Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
In modern democracy we must maintain the separation of church and state, which is of course the rallying cry of atheists everywhere. And for good cause, since fundamental religion would remove the democratic ideal and reinstate a theocracy based not on equality but divine right ruled by a religious caste. On the other hand we've thrown out the baby with the bathwater altogether and consequently our political economy is lacking in the kinds of basic human decency necessary to overcome the inhuman forms of treatment endemic to what we're seeing expressed in budget proposals all across the US; the rich get richer and more powerful which the middle class and the poor bear the brunt of ever-shrinking leftover pie crumbs. To reinject human value back into politics then religion must obviously be of a different kind, we might even say of a postmetaphysical kind, that is bereft of all those things we have grown beyond but still retains our connection with something larger that instills within us humane values toward each other.
In that light I'd like to kick off the thread with excerpts from page 4 of the progressive economics thread, where Arnsperger's (re)turn to religion was requisite in formulating his economic analysis and prescriptions in moving beyond capitalism. Granted it seemed to me that while his economic critique was valid his religious prescriptions tended to fall back into the metaphysical variety. I'll then provide some excerpts of John Caputo's and Catherine Keller's comments on the topic from the Winter 2007 edition of Cross Currents, taken from the 2006 American Academy of Religion convention in Washington DC.
Existential economics....led to me into this—somewhat iconoclastic—direction...an anchoring within what, roughly, we might call Christian humanism, a way of doing philosophy that accepts that anthropological reflection need not (and, in fact, cannot) be disconnected from radical reflection on religious and spiritual issues.
Don’t expect me to draw...a well-meaning denunciation of economic materialism in the name of 'spirituality.' If I did that, I’d be ignoring the very roots of modern economic thought. In reality, in fact, the great thinkers of economics were working very consciously for the salvation of humanity.... I think we need to go as far as saying that economic thought has a strictly spiritual root.... The economy is, therefore, less a technical-operational domain than an existential-spiritual one.... Economics, therefore, the science of the economy, is part and parcel of theology—not only neo-liberal economics (as some left-wing critics claim, using the word 'theology' as a degrading term), but all of economics to the extent that it ultimately seeks to liberate Man. Marx, Keynes, and Hayek were, literally, the most influential theologians of the 20th century; I say this not by analogy or as an image, but as a literal description of what their study of economic activity was about.
One thing that is very urgently needed is development aid to the First World from the Third World—to the extent that the Third World hasn’t itself already given up its traditions.... What the Third-World traditions are still rich in, and what we tend to have become very poor in, is spiritual resources to deal with existential anxiety in 'adjusted' ways—integrating death into the rituals of life.... Spiritual resources would allow us to see things differently, and to live differently, giving economic wealth production its rightful—and relatively minor—place and giving relational and social investment the priority.
Have we not learned by now to keep theology out of politics? Do not the sacred oils of religion fuel the fires raging in the Middle East? Must we not clear our heads of theology and so liberate politics from the distortions of the political order for which religion is responsible?
My hypothesis is the opposite, that theology goes all the way down, that there are always lingering or unavowed theological presuppositions in what we say or do, and hence, as Heidegger said a long time ago, it is not a question of getting free of our presuppositions but rather of entering into them all the more primordially. Consciously or not, avowedly or not, the political order has theological roots.
Consequently, on my proposal, a reformation of political thought would require not ridding ourselves of theology but rather reexamining our theological presuppositions and learning to think about theology differently, which means to think about God otherwise, to reimagine God.
What would a political order look like, were the Kingdom able to be reinvented and transformed into a political structure? What would it be like if there really were a politics of the bodies of flesh that proliferate in the New Testament, a politics of mercy and compassion, of lifting up the weakest and most defenseless people at home, a politics of welcoming the stranger and of loving one’s enemies abroad? What would it be like were there a politics of and for the children, who are the future; a politics not of sovereignty, of top–down power, but a politics that builds from the bottom up, where ta me onta (I Cor 1:28) enjoy pride of place and a special privilege? What would a political order look like if the last are first, if everything turned on lifting up the lowliest instead of letting relief trickle down from the top? What would it look like if there were a politics of loving one’s enemies, not of war, let alone, God forbid, of preemptive war?
Would it not be in almost every respect the opposite of the politics that presently passes itself off under the name of Jesus? Are not the figures who publically parade their self-righteousness, their love of power, and their hatred of the other under the name of Jesus singled out in advance by Jesus under the name of the whited sepulchers and long robes whose fathers killed the prophets?
