Power and politics

Corrupting Power

The well known adage by Lord Acton:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.

In writing about the choice of king, the first one being Saul, there are some very interesting aspects about the move to kingship. First Saul was a humble chappie, hiding in the baggage. What if Saul had never been selected as king? Would he simply have been a friendly giant wandering the land? God then instructs Samuel to tell the people what the king will do, not what Saul will do, nor what a bad king will do! Is there the indication that once we give someone an exalted title and with it authority we really are setting them up (Lord Acton quote)?

Christendom…. Here is a great article I have just read:
https://www.redletterchristians.org/christians-dont-understand-how-horrible-christendom-was-as-is/

A quote from it:

Whenever the name of Jesus is invoked to vilify any group or nation, and whenever a pastor spiritualizes hate or weaponizes scripture to oppress others, and whenever biblical rhetoric is used to inflame nationalism and spread partisan fear, we must recognize these forms of spiritual manipulation for what they are: evil. Because throughout history, Christendom has been a favorite tool of dictators, authoritarians, and countless others who selfishly used it to harm others.

The dominant place afforded to institutional Christianity in Europe is over, resulting in either a hankering back with a cry of ‘we are being marginalised’, or a re-appraisal of what was done wrongly in the name of Jesus (without writing off the genuine missionary / humanitarian work). But now…

Is there a fresh offer coming to the fore in certain places not only to give Christians a place at the table, but to sit at the right hand of authority? If ‘Christendom has been a favorite tool of dictators, authoritarians, and countless others who selfishly used it to harm others’ is there a dangerous proposal that will simply empower dictators and autocrats to bring about oppression legitimised by the use of the name of Jesus (not to mention how lies can be first ignored, but left ignored for a length of time, falsehood will become ‘truth’).

With no offer on the table in Europe we are so privileged. No need even to hide in the baggage. Yes, probably some detox still needed as the hankering after power is so strong and insidious. Add to this the COVID-19 forced break, a call to re-positioning and I hear the word H-O-P-E. Ears and heart open I think is the right response.

Demonic power accessing the cross

So the answer was ‘yes’!

Of that I am convinced, just not quite sure how to get there. However, I think that if we use a symbol such as a flag there might be power in what it is calling us to, but if we use the (false) cross there is another added dimension.

The demonic realm love to invade human space as that is the connecting point of heaven and earth. Humanity, made in the image of God is very key to the demonic strategy. Once that space is invaded a process of dehumanising can take place, so that as that increases in scope the connection between heaven and earth decreases. This is why I see sin primarily not as ‘law-breaking’ and subsequent guilt but as falling from the glory of being human.

The demonic then want to invade and pervert every access point between heaven and earth, and it is the cross that in time makes that access point eternal. It is no surprise then that the cross is a focal point for such an invasion, not the cross that becomes the pathway to life, but the cross that oppresses all enemies, the cross as symbol through which we conquer by power.

In all situations to change the meaning of something is key in nullifying the original meaning. This happens all the time organisationally. When a new challenging message comes, the institution seeks first to understand the new language, then the nature of institutional power is that the language gets converted to mean something different to what was the initial intended meaning.

I consider something similar happens with the change of meaning in the cross. (Maybe we could also consider the shift in Israel from a call to the nations as servant, to being superior to the nations demonising them in the process, but in reality just opening themselves up to the demonic!) By changing the meaning probably what takes places is an emptying of the symbol of the cross of its transforming power. It is not then that by pulling on the symbol of the cross that God is pulled in to serve evil, but by perverting the symbol of the cross, there is space for the advance of evil at a frightening level. In the same way that the power of sin (singular) dehumanises, so the perversion of the cross de-crosses the true cross.

Redemption re-humanises. But to do so there has to be a repentance. Maybe we too can re-cross the cross, but through the path of repentance. Confessing the wrong allegiance to power might be a start.

I often follow the Catholic (and early church) practice of crossing myself, but normally only when passing our local church of San Lorenzo. It is a reminder that Jesus asked that I carry the cross. I am happy to do so outside the building dedicated to the one who on August 10, 258 was burnt at the stake in Rome by command of the emperor. He seemed to be committed to the implications of picking up the cross and following Jesus.

There are two crosses. The false one is here to pervert and thus seriously remove the reality of the true cross being the bridge between heaven and earth. Reduce but can never obliterate. If we can recover the true cross, be marked by it, the ugliness of oppressive power will be revealed, the tie between religion and politics will be broken, so that the followers of Jesus can help hold space where a politics (simply meaning the shaping of society) of love can grow. There is a new world we are called to see as a result of the cross of Jesus, and as embrace the cross a new world that is to become ever increasingly visible.

