Posted by: rogermitchell | July 4, 2013

Starting point for Discovering Kenarchy

As I explained several posts back, I’m currently working on my introductory chapters to the coming book Discovering Kenarchy. Thank you for your very helpful and thought provoking comments so far. I’ve now had a holiday, followed by a stint of grand parenting and a brutal cold virus. Expected minor surgery has been postponed until tomorrow in the interests of hospital emergencies so I’m now back on task!

So for my two introductory chapters I’m thinking to begin along the following lines. What do you reckon?

1. A statement of what kenarchy is:

Explaining it as pouring out love and gift, like Jesus, across the divide of difference. Articulating kenarchy as inclusive love that embraces the seemingly unalterable qualitative difference between divine and human, male and female, Jew and Gentile, child and adult, but also covers those differences that might in some part involve moral and behavioural attitudes and choices on either side such as believer and unbeliever, Christian and Muslim, gay and straight, rich and poor, good and bad. Thinking through the implications of the gospel story of incarnation and the cross for these kinds of difference.

2. An excavation of the core of kenarchy:
Showing how it swallows up the final point of resistance or state of exception between people with unconditional love. Explaining how this is expressed in active subversion and loving submission in both personal and social situations. Defining kenarchy as the manifestation of love in the pouring out of life as gift for the full and free flourishing of the other, whoever they are and wherever they stand and then submitting to the consequences, channeling any painful, negative effects into the cross and resurrection via one’s own life and circumstances.

3. Configuring an incarnational ecclesia:
Showing that this swallows up and carries away in love the painful and/or destructive affects of difference as a true body of Christ, indicating how this will include those of other faiths and none. Distinguishing this kind of ecclesia from the exclusive, adversarial behaviour that is sometimes included under the general description of the church.

4. A ‘deep’ political manifesto of kenarchy:

Spelling out the 9 point political substance of the testimony of Jesus in the four gospels: Instating women, prioritizing children, advocating for the poor, caring for the creation, freeing prisoners, promoting health, confronting the powers, making peace and publicizing it

What do you think? Comments please…


  1. Hi Roger…haven’t got a substantial comment…but just to say that it looks fabulous! Looking forward to seeing it in print…I’ll get back with anything that comes to mind though. Shalom!

  2. Ill be the first to ask: is point 5 really point 4, or have you missed a crucial point 4 out?!!

    • I can’t count it seems, thanks, it’s now corrected!

  3. I’m taken by the Christian and Muslim difference in point one. Do you mean by that a short-hand for Christ-orientated over against ‘religious’, with ‘Muslim’ as referencing religions in general, or is this specifically about these two faiths? The Christian-Muslim contrast has just the faintest wisps of the conflict of civilisations idea, which is, of course, not good! I am generally happier to think about the idea of a follower of Jesus rather than a Christian anyway (though I’m not legalistic about this: in practice I probably use the word Christian like everyone else). Emphasising the ‘Jesus follower’ idea bypasses the whole need for anyone of any faith or none, who recognises Jesus as ‘the Way’ in any sense, having to embrace Christianity as a religion with all the associate baggage. In the light of your ‘other faiths and none’ comment in relation to the body of Christ in point 3, I await your unpacking of this whole area with bated breath!

    • I was not intending to make a particular point by giving Christian and Muslim as an example of a second category of difference. I could have just as easily said Hindu or Taoist. And I certainly share your ambivalence over the connotations of the word Christian this side of the fall of the church. Therefore my equal ambivalence about the word church. Hence kenarchy, ecclesia and so on!

  4. This looks fantastic. Look forward to the full read. One of my thoughts would be- on number 4.- Why is it called “political substance of the testimony of Jesus”- rather than just the substance of the testimony of Jesus? I realise this may be my lack of understanding and reading of previous blogs!
    And then within those 7 points there is no mention specifically of healing, which seems to be a huge part of Jesus life, but perhaps this area would be expanded on in another area (making peace, good news, or confronting powers?) Thanks Roger! love the food for thought.