A politics of the Kingdom would be marked by madness of forgiveness, generosity, mercy and hospitality. The dangerous memory of the crucified body of Jesus poses a threat to a world organized around the disastrous concept of power, something that is reflected today in the widespread critique of the concept of “sovereignty”—of the sovereignty of autonomous subjects and the sovereignty of nations powerful enough to get away with acting unilaterally and in their own self-interests. The call that issues from the Cross threatens what Derrida calls the “unavowed theologism” of the political concept of sovereignty by returning us to its root, to its understanding of God, to its underlying or archi–theology. The crucified body of Jesus proposes not that we keep theology out of politics, but that we think theology otherwise, by way of another paradigm, another theology, requiring us to think of God otherwise, as an unconditional claim or solicitation without power, as a weak force or power of powerlessness, as opposed to the theology of omnipotence that underlies sovereignty.
We are all prone to denounce the American empire as such, in its military, economic and theocratic aspirations; and to announce the possibility of a democracy that we might as well call radical. Radical in that it articulates the synergies of sociality, ecology, planetarity in which we all root. This rhizomatic radicality is not about uprooting our traditions so much as exposing them to our confounding togetherness—as species, peoples, ethnicities, sexes, religions, even as theological members of this panel. But the Bush doctrine was also radical; we have needed the label “progressive” to take the place of the enfeebled signs ‘left’ and ‘liberal.’
However here’s a puzzle: we are accustomed to dissing any idea of “progress” as naïve, teleological or imperialist; yet we want to use the term progressive. This means affirming the sort of imperfect and incomplete watersheds of history that comprise progress—the emancipation of slaves, of women, the end of apartheid; hey, even this recent midterm election. Has our progressive messianism been so apocalyptically pitched that in the interest of a prophetic standard, it detaches from the very history it wishes to transform? I suspect that if we cannot acknowledge momentary events of progress, moments in which the better rather than the worst outcome actually takes place, then surely we should give up the slogan: “a better world is possible.” But such progress does not move in a line from pure origin to guaranteed New Jerusalem. Its aim remains as Derrida insists, messianically yet to come, a to come that does not unfold as a predictable future outcome of present history. Progressive theopolitics might then entail an alternative temporality, the time of event–relations, in which our becoming together, now, makes possible but does not determine that which is to come tomorrow: a helical, fractal or rhizomatic kind of nonlinear progress. Such progressivism does not need consensus on whether God is the name of the possible, its source or its realization, whether God is omnipotent, weak or alluring. It does need concurrence on the formal criteria of progress: the actualization of social, ecological and planetary relations of justice with sustainability. Such rhizomatic radicality is not about uprooting our traditions but about exposing them to our confounding togetherness—as species, peoples, genders, sexualities, races, religions, even—Lord help us—our Christianities.
Constructive theology has been from the start enmeshed in varieties of radical hermeneutics. This allows Christian faith to attract intellectuals and to work with secular activists; and believe me, Christianity without its intellectuals is not going to be any appealingly populist affair. The more theology absorbs the methods of deconstruction and pluralism, the more the opposition between secularism and religion can itself be deconstructed. And as Jim Wallis has pointed out, “the secular left will give up its hostility to religion and spirituality, or it will die.” And this is politically crucial. For that hostility contributes to an evangelical stereotype about Godless humanists, etc. But the more we heal that hostility, the less we constructive theologians sound like Christians to evangelicals.
Indeed ironically it may have been Hardt and Negri, those radically democratic and secular socialists, who kicked me into the evangelical register, when they noted: “People today seem unable to understand love as a political concept, but a concept of love is just what we need to grasp the constituent power of the multitude.” Progressive Christians have been also unable to grasp love as political concept; we have been constrained by a self–righteous ethic of mere justice.
I like the Foucault quote in the beginning about not choosing a predetermined political position but imagining and enacting new ones, like we get with Rifkin’s and Bauwens’ P2P.
I also like the idea that we have inherent, pre-rational, embodied schemas (apparently much akin to L&J’s image schemas) to which we must return so as to “appropriately cultivate” (171), in which process we become trans-rational (if trans is the right prefix).
And of course one of my common themes is herein reiterated:
“Only some forms of social organization, only some bodies politic, represent genuinely harmonious developments of the reversibility-structure already schematized in and by the flesh. Since this reversibility-structure inherently deconstructs and contests the ultimacy of the ego-logical identity, and since bourgeois capitalism, more than any other social system, honors and promotes the rule of the ego…it may be fairly concluded that capitalism cannot be counted among those ideal bodies politic most favorable to the harmonious development of the sociability and rationality-potential inherent in our initial corporeal schematism” (180).
