DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Iron Cage: A Spoken Word Reflection**

Written by: on January 28, 2020

There is a deep hunger within each person,

a wondering,

a longing for a grounded Presence.

For millennia, we’ve been searching.

We want to know there’s more to this life

then what is visible.

 

So, we look about for the Divine,

the God of Creation,

Who spoke and all we see came to be.

Who breathed Spirit into a virgin

to form cells and tissue,

flesh and bone,

breath and movement amongst this world He created,

revealing in Emmanuel, Messiah,

the Beauty that humanity is, was, and will once again be.

 

In our attempts to understand this Wonder,

we theorize, theological-ize, capitalize on

ideas and concepts born of Church and culture,

economics and public space,

with a bit of Spirit sprinkled in… just in case.

We diligently pursue the Holy

not to experience our beloved-ness, but rather

in an attempt to harvest assurance,

hoard grace, and

prove or justify in some way that we belong.

 

We long for hope

in this wonderful and broken world in which we live

where pauperism and progress[1]

are outcomes of the unholy marriage

between some of the great -isms:

Calvinism,

Pietism,

Methodism,

Baptist-ism,

Asceticism,

and Capitalism,[2]

giving rise to generations of mutant offspring

named Wealth and Poverty,

Elite and Disenfranchised,

Privileged and Marginalized.

Where beliefs of eternal predestination lead

to the ascetic life of denial of the world’s vices

while also tapping into the lure of materialistic abundance,

revealing signs, indeed, sure-fire evidence

of divine chosen-ness;

tangible ways of recognizing the elect from the non-elect,[3]

the #blessed from #unblessed,

the “Us” from “Them,”

the “Saved’ from “Damned.”

 

Entrenched with “to-dos” and “not-to-dos,”

“sanctification by works,”[4]

through methods, goals, tasks, and means

we are led to a “watchful, aware, alert life,”[5]

of fulfilled calling, but devoid of compassion.

Humans saved by Grace

working,

toiling,

and laboring

to erect an “iron cage” mechanism

to rule the world

and wield power over others

like never before in history.[6]

 

What have we become

when our theology

pillages Creation?

 

What have we become

when proving one’s individual salvation outweighs

the good of the Gospel,

or when globalized greed

overpowers generously given Grace?

 

Why have we allowed authentic spirituality

to vaporize through the iron cage (bars)

of modern rationalism[7], leaving countless

people trapped, hungry, and alone,

at the expense of our fast fashion,

fast-food communion,

and plasticized conveniences?

 

One must conclude

we do an exceptional job

at intellectualizing God

and loving others as we love our shame-ridden selves,

“specialists without spirit,

hedonists without a heart,

nonentities imagin(ing) a stage of humankind

never before reached,”[8]

the antithesis of the One we claim to follow.

 

For Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted,

proclaim freedom for the captives,

and provide release from darkness for the prisoners.[9]

The iron cage was destroyed.

Once free, why do we choose to live any other way?

Are we like the dog who returns to its vomit,

or the washed sow that goes back to wallowing in the mud?[10]

Will we ever find our way Home?[11]

Father, forgive us for we know not what we are doing…

or do we?

 

**To be read aloud at a slow, even pace.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

[1] Karl Polyani. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1944, 1957, 2001) 108.

[2] Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism and Other Writings (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2002) 67-122.

[3] Ibid., 77.

[4] Ibid. 80.

[5] Ibid., 81.

[6] Ibid., 121.

[7] Francis Fukuyama, “The Calvinist Manifesto,” in The New York Times. March 13, 2005. Accessed January 27, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/13/books/review/the-calvinist-manifesto.html.

[8] Weber, 121.

[9] Isaiah 61:1.

[10] 2 Peter 2:22

[11] Luke 15:11-32

About the Author

mm

Darcy Hansen

11 responses to “Iron Cage: A Spoken Word Reflection**”

  1. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Creative. Solid.

    Confusion. Fear-based Living. Certainty.

    I hear these themes arise out of Weber and see them again in your piece. As I read both, I was stunned at the uncertainty of our belovedness that predestination generated and how that generated fear/insecurity which, in turn, generated an understanding of work that justified the accumulation of wealth. Before reading Weber, did you have a sense that capitalism emerged from Calvinism? I had always imagined that the Christian movement in the West had to morph in order to accept capitalist ideals, but I didn’t recognize how, as Weber suggested, a relatively new Christian theology shaped it. If it’s true, what do you think we do about it?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I had a professor at PS that is Indigenous people (Dr. Woodley), his perspectives combined with my church history (Dr. Brunner) classes gave me a peek into how Calvinism and capitalism began to meld together. Dr. Brunner said Calvinists based their proof of election on “signs of divine benevolence”(#blessed); Lutherans based evidence of election based on their suffering as in the theology of the cross. Dr. Woodley discussed our Puritan roots with Manifest Destiny and capitalism, revealing the toxicity of those relationships. Until our readings, I had no idea of the complexity of the relationship or how far back it reached.

