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Liberation Theology

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Dissident Heart

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Backward Christian Soldier

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Backward Christian Soldier An open letter to the Christian General Jim Wallis | 10.26.2003 Dear Lt. General Boykin, You've gotten a lot of press this week, General. Perhaps you didn't expect the things you've been saying in churches to go public
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The Problem with Gibson's Passion: a Jewish Critique

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A Gospel of Love and Hope: How to Respond to Mel Gibson's "Passion"By Rabbi Michael LernerEditor, Tikkun MagazineMel Gibson unlocked the secret of why Americans have never confronted anti-Semitism in the way that we did with the other great systems of hatred (racism, sexism, homophobia) when he told a national t.v. audience on February 16 that "the Jews' real complaint isn't with my film (The Passion) but with the Gospels." Few Christians today know the history of anti-Semitism and the way that the Passion stories were central to rekindling hatred of Jews from generation to generation. Many are embracing Gibson's movie and not understanding why Jews seem to be so threatened. Gibson knows that for many Americans it is simply unimaginable to question the Gospels. Those who wanted to purge hatred of Jews from the collective unconscious of Western societies after the defeat of Nazism in 1945 faced an impossible dilemma. The dominant religious tradition of the West was based on a set of four accounts of Jesus, each of which to some extent is riddled with anger at or even hatred of the Jews. The Gospels were written, many historians tell us, some fifty years after Jesus' death at a time when early Christians (most of whom considered themselves still Jewish) were engaged in a fierce competition with a newly emerging rabbinic Judaism to win the hearts and minds of their fellow Jews (some of whom were becoming Jewish Christians, retaining their Jewish practice but adding to it a belief in Jesus as messiah) and the minds of the disaffected masses of the Roman empire (some Christians already having given up on converting Jews and beginning to think that the real audience for their outreach should be the wider world of the Roman Empire).The Gospels sought to play down the antagonism that Jews of Jesus' time felt toward Rome, so they displaced the anger at his crucifixion instead onto those Jews who remembered Jesus as an inspiring and revolutionary teacher but not much more (not a messiah, not God). The result: an account that portrays Jews as willfully calling on the Romans to kill Jesus, rejecting the supposed compassion of the Romans, and thereby earning the hatred of humanity for the Jews' supposed collective responsibility for this act of deicide. Conversely, Jesus' Judaism, his viewing the world through the frame of his Jewish spiritual practice and Torah-based thinking, is played-down or at times completely obscured, so that the message of these professional "convert the non-Jews" thinkers would not be undermined by a covert message (still advocated by some of the Jewish Christians at the time of the writing of the Gospel) that to be a Christian one should also become a Jew. When Christianity gained state power in Rome in the 4th century of the common era, it quickly began to pass legislation restricting Jewish rights. And as Christianity conquered Europe in the ensuing centuries, spreading its story that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus, the Jews became the primary demeaned other of Europe for the next 1700 years. Jews came to fear Easter
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Tell me Dissident, have you seen the movie? In fact, has Michael Lerner watched it? I haven't but from what I here, it sticks pretty close to the biblical accounts. Of course that would mean that one could extract a message of anti-semitism from the movie, but its unlikely that those who do not blame the Jewish people for the death are going to come out of the movie and join their local chapter of the KKK.
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The Key Point

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I haven't seen the movie, nor do I know if Lerner has.I have spent a great deal of time reading and studying and in dialogue with Jewish folk concerning the very long and ugly history of Christian anti-Semitism that Lerner quickly summarizes in this post.The Gospels can be terribly dangerous texts in the wrong hands with perverse ideas, and history proves this again and again...specifically the history of Christian anti-Semitism.When Mel Gibson says, "The Jews don't have a problem with the movie, they have a problem with the Gospels", in many ways he is right. But the bigger problem, as I see it, and as Lerner describes, involves those Christians who are still unaware, uninformed, and ignorant of this terrible history and its relation to the Gospels.Those who bemoan the criticism directed at the Film are terribly negligent in this respect: Christians, Christianity, and those who employ the Gospels as tools for living must be held accountable for the abuses such tools can create, and often have caused...especially anti-Semitic brutalitiesThat's the key point.