If one were to accept the standard and bogus kennilingus levels of consciousness about traditioinal religion they would, and do, miss significant contributions from the likes of Catholic theologians on matters like a moral budget process. For example, this blog from the North American Passionists discussed the moral implications of the conservative Ryan budget proposal. Here they, like Derrida and the postformal postmetaphysicists, understand false dichotomies in general and the specific dichotomy between deficit reduction and needed social services. On the notion of dichotomies in general note their language on how complements are held in tension, not in opposition:
"Going beyond any economic ideology the moral perspective of the Catholic faith has always opted for a creative harmony between values and principles that exist in tension. Catholic social teaching seeks a balance between freedom and equality, between solidarity and subsidiarity. These are values whose tension will keep us on the balancing beam of social justice. Our recent blog post also demonstrate how creative solutions do exists that can help us strike this balance. What is required is an atmosphere of cooperation and civility in being open to the possibility of achieving this challenge. But instead the political forces on the right have developed this debate into an all or nothing argument forcing the American public to make a fabricated choice between deficit reductions or protecting social service programs to the poor and vulnerable."
The political forces on the right, and their "integral" apologists, are still stuck in metaphysical dichotomies while even the Catholic church is going postmetaphysical, at least in some respects. Stick that in your altitude sickness pipe and smoke on it a while you kennilinguists.
As to the specifics of the Ryan budget, they are quite correct in the following, often missed by kennilinguists apologizing for the necessity of cuts to curtail a budget crisis created not by programs for the poor but by legislating providing for more rape and pillage of the economy by the rich:
"The budget that is proposed by Chairman Ryan and endorsed by members of the Republican Party violate the Right to Life by eliminating or severely limiting services essential to the poor and vulnerable while protecting the financial security of the wealthiest members of our society. This is a grave violation to the dignity of life. Nearly two-thirds of the huge budget cuts that are being proposed come directly from programs for lower-income Americans.... Deficit reduction is indeed an important issue and the Bishops and Catholic theologians agree that a responsible budget must address this priority. However what makes the Republican budget immoral is that while it claims to make service cuts with the purpose of reducing the deficit the proposed personal and corporate tax cuts that they propose almost completely undermine deficit reduction."
I join with brother Balder in response to this quote: Amen, Brother Loy! Reminds me of the similar argument made by Erich Fromm in To Have or To Be.
And here's David Loy from his essay "Religion and the market":
"This paper will argue that our present economic system should also be understood as our religion, because it has come to fulfill a religious function for us. The discipline of economics is less a science than the theology of that religion, and its god, the Market, has become a vicious circle of ever-increasing production and consumption by pretending to offer a secular salvation. The collapse of communism makes it more apparent that the Market is becoming the first truly world religion, binding all corners of the globe into a world-view and set of values whose religious role we overlook only because we insist on seeing them as 'secular'.
The major religions are not yet moribund but, on those few occasions when they are not in bed with the economic and political powers that be, they tend to be so preoccupied with past problems and outmoded perspectives (e.g., pronatalism) that they are increasingly irrelevant (e.g., fundamentalism) or trivialized (e.g., television evangelism). The result is that up to now they have been unable to offer what is most needed, a meaningful challenge to the aggressive proselytizing of market capitalism, which has already become the most successful religion of all time, winning more converts more quickly than any previous belief system or value-system in human history.
If economics were a genuine science its consequences seem unavoidable, despite the fact that they are leading to extreme social inequity and environmental catastrophe. Yet there is nothing inevitable about our economic relationships. That misunderstanding is precisely what needs to be addressed -- and this is also where religion comes in, since, with the increasing prostitution of the media and now universities to these same market forces, there seems to be no other moral perspective left from which to challenge them. Fortunately, the alternative worldviews that religions offer can still help us realize that the global victory of market capitalism is something other than the attainment of economic freedom: rather, it is the ascendancy of one particular way of understanding and valuing the world that need not be taken for granted. Far from being inevitable, our economic system is one historically-conditioned way of organizing/reorganizing the world; it is a worldview, with an ontology and ethics, in competition with other understandings of what the world is and how we should live in it.
Religions are not fulfilling their responsibility if they ignore this religious dimension of capitalism....the history of economic systems reveals the contingency of the market relationships we now take for granted. Although we tend to view the profit motive as universal and rational (the benevolent 'invisible hand' of Adam Smith), anthropologists have discovered that it is not traditional to traditional societies. Insofar as it is found among them it tends to play a very circumscribed role, viewed warily because of its tendency to disrupt social relations. Most premodern societies make no clear distinction between the economic sphere and the social sphere, subsuming economic roles into more general social relationships. Pre-capitalist man does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end. But in capitalist society instead of economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.
