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.

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!

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