Posted by: rogermitchell | October 10, 2022

Kenosis and Queen Elizabeth II

I’ve taken some time to reflect on the passing of the Queen before setting out this brief post. Not surprisingly, given my negative approach to sovereignty which I regard as alien to the character of God, at least as the word has generally come to be understood, I’m not much given to sovereigns!

However, given that we have a sovereign in the UK and for seventy years Queen Elizabeth II was ours, it is relevant to assess what she did with her role. For sure she did not give it up or call into question. But the general consensus, with of course some exceptions, is that she carried out her role on behalf of the people of the UK, and the other realms of which she was head of state, together with her leadership of the Commonwealth of nations, with a considerable degree of humility. Judging by her chosen readings for her funeral she did her best to find divine help in this, and seems to have understood something of God’s extraordinarily kenotic approach to leadership.

The core statement at the heart of the funeral service was from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 24, “then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”

In other words Jesus is not about handing the Father all rule, authority and power but abolishing all of it, which is what he came to do. So how much did the Queen operate in this spirit of abolition? This is not a silly question. I have friends who have sensed extreme dominatory power in her presence. Nevertheless, there does seem to have been quite some life-laying-down loving going on by many accounts. Why is this important? Because if she sat at the heart of our system of money, status and power, which is ultimately undergirded by violence, as was obvious in the pomp and circumstance of her funeral procession, yet was doing so even some of the time in an opposite spirit to sovereign hierarchy, then it is a mark of serious hope. It means that she substantiated a measure of subversion that connected to the cross and resurrection of Jesus and what it stands for. Namely the emptying out of the toxic and destructive elements of rule, authority and power. This kind of subversive politics is what some of us configuring a politics of love call kenarchy. Was Queen Elizabeth II a covert kenarchist, at least some of the time? Well I’d like to think so! But that’s what a kenarchist probably would think wouldn’t they?

Anyway, whatever your view of the late Queen, if you want to catch up with the latest thinking on kenarchy, I’m very glad to announce that The Kenarchy Journal Volume Four is now published and can be viewed here: http://www.kenarchy.org.

This is the first edition in partnership with the Institute For Religion, Peace and Justice, http://www.irpj.org, as their academic journal, an exciting development that will extend the scope and reach of the journal. There are a new features you might find useful; a book review section and the opportunity to engage with authors on Zoom. We look forward to meeting some of you at the webinars!

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Posted by: rogermitchell | August 18, 2022

WOKE

Last week I presented a paper at the Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies at Queens College on the topic “The capacity of shared stories to function as myth and encourage inclusive participation.” Once I’ve put it into decent literary order you will be able to read it on my academia site and it will probably be a chapter in a book coming out of the symposium. One of the other presentations was given by Asger Trier, a Danish Jewish independent scholar and journalist, on the subject of “Woke.” He raised several important questions about cancel culture and platforming but then shocked me by suggesting that the pulling down of the statue of the Bristol slave trader Edward Colston was a step too far. I challenged him on this in the discussion after his paper with the result that we became good friends. He then asked if he could interview me for his TV channel, which we recorded the following afternoon. I think it raises interesting points about love’s response to conspiracy theories, populism and the reality of evil, as well as the Poverty Truth Commission among other things. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/cwRk_hBlYbA The brief introduction is in Danish, of course, but the rest is English.

Please feel free to comment if you wish!

Posted by: rogermitchell | February 28, 2022

more about the cross

As I promised in the previous post, here I explore some of the apostle Paul’s thinking in his letter to the Romans in the light of his original encounter with Jesus. This will be challenging for some of us because many of our traditions have tended to interpret Jesus in the light of Paul, rather than interpret Paul in the light of Jesus. Nevertheless, Paul’s introduction to his letter encourages us to do exactly that. The first seventeen verses of chapter one are focused almost entirely on Jesus, and it is to strengthen the Roman believers’ understanding of this that he longs to see them face to face and is now writing to them (vv8-15). Paul introduces himself as “a bond servant of Jesus Christ,” (v1), “set apart for the gospel of God concerning his Son,” (v3), “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, among whom you are also the called of Jesus Christ” (v4). Paul is not ashamed of this Jesus gospel because in it “the righteousness of God is revealed” for us to continually put our faith in (v17), an emphasis that he returns to whenever his discussions could be thought to point in any other direction! (See Ch 3:22ff; Ch 4:5ff; Ch 5:1,2; Ch 9:32; Ch10:6 etc).

