take power for ourselves.

This has set me doing some deep thinking personally. Being awarded a doctorate for my theological research nine years ago was incredibly healing for a working class boy. It has also enabled me to speak up for the poor and the oppressed and to challenge the empire system. I think that academic, ecclesial and political titles can do the same for women and those from oppressed racial groupings. But I am aware that for me at least it can be a cover for the self promotion and personal entitlement that maintains patriarchy. So I’ve decided to stop using the title doctor. I will use the letters PhD and describe my role in various academic workplaces where it helps give validity to my theological writings and activism, but I’ll get rid of the title from now on!

Posted by: rogermitchell | June 7, 2020

Unhelpful mindsets (2)

As we have seen in the previous post, nation states like Britain and the USA mistook the biblical account of Israel’s stewardship of the land for the blessing of all the families of the earth for a justification of exclusive ownership of land by nations as the original purpose of God. In much the same way the Evangelical and Pentecostal-Charismatic churches have tended to take on a similar view of the church. They have regarded God’s new covenant as the evidence that the church are God’s specially protected favorites on planet earth, rather than the agents of grace for the poor, strangers, and enemies. For this reason the misapplication of God’s covenant with the land of Israel often continues to feature in the church’s expectations for the future. 

1. Ghastly eschatologies

This privileged position for the church is particularly characteristic of the modern dispensational eschatologies that center round the church’s future relationship to an anticipated thousand years of peace. In times of apocalyptic change like the current pandemic some of these ghastly eschatologies are reappearing. These are the amillennial, premillennial, and postmillennial theories that have occupied much theological debate about the end times. It is especially true of the premillennial eschatologies that posit the removal of the church prior to a supposed great tribulation that befalls the rest of humanity before the establishment of a millennial reign of peace centered on a reconstituted Israel complete with Jerusalem and its temple. These theories came to great public prominence in the 1970s through Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and more recently the Left Behind series of books and films from Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. What is distinctive and particularly problematic about these various eschatologies is the assumption that the climax to the salvation story is a new and cosmic Christian empire with Jesus on the throne and the neo-nations of Israel and the church as his ruling cadres. 

The basic problem with these dispensational eschatologies is that they reintroduce the imperial view of God that Jesus came to fulfill and correct. This is by no means a merely esoteric matter of interesting theological speculations on the nature of the end times. These are life and death issues that need to be faced. It is well documented that President George Bush Junior’s policy on the Middle East was directly influenced by such eschatologies.[1] The highly influential worldwide intercessory movement has been at least partly infected by them. In this way they have inadvertently been a means of exacerbating some of the very problems they had intended to overcome and have continued the colonization of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement by biopower (the capitalist economic commodification of everything).

2. A properly incarnational theology

It is not primarily the specifics of an eschatology that makes it ghastly, although for sure some details are quite dreadful, but the theological and political assumptions that drive it. A properly incarnational theology always argues from Jesus to God. This works forwards as well as backwards. That is to say that our expectations about the future peace that Jesus came to bring needs to be of the same substance as the incarnation. Any second coming of the gospel Jesus will manifest the same essential kenotic lordship as the first coming. So we can say that concepts of future victory for the church and judgment on its enemies that run counter to Jesus’ demonstrations of victory and treatment of his enemies cannot belong to the future kingdom of God. This means that a Jesus hermeneutic has to be applied to the epistles as well as the Old Testament and particularly the Revelation. The latter clearly stands together with the few brief passages of Jesus’ own apocalyptic in the counterpolitical stream of the Old Testament prophets. Seen this way the Revelation and Jesus’ apocalyptic are about exposing the here and now of the status quo, more than providing precise details of an as yet unknown future. Once this is understood the Revelation becomes an extraordinarily practical handbook for the radical activism of subversion-submission spelt out in the previous chapter. Martin Scott has helpfully demonstrated this in his exposition of the letters to the seven churches in the first three chapters of Revelation. He applies the message and imagery of the letters to particular city types in order to see how a city and its hinterland might best be developed for the blessing of the nations.[2] In their book Unveiling Empire[3] Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther give a comprehensive overview of what a radical political interpretation of the apocalypse might look like when applied to an imperial society in any generation.

3. The roots of dispensational eschatology

Donald Dayton has done comprehensive work on the rise of the premillennial eschatological theories we have been considering here.[4] He helpfully explores their roots in the tension between the dispensational eschatological views of John Wesley’s eighteenth-century associate John Fletcher and Wesley’s much more this-worldly reformist and incarnational approach. He explores how the futuristic premillennial views came to dominate a century later, particularly as developed in the writings of the Plymouth Brethren evangelist J. N. Darby. Dayton explains this in terms of a deep frustration with the perceived failure of the evangelical justice agenda such as that characterized by Oberlin College despite the fact that, as we have seen already, he regards that movement as itself a primary harbinger of the Pentecostal-Charismatic outpourings. This shows how easily the church becomes vulnerable to a crisis of faith when egalitarian grace fails to be properly earthed and the expected rule of peace seems to be delayed. This is both challenging and encouraging. Challenging, because it shows how the failure to have a properly incarnational perspective reduces the gospel to the expectation that it is merely about immediate breakthrough for personal blessing. It exposes a truncated gospel that assumes that either we get permanently healed or socially freed in the present or we simply wait for our sufferings to be justified sometime in the future. Encouraging, because, notwithstanding the apparent crisis of faith that led to the rise of such ghastly eschatologies, the utter abandonment to God of the late-nineteenth-century people of faith, despite their vulnerability to empire, led to an unprecedented outpouring of transcendent grace.

——————————————————————————————————————–

[1] See, for example, Yaakov Ariel, “Messianic Hopes and Middle East Politics: the Influence of Millennial Faith on American Middle East Policies.” LISA e-journal, Vol IX – n0.1, 2011. Religion and Politics in the English-speaking World: Historical and Contemporary Links

[2] Scott, Impacting the City.

[3] Howard-Brook and Gwyther, Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now.

[4] See Dayton, “The Rise of Premillennialism,” 145.

[5] Hardt and Negri, Multitude, 352.

[6] Ibid., 101.

[7] Negri, Insurgencies, 12.

[8] Badiou, In Praise of Love, 57.

[9] Ibid., 59.

[10] Hardt and Negri, Multitude, 352.

[11] 1 Cor 15:17, 19.

[12] Rom 8:36.

[13] Mayhew, “Turning the Tables, Resurrection as Revolution,” 1.

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