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Eco-Theology Gems: Christian Environmentalism

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In her book Super, Natural Christians, theologian Sallie McFague writes: "It is not just that other life forms are becoming scarce or extinct, but our experience of and with them is, too. The results are deep and disturbing. We not only learn less about these earth others, but disaffection sets in, and hence we care less for their well-being. We do not care about what we do not know." When it comes to gaining or rekindling such knowing, we need encounters with "earth others" - our sisters and brothers (as St. Francis of Assisi called them) in the broader family of creation. These encounters can be both direct and indirect. Soaking in the beauty of the setting sun, working with other people to mitigate the ravages of an oil spill, gardening - such direct encounters awaken our knowing and, hopefully, our caring. Indirectly, we can learn a great deal from authors, poets, theologians, scientists, and others who have taken the time to cultivate awareness of and care for creation. A growing number of these "creation mediators" invite us into deeper knowing not only by stirring our intellects but also by awakening our emotions and senses. In doing so, they help remind us that we too are embodied members of creation, not just distant, intellectual observers. The following are several of my favorite creation mediators and some of the fruits of their work. Roger Gottlieb offers a feast for our minds and spirits in his comprehensive anthology This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Its 75 selections introduce a wide array of creation mediators from around the world and across religious traditions, races, genders, and economic realities. It includes key writings in Christian ecological theology and ethics, including those from Lynn White, Thomas Berry, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sallie McFague, and Pope John Paul II. It also includes selections from writers who link "nature and spirit" (Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Terry Tempest Williams), environmental-justice advocates (Vandana Shiva, The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit), and creation liturgists and poets (Thich Nhat Hanh, Joanna Macy). Sallie McFague has crafted three primers that seriously examine Christian theology in light of current Earth crises and Earth's ongoing magnificence: The Body of God: An Ecological Theology; Super, Natural Christians: How We Should Love Nature, and Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril. In The Body of God, McFague reminds us that the notion of God as incarnate and embodied, not only transcendent, is central to the Christian tradition. She then explores the implications of Christian "radical immanence" on how we relate with God, one another, and all creation. Building on this core theology, McFague presents creative tools (nature writing, concrete actions) for nurturing an incarnational faith and the work of justice in Super, Natural Christians. McFague's most recent book, Life Abundant, is perhaps her most personal and passionate work. In it, she helps North American Christians authentically examine our worldviews, faith stories, and the social/ecological impacts of our lifestyles in order to better live out a vision of the abundant life that includes all creation. In his book Earth Community, Earth Ethics, Larry Rasmussen writes, "Not just knowledge (scientia) but wisdom (sapientia) and the psalmist's contrite heart and humble spirit are requirements of sustainable community itself." Rasmussen gives us an impressive dose of Earth scientia in the first section of his book ("Earth Scan") - a section that bravely examines ecological (and related social) realities of our time. But he doesn't stop here. Throughout this exquisitely crafted book, he calls upon the sapientia of religious (Martin Luther, the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice) and secular (David Korten, Alice Walker) voices to help us better hear the sapientia of creation. Through Earth-evoking symbols (his wonderful sections on trees and darkness, for example), poetry, story, and deep reflection, Rasmussen invites us to a change of heart and actions that bespeak this "conversion to Earth." POETRY TOO CAN be a direct-to-the-heart mediator for our "knowing of" and "caring for" creation. