Posted by: rogermitchell | February 1, 2017

Stuff I’ve written makes sense of what’s happening right now

The following section of my book The Fall of the Church (Wipf & Stock 2013) summarizes the conclusions of my research set out in more detail in my book Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West (Wipf & Stock 2011). I make five points which are all playing out in front of our eyes. Given that the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation coincides with Brexit and Donald Trump, the failure of the Reformation to truly change things and reverse the Constantinian sovereignty delusion is written large. The inability of the nation state to safeguard the poor and marginalized is exposed for all to see and the fact that fascism and so-called liberal representative democracy are on the same political spectrum is exemplified by the extremes of Brexit and Donald Trump’s America. Neither state communism nor global capitalism can help us now and the real hope for future peace is neither a partnership in sovereignty nor the misguided secular attempt to separate sovereignty from transcendence but the rediscovery of a politics based on a radical transcendence free from sovereign power. This is what I wrote in 2013:

“The simple narrative of the subsumption, or colonization, of transcendence by sovereignty that I am putting forward here, strikes at the heart of all the favored shibboleths surrounding the four defining events of modern Western history referred to above. It also challenges what I perceive to be the fifth, newly emerging one.

To begin with it sets aside the view that the Protestant Reformation brought about a fundamental reform of the Western church and society. While recognizing that the Reformation introduced many to a direct experience of God and made significant inroads into the absolute politics of the sovereign hierarchies of church and empire, this soon transitioned into new forms of hierarchical power represented by the sovereignty of the People, the nation state, and the new capitalism that undergirded it.

Secondly, instead of viewing the nation state and its supposed separation of church and state as a positive development, it sees the nation state as the dependent child of the partnership of church and empire. From this perspective the assumption that the Western democratic nation state upholds the separation of politics and religion is an unjustifiable deception.

Thirdly, rather than regarding the Second World War as a defining fight between an evil fascist empire and a now free West, it contends that the difference between Nazi Germany and the previous empires of Europe was only one of degree. It asserts that its mistake was to attempt the same kind of colonial superiority in the homelands of Europe that the previous European empires had exercised in the more distant continents of Africa, Australasia, and America. Fascism and so-called liberal representative democracy are on the same political spectrum as each other.

Fourthly, it makes the same point about communism and capitalism and suggests that the only fundamental difference between communism and capitalism is that one relies on a socialist form of sovereign power whereas the other relies on a capitalist form. Hence it is to be expected that the collapse of communism in the East, far from vindicating the superiority of the capitalist system of the West, prefigures its inability to deliver the still-expected peace and its own rapid and inevitable decomposition.

Finally it challenges the postmodern insistence that a total break has occurred between the modern world of certainty and moral absolutes and the postmodern world of relativism and pluralism. Based on their opinion that the former disciplinary society was dependent on an enduring transcendence for its operation, Foucault and others with him tried to protect postmodernity from any resurgence of the oppression of Christendom while retaining some hope for a coming peace. Actually the insight and the hope of prophetic thinkers like Foucault and the neo-Marxists could be strengthened by the recognition that biopower is simply part of the genealogy of church and sovereignty. Once we recognize that the subsumed version of the salvation story has consolidated the idea that sovereignty must be bought at the cost of violent victimhood for there to be peace, then it is not hard to see how the nation state ends up devouring itself and its people in order to sustain its sovereignty. As Foucault explains, human life, or biopower, has become the raw material of the machine that drives the Western political system.

From this standpoint it is possible to see that our contemporary conundrum is more than the result of losing Jesus’ loving kenotic lordship, forming a consequential conflictual partnership in sovereignty, and then blaming each other for the destructive fall out. It also presents contemporary evidence of the final destination of the pursuit of sovereignty. Instead of a place of peace, sovereignty reduces humanity to the fodder of the Western capitalist system. Here, the only real value of human life is to supply the circular routine of feeding the sovereignty that oppresses it, and in order to preserve the domination system, I become its victim. The marginalization and powerlessness felt by Christians and secularists alike is coming neither from transcendence nor the fear of it but from the age-old belief that human beings need sovereign power to fulfill their present and future hope for peace. It is a false hope consolidated in the subsumption of transcendence by sovereignty, its embrace by the church, the West’s subsequent narrative of domination, and its various attempts to escape its oppression until its final descent into biopower. It is the message of this book that the real hope for future peace is neither a partnership in sovereignty nor the misguided attempt to separate sovereignty from transcendence but the rediscovery of a transcendence free from sovereign power.”

