Business Connect Host 2015: Black Magic and Kenarchy

Two more posts, today's and one more next week, to share some preliminary reflections from the Business Connect Host event.

In this post I want to talk about black magic and  kenarchy.

At Host both Roger Mitchell and Stephen Backhouse spoke about kenosis in ways that were very, very helpful to me.

Stephen began by asking us to describe what a practitioner of "black magic" is trying to do. The consensus was that black magic is the attempt to impose your will upon the world to remake it in your image. And that, Stephen pointed out, in the same impulse at work in politics. Politics is a form of black magic. Politics is the attempt to impose your will upon the world to remake it in your image.

Stephen went on to contrast that "will to power" with what we see in the Kenosis Hymn of Philippians 2. Here is where Stephen said some things that were very helpful to me.

Specifically, there are a variety of problems when we think of kenosis as an "emptying" that takes you from the top to the bottom. If that's what kenosis is then it's really something only the privileged can do. But Stephen drew out the political aspects of the Kenosis Hymn arguing that the phrase "equality with god" was less about a divine ontological status than a term common at that time and place used to talk about political rivalry, especially a rivalry with Caesar, the expression of a desire to wrest power away from Caesar for yourself (Caesar being, of course, a god).

Further, the word harpagmon is a bit tricky to translate. We often render it "clung to" or "grasped," or "did not consider it something to be used to his own advantage." This definition is key in understanding kenosis as kenosis is framed in the hymn as the opposite, the antithesis of harpagmon. Harpagmon means to seize something as plunder with an open use for force. It's a term of violence, with military overtones.

Harpagmon is black magic, the use of force to impose your will upon the world.

And that--harpagmon--is what Jesus renounces in kenosis. Kenosis is not a movement from "high" status to "low" status as much as it is a refusal to use coercive power in the world to seize things for ourselves. Instead of seizing and gathering power for himself, as Roman political rivals would as they plotted against Caesar, Jesus renounced this path and chose the path of love.

Another way we might frame all this is that Jesus revolutionized how we think of power. This is the idea at the heart of what Roger Mitchell calls "kenarchy."

Kenarchy is the "rule" or "authority" of love, the "new politics" of love that Jesus introduces with a Kingdom made up of servants who renounce power over others. (For more about what Roger is doing with the notion of kenarchy visit his blog.)

What does the the politics of kenarchy look like?

Roger shared seven foci of kenarchy found in Scripture: instating women, prioritizing children, advocating for the poor, welcoming strangers, reintegrating humanity and creation, freeing prisoners and caring for the sick.

If the politics of the world is the black magic of harpagmon, kenarchy is the white magic of the Kingdom of God.

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2 thoughts on “Business Connect Host 2015: Black Magic and Kenarchy”

  1. Obviously, most extremes are the result of being seduced by power. But the seduction I see today is that of religious people into the rationale of, "We desire power only for righteousness sake, and to keep it out of the hands of those who do not have the ability to use it". That is when human rights become secondary to the "righteous" results of elections, when "righteousness" can lie to itself with, "We first need to control them before we can serve them."

  2. RE equality with God, another tradition of kenosis suggests the inverse of the Big Bang Theory. At Creation, God completely emptied himself and become the smallest particle. The God particle? Would Equality with God then follow this scenario as did Jesus by emptying oneself of glory, resigning from being in charge and giving up all the power?

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