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I have a particular fondness for the writings of Denise Levertov, a Catholic peace activist and, yes, a Pacific Northwesterner. In her poetry, she expresses a deep and enduring compassion for creation and a vigilance for seeking the holy at work within it. Some other favorite Earth-honoring poets include Naomi Shihab Nye, a Palestinian-American poet with a passion for justice and beauty; Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer who eloquently voices his love of land, family, community, and Creator; Mary Oliver, an award-winning poet whose works sing of a grace that pervades all creation; and Pattiann Rogers, who combines her deep knowledge of the natural sciences with profound spirituality. For samples of these and other creation-caring poets, I recommend John Daniel's collection Wild Song: Poems of the Natural World. For more poetry and other complementary prayers and meditations, check out Elias Amidon and Elizabeth Roberts' Earth Prayers from Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, a true treasure for personal devotions and group worship. Just as poetry can open us to new ways of "knowing," so too can children's books. Two are Douglas Wood and Cheng-Khee Chee's Old Turtle and Caitlin Matthews and Alison Dexter's The Blessing Seed: A Creation Myth for the New Millennium. Both of these beautifully illustrated books provide pathways for envisioning creation's beginning times and how members of creation related to one another during those times. In Old Turtle, we enter a world in which all parts of creation communicate with one another and God. In this world, we have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what it might mean for humans to be "a message of love from God to the earth, and a prayer of the earth back to God." The Blessing Seed revisits the Garden of Eden and looks at what the world would look like if we lived out our "original blessing" as fellow members of God's good creation. While ostensibly children's books, they also speak volumes to adults. Finally, here are a few periodicals that provide ongoing conversation on the intersection between faith and creation-care. EarthLight (www.earthlight.org) is a quarterly journal of interfaith spirituality and ecology that features excellent articles, poems, prayers, and resources appropriate for individual and group study. Earth Letter (www.earthministry.org), produced by Earth Ministry, is a bimonthly mini-journal of Christian ecological spirituality and regularly features many of those mentioned above. Orion (www.orionsociety.org), published bimonthly by the Orion Society, "is a forum for thoughtful and creative ideas and practical examples of how we might live justly, wisely, and artfully on Earth." May you find meaningful direct encounters and mediators that help you to halt what naturalist Robert Pyle calls "the extinction of experience." Halting this form of extinction will be a blessing to creation, and hopefully a blessing to you. Tanya Marcovna Barnett is a program associate with Earth Ministry in Seattle and is the editor/compiler of The Greening Congregations Handbook. Earth Ministry works with individuals and congregations to help connect Christian faith with care and justice for all creation. For more resources, search the annotated bibliography at www.earthministry.org. www.sojo.net/index.cfm?ac...cle=040338
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Counterpunch

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www.counterpunch.org/leupp02232004.htmlI just found this article and thought I'd post it since I found it interesting:A Misguided AttackThe Passion, Rabbi Lerner and the GospelsBy GARY LEUPPI'm included, for some reason, on the email list of Tikkun Magazine, edited by Rabbi Michael Lerner, whom I respect for his involvement in the antiwar movement, including the Not In Our Name Coalition. On the other hand, I sometimes find his pronouncements bizarre, and his February 19 statement on Mel Gibson's film The Passion of Christ particularly so. I myself commented on this film, (or rather, since I haven't seen it, the controversy surrounding it) six months ago; I tried to be dispassionate in my discussion, whereas the rabbi is riled up indeed. And not just about Gibson.Lerner begins his piece by quoting Gibson as telling a television audience "the Jews' real complaint isn't with my film but with the Gospels." Thus, the rabbi avers, "Mel Gibson unlocked the secret of why Americans have never confronted anti-Semitism" I expected Lerner to develop that point, and to identify that "secret" as the irrational essentialization and vilification of whole ethnic groups or other communities that pervades American culture. I thought he might note that, if Gibson indeed said that, he deserves criticism for conflating all Jews. Gibson knows that the film actually has won applause from some Jewish critics, and so "the Jews" are certainly not issuing a collective complaint against it. If he suggested that they were, he is encouraging polarization. There are indeed folks out there who would like to believe that "the Jews" are conspiratorially obstructing the presentation of God's truth to the people, and Gibson should not play to that audience. If Gibson had in his remark replaced "the Jews" with "some Jews" or "some critics, including some Jews," he would have accurately expressed reality.But rather than chide Gibson