If you’ve not read The Fall of the Church yet, you can get it by emailing me at info@2mt.org.uk or from Amazon.com if you are in North America https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Church-Roger-Haydon-Mitchell/dp/162032928X.  If you are in the UK you can get it from Amazon.co.uk https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Fall-Church-Roger-Haydon-Mitchell/162032928X

Posted by: rogermitchell | December 24, 2016

My Mum Priscilla Lily Mitchell

We buried my Mum the day before yesterday, she died just short of 103. Mum has been an extraordinary woman. Her indomitable spirit, rooted in a challenging and difficult childhood, tempered with a conscious encounter with God at the early age of eight has made her a highly significant other to many, from her first 30 years in Wimbledon, 10 in Stony Stratford, 58 in Hemel Hempstead and the last 5 in Silverdale and Arnside. We celebrated her life and gave her a good send off at South Hill Church Hemel Hempstead before burying her alongside my Dad in the local cemetery. There were some moving tributes, and many have asked for a record of the poetic tribute given by my son Chris. For those her knew her it encapsulates something of her remarkable personality. For those who didn’t it may resonate as a beautiful summation of a particular kind of lady!

If you like to read and enjoy it click this link: nana

Posted by: rogermitchell | November 11, 2016

We need love now more than ever

I’m not surprised that Donald Trump won the American Presidential election. It is evidence again of the new political space, now approaching a chasm, that has been opening up between the rich and powerful and the rest in the Western world since the economic crisis of 2008.

As I see it, that crisis was evidence of the failure of the sovereignty delusion and the biopolitical system with which it has culminated. As I expose in my research, peace does not come through sovereign power exercised by the rich and powerful through violent military force, diplomacy, law and money in its various transformations throughout the history of the West. This despite the late twentieth century attempts of the Chicago economic school of neo-liberal capitalism embraced by Thatcher and Reagan to let loose the supposedly benevolent hand of the market to create billions of pounds to provide loans to global companies, the commercial property sector, the financial services sector and private property mortgages. That led to rampant globalisation and resulted in primary and secondary industries shifting to where the highest profits could be made.  At the same time it created a property bubble that inflated house prices to the point that mortgages were so large that those at risk through the globalisation shifts, job losses and income insecurities could no longer pay the interest. So the banks and government-backed mortgage companies like Fannie Mae in the USA were threatened with bankruptcy together with the nation states who were their direct or indirect security. Hence the government bailouts, austerity, foreclosures and cuts that have left significant sections of society either actually outside the mainstream socio-economic world or at least consciously struggling to stay within it.

The tragedy is that for those who desperately desire change both in the UK and the USA, and voted for Brexit and Trump, the assumption remains that gaining or regaining sovereign power is the means to achieve it. But it’s not, and Trump with his tower of wealth cannot make America great again in sovereignty terms any more than Brexit will benefit the socially and economically disenfranchised of the UK. The truth is that what is happening is the long drawn out death of empire and there’s no stopping it. Actually this is not all bad, although there will be much pain in the short term.

But there is another way, and the constant recourse to sovereignty simply emphasises how much we need to find it. We need to cultivate this now enormous emerging political space not with the dark forces based on scapegoating perceived aliens and enemies and reconfiguring sovereignty for the promotion of me and mine, but with a completely different kind of power. Rather we need to recognise that the sovereignty system is incapable of bringing peace and is now in terminal breakdown and embrace another direction and lifestyle within and despite it.

