Starting Points: health and wellbeing

KENARCHY JOURNAL VOLUME 3
Editorial
Sue Mitchell

Sue Mitchell MSc PGCE is coordinator of the Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission. She is an honorary researcher in the Lancaster University Centre for Alternatives to Social and Economic Inequalities and an accredited member of the Association for Coaching.

Volume 3 Editorial


Volume 3.1
A Society Without Imagination: A Lament
Paul Milbank

Paul Milbank lives on the Channel Island of Jersey. He works in public policy in the Economy Department of Jersey’s independent Government, leading on policy areas such as arts, culture and sport.

Abstract

This paper explores the loss of imagination in contemporary society as a consequence of the modern tendency to associate the ‘real’ with the material and quantitative. With reference to the development of Realism by Marx and Freud and its current role as the foundation of modern capitalism, the author draws on the work of Carl Jung, Brazilian theologian Ruben Alves, and cultural theorist Mark Fisher to expose this development and reassert the vital role of the imagination. The subjugation of imagination to Realism is regarded as especially tragic because Realism as an ideology underscores and sponsors a social structure in which the world is divided between those who have power and those upon whom power is exercised. The loss of a proper recognition of the place of the arts in socio-political re-imagination and hope for change is exposed and lamented. Imagination is viewed as not altogether lost, being particularly vested in children and the creative arts, but rather suppressed. In conclusion, despite the way that contemporary social reality presents as permanent and incontrovertible, the paper makes a fervent plea for the recovery of space in which the human soul can reassert its needs and longings into the world.

Volume 3.1


Volume 3.2
Hidden in Plain Sight: reconsidering the value of social reproduction, work and nature
Julie Tomlin

Julie Tomlin has postgraduate qualifications in both journalism and political theology. A writer and director of a charity exploring social and environmental justice, she has a particular interest in social reproduction work. She has recently moved to Lancaster.

Abstract

Taking as its starting point Marilyn Waring’s painstaking research into the workings of the United Nations Systems of National Accounts (UNSNA), this paper sets out to engage with critiques of the use of annual growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measurement of national wellbeing. Attention then turns to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is read for indications not only of the failure of neoliberalism’s pursuit of economic growth to secure the wellbeing of citizens through the, but also for signs and ways that narratives and values have been disrupted since March 2020. Two strands of interlinking thought are then set out: the degrowth movement with its arguments for care-focused approaches to political economy, and the search for alternatives to the current ‘growthism’. Feminist criticism of the degrowth movement’s failure to engage with the work of Waring and ecofeminists more generally, as well as the limitations of the term ‘care’ open up further exploration of the devaluation of nature, women and social reproduction work. Val Plumwood’s feminist critique of the master identity and the dualisms that are derived from it, particularly in relation to slavery, are followed through into Silvia Federici’s assertion that the development of capitalism was facilitated by violence and devaluation, of women and of their work.

To the search for resources that inspire fresh imaginaries of a world in which difference is not linked to hierarchy and dominance is added the story of “the lowly Jesus” washing his disciples’ feet. Jesus’ disruption of dualisms associated with the household and hospitality, is situated in contrast with the role of the Church in upholding dominant power models. In conclusion, the paper returns to the issue of growth and its destructive impacts on the earth, making clear that progress within the capitalist system is not commensurate with freedom for women or the wellbeing of the earth. The urgent need for solidarity across gender, race and class difference that engages with the earth as a political subject is offered as a basis for the search for alternatives to growth.

Volume 3.2


Volume 3.3
Towards a political theology of nations
Roger Haydon Mitchell

Roger Haydon Mitchell, PhD, is a theologian and activist, an honorary researcher in the Lancaster University Centre for Alternatives to Social and Economic Inequalities, and political theologian with the Westminster Theological Centre.

