Monday, February 10, 2020

Discerning the Powers and Our Complicity?

In this past week, have we not witnessed an inglorious demonstration of the Powers (the Domination System) at work in the SOTU address and the Senate “trial” and acquittal of Donald Trump1? how puppetry has become so entrenched in our Republic that hundreds genuflect to lies and concealments of and by both the Right and the Left? how only one man dared oppose his party-line on a single vote? and though the real motives of that one man are perhaps known only to himself and God, we should all know, by now, that the hidden persuasions of our deeply corrupted system have infected nigh, if not, every politician. Most of them know to the full that they do, indeed, wrestle against flesh and blood, as well as
... against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.2
and that most of them (and many of us) have succumbed in some fashion.

Perhaps the following quotes will open our eyes a little more:
We should be confessing our complicity with the Powers, the ways we benefit from the injustices they structure to our advantage, and the racist and sexual stereotyping that we thoughtlessly perpetuate in our encounters with others. Instead, we tend to confess infractions of the rules the Powers themselves have established. Forgiveness of sins often functions, not as an act of liberation from the delusional system, but as a rite of reinsertion into it. ... what we need is not to be cleaned up and sent right back into a corrupt society, but to be lifted out of it altogether, by a sovereign act of God, who wipes the slate clean and offers us a new reality, the reality intended for us from the foundation of the world.3

Humanity longs for a world where the travail of personal transformation will not be necessary, where the arduous effort to develop a virtuous character can be avoided, where our neighbors will be judged by the standards we idealize but have exempted ourselves from achieving. Behind all such dreams of a perfected social structure lies the nightmare of totalitarianism. At what cost in personal freedoms must the dream of an anarchy-free society be bought? Unless people as well as their systems are changed, the crystal utopias of our fantasies will continue to dawn blood-drenched and inhospitable.4

No arrangement of social cooperation, in which power controls power and anarchy is tamed, will produce human beings free from the lust for power.5

Most functioning democracies are run by oligarchies that maintain power whichever party is elected, and they make common cause with bureaucrats intent on preserving their own fiefdoms. Even at the local level, democratic governance [has become] inefficient, contentious, shortsighted, and miserly.6

We are dead [to Christ] insofar as we have been socialized into patterns of injustice. We died, bit by bit, as expectations foreign to our essence were forced upon us. We died as we began to become complicit in our own alienation and that of others. We died as we grew to love our bondage, to rationalize, justify, and even champion it. And by a kind of heavenly homeopathy, we must swallow what killed us in order to come to life.7

But rebirth is not a private, inward event only. For it also includes the necessity of dying to whatever in our social surroundings has shaped us inauthentically. We must also die to the Domination System in order to live authentically. Those born to privilege and wealth may miss life by having been installed at the center of a universe revolving around their own desires. Others, born to merciless poverty and the contempt of the ruling class, may miss life by never feeling really human at all. If the advantaged must die to their egocentricity, the underprivileged must die to their hopelessness, fatalism, and acquiescence in their own despoiling.8

The church has many functions, not all related to the Powers. With reference to the Powers, however, its task, as we have seen, is to unmask their idolatrous pretensions, to identify their dehumanizing values, to strip from them the mantle of respectability, and to disenthrall their victims. It is uniquely equipped to help people unmask and die to the Powers.9

The Powers once again, acting from concealment, entice courageous and dedicated people to blame their own personal inadequacies for what are in fact systemically induced delusions. Here the traditional religions can come to our aid, Lerner insists, since they, almost alone in our society, are able to mount a consistent counter-cultural critique of domination.10

"You don't need courage to speak out against a regime. You just need not to care anymore—not to care about being punished or beaten."11

[F]ollowing Jesus' liberating way puts us on a collision course with oppressive regimes and institutions, which will resort to any means necessary to crush resistance. By voluntarily and deliberately facing the prospect of death, one is freed from its power as a deterrent. "Just as one must learn the art of killing in the training for violence," taught Gandhi, "so one must learn the art of dying in the training for non-violence.""12
Are our churches helping us learn this: the art of dying to our fears of disapproval, our fears of being punished, of being ostracized or criticized? How are we ever going to be prepared to stand for truth and freedom if we fear dying to the perks, privileges, and praise of the Powers?

1. Déjà Vu: Pandora*? at
2. New Testament | Ephesians 6:12
3. Walter Wink. Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Kindle Locations 2336-2342). Kindle Edition.
4. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 1138-1141). Kindle Edition.
5. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 1137-1138). Kindle Edition.
See also: The Spirit of Power at
6. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 2471-2473). Kindle Edition.
7. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 2293-2295). Kindle Edition.
8. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 2302-2306). Kindle Edition.
9. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 2400-2402). Kindle Edition.
10. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 1070-1072). Kindle Edition.
11. Ibid., (Kindle Location 2289). Kindle Edition.
12. Ibid., (Kindle Locations 2382-2384). Kindle Edition.

Creative Commons License
Déjà Vu ~ Times II blog by SMSmith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License.