Posted by: rogermitchell | January 18, 2011

Right and left identities

The discussion raised by the previous post encourages me to push further in my attempts to discomfort and dislocate sensible folk from their embedded positions. I think that Isaiah 28’s evocative symbolism depicts our current situation in so-called western representative democracies.  “The bed is too short on which to stretch out, And the blanket is too small to wrap oneself in” (Isa 28:20). As Stephen puts it in his comment on the last post “in spite of its heart, today’s Left is generally concerned with maintaining and improving the status quo of the state (which is imbued with quasi-divine characteristics) to reach Left-like ends. In that sense, the state must act to resolve society’s ills because – the theory goes – having been tamed by democracy, it serves the people and not the powerful. In fact, this apparent contemporary ‘Left’ has bought into the albeit seductive notion that the big and powerful state is somehow essentially better than the alternatives proposed by the Right. It has also – like the Right – manifestly failed to deliver real change.”

Quite simply I think that the system is coming to an end, but most of us don’t get it. We talk about it, but our discussions still take the system for granted. We live our various versions of Christian or related secular lives, but they still locate within the system. An example of this, albeit still within the system, is the way that for years I would vote Lib Dem or Labour, but still rejoice deep down when the Tories won. My mindset at a subconscious level, although a socially working class boy, was through church, education, media, and through some of the deep cultural mores of working class identity, that of the good old imperial tommy British, who are today still wasting life and limb on the absurd battlefields of Afghanistan. But not for much longer. Abandonment to Jesus and his kingdom, and especially to the immanent Holy Spirit, is unravelling all this in me and yes, in the western system based as it is on the endgame of a Christendom mixture of church and empire that he is committed to bringing to an end.  As I have many times underlined, this unravelling can be read as the fulfilment of a century of Holy Spirit visitation and several decades of strategic prayer and intercession. It is something to embrace and be glad about.



  1. I think the right word for where we all need to head was one used in the last blog – radical stewardship. This will have the appearance at times of right wing politics, at other times more of the left wing. After all, these fallen political systems tend to take their cues from real human behaviours and aspirations even if some of the ones chosen are very, very fallen.

    So radical stewardship – of the earth (God’s temple and we have been very poor janitors indeed), and of one another (am I my brother’s keeper?). Perhaps the real important conversation yet to happen is how that should change each of our lives. What do lives of radical stewardship look like when lived in and for the King of the Cosmos? What do they look like when lived in the humility and love of Jesus? Those are my questions – yesterday’s politics can be entertaining and a cause of despair, I find them to be both. I find myself angry often that the age of fools reigns and we find ourselves governed by those who too often sound like braying asses. I wish the power that gives place to those things was gone. But while we wait for the fulness of things I still have to wonder – how should I live in order to radically steward creation?

    In the spirit of that, I will grab my home repaired bundle buggy and slog a km through the snow to do my grocery shopping. No car for me. I hate the thought of being so enslaved! Besides there could be little in a car that fits in with radical stewardship, even an electric one.

  2. At this moment because the bad political situation in Belgium ( more 210 days without government ) where the North, right separatist and the South, socialist don’t find an agreement, the word ” politics” takes my head !
    For whom voting is a big question. They all seek power. I know that I will not vote for the separatists but the Left removes the faith or rather the religion of any debate and decision!

    Of course I think of thoughts of Jesus are more left than right but can we see in our left politcal men the exemple of Jesus ??
    The Government of Jesus is much more than that, who else can bring him what the world needs.


    • Great to have a view from somewhere else in Europe other than these islands, and especially from Belgium where the old system is breaking down and yet it is the main home of the EU institutions. It is so important that the rest of Europe prays for and loves on Belgium at this time and looks for something positive and exciting to rise and not the same old same old or worse. Please keep the comments coming!

      • Thanks. It is an encouragement for me. We so often feel alone.
        It is true that we are divided: we do not separatism of Nationalists and we support the French speaking political parties but they do not want really change. But we want a real reconciliation with the Flemings. We can not walk in the same spirit of them. Everyone draws the cover of your own!
        ( I began studying Deutch )
        Yes, we need change but not the worst!
        But since few days we see people stand up and call for agreement for everyone.
        Pray that politicians hear it !

        ps : is my English clear ? 🙂

  3. Interestingly here in Scotland the right or Tories are out on there ear and have been as long as I have lived so we were left with no real choice.The nats were called the tartan Tories and could not get elected and everybody said that the lib dems were nice but couldn’t govern.
    There is now a 3 way split which left us with minority government all of which means we do not have any real leadership and a parliament which is no more than a local council with a bit more power.

    • So do you rate the situation as good or bad or somewhere in between? And how do you see the future for Scotland from the point of view of how to pray and how to act? I suspect its pretty much along the lines of what you are doing everyday, but it could help others to put words to it.