Abstract

This paper distinguishes between an apocalyptic and a messianic perspective on the theology of nations. With reference to the gospel emphasis on Jesus’ peripatetic strategy of opening the land to the nations, it proposes that the fullness of expression of a nation manifests when tribes, tongues, and people come together in all their unique variety and chronological history in relationship with a particular geography and pursue a politics of love. It suggests that this is the work of the kingdom of God as distinct from the telos of the nation state, and that enabling this fullness to the uttermost parts of the earth is the messianic calling of the church, now expedited by three new generations of lived experience of the Spirit since the early twentieth 20th century Pentecostal renewal. It concludes that the ecclesia should embark on an integral transformation of ourselves and our ways of living, and open up, utilise, or ignore existing nation state structures and borders and get on with the task. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s prophetic sermon, The Church and the Kingdom, (London, New York, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2012), and Monsignor Peter Hocken’s final book The Challenges of the Pentecostal, Charismatic and Messianic Jewish Movements (Farnham, Surrey and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2009), attention is given to the notion of the messianic in these two perspectives. Note is taken of the tendency to identify Israel with the messianic in an apocalyptic view of eschatology in Hocken’s work, in contrast to Agamben’s alternative identification of the messianic with kingdom life in the penultimate, which I identify as the politics of love, or kenarchy. Predicated on my research in Church, Gospel and Empire (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2011), the paper suggests that Hocken’s strong rebuttal of the replacement of Israel by the church needs to be applied to an earlier replacement of the kingdom with Israel. In affirmation of this, the two narrative approach to the Hebrew Bible, advocated by theologians such as Walter Brueggemann and Wesley Howard-Brook is outlined. Finally, Orthodox theologian Brad Jersak’s Johannine and universal exegesis of Zechariah’s “they will look on me whom they have pierced” (Zech 12: 10), and political theorist Warren Magnusson’s encouragement to see like a city, are seen to indicate that a truly messianic ecclesia will advance a progressive politics of love in our twenty-first century cities and their hinterlands.

Volume 3.3


Volume 3.4
Healthy Cities
Mike Love

Mike Love is a doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds developing a kenarchic political theology of cities. For twenty years he has worked with Leeds charity ‘Together for Peace’, bringing people together to seek the welfare of the city.

Abstract

In this article I ask if and how a city can be a healthy city by providing the conditions for wellbeing. The linkages between poverty, power, and health are well established and increasingly recognised in national and local policy rhetoric, but wellbeing still tends to be thought of as personal and as an aspect of healthcare rather than the primary determinant. Because wellbeing is so linked to relative power and socio-economic status, improving wellbeing – and therefore health – is a profoundly political issue. Over 55% of the world’s population now live in cities, power is being devolved from nation-states to cities globally, and cities are the major cause of ecological depredation, so it is to cities that we must look for solutions. Jewish and Christian scriptures offer a rich theopolitical imaginary for cities of wellbeing, given the all-embracing nature of shalom and all that Jerusalem (meaning ‘founded on peace’) signifies eschatologically. With North American feminist theologian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, I argue that ekklesia should be given its political import as the radically democratic body politic of cities now seen through an eschatological hermeneutic of space and not just time. The spatial complexity of cities means that they are a pluriverse of potential ekklesiae in which the poor discover their agentic personhood and are healed.

Volume 3.4


Volume 3.5
Healthy Cities
Andy Knox

Andy Knox is a GP and Director of Population Health in Morecambe Bay and across Lancashire and South Cumbria. He is a Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University in Sociology and Health, an Associate at the King’s Fund and a member of the NHS National Assembly.

Abstract

This paper explores the parameters of what a healthy city might look like from the perspective of the politics of love. Beginning with some definitions of city, love and wellbeing, the paper contrasts these with features of the unhealthy cities in our current context and experience. Taking as the starting point the inequalities and inequities exposed by the current Coronavirus pandemic, the pre-existent roots of the current crisis are set out. Focusing on the impact of austerity policies of the last decade on women, ethnic minorities and children, particular emphasis is given to the significant effects of adverse childhood experiences. The negative impacts of current politics of division, exclusion and freedom are then explored as evidence of the broken ideology of capitalism in crisis. The positive remedies advocated by Mariana Mazzucato, Katherine Trebeck and Kate Raworth which are currently being explored in several cities with exciting results are then outlined. Finally, the principles of love are put forward as a participative agenda for the future health of our cities.