    • Thanks for raising these two points.
      Firstly, the reason for the use of the word political is to correct the view that many have that the testimony of Jesus is NOT political, whereas of course it is!
      Secondly I’ve been waiting for someone to point out the two obviously missing aspects of essential kenarchy, that are caring for/ healing the sick and setting prisoners free. Not sure how I managed to miss those from the list, especially as they are so relevant to the damaging policies of the current coalition government towards the NHS and legal aid.

  5. Roger: I am reading a book that makes me think of you and kenarchy a lot. It is called “Debt, the first 5000 years” by David Graeber, an anthropologist. Frankly,it is some of the best theology I’ve ever read and no, it isn’t written as a theology. He counters economic myths about the origin of markets based on anthropological and historical research. And he comes up with 3 types of economies in human history – 1. human economy, a form of mutual dependence where you give what you have and get what you need, a form of Acts 2. 2. Market economy which allows us to pay off our debts to one another and therefore end relationships. And it is founded on violence,especially that of slavery. And is today connected to the rise of nationstates and militarism. 3. Hierarchy- while we can think of feudal lords with peasants the extremes of hierarchy are charity on one end and theft on the other. Yes,it is all very challenging to read but also a delight as it rings true. It covers everything from markets to morality (as much of our moral language is about debts). For me, the challenge is how do we live out Acts 2 within the current system that is really market (always connected with force, soft or otherwise) and hierarchy (all those elites who seem to be exempt from the rules). If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. c.

  6. I hope it’s ok to post a poem here. I’m not a poet (as the following illustrates), but got involved in what become a ‘rhyming discussion’ – someone posted a rhyming prayer and an atheist responded in rhyme then, well, it continued in that vein! I’ve then put the bits together into this poem. Anyway, the reason I’m sharing it here is that I think it is quite kenarchic in its message. Enjoy (or not)


    Let me tell you about the God that I love.
    He’s not ‘up there’ bossing us all from above.
    He’s down here below in our pain and our fears,
    He’s here mucking in with blood and with tears,
    Throughout all the years.
    The God far away is a religious illusion,
    My God is right here in our daily confusion.
    That doesn’t make everything easy now:
    I’ve plenty of questions of what, why and how,
    And what now?
    But one thing I know and will freely confess,
    He’s the only one who can fix up this mess! Bless!

    So what is the problem? Why doubt God is real?
    You say: just get by on the way that you feel.
    Well, I believe that humanity can be bad or good,
    We just don’t do the things that we know that we should,
    Or we do things no-one should.
    But how can we tell all the wrongs from the right?
    Who gave us this light to see in the night?
    The lens that you wear, my friend, sees only despair
    That’s what it’s like if God isn’t there!
    We just stand empty and stare!

    I think we believers have been far too proud
    To admit our frailty, our pain and our doubt.
    There is a common humanity of life we all share,
    And sometimes we create ‘faith’ from a wisp of thin air,
    Which isn’t really there.
    But I’m into Jesus who really did live,
    And showed what God’s like and his passion to give.
    He gave us a life that looks need straight in the eye,
    That doesn’t pretend nor refuses to cry,
    And is willing to die.
    It reaches inside to the God who’s in there,
    And pours out a love that is way passed compare.
    In case you’re still looking upwards and wondering why,
    I tell you, my God’s no old man in the sky
    With a beard and a sigh!

    Now I know that religion seems way out of date.
    And I’ve read Richard Dawkins and Steve Pinker’s ‘Blank Slate’.
    I can see it’s attractive to kick God into touch.
    There are theories that don’t seem to leave him that much,
    Or it appears such.
    But when I look out at the wonder around,
    I am hungry for something not easily found.
    Yes, I know the argument that it’s all in our genes.
    But it is no accident that I ask what life means,
    And see heaven in dreams.

    I think we were made to live fully and be real,
    The Truth is far greater than science can reveal.
    The older I get the more I can see
    That the questions and answers involve you and me,
    And our quest to be free.
    We were designed for relationship with him who Creates –
    Not to bow low so much as be friends, be real ‘mates’.
    And together with God and all folk of good will,
    We can go round doing good – just like Jesus does still,
    Doing the Father’s will.
    And making a difference through the paths that we’ve trod,
    Well, that’s how we welcome the kingdom of God!
    And we worship the Lord!

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