Posted by: rogermitchell | March 17, 2020

There will be redemption in this

The threat posed by Covid 19 to human life, social interaction and work is unparalleled in recent history. I think that now goes without saying.

But apart from that I have two things to say.

1. The first is that the new political space I have been thinking about, writing about and participating in is upon us. It is likely that the Western biopolitical system will be severely weakened if not mortally wounded by the coming months of lock down. But this provides a moment, an opportunity, an imperative for stopping and thinking, and for many of us there will be plenty of time to do it. This is what it means to exercise our spirit. The apostle Paul put it clearly when he remarked “For who among humans knows the thoughts of a human except the spirit of the human which is in them?” (1Cor 2:11). This is, I think, what Giorgio Agamben describes as inoperativity, a special kind of praxis and potential that gives human beings the capacity to adapt creatively to all sorts of situations (See “What is the Act of Creation?” in Creation and Anarchy: The Work of Art and the Religion of Capitalism. California: Stanford University Press, 2019). This viral crisis is a massive opportunity for us to reflect on the kind of future we wish to be the agents of. No doubt those committed to the current system will be poised to double down ready for a massive resurgence of the exploitation of life itself including the planet, animal and plant life and every aspect of the human condition. Including ways of making the virus itself an opportunity for profit. But at least for a few months, and probably a lot longer, the Western system will be much more precarious and vulnerable to alternatives than it has been for generations, maybe millennia. We need to imagine the alternative!

2. The second is that ironically, despite the requirement for social distancing, this will be a time for horizontal relationships, a time for love and community. If you haven’t listened to my talk on the politics of love yet, this could be a good use of your excess time! Already people who care – what Jesus calls children of peace, and the ecclesia – are mobilising everywhere. They are imagining and putting into practice myriads of caring initiatives that find a way through the necessary precautions and restrictions aimed at constraining, delaying and preventing the virus from killing the vulnerable. See for example; #viralkindness. This is tapping into what I have described elsewhere as “the love stream” and which has always provided the resource for human flourishing throughout the exigencies of human history (see my academic work Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Empire Impregnated the West and the more accessible The Fall of the Church. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock 2011 & 2013; also Discovering Kenarchy. Wipf & Stock, 2014, which I co-edited with Julie Tomlin Arram). The flow is still with us and will beyond doubt survive and replenish humanity going forward. These are exciting, as well as distressing times.


  1. Reblogged this on hungarywolf and commented:
    Guest blog from Roger Haydon Mitchell

  2. I absolutely agree with you Roger. We are seeing this already here in Havering. The children in our road have already drawn rainbows for all our windows and most people put candles as a sign of hope in their windows last night. We are helping each other with food, medicines etc (from a distance!) Our son, in Bedfordshire, is offering his takeaway Pie Mash and Liquor (it’s not an alcohol drink but an east-end sauce!) free in his area to the over-65s who he calls the ‘golden generation’ (lovely name). The take up has been huge and it’s being delivered to them at the door (with distance!)

    I’m hearing of so many kingdom initiatives from all over… Barriers between people are coming down and they are talking, sharing, helping, listening, supporting. There is much good out there as well as difficult behaviour – no lack of that I’m afraid! But everyone needs to get this and allow themselves to hope. Thank you for posting Andy Knox’s video – we used it at the church I work with to encourage and inform people. Tell him people found it very helpful!

    On the political front, that space must be filled differently, I agree. For that, we need courage and determination (a la Joshua and Caleb) and to be men of that different spirit! But I do sense something is shifting. The photos Martin put on his blog of the change in air pollution have impacted many people. It’s really shocking! But our structures need to change too. To make them change, our habits and demands must change first. I’m praying they will.
    Bless you guys xx

  3. This is a useful post Roger, but I do think you have to be more precise about the response to this sense of dispossession will not play into an extraordinarily austere myth of British exceptionalism (which I would argue explains everything from the disaster capitalism that led to the NHS being underequipped for this crises to Boris Johnson’s initial invocation of “herd immunity”). I’m referring obviously to the way in which the ‘Blitz Spirit’ has been held up as ‘the spirit of the nation’ in order to paper over postcolonial guilt. The idea of the ‘Blitz Spirit’ is that there exists a unique sense of stoic communitarianism hidden away in the recesses of Britain’s collective Psyche that can only be unleashed in times of crises. As you say, there are already merchants of death thinking about how to use this crises as a new stage in surveillance capitalism; we too must not be blindsided and demand justice in the form of reparations for the long term damage that neoliberal thought has sewn.

  4. Hi PES. Please forgive me that I can’t place your initials yet. You are clearly raising some very important points, but I would like to clarify one or two of them before I attempt a response. Firstly, can you unpack a bit “this sense of dispossession”. Do you refer to my point about the weakening or mortal wounding of the Western system? Secondly could you say a bit more about your warning “not to be blindsided and demand justice in the form of reparations” who is that you think might be doing this? Thanks for engaging meaningfully with this post. Peace and love, Roger

  5. Sorry Patrick, just realised that PES is probably you! Peace, Roger

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