for positing a uniform response of Jews to the gospels, the rabbi proceeds to fuel Gibson's argument by actually urging Christians to reject those books, or at least the content therein he finds offensive. Of course he doesn't see himself as anti-Christian. He welcomes the "Christian spiritual renewal movement which rejects the teaching of hatred in the Gospel by allegorizing the story" (generously suggesting that Christianity is acceptable, if allegorized). He gives honorable mention to the "few Christians [following World War II] willing to take responsibility for the devastating impact of the hateful representations of Jews that suffused the Gospels" And he even expresses "hope Christians will take the lead in organizing people of all faiths to leaflet every public showing of Gibson's film with a message that runs counter to the anger at Jews that this film is likely to produce"Couldn't Mel validly observe that Lerner's complaint is indeed less with his film than with the gospels themselves? Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to subject those four humanly authored works to criticism. On the contrary! As a non-believer, secular humanist, and historical materialist, I see these texts as products of the human imagination, reflecting all kinds of religious influences (from Babylonia, Persia, Greece, etc.) that we can objectively identify. I find literal belief in scriptures (of any tradition) both foolish and dangerous. But I find religious intolerance, and the deliberate insulting of religious sensitivities (such as calling texts revered by maybe one-third of humanity in any sense "hateful"), dangerous as well. In my comments on the Passion controversy, written six months ago, I suggested that those protesting the film "clarify whether [or not] they find the New Testament itself anti-Semitic, and hence dramatic treatments of it inherently objectionable," adding, "Some scholars have effectively made that case." My unstated point was that even if that case against Christian scripture is valid, trashing a film and trashing a religion are two different things. Politically speaking, the latter is of course far more serious. Seems to me that religion---something so deeply touching the human mind, often sentimentally imprinted on it at a very early age, its inculcation never the fault of the child inheriting it---has to be treated very carefully. It's one thing to write an article in an academic journal examining the treatment of Jews in the gospels, and alleging (as many such articles do) "anti-Semitism," especially in the Gospel of John. It's another to undertake a mass campaign to tell Christians that writings that, for better or worse, they have been raised to regard as the Word of God "teach hatred" of Jews, whether or not the believers realize it. When you do that, you call Christians (most of whom, in this country, are fundamentalists) to either rethink their relationship to the Bible or, accepting Lerner's thesis, to more closely embrace the hatred of Jews that the rabbi finds integral to Christian scripture as the price for maintaining their faith.In my own view, the whole question of the gospels' "anti-Semitism" is highly problematic. The gospels were of course written by Jews, suffused with contemporary Jewish concepts. The Jesus they celebrate, in Rabbi Lerner's words, is a "Jewish Jesus, the Jesus who retains hope for building love right here, the Jesus who unabashedly proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived." He was also, in the minds of the Jewish gospel authors, the long-awaited Messiah. But most of his Jewish compatriots had (in their view) not realized who Jesus was, and not accepted en masse his messiah-hood, miraculous virgin birth (a very un-Jewish concept, by the way), and function as divine savior to all sincerely "accepting" him. Through their rejection, or (reasonable) skepticism, the non-Christian Jews drew Christian ire. But that ire cannot be separated from the gospel writers' (very Jewish) concept of a people nurtured very specially by the creator of the universe, as a "chosen people," "light to the nations" who, having time and time again in their relationship with Yahweh rebelled against his will (this being a key theme in the Old Testament, the Jews inclined to indulge in more heartfelt self-criticism than any other people) now screw up monumentally by not recognizing Jesus for whom he was. Henceforth, the early Christians felt, they themselves (of whatever national background, in Christ there being "neither Greek nor Jew") were the Chosen, supplanting in that position the biological descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Christian categories of "chosenness" and "God's people" obviously emerge from prior Jewish thought. The Gibson film follows the quasi-historical narrative of Jesus' last hours, and reportedly sticks to the script, according to which Jewish authorities alarmed by Jesus' dramatic attack