      I have no idea how to redeem or reconcile the toxic situation. Education? Prayer? I’m not even sure capitalism can be fully redeemed. Some say fair-trade has potential, but I see that as even gross and continually dependent on consumerism, leaving at risk populations dependent on Western markets for their sales, if even done “fairly.” Great minds are likely reworking these challenges. What do you think? What possibilities exist? What are you seeing as you engage in your efforts?

      I just have to believe those who began these movements had no idea what they were doing or the long term effects of their actions. I have to believe they had altruistic, if even fear filled, reasons for what they did. Reconciling the movement of Spirit and the sovereignty of God in all this is very difficult for me.

  2. mm John McLarty says:

    Loved the creativity here. And haunted by your questions. Could human beings foresee where this path was leading us?

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      I’m thinking your question is rhetorical. Still, I have to believe if they could have seen ahead on the path, they would have made different choices. I remember hearing that when Luther saw some of the effects of the Reformation, he was not pleased. What started as one thing, was taken and changed to something else in the hands of others.

      I take it as a warning and ask the questions:
      How are my woundings shaping my theology about God and scripture? What biases am I missing? How is culture shaping my understanding of who God is, and impacting how I follow Jesus? What questions are you asking based on these readings?

  3. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    “mutant offspring” – nice. Impressive and potent post. These offspring often beg the question in my mind if something is missing in the original manifestation that naturally “gave birth” to these creatures, or is it in the transmission to the next group/generation that something was missed in the handoff that degraded to something sub-human.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Shawn,
      Your comment makes me think of a sci-fi movie. Being comfortable with paradox, I would say Yes to both options. Because we are humanish and incomplete in knowledge, we can only do so much. Those receiving also can only understand and transmit so much. All is biased and broken and in some ways, also beautiful. God works through it all. We, being believers and followers of Jesus, are evidence of such Divine intervention. Such Grace.

  4. mm Dylan Branson says:

    DARCY *snaps fingers* LOVE THIS.

    “Humans saved by Grace
    working,
    toiling,
    and laboring
    to erect an ‘iron cage’ mechanism
    to rule the world
    and wield power over others
    like never before in history.”

    This stanza was extra potent for me as I see this day to day here in Hong Kong. You hit on how the “-isms” of tradition have led to mutant offspring, which have erected the iron cage. There’s a building in HK called the IFC One Tower (can do a quick Google search of it). The top of the building is shaped like a cage. When I was in training during my first summers in HK, the trainer always mentioned this building saying how it broke her heart. To her, it looked like hands reaching up for help because they were drowning from the pressures of the HK life. That image has never left me and as I see the consequences the offspring of the “-isms” have wrought, it causes my heart to break for the city and its people.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Thank you. I absolutely LOVED writing this. I think these are things I’ve been considering for awhile, but didn’t have language for until now.

      First, I love how you love the people of HK. I’m so grateful you are there to be light and love for all those you interact with…just wear a mask when you do;)

      Second, that building is beautiful and horrific, all at the same time. Wow. Sadly, the consequences are not isolated to HK. They are global. Is there a way to birth something new, holy, and good? I believe it can happen, but it may take a good, long while. May we be faithful to be and do what we can.

  5. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    Very creative!
    Could you unfold this line a bit for me?
    What have we become
    when our theology pillages Creation?
    Which Theology are you talking about?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Greg,
      Great question. Weber addresses this topic on 120-121, when referencing Puritan’s theology of calling, from a “want to be” to a “must be.” This “must be” people of calling didn’t live in monastic communities, but rather in the public realm, helping build the “modern economic order.” He goes further saying, “Today this mighty cosmos determines, with overwhelming coercion, the style of life not only for those directly involved in the business but of every individual who is born into this mechanism, and may well continue to do so until the day that the last ton of fossil fuel is consumed.” So for me, when this evangelical/capitalistic theology is so woven into our being, and we pillage the resources to the detriment of the planet and people, it’s a problem. I think Weber clearly agrees. Does that help clarify that statement?

  6. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Dizzying. This story that we are born into and are a part of for a time.

    This Iron Cage. How is it that we are still enslaved? We must still be growing up?

    What do you think about Jesus’ words/prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’?

    Darcy, I was totally wrapped up in the words of your poem. Still am. It added to this hope that I want to dial into more and more (though difficult for my mind to grasp what’s to come), that hears the groans of a world in pain and yearns for change.

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