Posted by: rogermitchell | October 17, 2013

The cross and the Western powers

The first comment on the previous post affirmed the incarnational theology of love and peace towards the multitude that is at the heart of kenarchy.
It asserted that “we still need to bare the face of the lion towards the spiritual glue of evil that creates so many of these Babel towers of injustice.” Not surprisingly I agree with this, but with the proviso that I understand Jesus to make clear that the face of the lion is one with the face of the lamb since his incarnation. So we come with love towards those who are inveigled in the spiritual glue of empire and work to overcome the powers that bind them by a lifestyle of laying down our lives as Jesus did. For surely on the cross the lion laid down with the lamb (Is 11:6) and as a result the lamb is now in the midst of the throne (Rev 5:6, 7:17).

At the moment I am working on my contribution to the coming book Discovering Kenarchy. This consists of an edited volume of applied thinking on kenarchy from a significant body of practitioners. My task is to explicate the cross as the core means to overcome the powers. I plan to begin with the story of the temptations as a means both to understand the powers and Jesus’ strategy towards them. Whether or not one takes the reference to the devil literally (which I do), the narrative in both Matthew and Luke clearly describes the deep structures of evil as an anti- human, anti- divine supremacy of physical desire, status and selfish domination.

Years ago in my book The Kingdom Factor (Marshall Pickering, 1985) I traced the Jesus’ story along the trajectory of victory over these three powers encountered in the temptations to its culmination at the cross. This, it seems to me more than ever, defines the politics of Jesus and the primary meaning of the cross. Then, as now, it seems crystal clear to me, these deeply satanic structures constitute the deep structures of Western politics, and as my thesis and subsequent books have argued, have increasingly done so since the partnership of church and empire in the 4th century.

If I am right that these temptations expose the nature of the Western powers, it is hardly surprising that the story of Jesus that is in opposition to them is utterly political in contemporary terms, but at the same time is also full of hope. The incarnation and its fulness at the cross continues to offer a glorious counterpolitical narrative for the contemporary West and the opportunity of victory over its hidden structures of power, despite the passage of the centuries and their apparent intransigence, which is at last deconstructing.

Over the next week or two I shall track this anti-trinity supremacy of evil powers. I will attempt to do this by means of the testimony of Jesus and its contemporary political manifestation through to its culmination at the cross and draw out a practical strategy of kenarchy for loving living today. Once again I invite your feedback, and hope to collaborate with you in the coming book.

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Responses

  1. Very much lookng forward to the development of these themes, often in my expereince the wrong emphasis or emphasis in the wrong way can empower the very thing we are sent to resist. I would be interested to see if/how you might translate some of Rene Girards concepts of evil as it relates to this model…I agree witht he personification of an evil one, but cannot discount the validity of group-think in much of the evil that abounds…obviously not signing onto an either/or camp, just wondering if effecriveness can be measured beyond our typical metrics. Jesus seemed to be able to counter both an active devil and diffuse mob mentality where he felt it neccasary…eventually letting both dominate so they could be subverted by the death they sought.

    • While I find some of Girard’s approach illuminating, I’m very uneasy about pinning the blame for evil on the ‘mob.’ It seems to me that the mob is the same multitude that Jesus had compassion on, and that ‘group think’ emanates from the corporate agreement of individual choices. It is these choices that create clumps or nodes of power that together make up the powers that violently oppress the multitude and make victims of them. It is Jesus’ (and for those who believe in the incarnation therefore God’s) choice to resist these powers in a completely different, opposite spirit, that draws the oppression onto himself so completely at the cross and that the resurrection reveals to be the proper exercise of authority. I am aware that this last sentence needs unpacking and articulating and I’m right now working on it. It is this that the current chapter I’m working on revolves around, and is the practical heart of kenarchy. So the more comments and collaborative help with this the better!

  2. I read the title of the post in reverse of your meaning. So often, historically, the cross has been used to symbolize western power. Think of all the representations of the cross, from crusader capes to crucifixes and how so often the cross was literally held up and held out as the symbol of western power and why it should be victorious. c.

    • If Constantine had interpreted his dream/vision of the cross with its strap-line “in this sign you will conquer” in the light of the Jesus’ story rather than empire history, then the story of the West might have been very different.

  3. This is definitely an aside to the present discussion of the politics of Jesus, but might relate obliquely to the issue of ‘crowds’ who are, in effect, a segment of the populace at large. This next might sound trivial, but please bear with me. I watched with some youngsters last night the film ‘Evan Almighty’, which is a comic reworking of the Noah story for our times. What intrigued me was Morgan Freeman’s God. While there was a good dose of sentimentality in the character of God portrayed, there was also something essentially hominine, egalitarian, collaborative and empowering about him, ie. he was very kenarchic! Which got me thinking about how God would leave a mark of his true nature in the imagination of ordinary people, and how that this would be found manifest within common culture, even folk religion. If God has left himself any witness in creation, then the kenarchic one should be traceable, not just the overlaid imperial distortion. It might make an intriguing project or dissertation to explore for signs of kenarchic theology popular culture! With respect to crowds, it is an interesting conjecture that the largely spontaneous gathering at Jesus entry into Jerusalem – as opposed to the stirred up crowd at his trial – might have recognised in Jesus an image of the ‘people’s God’ of their hopes and imaginations as well as the familiar Jewish expectation of a political saviour usually cited. Sorry to deviate….

    • I’m not sure why you regard this comment as an aside or deviation from the discussion! The question of the nature of the crowd is central. My understanding of the image of God is plural not singular. It’s worth noting that in the Genesis story it is not Adam that is in the image of God but both Adam and Eve together. I don’t think there is any biblical indication that the fall obliterated the image.

  4. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to
    be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me. I’m looking forward
    for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

    • I can’t work out whether you are genuine or a spammer! Please reveal yourself!


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