So when Paul declares that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the unrighteousness of those who suppress the truth (v18), it is vital to beware of tripping over the word wrath and shifting away from the emphasis on Jesus in our attempt to understand what Paul is saying. For despite the prevalence of the word wrath in most translations, the primary sense of the word orgÄ“ in the Greek is ‘desire’ or ‘passion’. And Paul has just been emphasising the revelation of Jesus, in whom the desire and passion of God is revealed. So we need to remember that the passion of God against “all unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth” (v19), is revealed in Jesus who said “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” In his life and teaching this passion manifests as identification with, and salvation for, the victims of unrighteous suppression and not first of all as judgement against the perpetrators. Which passion, surprise, surprise, is exemplified in the seven core expressions of the incarnation which sum up the good news of the kingdom of God, or kenarchy. So God’s desire, God’s passion, in the face of the suppression of women, children, the poor, the stranger, the creation, the prisoner and the sick, is to bring justice and peace to them. This was of course what got him crucified, as it was the complete opposite of the unrighteousness of Rome and its puppet rulers in Israel.

It is important to remember that this was originally Paul’s own difficulty as Saul of Tarsus. He was both a Jewish Pharisee and a Roman citizen for whom Jesus’ reversal of the inequalities undergirded by the hypocritical use of law by Jewish and Roman authorities alike made him the goad that Paul kicked against to the extent of persecuting and at times even murdering his followers from city to city (Acts 26:14). So it’s hardly surprising that the relationship between the gospel of love, and law, is such a central theme in his letter to both Jew and Gentile believers in Rome. As he makes clear in chapter two, everybody suppresses the truth in one way or another, so should not judge anyone else. And what a relief to be reminded that according to Paul’s gospel, everyone’s secrets will be judged through Jesus (Ch 2:16) who did not come to punish the world but to save it!! We will look further at how Paul expands on all this in a subsequent post.

For now it is important to emphasise that the cross was Rome’s instrument of punishment, not God’s, and the place where the unrighteous suppression of the truth came to a head. At the cross Jesus was not being punished by God, but by the Romans, their Jewish puppet leaders and their oppressive domination system. God, in Jesus, turned it into the greatest transcendent meeting place of all time where God’s love and mercy soaked up with his own blood all the oppression meted out by the enemies of love and justice even though it killed him. He then demonstrated the power of love and mercy by rising again from the dead. That’s the gospel. That’s what, as I understand it, happened at the cross. It was the crunch point, the fulness and fulcrum of the incarnation and the consummation of Jesus’ messianic life-giving kenarchy. The ultimate tipping point of God’s indestructible kingdom of love and mercy. This is what we are invited to receive and live by faith!

There is nothing theoretical about this. It is why we can say with confidence that the kind of violent oppression being meted out by Putin’s cronies and armies against the Ukrainian people at this time cannot ultimately succeed. It is also why the “holier than thou” judgements of Western nation state leaders presiding over injustices other than outright war on their neighbours’ cities, tend to suppress the truth about their own regimes. Regimes which, as ever, use law to mask the deeper underlying commitment to power and money that our Western liberal democracies remain mainly about. In the face of it all, nevertheless, transcendent love and mercy remain for us to encounter and be transformed by!

Posted by: rogermitchell | February 22, 2022

Thinking about the cross

I have been planning a series of blogs about Jesus and the cross for some time. Just recently my friend Keith Wilkinson asked for some greater clarity on my thinking about this, and although I’m still busy with my novel, I decided to make a start. As he put it in his email to me “I was very impressed by your attitude to Penal Substitution as came out in those Martin Scott interviews and I asked about it before, I think.” (You can find those conversations here: https://wordpress.com/post/rogerhaydonmitchell.wordpress.com/6665).

