It wouldn’t surprise me if parliamentary satirists soon join the swelling ranks of the unemployed, hard as it now is to top, for rib-splitting hilarity, the Pythonesque sketches starring the Labour leadership that feature nightly on what television producers still insist on calling the News. It is blindingly obvious to anyone not in pathological denial that the Front Bench has collectively lost the plot, but it is when Brown and Darling, with Promethean pretentiousness, pontificate on the economy that the laughometer goes off the rictus scale. So hapless are they that they make Basil Fawlty look like a paragon of someone who knows what he is doing. Of course no one expects politicians to own up and frankly admit that they don’t know what the fuck (not even economists know what the fuck about the economy). But perhaps only Christians are in a position to understand the perennial reason for the sheer hubris of the buggers - and no one puts it with greater theological acuity than William Stringfellow in his writings on the “powers”: how we
persevere in belaboring the illusion that at least some institutions are benign and viable and within human direction or can be rendered so by discipline or reform or revolution or displacement. The principalities are, it is supposed, capable of being altered so as to respect and serve human life, instead of demeaning and dominating human life, provided there is sufficient human will to accomplish this.
I suggest this to be, however, a virtually incredible view … which is both theolgically false and empirically unwarranted….
If there be knowing victims of the principalities, if there indeed be saints and prophets, there are many victims who do not realize it, and there are persons who are eager slaves to these idols. Often these acolytes of the demonic seem to be oblivious to how the principalities tyrannize and corrupt their humanness. In Revelation, the kings and merchants and traders seem startled and bewildered by Babylon’s doom (Rev. 18:9-17)….
There is unleashed among the principalities … a ruthless, self-proliferating, all-consuming institutional process which assaults, dispirits, defeats, and destroys human life even among, and primarily among, those persons in positions of institutional leadership. They are left with titles, but without effectual authority; with the trappings of power, but without control over the institutions they head; in nominal command, but bereft of dominion. These same principalities … threaten and defy and enslave human beings of other status in diverse ways, but the most poignant victim of the demonic … is the so-called leader.
It is not surprising, thus, to find - in addition to the ranks of those whose conformity to and idolatry of the principalities means that they are automatons or puppets - some persons, reputed leaders attended by the trappings of high office, who are enthralled by their own enslavement and consider themselves rewarded for it, and who conceive of their own dehumanization as justification or moral superiority.
You can always count on Stringfellow to expose the buck-nakedness of our emperors.
William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2004), pp. 83, 87-89.