Brazil (and…) elections

Tomorrow we fly back to Europe. I have a few hours gap and with the Brazilian presidential election tomorrow night I have a few minutes to write and put up this video extract together with a comment regarding the church, this election and the wider issue in country after country. This election in Brazil is important, but it is important as a sign that the country has entered a very important season. The election is the sign… the challenge is for the body of Christ to participate in the season that is opening up.

I spoke into a conference in Brazil by Skype back in 2015 and spoke about a number of the things that have taken place since that date… That input was videoad and put on YouTube (not the video below). Crazily two of the presidential candidates in the earlier rounds used material directly from that input in their campaigns! Using it to manipulate votes… I understand they were Christian candidates or at least seeking to gain the Christian vote. The video below is from the recent few days. In it I seek to expose the major flaw in why the (normally) right wing strong law and order candidate is pulling the Christian vote. The serious nature of this is not whether they are the right / wrong or better candidate but the error that change comes top down… Much more to say on this, and this is not a comment about right / left politics – the extremes on both sides are experts at ‘biopower’, eating up lives in the process. There is though a major deception that is being exposed at this time, that of the understanding of power and the selling out of the church to the power paradigm. No surprise that with 22% evangelical the church of Brazil has still not shifted the presence of the occult. Thank God for the MANY and growing number of those who are clear on this.

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Positions of power

Following on a little from the previous set of posts I have a few tentative comments to make about holding a position of power as a believer. The Anabaptist background, when pushed to an extreme, repudiated all positions of secular power, and certainly the critique that comes from those quarters about the corruption that is inherent within many positions of power carries weight. The opposite viewpoint is the classic expression of Christendom. We need believers who can rule justly, and this is often expanded to mean along ‘biblical lines’. I, of course being a moderate, would wish to avoid all extremes!

History tends to show that the ‘good’ people once in power become corrupt. Gayle and I have followed closely the journey of a protest party that is the second largest political party in Spain by membership. We have asked if such a party can ever healthily become the governing party, or is the purpose of their being in existence to be a protest, an opposition? Being in power is not as easy as one thinks, there are powers that rule beyond the rulers (‘the great city that rules over the kings of the earth’). Of course in the light of the previous posts this would be a whole aspect that I believe we as believers are called to shift. There are powers that rule, and once we receive a mandate the outworking is almost always top-down and rather than decentralise power it seems to pull resources back to the centre.

However, governance is not wrong. A head teacher, the management in a hospital, and many more examples are needed. So I do not believe the extreme end of the Anabaptist type approach is feasible, while at the same time seeing the Christendom approach to be the very source for many of the global issues today. Here then are some tentative thoughts:

  • By nature most positions are fallen. We do not need to idealise them, nor demonise them. Any engagement has to be with the purpose of redemption. That redemption could lead to the very position disappearing, or being radically transformed, but either way the flow will be of resources and benefits to the marginalised.
  • To engage redemptively means there will be compromises. This is particularly true of any form of legislation. There is not a perfect legislation. Read OT laws!! They are not perfect but culturally moved Israel as a people in a better direction.
  • Probably women are better equipped to occupy any seat of power. We see this in Spain with the two mayoresses, one in Madrid and one in Barcelona. The shift away from the centre and top-down is remarkable. We also see in Spain a former expression of power held by women that was anything but de-centralisation. So it is not women per se, but a feminisation of power, a way of handling it that is probably needed.
  • There are wonderful examples of people sitting in a place of power but the direction set, by design or default, is of emptying the seat of its power. The current pope or archbishop of Canterbury seem to be there in that way. I have a good pastor friend who is so set on empowering those in the congregation he openly said to me that ‘of course this will not serve the growth of the church’. Well perhaps not by traditional ways of counting.
  • Alongside compromise there is probably also a rhythm that has to be adopted of taking initiative and then release. Of tentatively pulling on the power and generously releasing it.
  • If God releases to us and we have not grabbed it, a position that has power invested in it,
    we should not shy away from it, but receive it cautiously and work within it so that the maximum benefits can flow to the margins.
  • If such a position is not opened up, we also can learn how to help shape those seats to carry more potential for redemption through how we live and pray.

In contrast to Caesar’s (Domitian) throne with him seated at the centre and 24 advisors around him, John records in Revelation 4 that he saw:

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And the one worthy to open the future was none other than the Lamb slain. A pattern in Revelation is of hearing something (I heard… ‘The Lion’) is clarified by what is seen (I saw… ‘A Lamb’). The challenge to our involvement is that of following Jesus. The western world is in crisis. Probably in part brought on by prayer. The opportunities are enormous. I do not see the pathway as down either of the two extremes I started with, but the messy and sacrificial path that the Lamb pioneered.

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