on the money changers in the Temple in Jerusalem, and the potential of such behavior to produce general disorder and prompt a Roman crackdown with further loss of Judean local rule, press Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, to put him to death. There are contradictions in the gospel accounts, but the general picture is clear: the high priests, Sanhedrin, and a mob mobilized and paid for by the former, pressure the Roman governor to order the crucifixion. Pilate does so reluctantly, assured by Jesus (John 19:11) that his death fulfills God's will, and that Jewish authorities bear greater guilt in that death than does the Roman. This telling of the tale may be true, in its essentials, but we can't know. Every so often we unearth new texts and make archeological discoveries that shed light on the historical Jesus, but we really can't know for sure what specific mix of charges (the Jewish charge of blasphemy, the Roman charge of sedition) figured in Jesus' death; some (unwarrantedly, I think) see Jesus as a Zealot revolutionary who wanted to take on Roman military power and was executed for that reason. In any case, the gospels make it clear that while Roman authority put Jesus to death, local authorities obstinately urged that punishment.So back to the question: should this death be made into a very graphic movie, following the gospel script? Lerner thinks it shouldn't. But isn't his rejection of the depiction also an appeal to the Christian not to believe the story as rendered in the gospels? And isn't that an appeal to the Christian not to be Christian? Not, in this case, because Christianity is a flawed approach to reality, like religion in general, but because Lerner thinks those sections of Christian scripture "focused on cruelty and pain" threaten both Jews and (inexplicably) "all those decent, loving, and generous Christians who have found in the Jesus story a foundation for their most humane and caring instincts." One has a feeling the latter are thrown in merely for good measure, to suggest that not only Jews but all humanity is threatened by those gospels.Christian teachings threatening Christians? Perhaps. But only in the same manner that the Torah (cited by West Bank settlers as they usurp Palestinian rights) threatens the moral position of Jews, or Hindu texts like the Ramayana (if used to justify the leveling of Muslim or Sikh temples) threatens the moral position of Hindus, or the Qur'an (if used to validate attacks on non-Muslims) threatens the moral position of Muslims. Scriptures that can be interpreted to privilege or demean whole peoples, potentially threaten all of us. But given the complexity of the religious appeal, our response to them should be careful and measured, not condescending or sweepingly condemnatory.Karl Marx (a German Jew passionately committed to human liberation, who jettisoned his religious convictions in adolescence) wrote some of the most perceptive comments ever composed about religion. He appreciated its dual nature: "Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions." Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels, who had a nuanced view of religion's role in history (and high appreciation of the historical role of some religious figures, such as Martin Luther), parted from some of their colleagues in objecting to the exclusion of religious believers from the nascent workers' movement. They considered it an opiate, a medicinal drug, but felt it better not to make it a dividing-line issue within that class movement.Lerner in contrast is in effect telling the Christian: to be "decent, loving, and generous," you must abandon your religion, as you know it. You must not only repudiate the notion that Caiaphas and the Jerusalem mob, as depicted in gospels, obliged a reluctant Roman to kill the Savior, but reject the broader theological idea that the ancient Judeans, by failing to generally enlist in the Jesus movement and accept Jesus as the Messiah, resisted God's plan. But who is Lerner (or my atheistic self for that matter), to tell Christian believers how they must reform their own religion? It's one thing to say: "You shouldn't believe in Christianity, period." This is a very reasonable position. It's another to say, "I don't mind you being Christian, in fact, I acknowledge lots of good things about you folks. But please change your Christianity by rewriting those texts that are at the very heart of your belief system, because they spread hate." This has to strike the sincere, decent, loving, believer as supercilious.Rabbi Lerner is obviously and justifiably concerned with the prospect that emotions generated by this film, which Christian evangelical bodies are hyping big-time, will produce anti-Semitism in a society where, actually, incidences of anti-Semitic violence have of late been few. But the Christian fundamentalists most eagerly anticipating this film tend towards uncritical support of Zionism, and