Today the Richardson Institute for Peace Studies (the RI) are holding an Infrastructures for Peace day here at Lancaster University with the express purpose of exploring and strengthening other ways than sovereignty with which to cultivate the emerging new political space. Since 2013 the RI has taken up the concept of positive peace developed by Johann Galtung to pre-empt the kind of conflicts currently rampant in many parts of the world. Via the RI Critical Thinking Group we are working to develop a culture of positive peace locally across the region of Morecambe Bay as the means to transcend our current impasse and cultivate the new political space that has opened up. My friend and colleague Dr Jim Paris has laid out our strategy in his two helpful papers that trace the outcome of our meetings and discussions over the last two years.  Based on Galtung’s approach we are working for:

  1. A well-functioning government
  2. A sound business environment
  3. An equitable distribution of resources
  4. An acceptance of the rights of others
  5. Good relations with neighbours
  6. Free flow of information
  7. A high level of human capital
  8. Low levels of corruption
  9. Securing development within and between regions and states that recognises the limits of the earth’s resources

The aim of the day is to progress a culture of peace locally by profiling and developing infrastructures that facilitate the terms of positive peace in Morecambe Bay and to be a catalyst that will inform and encourage others.

One key initiative which we hope will help further these goals locally is the newly forming Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission with its wonderful strap line “nothing about us without us is for us” which exists to place first-hand experiencers of the social alienation we are talking about here at the head of the movement for change.

But  alongside all this I am becoming increasingly convinced that kenarchy is an important potential component of positive peace. It is very encouraging to have both national and local community partners of the RI joining us for the Infrastructures for Peace day who have completed the Political Theology for Peace module that specifically investigates and evaluates this.  (Still time to enrol for this coming Lent Term). While based on the Western Christian narrative it deals with the displacement of the kind of love that the neo-Marxists Hardt and Negri call for in their analysis of the Western sovereignty system in order to motivate a new movement among the multitude. John Burton, one of the early pioneers of Peace Studies and founders of the Conflict Research Society called for a return to the same in the final years of his life.

Today I shall make a call for a politics of love more strongly than ever.  Our current situation in the West demands it.  Nothing less will deeply transform our socio-political culture.  As I’ve previously made clear I really like Thomas Jay Oord’s definition of the word for love found in the testimony of Jesus where he calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. “To love is to act intentionally out of sympathetic/ empathetic response to God and others to promote overall wellbeing.” As I have emphasised in Discovering Kenarchy this love needs to extend to our enemies real or supposed if we are to transform the increasingly conflicted social world of the sovereignty delusion. But we need more than a theoretical definition, or moral imperative. We need to discover love as the apostle Paul describes when he says that love has got him in its grip. We need to discover love as power, as an actual socio-political cultural force.

Posted by: rogermitchell | October 1, 2016

God is about mercy, not sacrifice, and no sparrow is forgotten!

I originally posted this piece back in 2011. I notice that it is still of interest to recent clickers and surfers on this blog and think it may be helpful to current students of my Westminster Theology Centre module on Peace, Reconciliation and the Politics of Jesus. http://wtctheology.org.uk/

Here are the key statements of Jesus on which I wish to comment: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mat 9:13) and “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6).

In order to get to the heart of Jesus’ take on the whole idea of payment and appeasement as a means of relating to God, I think it will help to look at these two sayings of Jesus together. There is something so crucial to his deliberate subversion of the whole empire domination system here, that motivates him to tell the Pharisees in no uncertain terms to “go away and learn what this means.” I suggest that this is central to the mindset change that Jesus wished to accomplish in the incarnation. After all, the sacrifice system and its outworking takes up a significant part of the law and the prophets which he claimed to fulfil.

In a previous post on katargēsis and the temple (April 29th 2011) we have already considered the way that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection brought the whole temple liturgy to an end. He did this by carrying through all that was good from it into his own life and subsequently that of his body of followers. So by insisting that the Pharisees, who were seeking to maintain the law and liturgy, learnt the deeper implications of his desire for mercy not sacrifice, it follows that he was implying that at a deep structural level the temple system itself was about mercy, and not about sacrifice. So what was sacrificed was not about payment and appeasement at all, but about mercy, or as alternatively rendered, compassion. It is very important to get hold of this.

