We have reached a point in our exposition where Jesus in his sermon has identified for us the fundamental source of our distress and opposition: supra-human spiritual forces (Satan, fallen angels, the two beasts). In Paul’s language he speaks of some of these forces as “principalities and powers” (Eph.6:12). William Stringfellow offers a perceptive account of the various strategies they use to repress humanity and sustain their own existence. It is especially remarkable that he wrote this over 40 years yet it reads as contemporary as today’s newspaper! His insights put some flesh on the struggle we face to resist the Trump phenomenon in our time and place.
The Powers main goal is to sustain themselves (survival). And yet, that brute fact is rarely discussed candidly and in the open. Still, the state functions as the preeminent principality and power.
1. The Denial of Truth/lying
2. Doublespeak and Overtalk/euphemism or jargon
3. Secrecy and Boast of Expertise/hiding the truth
4. Surveillance and Harassment/intimidating those who seek truth
5. Exaggeration and Deception/absorbing the truth
6. Cursing and Conjuring/banishing, smearing, locking up dissidents
7. Usurpation and Absorption/co-opting the truth
8. Diversion and Demoralization/diverting, distracting
These (assaults on truth) Stringfellow calls Babel. It overwhelms and dumbfounds the faculties of comprehension: conscience and sanity:
Babel means the inversion of language, verbal inflation, libel, rumor, euphemism and coded phrases, rhetorical wantonness, redundancy, hyperbole, such profusion in speech and sound that comprehension is impaired, nonsense, sophistry, jargon, noise, incoherence, a chaos of voices and tongues, falsehood, blasphemy.
The noise of technology he also includes under Babel.
Babel lays the foundation for violence. Stringfellow quotes Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
“Let us not forget that violence does not exist by itself and cannot do so; it is necessarily interwoven with lies. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle.”
And given that the state sits at the top of the hierarchy of demonic powers, the state is generally named as "the Antichrist" in the biblical witness. Consequently, in her battle against the Antichrist the church exists in a state of resistance in relation to the state:
Those human beings and communities of humans who persevere in fidelity to God and to the gift of their humanity, those who resist death and thus live in Jesus Christ--whether that be a public formality or not--do so under the condemnation of the State in one way or another, be it in ridicule and ostracism, in poverty or imprisonment, as sojourners or fugitives, in clandestine existence, as a confessing movement, or, otherwise, in resistance.