Dialectical Cross

The Crucifixion is the preeminent example of transcendence of time within time, of the cosmic converging in the momentary, of the integrity of the ethical within the sacramental, of the dialectical no and yes characteristics of the biblical witness addressed to the world as it is. (129)

William Stringfellow | An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land


Economic Control

There are less dramatic ways in which the principalities expediently relate to one another.  An American illustration is in how the white middle classes are kept in political conformity — in demonic captivity — in idolatry — by manipulation of the economy through inflation, the engineering of employment and unemployment, and the management of credit.  One recalls, in this connection, that in the aftermath of the student outcries against the infanticide committed at Kent State, the federal authorities exerted themselves strenuously to cut scholarship funds, drastically curtail student loans, and practically render students unemployable during the summer months immediately following the student protests.  While it is unlikely to have been the only contributing factor — there was relatedly also a great fatigue and much despair — these economic reprisals had substantial success in quashing the expression of dissidence on the campuses.  Very many students heard the message that they would be denied aid or credit or needed jobs to complete their education unless they reverted to quietism, unless they conformed politically.

It is a stratagem of the political principalities familiar to the parents of most students.  They, along with the rest of the majority classes, are often so assailed with the immediate problems of managing their mortgages and other debts, so much at the mercy of a fragile, inflated credit system, so desperate to retain employment in their status, that their energies and capabilities as human being are depleted in coping with these demands alone.  Whatever the state of their conscience or whatever their intentions, they are left with little or no capacity to become informed or involved in the issues of politics and society.  Thus, the manipulation of these economic factors becomes a means of effectual political control, and citizens who are too distracted or exhausted to become involved are consigned to ignorance and conformity and, as has been put, to being the silent majority.  This is yet another form of dehumanization, another way in which the powers of death victimize human life, turning humans into automatons. (91-92)

William Stringfellow | An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land


Commercial athletics in America, for an example, represent a prominent and aggressive principality and — one might suppose — a more or less innocuous one.  Yet the operation of this demonic power has significant political importance.  By diverting citizens from politics and by preoccupying their concern with sports instead of politics, by distraction and also by substitution, it provides a vicarious involvement in place of politics. (90)

William Stringfellow | An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land

Benign Principalities

As commonplace and recurrent as such aggressions by the demonic powers against human life in society are and, literally, forever have been and so long as time lasts will be, human beings generally and, it seems, Americans particularly 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, cable of being altered so as to respect and serve human life, instead of demeaning and dominating human life, provided there is a sufficient human will to accomplish this. (83)

William Stringfellow | An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land