are not interested in beating up on dudes in yarmulkes. The "rekindling of hatred" Lerner predicts will not come, if it comes, from the Pat Robertson crowd but from others. Of course conditions elsewhere in the world vary, for various reasons.My concern about rekindled anti-Semitism differs from the rabbi's. As Lerner knows, the U.S. war against Iraq was and is a moral outrage. It was promoted by a systematic campaign of lies. And integral to that lie-spreading effort were the "neocons," who as the Israeli progressive press (Haaretz, April 4, 2003) has matter-of-factly noted, happen to be overwhelmingly Jewish and often dual (Israeli-U.S.) nationals who see the interests of the two nations as inseparable. Douglas J. Feith, David Frum, John Hannah, Michael Ledeen, I. Lewis Libby, William J. Luti, Richard Perle, Abraham Shulsky, Paul Wolfowitz, David Wurmser. Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Josh Bolton, Eliot Cohen, David Kay, Edward Luttwak, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, James Schlesinger, Dov Zakheim, etc. Several of these men are now confronted with legal problems, and some having deliberately spread disinformation in pursuit of their campaign to transform the Middle East in Israel's interest (an effort so far taking about 550 American lives) they may in the near future find themselves objects of widespread hostility. They deserve strong criticism (and maybe prison sentences), although nobody ever deserves anti-Semitic vilification. But it could happen, tragically mirroring the vicious anti-Arab, anti-Muslim feelings they have encouraged in pursuit of their goals, baldly stated in the recent idiocy penned by Frum and Perle. The antiwar movement here has been led to a significant extent by Jews. Maybe half of the activists I've worked with are Jews. Obviously the ongoing war on Iraq is not the product of a Jewish conspiracy, any more than the progressive anti-imperialist left is a Jewish enterprise. Jews hold as many viewpoints as does the society at large. But because this is a racist society, with a deep-seated cultural proclivity to conceptualize in ethnic terms, I think it quite possible that as the criminal assault on Iraq takes its toll, some will say (intelligently): "Iraq was never a threat to us! Why are our kids dying there? For oil?" And (unintelligently): "It's those Jews! Sending our kids over there to die for Israel!" In that context, for progressive Jews to attack the foundations of Christian faith (however intellectually insupportable those foundations may be) strikes me as a grave political error. You don't want aggrieved Christian families declaring "My son died in Iraq because of those neocon Jews. They lied about Iraq, and now they're even trying to cover up what the Bible tells us about how they killed Jesus!" But anticipating that possibility, I urge the rabbi to take care to apply his fire where it will do most good, and leave the critique of the gospels for another day, lest its expression, right now, serve a wave of anti-Semitism that might target Perles and Lerners alike.
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Christian Ecology

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UNDER A GENERAL ethic of stewardship of creation, seven biblically based ethical principles can offer guidance in cases of environmental wastage and degradation.The first principle, Christian stewardship, has two major implications for the problem of environmental waste. The earth and the seas are the Lord's. We are stewards - called to represent God's interests.A second principle, do not destroy, prohibits wanton destruction of productive nature. Jewish interpretation calls this ethical imperative ba'al tashit - and cites Deuteronomy 20:19, which admonishes armies at war not to cut the enemies' fruit trees or unnecessarily devastate the land. The third principle, honoring divine joy and interest in the creation, concludes that wanton or unnecessary disturbance of the environment disregards God's love and care for life on earth. Psalm 104 declares: "O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures...." The fourth biblical principle is that of neighborliness - our obligation to protect the interests of others in the human community. Exodus 22:6 instructs the ancient Hebrews not to accidentally burn their neighbors' fields or grain while managing their own property. The fifth principle, that of a Christian land ethic - including a sabbatical for the land - can be easily translated into a Christian forest or ocean ethic. Ancient Hebrew farmers were to rest their animals on the Sabbath and their land every seventh year. BOTH NEIGHBORLINESS and the land ethic are foundational to the sixth principle, that of maintaining community health and integrity by respecting the disadvantaged. Proverbs, for example, teaches that we should not drive the poorer members of the human community out of business or interfere with their livelihood. God's provision is intended for all, and greed should not negate God's will for the common good.The last ethical principle is that of prudence in developing new ventures, particularly those concerning fluctuating natural resources. Greed can blind us to our own destructive business practices. Proverbs 20:21 admonishes, "An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end." Rockfish, Redfish, Stockfish, FoodfishSeven biblical principles for the care of creation. www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine. ... e=040321by Susan Power BrattonSusan Power Bratton is director of the department of environmental studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
