Pink Floyd and the Kingdom of God

Okay, I will admit that this essay has little to do with any direct connection between Pink Floyd and the Kingdom of God. However, sometimes the random rabbit trails we follow end up awakening some interesting thoughts.

I recently acquired a copy of Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene! (Open Court Publishing, 2007), edited by George a Reisch, a graduate instructor at Northwestern University. The fourth essay in the book, “Pigs Training Dogs to Exploit Sheep: Animals as a Beast Fable Dystopia,” was written by Patrick Croskery, an Associate Professor in the Department of Religion & Philosophy at Ohio Northern University. This is some heady stuff!

Croskery draws parallels and discusses the similarities between Pink Floyd’s Animals and George Orwell’s 1984. As a Christian, endowed with the Holy Spirit, I cannot help but to “hear” God’s voice in relation to the subjects before me and reflecting on God’s take, so to speak, on those subjects.

What jumped out at me most was Croskery’s succinct capture of the three dominant forces at work in human culture: government, the marketplace, and community. He makes an excellent point that (what I consider) the “powers and principalities” within societies are always in tension. The government polices human behavior. The marketplace provides for human material well being. The community dictates moral direction.

Unfortunately, as Croskery points out, only the government and the marketplace have well-ordered power structures in place to exercise their will. The community, unless riled to strong unified action, like governmental overthrows or large-scale boycotts, gets pushed around a lot by the entrenched directors of the other two institutions for their own advantage. Communal moral authority tends to degrade as it slowly succumbs to the seemingly indomitable corruption of the power drive and elitism of government and the greed that too often fosters bottom line thinking at all (human) costs in business.

What struck me was that these three institutional structures emanate from the community of the Trinity, which predicates both governance and provision on communal moral authority. That community is founded in love, the essence of both Spirit (philosophic personality as inward, guiding motivation) and divine character (manifest behavioral personality as outward, action orientation). As 1 John 4:8 says: God is love.

Thus we can see the corrupting effect of sin in that social mores are subsumed (pushed away from divine order) and culture (and therefore all overarching institutions) suffers separation from God’s will, ways, and plan, driven by the overt entrenchment of human self-determination and self-interest.

As we participate in bringing God’s Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven, we must first take on the mind of Christ, that is, to accept and then act on a guiding philosophy of altruistic being. God does not relish material sacrifices for their own sake. He wants all people to function from a heart of justice which entails willing sacrifice as a manifestation of divine character (Proverbs 21:3; see also my essay “On Justice and Righteousness – mishpat & tsadaq” at http://wp.me/p1Z8Bv-3L).

Consider if government was not the realm of “halls of power” but truly administered as if the elected were “public servants,” serving the good of as many people as possible while risking their own displacement in the next election due to making decisions unpopular with power brokers from other social quarters. Or imagine business owners (even absentee stockholders) demanding and ensuring all workers received a living wage, compassion in discipline, and facilitation for re-training and finding new opportunities before layoffs occurred. Both sets of actors would need to see “the other” as more deserving of consideration than their own well-being, or at least in league with it. It would take overcoming risk aversion as an act of faith, trusting that God is faithful and that righteousness precedes prosperity, and accepting whatever form of reward (and outcome) God dictates.

The central problem is that such a system has never been adequately demonstrated nor have enough hearts been transformed by seeing such a model at work. Words are powerful for proclamation but deeds speak much more loudly. If the claims we make do not align with our own behavior, how can we justify our faith to any unbeliever? How can we portray the Kingdom of God as more attractive than the world as it is if our behavior endorses the current structures and distributions of wealth and power?

It is clear that Jesus suffered not just for our individual salvation but for the redemption of the world. That includes the reformation of meta-institutions toward reconciling human life with God’s heart and created order. George Orwell critiqued the emergent oligarchy of socialism after the Bolshevik revolution. Pink Floyd critiqued the same types of rule in the marketplace (“Welcome to the Machine”) that endorse riding  the “gravy train” and in Western educational systems (“Another Brick in the Wall”) that program students toward conformity that will keep the current governmental and economic structures in place.

The Church, as a single community, needs to critique both of these, but better by example than simply decrying the sins of the world in the public square. God’s mission in the world is to turn the existing power structures upside down such that public morality (a function of community) leads government and business rather than succumbing to them. Christians should be intentional in seeking influential roles in both institutions to re-order them toward the original order of creation (see Howard A. Snyder’s Salvation Means Creation Healed. Snyder’s book has a strong emphasis on environmental redemption but is clear that the doctrine justifying that focus is universal as it applies to every aspect of human life and experience, including the redemption of institutional roles).

This means Christian business leaders will need to take large risks in light of prevailing business philosophies, perhaps even running the risk of losing their businesses. But money is not the primary focus of business in God’s creation. The division of labor and exchange are anticipated in Eve’s introduction as helpmate, a co-worker, in the Garden of Eden. The self-interested drive for profit (i.e., toward self-preservation in distrust of God’s provision) was not on the horizon until after Adam’s Fall from grace.

This also means that elected and appointed officials will need to do “what is right,” pursuing an universal morality, applicable to all without demanding a theocratic (or otherwise overtly ideological) agenda (though “what is right” is guided by theological and ideological considerations). Such a pursuit is obviously a slippery slope given innumerable public views, ranging from the extremes of varied fundamental religious cults (whether Christian, Muslim, or otherwise) to the guilt-driven political correctness of godless humanism. But Christ suffered willingly for us all and made no promise that our ministry to the world would be any easier.

Outside the Garden, every man since Adam, save One, has operated to varying degrees as if he is alone in the universe. But Christ established his Kingdom on earth in his teaching ministry (by proclamation, Word) and obedience to the Cross (demonstration, deed). We are called to do likewise. Unfortunately, just as Jesus was tempted in the desert, Christians in positions of influence are faced with a myriad of temptations, most especially that of being conformed to the world in the form of pragmatism. To submit to practicality as the final answer in decision-making is having no faith in the character, promises, and leading of God. In both governance and business, Christians need to be adventurous and fearless risk takers, trusting God before others and even before our own assessment of surrounding circumstances.

Pink Floyd’s songwriters, especially Roger Waters, wrestled deeply with the major issues of the human condition – evil, alienation and isolation, power and greed, etc. The angst at the heart of the driving melodies and lyrics have been popularized as much by the sense of identification of listeners with the writers as the beauty of the music itself. Pink Floyd stands out as a strong representative of all the poetic philosophers who have emerged through the music industry of the last half century. Waters et al sadly offer no answers to the questions that so vex them. But they give new and very popular voice to a lost and dying world seeking, though ignorant of it, the Kingdom of God and the shalom it affords to all.

 

 

 

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