Posted by: rogermitchell | October 5, 2010

All of a piece

In order to shed a bit more light on my previous post on the state of exception, I think it might help to explain that my research indicates that the Western world as we know it is undergirded by law, war and money as a result of a partnership of church and empire from the 4th century onwards [otherwise known as Christendom] [See My Thesis page]. From this perspective the Third Reich [otherwise known as Nazi Germany] was simply an extreme manifestation of this partnership, and of which the representative democracy of Britain, other EU nations and the USA are simply less ugly forms. Or to put it another way, fascism and western democracy are on the same political continuum. I am aware that this may prove to be an unpopular and controversial position [!], but it is one I currently hold. So the point Dave makes about Schmitt being the person who came up with the concept of the state of exception is no particular problem for me. Agamben takes the view that the Nazi concentration camp is the appropriate motif for the power behind the western world, and argues that the emergence of Guatanamo Bay as the necessary price for the defence of democracy proves it. In other words that representative democracy is prepared to sacrifice democracy to preserve itself, and in so doing proves that the power behind it is not democratic at all. All this makes the counterpolitical potential of the good news of the kingdom of God very important at this time, and finding ways of expressing this is a vital challenge. The concept of the state of exception offers a possible way to explain the relationship of the gospel to the current Western world. As Stephen clearly sees in his response to my question to him [see the last post], I am suggesting that God perpetually suspended his potential sovereignty and any subsequent laws when he allowed Satan and his angels to fall, then created the human race and allowed them to fall, and then to cap it all when he poured out his sovereign power in the incarnation and the cross. God is therefore and henceforth to be understood as kenotic and not sovereign in any legal or dominating sense.



  1. I think this is really good and interesting. I like the idea that what the Gospel is all about is declaring a kenotic state of exception in the midst of our contexts. It’s obviously really important to define this differently to the Schmittian state of exception and to point out that we’re really talking about a kenotic (inverted?) state of exception in the pattern of Jesus.

    The language of God having done things with his sovereignty in the perfect tense jars with me though. You do say that God “perpetually suspended his potential sovereignty”, which is better. But he is surely always sovereign and always laying it down in love (in the beginning and at the end). While the incarnation was the only time he has done it as a man, I don’t think we’re saying that this was God having learned a new trick! I think the real theological issue here is finding a way of setting the incarnation in context – easier said than done.

    • I am not as bothered as you, perhaps, about talking a bit anthropomorphically about God. I believe that we are made in God’s image and that since the incarnation there has been humanity in the Godhead. He’s now in our time and we are in his. It’s late and these words may not say what I want to as well as I hope!

      • Not sure. I agree with all of this but discern residual Enlightenment humanism here somewhere.

  2. Great post!

  3. I certainly agree with your analysis of western democracy (a misnomer if there ever was one). Certainly the rise of corporate funded elections and government in the USA demonstrates that facism is alive and well and seeks to rule either covertly or overtly. This all dovetails with aspects of industrialism and how it has worked out in terms of factory food production and other things that provide the populace with cheap goods (though at a price as the sludge flood in Hungary demonstrates) under the guise of freedom (freedom to consume what is put before us?). It is also demonstrated in the partnership of capitalism with whatever the government now is in China. I chuckled when people equated capitalism with democracy and thought that somehow China would move to become democratic as they embrace capitalism. Why would we ever think that? Capitalism as first put forth in Europe was based on oligarchic rule, slavery, and piracy among other things. That’s the root of it all no matter what we want to think. c.

  4. Hi Roger
    I come back to this site from time to (long) time to catch up and lo and behold a blog! So, hello and how are you and blessings to you and Sue.

    A question, in the light of this how do you now view Christian involvement in the political process

    • Hi Andy,
      Well that’s a big question simply put! In a nutshell, the good news of the kingdom of God is, as I see it, [and on this I’m not sure I’ve changed much over the years] is utterly political. It is not party political but challenges political systems to the roots with a politics of love and gift, not power and right. In more recent years I have come to understand the Holy Spirit visitations of the last hundred years as intended to reposition the ecclesia in society and that this has to begin with being advocates for the poor, disempowered and voiceless and has to be in the context of responsibility for the creation and its resources. There is much other exciting stuff to be done, but it lacks integrity and faithfulness to Jesus without this orientation.