Keith continued, “But I am not sure where the line falls. After all it is an article of faith that Christ died for our sins. Is it the why? Or is it the implication that God is angry at us and takes his anger out on Jesus? I am just not clear. It is not a problem to me personally. I can accept the Kenarchy concept and its implication in the way we should live our lives but the Theology is a bit murky. I hope you can see my concern in the light of Romans.”

In order to understand why I have such a negative attitude to penal substitution I need us to take a step back and remember the key assumption of kenarchy, which is the gospel statement of Jesus’ testimony “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (John 14: 9). This statement does not of course mean that God is male, the scripture is quite clear that human beings are created male and female in God’s image (Genesis 1: 27; 5: 3), and so God is both father and mother. In declaring that he reveals God as Father means that the affirming voice and character of the Godhead is heard and seen in the words, character and actions of Jesus. Nowhere in the words, character and actions of Jesus is any suggestion that he, and therefore God, is a judge inflicting a penalty on the human race which only a substitutionary blood sacrifice can appease. Far from it, “for God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3: 17). Some people cite Mark’s testimony to refute this, “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). However, I suggest that it does the opposite, for there is a world of difference between a penalty and a ransom. A penalty is due to the victim themself, whereas a ransom is paid to a person holding a victim captive in order to secure their release. If this is what the Father does then it is a completely different and positive intervention that we will look at in a further post.

Jesus’ approach to those who were stumbling in the dark, lost, perishing, unable to find a way through was to meet them where they were and reveal himself to them. As John’s gospel immediately previously and famously puts it, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16). Nothing less than that explains his initial encounter with his fisher disciples who simply left their nets and followed him. Probably the most explicit encounter was the one with the outcast woman at the well who in the space of a brief conversation became the first person to fully realise who he was and take on the men of her village, persuading them to recognise him too.

It follows that the Father’s desire is to meet us in a transcendent loving encounter and invite us to enter into a lifelong relationship with him. This is the good news that I encountered personally at the age of sixteen and has remained my experience in the proceeding fifty-eight years. This is the good news that the apostle Paul encountered on the road to Damascus and never forgot (Acts 9: 4-18; 22: 6-21; 26: 12-18). This was the assumed unshakeable basis of his life and ministry and his theology of the cross needs to be read through this lens, something which we will attempt to provide some examples of in the next post.

Suffice it to say at this point, that as any other father, mother, brother, sister, or friend can surely affirm, the very idea that a loving father would place his child under a legal obligation to obey him under penalty of death is unthinkable. To add to this the idea that deciding that his older son would be killed as a penal substitute for the life of his brother who broke the father’s law is quite simply wicked. Such a father would fit the image of the dreadful person who causes “the least of these little ones to stumble” in the gospel narrative (Matthew 18: 6), and such a god would be banished from the kingdom of heaven on Jesus’ own testimony.

Enough to be going on with. More to follow in a day or two!

Posted by: rogermitchell | September 10, 2021

What I’m up to

I am aware that I haven’t blogged since June and am grateful to still have traffic nonetheless. Thank you one and all! But I thought I should explain what I’m currently up to. Basically I am head down writing the first of a series of hopefully four novels – a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy focusing on the four windows or conduits that I traced in my research as set out in Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West and the more accessible The Fall of the Church. The plan is to offer another way into the good news of the politics of love and how the church and its message became increasingly subsumed by sovereignty and empire, particularly in the West, and to point the way ahead. This is quite some task and requires time and focus. Hence my failure to blog more frequently.

However there are other places to keep up with me for those who would like to. I post regularly on Twitter https://twitter.com/roghaydonmitch?lang=en and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/rogerhaydon.mitchell, and various published articles and papers can be found on my Academia site https://wtctheology.academia.edu/RogerHaydonMitchell. Exciting research and writing that continues to explain, develop and apply kenarchy can be found in the first two volumes of The Kenarchy Journal http://www.kenarchy.org of which I am the lead editor. Volume Three is due to be published by the end of this year.

