Posted by: rogermitchell | January 29, 2012

ecclesia as counterpolitical activism in relation to the powers

It’s worth saying from the start that what distinguishes my position on the powers from, say, Walter Wink, is that I come out in the open and say without reservation that I take their existence as clusters of actual supernatural entities extremely seriously. I am not at all agnostic about this and am convinced of the existence of the devil and demons. The reasons for this will become clear in this and further posts. On the other hand, as distinct from some of my ‘spiritual warfare’ inclined acquaintances in parts of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement and the partly overlapping popularly termed Prayer Movement, I take the imperial or sovereign powers of the West deadly seriously too and believe that the testimony and ecclesia of Jesus exist in necessary confrontation with them. In this respect I interpret Jesus’ words “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and Paul and Peter’s supposed exhortation to submit to the powers that be, or governing authorities, in very different terms to the traditional attitude to human political authorities. Something of how this works out will already be obvious to those familiar with this blog, particularly in my exposition of Jesus’ demonstration in the temple, which is unpacked in some detail in the final chapter of my book “Church, Gospel, & Empire.”

In summary, I like the eschatological impact on the present, of the way that the Hebrew prophet puts it: “It will happen in that day, that the Lord will punish the host of heaven on high, and the kings of the earth on earth” (Isaiah 24:21). So while I will have more to say about the meaning of the word punish in this context, I take it that God and his people are positioned against both demonic and human powers and that these two are intimately connected.

As I have already intimated, the testimony of Jesus clearly takes the political powers of empire seriously from the start. Right away they are positioned as both the context for and the opposition to the kingdom of God. The next few posts will use the first few chapters of Luke’s gospel to examine this in some detail, and to focus in on the way they interface with the supernatural powers too. There is one more matter perhaps shocking to some that needs mentioning. It will be impossible to exegete Luke’s narrative in relation to the powers faithfully without recognising the interplay of the angelic as well as the demonic. While this might seem positively mediaeval to some of who are new to this blog and my work, it is an approach which fits the rejection of both the mediaeval and modern sovereignty view of transcendence and the captivity to immanence to which the resultant horrors imprisoned the modern era. The unapologetically literal approach to a good and bad transcendence and the consequential recognition of good and evil in temporal politics follow naturally from the kenotic configuration of the divine that results from arguing from Jesus to God in the way that this blog attempts. Hopefully this will become clearer in the course of the next few posts.



  1. […] FROM Charismatic Church source… […]

  2. […] FROM Warfare Prayer source… #family movie -THE LAMP- one family's loss shows them how to turn to Faith instead of magic […]

  3. Stumbled across this essay today:

    it is an essay from a new book:
    The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin by Corey Robin.

    All very interesting if we are to now discuss Jesus and politics. Having read it and the self-definitions of conservatives within it then I have to conclude that someone who follows Jesus would have a difficult time being a conservative. Though it is certainly clear that a church infected with the imperial spirit would tend to conservatism. Worth the read. c.

    • And since the URL did not translate well – you can find the essay on today. c.

  4. And to further our thinking here is the latest from Chris Hedges, an all too accurate account of what has happened here in Canada with the neocon PM, Stephen Harper (claims to be a Christian) and the rise of the petro-state. Hedges describes the power of the corportist state to cross boundaries and the importance and cost of resistance. c.

    • Thanks for constantly challenging our thinking with your highly relevant contributions and articles. You are a catalyst, an inspiration and even an irritant! Please don’t stop!

      • thanks Roger. I figured I was an irritant but am pleased to know I am also considered a catalyst and inspiration. Wow! c.

  5. A different sort of response this time, Roger. This time I do not want to nudge anything away from the way you have framed the post. I suspect I will not be alone in what follows, at least in broad terms. And I guess I have to frame my response carefully too, because there is a confessional aspect to it necessary to keep it honest.

    Thirty years ago I was very twitchy about the ideas of devil and demon, hugely uncomfortable with what could only be seen as superstitious ways of applying the ideas. Twenty five years ago I began to think more seriously on the subject. Along came Walter, and while I could not go precisely where he went, (in some areas, as I recall, I wanted to go further) he provided the scissors that snipped the threads that were so very irritating. My own work led to the writing of a piece I called ‘A mongrel in heaven’, a sort of brief history of the devil and demonology that concluded with a speculative chapter, largely a sort of philosophical theology, that tried to locate the spiritual forces within the dynamic between the first and second heavens, relocating them from where I thought they had been, between the third and second heavens. In other words, I saw, and see, these things as a relationship between humanity and its actions forging spiritual centres of power.

    Now I am twitchy again. Over recent years I have felt the inadequacy of this model. Or at least, I have realized that it has resulted in a sort of neglect. As if, while there might be something in what I was seeing, I stopped prematurely and omitted to explore questions of an appropriate praxis. Life has pushed me to this point, life and pain, anyway. I remain hugely resistant to the binary theories of everything that are still commonly held. But I am missing something important. I doubt I will ever return to the highly padded technicolour images and mythology that some seem to favour, but something important is missing. So I look forward to more comments and posts that touch on this topic. Thank you for raising it, and for raising it in this way.

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