I was just thinking about Biblical themes that conure up the present economic scenario, and Occupy Wall Street movements. I thought of Walter Wink and his series of books on “The Powers”, and how we are face to face with those he identifies as “Principalities and Powers”, which are the systems of “theis world”.
These systems take on a life all their own, turning individuals into cogs in a machine that begin to behave and self-protect in a manner that those individuals (or even the smaller groupings of which they may be a part) that alters their behavior and impacts their way of thinking about the world.
In most cases, the activity of the large entities (“the powers”) creates an alternate spiritual reality which is largely invisible to the “participants”. Since having read many of Wink’s works, I have become convinced that Paul is talking about “systems of power”, which today can be accurately identified with “corporations”, “Wall Street” and perhaps our entire American system of government, now that it has seemingly given itself over to such massive realignment of wealth.
Obama promises to change the ways of Washington, and he may have felt that to be possible, or that he was going to try, and once he got there, came into personal contact with the mechanisms that have become increasingly ossified into place as chief operators of the reigns of the direction of American politics and economics. But the “Principalities and Powers” are indeed a formidable force.
In thinking about this anew this morning, I did a google search : walter wink “the powers” occupy
and sure enough, Kurt Willems of thepangeablog did indeed write up such a connection back in October, concluding with the theological assesment:
This truly is the Domination System of â€œempire.â€
Kurt concludes this article with a warning of sorts. That we must also resist the tendency to demonize; and this accurately addresses the way I try to keep from being too harsh on, say, Obama. It is natural and easy to say he “sold us out”. But if we take seriously the perniciousness of “the principalities and powers”, we are forced to wonder just what the pressures are that are at work in this present crisis. The whole idea that one has to compromise with the system in order to gain re-election that would ostensibly allow one to “get things done” (which often turns out to bring yet newer sets of compromises to ease the path of the next candidate for the party. I caught this overriding theme of politics in watching the excellent drama “The West Wing”, and I have heard it used as the justification for nearly every bewildering move of “progressive” candidates.
And as a conversation I had with Jeremy Johns most recently has taught me (or “re-emphasized”), is that our tendency to violence is most vulnerable when faced with violence being used or threatened upon us; as a rather emotional and tempermental person myself, I must constantly check myself when I recognize my becoming judgmental toward those who have chosen to be less condemning of any form of violence. Stanly Hauerwas, one of my theological heroes, is constantly stressing how he needs the church to hold him to his commitment to non-violence, since he is all-tto aware that he is “a violent son of a bitch”. That is why non-violent protests do well to simulate in their training, and share testimony about the depth of their propensity to respond in kind.