Jesus is not saying that because God is sovereign, and we have offended him by not recognising his authority and keeping his law, we are under his angry condemnation, but then the sacrifice system provides a secondary way of mercy by paying off his intrinsic sovereign offence and anger. It is rather that his mercy is what defines him and not his offended power. God is not an angry God needing to be appeased. He is a merciful, compassionate God desiring mercy and compassion to be shown to all and lived out by all.

Looked at this way the sacrifice system is revealed by the teaching and attitude of Jesus, to be about the primacy of God’s mercy and in need of being re-understood in this way. This is where the sparrow comes in. Because if even “a sparrow that falls” moves God’s heart, how much more does a pigeon, a lamb, a goat or a bull, and even a sheaf of corn. The issue is clearly not monetary value but emotional, creational compassion. Sin is revealed as that which elicits God’s compassion, not his anger, condemnation and offence.

With every sacrifice throughout the whole tabernacle and temple period, God’s heart was shown to be overwhelmed by the effects of human sin, and to be bearing it together in his own heart with the bodies of living manifestations of his own deeply loved creation. The purpose of the sacrifice was not to appease God but to demonstrate and carry away the effects of sin. Sin viewed in this way is that which is unloving and unmerciful, and hurtful of God’s own compassionate heart and creation, not what offends God’s person, hierarchical position or sovereign rule.

This takes a long time to grasp, because God’s sovereignty and its offence is the teaching about God that lies at the foundation of Christendom with its marriage of church and empire. But it is not this kind of God that is revealed in the incarnation, and it is in the light of the incarnation that the Christian disciple is called on to understand and interpret life and the universe, particularly the Old Testament, and not the other way round.

Posted by: rogermitchell | September 16, 2016

Putting Love First

This has been a very busy and eventful two weeks for me, beginning with the Westminster Theology Centre residential at the University of Wolverhampton Telford Campus where I taught my module in Peace, Reconciliation and the Politics of Jesus. If anyone is interested in studying part time with WTC here is the link to their website: http://wtctheology.org.uk/

Then last Friday I gave a talk entitled “Putting Love First” to the Faith in Politics Group at Ashburnham Place. People liked it and my good friend Michael Lafleur from Mississauga, Canada, happened to be there with his wonderful expertise and recording equipment so here it is for anyone one who would like to hear it: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/UCN5W/cm9nZXJAMm10Lm9yZy51aw==

This was followed by the SPARKS event for activists, which was a very stimulating time to say the least. I highly recommend it if you are one, and I will post about next year’s event as soon as the dates are confirmed. In the meantime you can address any inquiries about it via the Ashburnham Place website http://www.ashburnham.org.uk/. And what a place that is!

After Sparks it was a privilege to attend the Ashburnham community celebration around the camp fire on a balmy evening and listen to Brad Jersak present his beautiful Gospel in Chairs. You can access that on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0BUFR9wSko. I highly recommend it.

This was followed on the Monday and Tuesday by a Theology Dig around the theology of the Kingdom of God. There was an extraordinary gang of both academic and ordinary theologians as well as hands-on workers among the poor and marginalised. Watch this space for outcomes in due course!

I returned home to two days of meetings at Cornerstone in Lancaster with theologian Michael Hardin organised by my friend Francis Dawson. Michael is co-editor with Brad Jersak of the excellent compendium on non-violent atonement Stricken by God? https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stricken-God-Nonviolent-Identification-Victory/dp/080286287X. It was wonderful to have Michael staying with us out at the friary here in Silverdale.

Finally can I invite anyone who is looking for the opportunity to apply kenarchy to their daily work lives to consider taking my Lancaster University postgraduate distance learning certificate of accreditation in Political Theology for Peace this coming Lent term? It is very sensibly priced at around £721 for the 10 weeks. Now is the time to register if you are up for this. Here is the link: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/postgraduate-courses/political-theology-for-peace-distance-pgcert-of-achievement/. Don’t be put off by the description “full-time” – that simply means that it takes 10 weeks but is ideal for those in full-time occupation.