  5. You know another example of sacrificing democracy to save democracy comes to mind and that is the huge increase in the prison industry especially in the USA. If I remember the stats right there are so many people in prison in the US that 1 in 3 Americans are involved in the judicial system in some way either as a prisoner, guard, lawyer, parole officer, cop etc. The private prison industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the US.

    As these companies make money from putting people into prison there is a drive for harsher penalties for minimal offenses. There are states now, like Arizona, who have virtually turned over the whole prison system to private companies. And there have been several scandals involving incarceration of juveniles in these kinds of systems, including kick-backs to judges who sentenced kids to jail (Pennsylvania).

    This is all seen as necessary to keep an open and democratic society functioning. And there have been moves to essentially strip those with criminal records of the rights of citizenship. Even after their release some states now want to deny them the right to vote in elections (Florida).

    Unfortunately, my own country of Canada, is currently under neoconservative (and claims to be a Christian too) leadership, with a prime minister who appears to really wish to emulate the GWB approach to human rights. So the Canadian federal govt has just announced 150 million dollars towards an expansion of the prison system. This in a country where the crime rate has dropped continuously for many years. Sigh. Just think how much more effective it would be to use that to educate our children or even (radical idea here) feed them. And yes, there are a number of states in the US who spend far more on their prison system than on education of young people.

    And then of course there is the system of collecting and monitoring everyone’s emails, web activity, phone calls etc. All of which has been happening in the US. Yup, democracy is safer for sure.

  6. Amen! Amen! Amen! The reason Christ came was to allow us access to an order that is neither equal to or below the natural order of this world but of an entirely different one. But because of this marriage of church with empire it is difficult for people to see that are in fact binding themselves to a worldly way of doing business. I am wondering if this doesn’t split off the personality of the believer because of the conflict it creates with the Spirit? All the justification of behaviors that goes on must be a result of what seems to me an an epidemic double mindedness–never being able to live according to our ideals like democracy, much less Kingdom principles. Oh, that we may return to Him, knowing our righteousness is in him and him alone–that we may access the order of his Spirit that prevents gravity of the law of sin and death from taking hold of us and binding us to a world that makes us have to “preserve” ourselves when push comes to shove.

    Thanks again Roger for all your work in helping us unpack the mistaken goals of our behavior in a new context.

  7. Hi, strangely enough, the bit that you said was controversial – equating fascism and democracy on the same plane is not actually controversial it’s standard.

    It goes like this – Fascism is far right and communism is far left, but if you go to the far left and keep going you wrap around again to the far right. But mostly we find centre politics more acceptable.

    The idea is, out of the systems that the world has, ‘the centre’ is the lesser of evils, generally – American politics centre rather towards the right as far as Europeans are concerned. No one thinks that it’s perfect, but they will defend their perspectives and say it’s the best that we have at this moment in time.

    They are in a sense correct, because it’s all they have without true Theocracy – which they don’t understand. When you say theocracy, they think Iran, not global rule but a direct, loving, true omnipotent/omniscient Creator God “Those who are led by Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” And it says “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”

    So try as I once did to explain what Theocracy to a born again Christian means to someone with a Masters in International Relations and you are likely to have a very confusing conversation. And again, if they understood and looked forward to Christ’s millennial sabbatical rule that would probably make them Christian!

    So for my part I don’t blame the World, I feel sorry for them.

    But as far as your investigation of ‘Gods Politics’ is concerned (by Gods politics I mean the idea that particular political viewpoints are justified by church thinking. Where the World has seasoned the Church instead of the other way around) Once again I sight unfortunately the USA. I have gained so much blessing, I really have and continue to do so from my American brethren, however in the USA, capitalism = democracy = righteousness in the Evangelical church, among other things. From my perspective and I don’t claim a monopoly on the truth by a long shot – in my life I have been far more wrong than right, but this system can be quite manipulative.

  8. […] den svenska statens absurda och förtryckande främlingsfientlighet. Läs även mycket läsvärda Roger Mitchells blogg där han i veckan påstod att ”fascism and western democracy are on the same political […]

    • Hi Jonas,
      Do you want to translate your comment into English for us?

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