Volume 3.5


Volume 3.6
Implications of Including Zipporah’s Story in a Theology of Mediation
Michael Huffman

Michael Huffman has served as a pastor, teacher, and mentor of Christian youth in various capacities throughout his adult life. He looks forward to his new vocation as Coordinator of the Center of Theological Development in Antalya, Turkey.

Abstract

Due to his role as mediator between YHWH and Israel (see Ex. 32:11-14; 33:12-13), Moses has often been seen as a type of Christ. But perhaps due both in part to the brevity of her story and in part to her identity as a “foreign” woman, Zipporah’s role as a mediator has not afforded her the same legacy in the church. Nevertheless, her legacy is needed. The way that Zipporah acts in the narrative serves to fill out important aspects of Exodus’s theology of mediation that are missed when she is overlooked. Reminding ourselves of her role is especially important today, when populist nationalism and xenophobia are gaining ground in too many majority Christian countries. Not only does Zipporah’s actions in the narrative demonstrate that even Moses needed a mediator, and that God found one in a “foreign” woman, Zipporah’s location between Moses’s calling and YHWH’s alleged slaughter of the firstborn Egyptian children provides a much-needed counter-voice in the text that hints toward a hope that, with the right mediator, God can become the saviour of all people, no matter which “side” they are on. Christians have tended to focus on the Passover Lamb as the substitute in the Exodus narrative–the one who stands in Israel’s place and dies for it. But in practical terms it was the Egyptian firstborn children whose deaths effected Pharaoh’s (temporary) change of heart, leading to the Israelites’ liberation. If the story is read without Zipporah, an “us-versus-them” dualism tends stubbornly to emerge and re-emerge. But when Zipporah’s is story is given its proper place, the force of the “us-versus-them” way of reading the Exodus story is mitigated. Meditating on Zipporah as mediator illuminates both our understanding of the theology of Exodus as a cohesive narrative as well as our Christology, as we consider how she foreshadows the mediating work of Jesus as the final deliverer of Israel and the world.

Volume 3.6


Volume 3.7
The Lord’s Supper Table as Icon for Remembrance in I Corinthians 11:17-34: An Apostolic and Patristic Reprimand for Inclusive, Christlike Table Manners
Marisa Lapish

Marisa Lapish is a certified Spiritual Director through Sustainable Faith https://sustainablefaith.com, the Contemplative Practices Facilitator for the Institute for Religion, Peace, and Justice (IRPJ.org), and a graduate student at St. Stephen’s University, New Brunswick, Canada.

Abstract

This paper examines the “table manners” around early church practices of the Lord’s Supper Table in light of I Corinthians 11:17-34. Alongside patristic voices, Paul’s corrective reprimand in this passage demonstrates an inclusive ethic at the Lord’s Supper Table as an icon of remembrance for expressing the gospel of love embodied in the new humanity on earth as it is in heaven. First-century Greco-Roman meal practices are discussed as well as the meaning of anamnesis as “remembrance,” for a Christotelic expression in Jesus’ Last Supper as a kingdom of God prototype for early church table manners. In I Corinthians 11:17-34, the unethical table manners of the rich toward the poor are specifically highlighted by Paul and confirmed through patristic writings. By pointing back to Jesus’ Last Supper table, Paul actually collapses time to point forward, reorienting the church of Corinth to the future kingdom of God—the messianic banquet table where all would feast equitably and peaceably, with love and justice. In this way, the Lord’s Supper practice is a “re-membering” of suffering humanity, an ethic of “just hospitality.” This table represents the kenotic love of Jesus through the love of neighbour, revealing the meaning of the cross, the body and blood given for one and all, expressed through the bread and wine shared by one and all.

Volume 3.7

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