I will not be stopping blogging altogether, and from time to time I will reblog material from other sites, such as Clarion https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/ and Perspectives https://3generations.eu/posts/, where kindred spirits to mine locate!

Posted by: rogermitchell | June 7, 2021

what does the future hold?

I’m all masked up and behaving myself! I’m on my first train journey since the beginning of the pandemic, travelling to the burial of my last remaining close relative from my mother’s generation, her sister in law, my aunt. I now belong to the generation of the “great uncle”! Here in the UK we are living with the unknowns of the maybe “post-pandemic” era, but maybe not, given the ferocity of the delta variant. Nevertheless the rollout of vaccinations so far seems defining for the UK at least. (I’m fully vaccinated with Pfizer jab and have been very well so far throughout the lockdowns and since). Right now I am reading the current edition of the New Statesman on the theme of the “Return of the West” and the article by Jeremy Cliffe on that topic. He suggests three possibilities for the West. His analysis of the history and character of the West isn’t bad from the perspective of my own thesis (see Church, Gospel and Empire, How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West, Wipf & Stock, 2011, and The Fall of the Church, Wipf & Stock, 2013). He recognises its rootedness in Greece and Rome, the rise of Judaeo Christian culture in Europe via Renaissance, Enlightenment and the rise of the modern state. He doesn’t offer any critical approach to sovereignty but sets out the history pretty clearly.

Cliffe positions his article, not surprisingly, in the context of the G7 summit being held between the 11th and 13th June in Cornwall, UK. Looking forward from the summit, he imagines three scenarios for the West: the gloomy one: permanent decline, in which China dominates and the West turns inward to self preservation, or maybe even into conflict with China; an upbeat one: in which there is a reassertion of Western strengths with green industries renewing its economies and societies while China experiences internal strains resulting in more of a balance between East and West; and finally a middle ground in which aspects of Western values and power endure but others fragment, leading to a more “Eurasian” Europe drawn into China’s economic orbit midway between China and America, and resulting in debates over whether the West is a values led project or an exclusivist, civilisational one. Not unexpectedly, he opts for the middle-ground as the most likely and which he regards as a better bet than self-pity and declinism. The West may be doomed to retreat, but given “there is no way of knowing that for sure”, as he puts it, and doom scenarios may be self-fulfilling, one might as well hope for the best. A pretty lame conclusion you will probably agree!

But what if we go with my thesis that the West is the progeny of empire, the culmination of the mistaken choice of sovereignty as the way to peace? And what if the sovereignty of nation state capitalism is destined to go the same way as the sovereignty of nation state communism did in the former USSR, as Sue and I argued in our book Target Europe (Sovereign World, 2001)? In which case both China and the West are going to unravel together with populism, autocracy and the rest of the sovereignty forms of government. But does it follow that the consequent confusion is bound to increase into ever greater chaos? I think not. But our response can’t be a shallow resumption of hope.

As I have argued now in many posts, books, chapters, articles and podcasts, the answer resides in the politics of love that the gospel Jesus enacts and many related sources in world religion and human history echo. I love the message of the Old Testament book of Daniel that the testimony of Jesus draws on its announcement of the kingdom of God, and that friends of this blog and The Kenarchy Journal http://www.kenarchy.org have configured as kenarchy. The dreams of the emperor Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel saw and interpreted decreed the eventual end of empire and its sovereign power. They conceived instead, not ultimate chaos, but the ascendancy of the progeny of love. This is not a vain hope today. Rather, the politics of love are on the increase in our cities and localities (see my article “What Are the Politics of Love?” in the Global Discourse Journal: Cultivating New Postsecular Political Space, Taylor & Francis, 2018, & Routledge, 2019 https://www.academia.edu/38059560/What_are_the_Politics_of_Love ). This is my faith, rooted in a past and present messianism: love will triumph in and through the chaos. Don’t give up. This is what we were made for!

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.

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