  4. I suppose the truth is that there is no real left or right now in politics.Only a battle for the bland middle ground,the only difference in Scotland being that the middle ground is slightly more left to start with ,if that makes and sense.
    To answer you question I think being stuck in this middle is the worst place as it gives us no real choice and no chance of change.Only those who will defend the system are left standing.
    We have engaged with politics for a number of years now,on a personal level and through our small group.Writing to ,meeting with and praying for and with some of those who are in politics.Engaging in this has left us feeling frustrated that we are up against such a machine and so many who enter it are soon consumed by its offer of power and wealth.
    So we have now concluded that where we can its our job as followers of Christ to seek to demonstrate in more ways than one.Demonstrate with those in power stand up for the poor and weak ,but also to demonstrate the other way.To show in small ways what the kingdom looks like.There are many groups funded by central government who are supposed to help the poor and weak but who all to soon become self help groups and only want to protect there own jobs and projects.If we are to show the other way it must always be about our willingness to serve and give.
    Praying for Scotland should involve the awakening of all of us to the possibility of the amazing small things that can change lives when we are willing to give and serve.We should challenge in prayer our own hearts first that we stay committed to loving and giving but also a challenge to the sanctimonious way that the kingdom of God is made into this spiritual city far far away.And most of all asking the question “can we the working man have our church back?”

    • I agree, billy, in Canada too, we are left with the bland middle – with every party weakening its core beliefs in order to be seem as palatable to enough people. We had the possibility of a coalition gov’t a year-or so ago, but all of the pundits said “it would never work”, and then the English went and did it, and everyone still says…”oh, we don’t want the new democrats to have power”. it’s so frustrating to have really no political options and no real voice in the way that our “democracy” in Canada is set up.
      Our church recently made black hand prints on coloured paper to demonstrate our commitment to the millennium goals – and to say that there are only 5 years left to achieve these goals…maternal health, reduce poverty, ecological responsibility, etc. We took this large stack of hand prints (each signed by the person) to our local MP to say – we are behind these goals (that Canada agreed to) and we want you to know that we want these goals to be achieved! Her response “that’s so cute” (the handprints) “but you’d have to sign a formal petition in order for me to take it to the house of commons.”
      excuse me…is that what we’ve come to? the only way to have a voice is to sign your name on an official form that you can only get from the gov’t web site. To me, this was a poignant example of the modern/postmodern clash. she says “fill in a form” and we were saying “our lives show our values”.

      • I love what you did together, what a great bunch of people to agree to it. And as you say, how crazy if your MP will only act on it via the proscribed bureacratic method. I think she should be encouraged to show a bit of initiative and distribute the black hands around the cabinet members with love from a church in her constituency or something!

      • My thought was to ask her to have her colleagues each hold up one hand print for 1 minute during question period and see what kind of response that would get!! Too outside the box, I think.
        This happened at Meadowvale – Sam Cooper and Anita VanZumeren came up with the idea I think. We all loved participating in it, even the little ones.
        p.s. Roger, I can’t reply to your posts for some reason. Do I need some kind of permission to do that or is it not allowed?

  5. Thanks for putting words to this Billy. As I said, I suspected that what you are up to points the way forward. Now it speaks for itself. Glad to know you and others like you. Praying for the stories to spread!

  6. I have a question to ask you Roger.

    As I’m following your blog it seems to me that it is about ruling, one way or another. I have picked up that underlyingly you are prescribing another way. A way that is not about getting your own way. Can I use the word Kenotic here? A reign that is based on servant hood. Reigning by imitating the Father of lights with whom there is no shadow nor shifting variation. For me it points towards the Millennial reign of Christ as one person would put it – in Christ, Heaven and Earth intersect, as you would put it, incarnational time meets carnational time.

    My question is, how do you understand the scripture “He will rule them with an iron scepter”?

    • You have got me pretty well right Justin. My understanding of the good news is that God is like Jesus, and that his way of ruling is kenotic, it gives away power and right for the blessing of others. There are of course quite a few parts of the scripture that at first sight suggest otherwise, and a gospel theology interprets these in the light of the gospel Jesus, and not the other way round. The particular significance of the iron sceptre quote is that it comes in Revelation, quoting Psalm 2 and so might seem to indicate that when Jesus comes again his rule will be different from the incarnation. A gospel hermeneutic, or in other words a Jesus way of interpreting, means that Jesus is always kenotic, so we have to interpret the iron sceptre in that light. What is extremely interesting is that the Septuagint [Greek] version of the OT, the one which Jesus appears to have used and the gospel writers quote, has the Greek word for ‘to shepherd’, or ‘feed’ instead of the word ‘rule’, and it is this same word which is used in the three Revelation occurrences of the phrase Rev 2:27, 12:5, 19:15. So it would read “shepherd or feed them with a rod of iron.” This leads me to take the phrase to signify the strength of Jesus’ loving rule, and to take the breakings, crushings and the like to refer to his overcoming the powers of domination and empire with love, exactly as he did at the cross. The apostle Paul seems to agree when he points out that we don’t fight human beings because they are not our enemies (Eph 6:12).
      You mention the Millennium. Because I understand Jesus’ incarnation as the fulness of the time and purpose of God, any short or long term breakthrough of his power on the earth is going to be of the same kind as that demonstrated in his life death and resurrection by the gospel writers. The only difference will be in its extent and duration. So I am looking for breakthroughs of heaven every day. This is what the Holy Spirit brings to us. One day it will come for ever. Perhaps it will come for 1,000 years first. Whatever, what heaven looks like on earth is what Jesus demonstrated. It can’t look like its opposite!

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