Dear Friends,

"Every business, school, denomination, bureaucracy, sports team — indeed, social reality in all its forms — is a combination of both visible and invisible, outer and inner, physical and spiritual."

Reading Walter Wink's 'The Powers That Be' rocked my world.

I'd been working in the non-profit sector, mostly on climate change, and found myself at a loss why our strategies saw such limited impact. Wink was a theologian and his work helped me see, for the first time, how theology is a useful tool for social change.

We live in a materialist culture, where what is respected and engaged are the facts of our physical world. And for good reason! Yet, what is pushed to the margins - to the Tarot readers and the reiki healers, to the whispered prayers in the hospital waiting room - is as essential to our personal and collective wellbeing

He called these non-material realities Powers. 

"Religious tradition has often treated the Powers as angelic or demonic beings fluttering about in the sky. Behind the gross literalism of that way of thinking, however, is the clear perception that spiritual forces impinge on and determine our lives."

Wink reminds us of that ancient angel/demon language used in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. In the Book of Daniel, for example, entire cities are described as having their own angel and the Book of Revelation also speaks of congregations having an angel who personifies the corporate entity. 

Wink explains - and this I love - that, "The angel of an institution is not just the sum total of all that an institution is; it is also the bearer of that institution's divine vocation." A sort of sacred purpose.

"Corporations and governments are creatures whose sole purpose is to serve the general welfare. And when they refuse to do so, their spirituality becomes diseased. They become 'demonic.'"

For all her lack of elected experience, this is what Marianne Williamson was describing on the stage of the Democratic Party debates over the summer. She pointed to the demonic heritage of slavery in the United States and addressing head-on this sickness in our culture as a fundamental spiritual question, not one to be solved by policy solutions alone. 

And, she knew that the counterforce - even against Trump/Boris/Bolsonaro - is love. 

This theological move was not abstract for Wink. His work evolved from spending time with Chileans during the Pinochet regime and South Africans surviving Apartheid. He became a convicted non-violence advocate and wrote about nonviolence strategies succeeding against Nazi Germany that are hope-inspiring.

Wink argues, "If the demonic arises when an angel deviates from its calling, then social change does not depend on casting out the demon, but recalling its angel to its divine task...The angel of a corporate entity is not simply the sum total of all it is, but also bears the message of what it ought to be."

What divine task might we need to be recalled to this week? What impossible demand is the world waiting for us to say 'yes' to?

As Wink reminds us, "Our existence is not our essence: we are, none of us, what we are meant to be."

Have a wonderful weekend, Shabbat Shalom,


In the first year of war
they played “bride and groom”
and counted everything on their fingers:
their faces reflected in the river;
the waves that swept away their faces
before disappearing;
and the names of newborns.
Then the war grew up
and invented a new game for them:
the winner is the one
who returns from the journey
full of stories of the dead
as the passing wings flutter
over the broken trees;
and now the winner must tow the hills of dust
so lightly that no one feels it;
and now the winner wears a necklace
with half a metal heart for a pendant,
and the task to follow
is to forget the other half.
The war grew old
and left the old letters,
the calendars and newspapers,
to turn yellow
with the news,
with the numbers,
and with the names
of the players.

- Dunya Mikhail
Copyright © 2018 Casper ter Kuile, All rights reserved.

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