Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Two Kingdoms

The Myth of History

As the Bible unfolds, we find society organized around two opposite kingdoms. The better one could be called the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, and we heard extensively about it from the lips of Jesus. He also spoke of the other kingdom, that of the Prince of this world.

In Matthew 4 we read about the Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness; this concerned Jesus' choice of a life script. The devil offered him the whole world, but Jesus rejected that kingdom for the better one.

The devil's world fought Jesus and succeeded in doing him to death, but the better kingdom Jesus announced continues to exist side by side with the devil's kingdom.

In the Bible this story goes back to the beginning: when God created the world, he found it very good (Genesis 1:31), but the story of the serpent and the forbidden fruit symbolizes the birth and dominion of the second kingdom, which has always worked against the kingdom of heaven.

In the early days of creation things went from bad to worse. One sign of this was the career of Nimrod, said to be the founder of Babel (Babylon). His descendant also founded Nineveh.

The children of Israel were successively conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians; the spiritual meaning of this is that the kingdom of the world dominated the incipient kingdom of God, at least in the material realm.

These empires embody what scholars know as the domination system. Other types of course were Rome, Napoleon's and Hitler's empires, and now, all too sorrowfully perhaps, the American Empire. What they all had in common was the use of force and violence to subjugate and "convert" or eliminate those whom they variously considered evil. This subjugation also meant the apparent subjugation of those vestiges of the kingdom of God that have endured through all of the "domination systems" of the world. All wars take on this character.

(These ideas were inspired by the books on the domination systems written by Walter Wink; Wink believed, against all contrary evidence, that the kingdom of God will not overcome the kingdom of this world, but will redeem it!)

4 comments:

david said...

The only thing I could add here is that this domination system is within me as well as outside of me. It has its hooks inside and makes me consciously or unconsciously complicit in the oppression I seek to oppose -- even in my own oppression.

I got that notion from Paolo Freire "Pedagogy of Hope" and Pedagogy of the Oppressed" but also my own experiences as I wrestle with my own inactions.

Larry said...

Thanks, David. The only thing I can add to your comment is that Wink also brings that out in detail in one or more of his books.

Marjorie said...

I get a word for the day from Webster's on-line, for today, its

jingoism (noun)
: extreme chauvinism or nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy

Larry said...

Yep! Jingoism very aptly describes domination systems of all stripes; and who is the jingoist country in the world?