Our humanity reduced to a source of labor and a collection of insatiable desires, as our communities disintegrate into aggregates of individuals competing to attain private ends . . . the earth and all its creatures commodified into a pool of resources to be exploited to satisfy those desires . . . does this radical dualism leave any place for the sacred? for wonder and awe before the mysteries of creation? Whether or not we believe in God, we may suspect that something is missing. Here we are reminded of the crucial role that religions can serve: to raise fundamental questions about this diminished understanding of what the world is and what our life can be.
From a religious perspective, the problem with market capitalism and its values is twofold: greed and delusion. On the one hand, the unrestrained market emphasizes and indeed requires greed in at least two ways. Desire for profit is necessary to fuel the engine of the economic system, and an insatiable desire to consume ever more must be generated to create markets for what can be produced. Within economic theory and the market it promotes, the moral dimension of greed is inevitably lost; today it seems left to religion to preserve what is problematic about a human trait that is unsavory at best and unambiguously evil at its worst. Religious understandings of the world have tended to perceive greed as natural to some extent, yet rather than liberate it they have seen a need to control it. The spiritual problem with greed -- both the greed for profit and the greed to consume -- is due not only to the consequent maldistribution of worldly goods (although a more equitable distribution is of course essential), or to its effect on the biosphere, but even more fundamentally because greed is based on a delusion: the delusion that happiness is to be found this way. Trying to find fulfillment through profit, or by making consumption the meaning of one's life, amounts to idolatry, i.e. a demonic perversion of true religion; and any religious institution that makes its peace with the priority of such market values does not deserve the name of genuine religion.
In other words, greed is part of a defective value-system (the way to live in this world) based on an erroneous belief-system (what the world is). The atomistic individualism of utilitarianism, which 'naturalizes' such greed, must be challenged and refuted intellectually and in the way we actually live our lives. The great sensitivity to social justice in the Semitic religions (for whom sin is a moral failure of will) needs to be supplemented by the emphasis that the Asian enlightenment traditions place upon seeing-through and dispelling delusion (ignorance as a failure to understand). Moreover, I suspect that the former without the latter is doomed to be ineffective in our cynical age. We are unlikely ever to solve the problem of distributive social justice without also overcoming the value-delusion of happiness through individualistic accumulation and consumption, if only because of the ability of those who control the world's resources to manipulate things to their own perceived advantage. That is not to demonize such people, for we must recognize our own complicity in this system, not only through our own levels of consumption but also through the effects that our pension funds have upon the workings of the market.
This suggests that any solution to the problems they have created must also have a religious dimension. That is not a matter of turning from secular to sacred values, but the need to discover how our secular obsessions have become symptomatic of a spiritual need they cannot meet. As we have consciously or unconsciously turned away from a religious understanding of the world, we have come to pursue this-worldly goals with a religious zeal all the greater because they can never be fulfilled. The solution to the environmental catastrophe that has already begun, and to the social deterioration we are already suffering from, will occur when we redirect this repressed spiritual urge back into its true path. For the time being, that path includes struggling against the false religion of our age."
This is the Vatican statement of 4/28/15, "Declaration of Religious Leaders, Political Leaders, Business Leaders, Scientists and Development Practitioners." This prefaces the upcoming “Papal Encyclical on Climate Change and Global Warming” due 6/18/15, which he'll discuss at the UN and US Congress this summer, very much anticipated. I enclose the first below in its totality:
We the undersigned have assembled at the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences to address the challenges of human-induced climate change, extreme poverty, and social marginalization, including human trafficking, in the context of sustainable development. We join together from many faiths and walks of life, reflecting humanity’s shared yearning for peace, happiness, prosperity, justice, and environmental sustainability. We have considered the overwhelming scientific evidence regarding human-induced climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the vulnerabilities of the poor to economic, social, and environmental shocks.
