The Prophetic Imagination – Royal Consciousness, pt.2

Tonight we are reading through Chapter 2 “Royal Consciousness: Countering the Counterculture” of Walter Brueggemann’s book The Prophetic Imagination. In this chapter, Brueggemann sets forth the three elements of a Royal Consciousness.


The first element of a royal consciousness is affluence. If we are to be about righteousness, justice, and equity (Prov. 1:3), then affluence is a great impediment. First, as Brueggemann writes “It is difficult to keep a revolution of freedom and justice underway when there is satiation.” This is Juvenal’s “bread and circuses.” p.26. A well-fed people are less likely to advocate for what is right.

Affluence also necessarily leads to inequality and the invisibility of that inequality. Affluence leads to economic inequality. As wealth begins to flow through an economy, it invariably flows upward. p.31. This inequality also leads to the situation where the affluent can wall ourselves off from the less affluent, both intentionally and unintentionally. Affluence creates the social reality where I simply fail to notice my neighbor who is in need.

Oppressive Social Policy:

The second element of a royal consciousness is oppressive social policy. As Brueggemann points out, Solomon was successful because of his ability to mobilize his population to serve him and his court. p.27. Justice and compassion disappear because the royal court, not the people, are the objects of social governance. The poor and the outsider become irrelevant. p.31.  As Brueggemann writes, the cries of the marginalized in a royal society are either not heard or are dismissed as the noise of kooks and traitors. p.36. Oppressive social policies are grounded in a selfishness that only those in power and those with money matter.

Static Religion:

The third element of a royal consciousness is a static religion. This a religion that gives theological sanction to the present social order. God and his temple are simply adjuncts to the royal landscape, and the sovereignty of God is subordinated to the government and its policies. p.28. The king and his priesthood control God’s accessibility. p.29. God is no longer free to act against the established order. p.31. Therefore, God only speaks on behalf of those in power.

Social Order:

Brueggemann tells us that when these three elements are combined, their overall purpose is to maintain the status quo and social order. p.35. He writes that Israel exchanged freedom for order, justice for security, and passion for satiation. The royal consciousness stands against any change. It saps our capacity and readiness to care and suffer for others, and to block out the cries of those who do.

Within our Scriptures, we see the full force of the royal consciousness displayed on Good Friday. Jesus was not crucified by the people, but by the unholy alliance between the established Jewish temple priesthood and the established Roman government. A proclamation of good news for the poor and the release of the captives simply could not be tolerated. The good order of society required it.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is lentil stew with sausage and mushrooms. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here. 

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Matthew 11:4

1 thought on “The Prophetic Imagination – Royal Consciousness, pt.2”

  1. Pingback: The Prophetic Imagination – Prophetic Criticizing and the Embrace of Pathos, pt.1 – Ancient Anglican

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