 

 

Posted by: rogermitchell | August 23, 2016

Resurrection life and gender relations

I noticed this morning that someone had been reading a post I made some four and half years ago based on Jesus’ response to the Sadducees’ question about the resurrection (Lk 20:37-38). I thought it made some important points that are worth re-posting, so here it is again.  It was in response to this insightful comment:  “So much, much of the structure of our society is based on the questions of reproduction and the relationships between men and women. And Jesus radically challenges all of that. Not only will we live after death but we will live without marriage. That completely shifts the gender relationships and perhaps allows for true equality for women. Remove reproduction and its politics from the picture and gender relations completely change. I assume, since Jesus posits this is a God thing, for the better, much as many will feel that they would be missing something vital to their lives.”

This shift in gender relationships implied by the politics of resurrection, is, I believe, extremely significant. It reinforces the conviction that Sue and I have long shared, that it is important to distinguish between gender and sex. What I am getting at here is that both males and females have a mix of gender chromosomes, and just a small percentage difference is the deciding factor as to whether you end up with a male body or a female body. That is to say that both men and women are on a gender spectrum between masculine and feminine, although their bodily sexual identity is male or female. This suggests that God’s image is the fulness of both genders. Several things follow from this. One is that human fulfilment is unlikely to be circumscribed by sexual ecstasy and the joys of raising children. It’s more likely that both point beyond to a greater fulfilment in reciprocal shared life embodied in the trinity life of God that we are created to share with humankind in the context of the rest of the creation.  My point here is that affirming and sharing different aspects of gender in each other is even more important in deciding and fulfilling human behaviour than sexual experience is. Which is a view of life that this third contention emphasises, and which of course runs counter to the beastly system which puts everything in simplistic categories for control and commodification.

In fact even the most oppressive forms of empire are usually very pro marriage and the family because they can easily become categories of control and subsets of domination. Marriage and family are good available choices which I for one have been very blessed to have reached out to make and been received by my wonderful partner in so doing. My sons, their partners and my grandchildren are a constant delight to me. But given that heaven signifies the fulness of life for the present day and not just the future, they are clearly not the most important things in life.  So it follows that we all, married, single, divorced, widowed and so on need to discover and pursue the more important things together, and make sure that these lesser blessings and responsibilities are submitted to them and not the other way around. In the process it is important that we recognise and affirm the degrees and types of gender combinations in each other, and the way we pour them out in answer to the cry for justice for the poor and for the blessing and healing of the creation. Jesus clearly did this when he described himself as a mother hen and encouraged his disciples to put his loving way of life before job and family. This is emphatically not about putting church first which is often just another category of oppression, but putting the kin[g]dom of God first and submitting all else to it. The comments on the last post are right, all this flows from Jesus’ reply to the Sadduccees, about the reality of resurrection and in missing it we show how little we know of the scriptures or the power of God.

Posted by: rogermitchell | August 10, 2016

Jesus and the Politics of Love

The guys at Nomad kindly asked me whether I would be their 110th podcaster. So last Monday morning I was interviewed on the subject of Jesus and the politics of love.  This was no short affair, lasting around an hour, so it’s definitely for those who want to dig into what I have to say in response to some relatively probing questions. But if that’s you, here is their introduction followed by a link to the interview:

With the dust just beginning to settle after Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look at our relationship with politics. Was Jesus political? Should Christians engage in party politics, or should they be a prophetic voice from the margins? We bring these, and many other questions to political theologian Roger Mitchell. Roger is an honorary research fellow in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Lancaster and on the faculty of the Westminster Theological Centre. So he knows a thing or two about religion and about politics. So tune in for an insightful and challenging conversation!