In the face of the emergencies of human-induced climate change, social exclusion, and extreme poverty, we join together to declare that:
Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity;
In this core moral space, the world’s religions play a very vital role. These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity. They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home;
The poor and excluded face dire threats from climate disruptions, including the increased frequency of droughts, extreme storms, heat waves, and rising sea levels;
The world has within its technological grasp, financial means, and know-how the means to mitigate climate change while also ending extreme poverty, through the application of sustainable development solutions including the adoption of low-carbon energy systems supported by information and communications technologies;
The financing of sustainable development, including climate mitigation, should be bolstered through new incentives for the transition towards low-carbon energy, and through the relentless pursuit of peace, which also will enable the shift of public financing from military spending to urgent investments for sustainable development;
The world should take note that the climate summit in Paris later this year (COP21) may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human- 2 induced warming below 2-degrees C, and aim to stay well below 2-degree C for safety, yet the current trajectory may well reach a devastating 4-degrees C or higher;
Political leaders of all UN member states have a special responsibility to agree at COP21 to a bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives. The high-income countries should help to finance the costs of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries as the high-income countries have promised to do;
Climate-change mitigation will require a rapid world transformation to a world powered by renewable and other low-carbon energy and the sustainable management of ecosystems. These transformations should be carried out in the context of globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, consistent with ending extreme poverty; ensuring universal access for healthcare, quality education, safe water, and sustainable energy; and cooperating to end human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery;
All sectors and stakeholders must do their part, a pledge that we fully commit to in our individual capacities.
A very welcome statement indeed. I quibble, however, to note that usually "sustainable development" usually means trying to keep the trajectory of economic growth, but by greener means. I know I'm in the minority, but I don't think it's an effective long term strategy.
This morning NPR ran a story on the upcoming Encyclical. It sounds like the Pope is somewhat adopting the recommended strategy of ITC 2015 keynote speaker Karen O'Brien, who has suggested that climate change needs to be presented in the frame of human security. Here is a link to an excerpt from her book Climate Change, Ethics, and Human Security:
Back to the NPR story: I had to laugh at this subtle dig: "As a young man, the future pope studied chemistry and worked as a chemist before entering seminary, so he may have more scientific training than most of his critics." This is referring to Rick Santorum's statement (Santorum is a professing Catholic): "The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we're really good at, which is theology and morality,"
And now back to Karen O'Brien, here's a quote I like from the excerpt named above: "The framing of climate change as an environmental problem prevents the capacity to reflect on centuries long assumptions about development, progress and the good life. As has been the case for decades with the management of poverty and underdevelopment, managing climate change is becoming a technocratic issue; a question that can be solved with the appropriate ‘fix’. In short, this dominant framing not only prevents ethical reflection, it displaces responsibility."
From the NPR article on impact.
"He's also convinced it will have a far-reaching impact, encouraging Catholics to make major changes in what they consume and how they live their daily lives, and inspiring leaders of other religions to pick up the challenge. 'Religion is one of the few things that can motivate people to self-sacrifice — to give up their own self-interest for something else,' Reese says. 'This is going to be extremely important because people are not going to change their lifestyles to save the polar bears.'"
An email from Meta-Integral recently pointed to Cardinal Turkson's address in Ireland, which spoke about the Pope's upcoming Encyclical, framed in terms of Integral Ecology.
The Cardinal said:
"In his insistence on an integral, relational vocation of protector, Pope Francis continues the thought of his two predecessors. In his social encyclical, Solicitudo rei socialis, Saint John Paul II spoke of the need to respect the constituent and inter-related elements of the natural world: “One cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings…animals, plants, the natural elements – simply as one wishes, according to one’s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the cosmos.” A recently republished pastoral of the Irish Bishops echoes his point: “Our earth is complex, its systems of life are interdependent and finely balanced. Small changes in one part of the planet’s rhythms and systems can have significant, if not dramatic consequences for the whole of the earth and its creatures.” For the natural environment to be respected, the human environment and its objective moral structure must also be respected. When we ignore or neglect one, it has a destructive impact on the other."
The Cardinal's Conclusion:
"Conclusion: Let us become artisans of the revolution of tenderness
Allow me to summarize all that I have said this evening:
In this, we have the core elements of an integral ecology which in turn provides the basis for authentic and sustainable approaches to human development.
In conveying my thanks to you once again for the honour of giving this annual Lenten lecture, and in commending Trócaire for its excellent and timely Climate Justice campaign, I encourage you to give great attention to the forthcoming encyclical from Pope Francis on the themes we have just considered. As we confront the threat of environmental catastrophe on a global scale, I am confident that a shaft of light will break through the heavy clouds and bring us what Pope Francis describes as the warmth of hope! Most importantly, as we become revolutionaries of tenderness overcoming the world’s pervasive inequities, these years can indeed initiate a millennium of respect for life, of care for God’s creation, of solidarity and síocháin. Peace!
Thank you for listening."
Pope Urges 'Bold Cultural Revolution' to Save the Planet
...“I don't think we should politicize our faith,” U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a Catholic convert, said on the eve of the encyclical's release. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”
Yet one of Francis' core points is that there really is no distinction between human beings, their faith and the environment.
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth,” he writes.
The chemist-turned-pope takes as fact that the world is getting warmer and that human activity is mostly to blame.
“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he writes."