Spatio-Temporal Continuity and the Ontological Permanence of the Principalities and Powers (Or, What Private Golf Clubs Can Teach Us About Spiritual Warfare)

If you're not following it, you need to check out Malcolm Gladwell's podcast Revisionist History.

I was recently listening to the Season 2 episode "A Good Walk Spoiled" about the golf courses in Los Angeles. The episode is mainly a reflection upon how rich, private golf clubs in LA avoid paying property taxes, depriving the citizens of LA access to much needed green space in a city that lacks public parks.

Beyond the justice issues raised in the podcast, the episode caught my attention as it provides a great illustration of how we can think about the principalities and powers as suprahuman forces at work in the world. Lots of people have tried to describe this aspect of the Powers--from Walter Wink to C.S. Lewis to N.T. Wright to my own attempts in Reviving Old Scratch.

It's best to just listen to the whole podcast, but the part to focus on is how the ownership of a golf club changes but doesn't change over time because of spatio-temporal continuity. Legally, because of spatio-temporal continuity, the "ownership" of these golf clubs hasn't changed over time, even though members have come and gone over the years. This allows the ownership of these clubs to remain under pre-1978 property tax rates (Prop 13).

The point for our purposes is how the Power is more than the sum of its constituent parts as it moves through time and how, due to spatio-temporal continuity, the Power keeps unjust structures firmly in place.

Gladwell makes the connection between the spatio-temporal continuity of the Power and injustice at the 29:38 mark in a conversation with philosopher Mark Cohen (emphases mine):
But it strikes me that in a political context this kind of thinking [i.e., spatio-temporal continuity] can be used to perpetuate inequality and injustice. For example, what is an aristocracy but a political formulation of the spatio-temporal continuity principle? It's troubling in precisely that way because it is saying, circumstances can change, and the holders of the privilege can change--the father can die and the son can inherit the peerage--but the peerage remains intact. It has this quality that's independent of all that is going on around it.

Yes. Where the identity of the object confers, for example, a right or a title, and if it's considered to be held intact and in full by whoever holds it at any one time, then basically that removes change altogether from the realm of what matters as far as ownership is concerned. So the seventeenth great-grandson of the peer has all the rights and privileges, even though so far removed from the rights and privileges as they attach to the original holder of them. So there is something that is unfair and anti-egalitarian about the way this principle can get applied
Basically, if you want to ponder the suprahuman aspect of the principalities and powers, listen to this podcast explore how, in Gladwell's words, "large groups of rich white people possess ontological permanence." 

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