Nomad 110: Roger Mitchell – Jesus and the Politics of Love

Posted by: rogermitchell | August 1, 2016

God and Politics

My good friend Lance Muir has encouraged me to respond to Paul Young’s recent blog post on God and politics. http://wmpaulyoung.com/god-and-politics/.  I have very great respect for Paul and realise that he is attempting to express something really important about the nature of politics and government. As he says “I am not discounting that good people enter politics for good reasons and that even political machinery can accomplish good, but let us not confuse nationalism and patriotism with the kingdom of God.” But instead of focusing on the difference between the politics of love which rejects patriotism and racism and the politics of sovereign power that promotes them, he appears to dismiss politics and government completely as the proper arena for the work of the kingdom of God.

But the word for kingdom (basileia) that Jesus used in his proclamation of the kingdom of God is unequivocally a political one. As Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther explain, “Basileia, the Greek equivalent of the Latin imperium, has traditionally been translated ‘kingdom’ or ‘reign.’ In the Greek-speaking world of the first century the word had a primary meaning: the Roman Empire.” (Unveiling Empire. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1999, 224.) By proclaiming the kingdom of God at precisely the same time as the empire of Rome was at its height, Jesus positioned his followers with their message of love for self, neighbour and enemy into the centre of the political arena.  N. T. Wright similarly makes this clear by showing that Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of God stands firmly in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, whose prophecies and visions of a new and just world were critiques of the imperial politics of Israel and the surrounding nations. (See The New Testament and the People of God. London: SPCK, 1997, 243-286.) This is the context in which Isaiah declares “to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder” (Is 9:6)

In my books, papers and numerous blog posts I have traced the history of what I call the sovereignty delusion. This delusion, based on the mistaken idea that peace comes through the politics of empire, has impregnated our understanding of politics and government since the fourth century partnership of church and empire until the present day. This destructive partnership is currently reaching a climax and the phenomena of Brexit and Trump are, at least in part, immediate evidence of this. This lies behind both the protest vote of the multitude who have been marginalised by the sovereignty of the rich and powerful and in the nationalism, patriotism and racism to which they give place.

Paul Young rightly describes the kingdom of God as “an alternative kingdom to the kingdoms of this world” and recognises that “the only option to the insanity of political empire is the kingdom of God.” But he then seems to limit this to “only a kingdom that changes us from within.” However, the gospel message of the kingdom of God not only changes individual people from within, but proclaims a new humanity whose loving politics can proceed to change the corporate institutions and policy decisions of our world from within. What is urgently needed is for the people of God to travail in hopeful partnership with the Spirit to embody and apply the politics and government of love wherever they are located throughout all our workplaces and communities.  Without this engagement with both grassroots and institutional politics we risk leaving the world system unchallenged and unchanged.

 

Posted by: rogermitchell | June 29, 2016

This Different Britain (iii)

I begin by recommending my book The Fall of the Church (Wipf & Stock, 2013) to those who really want to understand why I feel the way I do https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fall-Church-Roger-Haydon-Mitchell/dp/162032928X. It traces the way that a mistaken partnership of church and empire produced the modern western nation state, of which the UK is an example. At the heart of this mistaken partnership is what I call the sovereignty delusion, the idea that peace comes through a society ordered by the rich and powerful through the control of military force, law and money. Our representative democracy is simply overlaid on this delusion. The history of the British Empire reveals how ugly such a construct can be. I wrote about some of this history in the book The Sins of the Fathers back in 1999 with my friend Brian Mills. All this explains my conviction that the nation state, upheld by an underlying system of law, money and violence with all its paraphernalia of flags, anthems, war memorials and the like, is at root an oppressive construct.

This construct is what we have inherited, but it’s not all we have. My book traces what I call the love stream, which has flowed through the empire system throughout its history, relieving the oppressed, ameliorating the worst extremes of empire and war, caring for the poor, the sick and the marginalised. As a follower of Jesus, I would like to be able to say that the church can be identified with this stream of love. But of course it can’t. Instead, since the 4th century  it has all too often been the partner and carrier of empire and its oppressive constructs. It was this puzzle that led me back here to Lancaster University more than ten years ago now to research the historical relationships of church and empire and how the way of Jesus was so seriously displaced. My academic theological research is contained in the book Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West (Wipf & Stock 2011) and The Fall of the Church is my attempt to make it more accessible to non-academic thinkers.

