kenarchy empties out sovereign power and replaces it with a love measured by the readiness to die for “the other”, even one’s enemies (discovering Kenarchy, p.8).
Gayle and I finished reading this a few days ago, reading and reflecting. This book is clear, significantly-narrative based and hugely provocative. I was privileged to write a chapter, but had not had opportunity to read the other chapters until I received the finished publication. For anyone who has wondered what on earth ‘kenarchy’, or Roger’s larger thesis as to ‘How the Politics of Sovereignty impregnated the West’, is about, the opening Introduction and Chapter (The Heart of Love) lays it out so clearly. Roger explains with respect to language:
to subsume a thing is to hollow it out and to fill it up with a different meaning and purpose so that the original function is lost and replaced with something else. It is a form of colonization, but applied to the deep structures of language and politics.
The book in keeping with ‘kenarchy is not a system or program but a journey’ explores chapter by chapter through narrative and imagination what a kenarchic response looks like. These are not stories of ‘triumph’ but also include stories of pain, and inner turmoil. I am not sure how it can be otherwise, for ‘kenarchy empties out sovereign power and replaces it with a love measured by the readiness to die for “the other”, even one’s enemies’.
The chapters that follow after Roger’s own chapter are deeply practical, not in the sense of ‘this is how to do it’, but they effectively expose the issue of sovereign power(s) into the fields of women (Julie Tomlin Arram & Sue Mitchell), Criminal Justice with reference to the margins (Peter McKinney), Gift as opposed to transaction (Stephen Rusk), Healthcare (Andy Knox), and the in situ work of Together for Peace in the diverse city of Leeds (Mike Love). Having just finished reading Mike’s chapter it is still fresh in my mind. He shows how the deep soil of our communities lie in the increasing diversities (full of incredible richness), the top soil is where division manifests resulting in, above the surface, visible conflict. Just think for a moment about some of the racial conflicted scenarios that are hitting our screens – and streets – and how the deep embrace of the other would result in a different fruit in society. We are threatened by diversity, and there will be votes in the 2015 UK election that will reflect this fear and distrust, yet the embrace of ‘the other’ can result in such a richness that we have never yet experienced. This is the heart of the Gospel with ‘while we were enemies’ (totally the other) we were embraced.
I could pull out material from each chapter, but the book deserves to be read not reviewed. We certainly found it helpful to read it a chapter at a time and to reflect.
The book is not the ‘answer’. It will raise even more questions of ‘then what are we to do?’. It will provoke theologically, and not just at the ‘sovereignty’ level, but at the ecclesiastical level. What part does a discipling community have in this? Or if we are concerned about recovering a Pauline Gospel we might ask what a Pauline approach was in the outworking of all this. His Gospel was political but how did he see the boundary of those ‘in Christ’ and ‘those not in Christ’ within this wider framework? No book can cover everything, but I see even the questions of practice and theology as potentially being also one of its strength, as this book is far from prescriptive, but a call to engagement. All those who read will benefit, and I hope that many who are not ‘believers’ in Jesus will read it, but it behoves the Christian community to read and to examine what it means to ‘believe’ in Jesus.
In whatever way we were to resolve some of those other issues the desire is to draw on the Jesus-story even if ‘The institutional religion within which the Jesus story has so often been submerged’ has been found complicit in the rule through sovereign power.
A final note on the last chapter, one I wrote on ‘Kenarchy and an Eschatological Hope’. I sought to outline the two dominant eschatologies of the past 100 years or so: Dispensationalism in all its forms, and a Victorious Reconstructionist type of top-down eschatology. I outline them to draw a distinction from both: from the self-preservation of the former and the Christian hope for imposition in the latter (Christianised sharia law). I draw from the ‘true’ nature of humanity as revealed in Jesus, and the permanent (eternal) nature of the Incarnation, with the hope for the same Jesus to return. The building blocks for the future are the kenarchic activity and actions that take place, and this hope can enable us to be submerged-to-the-depths, acting redemptively (and at times embracing compromise) knowing that those are the seeds of an eternal future.