The Power of Love

And other modern misconceptions

I equated Christianity with shame, guilt, anger, blame, judgment, punishment, silence, depression, and hypocrisy. I remember, when I was quite young, making a trip as a family to proselytize to a relative. While my father was preaching his gospel to him, I was there and my father asked me to back up what he was saying, to confirm how happy we were because we were Christians. All I could do was nod, while internally I felt none of it was true for myself. All of these years I have felt condemned, by myself, by my father, by my mother, by my siblings, by my God for not living up to the image of perfection laid out by God’s perfect law. I have not led one person to Christ, because I have been conditioned by my family to believe in a God of shame, guilt, anger, blame, judgment, punishment, fear, and silence, and I could not in good conscience wish that same personal hell on anyone else. I would have committed suicide long ago if the fear of eternal conscious torment in hell had not also been part of the toxic theology that we had been sold by the marketing machine of the imperial and colonial religious hierarchies of which we are the expendable infantry in their culture wars. They have now taken control of the greatest military industrial complex in the world and they couldn’t be happier, now that they can put their plan into place to enforce God’s laws on the world and engage the world in a holy war that will lead to their ultimate supremacy over heaven and earth.

Building the House of God

I am only now waking up to the fact that this is not good news for the world and it is a gross distortion and corruption of the message that Jesus came to bring of his great love for the whole world and not just for those who believe that Christianity is the only institution in the world capable of building the house in which God can live.

“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’ You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him — you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭7:48–53‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Freedom & Choices

Now, we have two choices after hearing these words of Stephen from the narrative of the book of Acts:

We can be like Saul, the chief of police of religious orthodoxy, at whose feet the members of the supreme court of the religious establishment laid their coats while stoning Stephen for the unsubstantiated charge of blasphemy.

Or we can be like Paul, whose name was changed from Saul after he was blinded by the light and love of Jesus so that he could finally see his own self-deception, to understand that he had not been his brother’s keeper, but he was behaving as Cain, the murderer of his brother Abel. His own actions amounted to persecuting Jesus, who asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” He also said to his followers, “Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me.”

Saul was determined to enforce the law through religious power, violent suppression and genocide. Paul spread the message of grace and truth, teaching the most excellent way of faith, hope, and love.

Christendom (The Age of the Gentiles)

The believers called themselves the followers of the way. The term “Christian” was a derogatory term given to them by the Roman Empire to belittle them. These “little Christs” were the least of all, to be persecuted, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, judged, convicted, crucified, burned, and thrown to the lions. They were to be treated the same as the seditious traitor to the empire that they followed, their supposed Messiah, “annointed one,” God’s chosen king. They scoffed at these “little kings” who were spreading this treachery throughout the Roman Empire. They made an example of them to anyone else who might challenge the authority of the Lord of the empire, the Emperor, Caesar. To refer to this Jesus as “Christ” (king) and “Lord” was an act of treason against the emperor and a capital crime.

Power Corrupts

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

However, everything changed when Constantine combined the cross with the sword. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and Christianity has been coming to terms with that corruption ever since. Out of that corruption, embodied by the Holy Roman Empire, and most, if not all, subsequent hierarchies in the form of papacies, empires, monarchies, republics, and corporations, the great evils of the world have emerged: the crusades, inquisitions, wars, genocides, witch hunts, persecutions, slavery, fascism, holocaust, nuclear armament, and the pollution, destabilization, and destruction of the fragile ecosystems of the earth.

The Idol of Empire

The United States of America is the ultimate successor of Egypt, Babylon, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the Third Reich. It is the greatest empire the world has ever seen. But it has a head of gold and feet of iron and clay. Power is iron, religion is clay. By mixing church and state, the idol of empire is weakened, corrupted, and destabilized.

We might also say that iron is law, and people are clay. Democracy gives power to the people. The American experiment tried to temper this power by the rule of law. However, if a person is elected to leadership as the law and order candidate, but has a documented history of manipulating the law to serve his own ends, the people have set in motion the self-destruction of the republic.

The idol of power cannot stand. The natural laws of physics might predict its self-destruction, as the idol has been engineered to fail, being both top-heavy and structurally unsound. The center of gravity is too high. That’s why the pyramid is a more enduring structure and symbol of power, still used today in most power hierarchies. However, the pyramid also represents a culture of death.

Modern culture represents the death of love. If you want to read about the atrocities of the 20th century to understand how experiments in social engineering have led to mass genocide, I recommend Paul Johnson’s book, Modern Times, as a general survey from a primarily conservative perspective.

Babel and Babylon

Destroy the idol of power and the empire will reassert its authority and power through violent retaliation, oppression and domination to protect its sense of security, wealth, and position at the top of the pyramid.

In 1919, in Weimar, Germany, Walter Gropius inaugurated the Bauhaus with the following manifesto:

The ultimate aim of all visual arts is the complete building! To embellish buildings was once the noblest function of the fine arts; they were the indispensable components of great architecture. Today the arts exist in isolation, from which they can be rescued only through the conscious, cooperative effort of all craftsmen. Architects, painters, and sculptors must recognize anew and learn to grasp the composite character of a building both as an entity and in its separate parts. Only then will their work be imbued with the architectonic spirit which it has lost as “salon art.”