I see the sovereign nation state as an ugly vehicle enabling and promoting the European Colonial project and the two horrific twentieth century World Wars. This is why I have regarded these past forty years of life within the EU as a hopeful experiment in diluting the delusion that the multiplication of sovereignty is the way to peace. Throughout my adult life I have experienced this wider context as a source of peace, freedom and encouragement to think and live more radically through learning from and embracing difference.  While I know that the EU still carries empire I believe it also carries the love stream through founding fathers like Robert Schuman. He summed up the motivation behind the EU like this:  “The European spirit signifies being conscious of belonging to a cultural family and to have a willingness to serve that community in the spirit of total mutuality, without any hidden motives of hegemony or the selfish exploitation of others.”

It is my conviction that the openhearted politics of love and peace are making real headway in these islands of ours. This has been despite and even because of the austerity policies of successive governments and has in part been because of open borders to Europe and beyond. Of course the EU needs reform, particularly away from market driven economics, and we need to connect with the reform movements that are germinating there. But for me the leave vote has felt like a vote away from open hearts and borders back to the imperial past of nation state and empire. So it is a very painful time. However, we cannot allow the pain to paralyse us, instead this is a moment to be gripped by love as the apostle Paul puts it (2 Cor 5:14), and to redeem this time by using every opportunity to come in an opposite spirit to empire in all we do.

Posted by: rogermitchell | June 25, 2016

This different Britain (ii)

The reason that I spent the weeks leading up to the referendum pleading “For love’s sake vote remain” is that I knew that, in part, the founding fathers of the EU desired to dilute the sovereignty and nationalism that led to the First and Second World Wars. This is why I regard the EU as a relatively safe space for nation states as the whole edifice of empire decomposes and deconstructs. I stand by that opinion even although I know how much the economics of the market, rooted in Thatcherism and the Chicago school and the austerity policies that flow from them have damaged the EU and member states, in particular Greece. That is why the EU desperately needs reform. Those familiar with my theological research will know that the idea that peace comes through the exercise of sovereignty lies at the foundation of what has culminated in the Western world and its so-called democratic nation states, as we currently know it, both inside and outside the EU. (See my academic book Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2011. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Church-Gospel-Empire-Sovereignty-Impregnated/dp/1610977440).

My research has convinced me that the idea that peace comes through the politics of sovereignty is a delusion. It leads inevitably to the dominance of the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and the marginalised, ultimately through violence and war at the expense of everyone.  I love the islands of Britain and Ireland and their peoples. This is why I wanted them to continue to enjoy the relative safety of the EU in the undoubtedly difficult years that are ahead of us. The majority leave vote, comparatively narrow as it was, has rejected this partially safe haven for the UK as the decomposition and deconstruction of the nation state as a political form continues. Let no-one delude themselves, this decision in favour of greater sovereignty will not lead to peace. Instead it will accelerate the end of the nation state of the United Kingdom and lead to the ever greater alienation and estrangement of its peoples from each other. Unless, that is, there is another politics at work. We urgently need a politics of positive peace right now, and more than ever. Thank God for all who see this, and work for this whether believers or unbelievers, people of faith or not.

I am convinced that the politics of Jesus, displaced as they have been by the whole sovereignty delusion, can once again contribute to this in a significant way. This a gift that needs to be given in a completely different spirit to the sovereignty delusion. It is not a programme. It can’t be enforced. It is not something that is democratically voted for. It is something lived. Then and now it is a ‘Way’ of life. As those familiar with the substance of this blog know, kenarchy is a strand of politics developed out of the Jesus story, what theologians call the incarnation and what I have termed the love stream. It’s for the whole family of humanity: men and women, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor as the apostle Paul makes clear. Those of us who ‘get’ this need to accelerate its application in the cities and regions of these islands, otherwise the poor and the marginalised will continue to bare the brunt of this momentous decision to their own detriment, as will we all.

I am well aware that many readers of this blog, and who commented on yesterday’s post, are Brits living in other nations of the EU. We need to cooperate, and strengthen each others’ arms in this Way of life!

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