The old schools of art were unable to produce this unity; how could they, since art cannot be taught. They must be merged once more with the workshop. The mere drawing and painting world of the pattern designer and the applied artist must become a world that builds again. When young people who take a joy in artistic creation once more begin their life’s work by learning a trade, then the unproductive “artist” will no longer be condemned to deficient artistry, for their skill will now be preserved for the crafts, in which they will be able to achieve excellence.

Architects, sculptors, painters, we all must return to the crafts! For art is not a “profession.” There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman. In rare moments of inspiration, transcending the consciousness of his will, the grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art. But proficiency in a craft is essential to every artist. Therein lies the prime source of creative imagination. Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist! Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith.

I have often thought that this manifesto best encapsulates the modern aspiration to create a name for ourselves by building on a newly found self-awareness of industrial mastery over our own environment. The manifesto is merely a reassertion of the metanarrative of the Tower of Babel.

I have also speculated that the Tower of Babel finds its ultimate modern expression in the World Trade Center, primarily because of its significance in our post-modern history and politics. As the modern symbol of the New Babylon, it is the idol that best represents the identity and aspirations of the American Empire.

I would also speculate that the enemies of the empire wanted to strike at the very heart of the identity of the hierarchy and its global network. By the swift, but misguided response of the empire, I believe their enemies had indeed correctly identified the Achilles heal and ultimate symbol of the hierarchy.

Modernism: A New Faith

To put these speculations into context requires a brief look at the history of art and technology in the twentieth century.

The Bauhaus, as the evangelists of modernist design, were the progenitors of industrial design, graphic design, and the international style of architecture. These modernist movements in art and architecture have given us the minimalistic, geometric, industrially-engineered products and environments upon which our cities and cultures have been built. As an attempt to rebuild society out of the ashes of the First World War, the Bauhaus built upon the new industrial model of production established by Ford, and combined experimentation with new aesthetic forms by discarding the pretense and ornamentation of the traditional facade of imperial, papal, and monarchical civility, and replacing them with industrial materials and basic geometric shapes and structures. The new modernist philosophy and aesthetic were the genesis of a kind of secular religion built upon a levelling of the hierarchies in favour of the collective power of a world built upon a synthesis of art and technology, craft and science.

When the Nazi hierarchy, offended by the art, architecture and philosophy of the school, closed the Bauhaus in Berlin in 1933, the creative network was scattered around the world. Gropius himself started the New Bauhaus in Chicago.

The art and architecture of the Bauhaus were the modern seed of our concrete, glass and steel skyscrapers, as well as the minimalist designs of the devices and user experiences produced by Apple and Google, the brands that currently represent the pinnacle of industrial design, corporate success and culture.

Post-Modernism: Oil and Water

The events of 9/11 provoked the conflict that most clearly brought an end to the modernist age, creating a sense of loss and disillusionment for the people of the U.S. similar to the end of the Great War of 1914–1918 for the people of Germany.

Returning to the analogy I have been referring to in the biblical narrative of Daniel, the idol of the empire is said to have feet of iron and clay.

And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

We might also say that iron and clay mix just as well as oil and water or power and love. These are the hierarchies and networks that John P. Kotter mentions in his book, XLR8 (Accelerate).

If I were to add anything to that perspective, I would suggest that, since the network represents change and the hierarchy represents management, the phrase “change management” is an oxymoron.

Standing Rock is the symbolic beginnings of the post-modern clash between the hierarchies and the networks, the corporate oil interests and the water protectors. However, the corporations have usurped the rights of people by achieving the legal right to assume the rights of personhood, thereby fulfilling the ultimate aspiration of mankind: immortality. By establishing economics as the ultimate measure of human value and worth, the corporation has become more valuable than any other person. The corporation has, in effect, achieved divine status, as all people around the globe serve this god, a combination of all the idols of the past: Mammon, Aphrodite, Mars, Zeus.

By combining all hierarchies into a single entity, now all governmental, military, religious, legal, and economic power could potentially reside in a single person, if the people were willing to concede their own individual and collective power to this individual.

Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.

Trump: I have built the greatest Death Star, and I am going to make the Alliance pay for it.

A New Hope

If there is any hope in this scenario, it may be that “change management” is necessary. Management wants to rid the world of the change agents. The change agents want to rid the world of management. That is a zero-sum game.

The results are not pretty when the Empire and the Rebellion seek to eliminate each other from the equation of existence.

By fusing the two, the hierarchies and the networks, into a single entity, there may be a hope for all.

I have heard that we can overcome evil with good. So, we are trying in small ways to put that into action.

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Quebec City, Canada, we gathered to show solidarity and support with the Muslim community in our own city.

At the foundation of the wisdom that human beings have accumulated in the search for a common understanding of our origins, our identity, and our ultimate destiny, there are the concepts of love, empathy, respect, community, and hospitality. That must be our hope, and the foundation of the human life and work.

To be one in spirit and purpose. Unity is our only hope. That is the unity that the Great Spirit, our Creator, God invites us to.

Instead of “either / or” there can be “both + and”. Instead of deciding between hierarchies or networks, between management or change, we can fuse the two into one: change management. Instead of deciding between power or love, let us consider the power of love.

In the end, love wins.

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design.

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