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Capitalism as Fundamentalism...the real Terrorism

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Most of us have a sense of what religious fundamentalism is. The Free Market is one. All adherents of the Free Market see their lives driven to the worship of the One All-Powerful and Jealous God -- Capital. Underpinned by its theology -- economics -- it has numerous huge temples in the form of shopping malls that are bent on driving out all the little corner churches propounding insignificant little heresies such as "the humanness of chatting to your own friendly butcher." Our lives rotate around the worship of Capital and many of us, like suicide bombers, drive ourselves to death as sacrificial lambs (or martyrs) at the altar of success. (Heard of "shop till you drop?") You cannot leave your home or switch on your TV without being confronted by its missionaries or having a pamphlet thrust in your hand: "Convert Now or You Will Lose Out! Buy Now. The Sale Ends Today!" So successful, however, have their missionary activities been that we restrain our annoyance at these intrusions, while we might not do so with Jehovah's Witnesses. The major symbol of this religion, the notorious "M" arch of McDonalds, has driven out that other symbol of a now old-fashioned religion, the crucifix of Christianity, as the most widely recognized symbol in the world. It's as if the arch is telling the cross: "The Lord, Your God is One; You shall have none others in my presence." Paradise awaits those who believe and hell to those who reject or who fail -- or who have failure written in their destiny. ("The unemployed are just lazy; the poor shall always be with us.") Consider Free Market images of the ideal: The Gloriously Carefree Resort! The perfect toilet for you! The BMW accompanied by your very own sex-bomb, etc. How do they really differ from the images of paradise presented by other religions that sometimes have your own sex-bomb (an houri or two) thrown in as an added incentive?The religion of the Market is also a fundamentalist one. The struggle against socialist countries is unashamedly described as a "crusade" with collateral damage. ("There are no innocent victims in our crusade against Cuba; those children dying under our sanctions are the offspring of infidels. So who cares?") There is damnation for those who do not believe as we do, and even for those who fail despite being faithful practitioners, as most are. (And, inevitably, many must fail. Under the market economy, success can only come to a minority, for -- and here lies the damning rub -- its paradise is founded upon an earth that has limited resources.)This fundamentalism of the Market, with Capital as its God, seeks to convert all other cultures in its image, utilizing them for consolidating the system. It presents itself as the only way, and claims that outside its pale there is no salvation for the world, but only the hell-fire of destruction or the limbo of "primitivism." As Buddhist thinker David Loy has said: "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 worldview and set of values whose religious role we overlook only because we insist on seeing them as 'secular.' "The economic policies led by the USA and pursued with a vengeance every bit as ferocious as the most intractable forms of religious fundamentalism have caused poverty and death on a colossal scale. UN Development Program (UNDP) statistics indicate that, in 1960, countries of the North were about 20 times richer than those of the South. In 1990, Northern countries had become 50 times richer. The richest 20 percent of the world's population now have an income about 150 times greater than that of the poorest 20 percent, a gap that continues to grow. According to the UNDP report for 1996, the world's 358 billionaires have more wealth than the combined annual income of countries with 45 percent of the world's people. As a result, a quarter of a million children die of malnutrition or infection every week, while hundreds of millions more survive in a limbo of hunger and deteriorating health. This is the terrorism of our age.TO WHOM SHALL WE GIVE ACCESS TO OUR WATER HOLES?by Farid EsackFARID ESACK is the author of Qur'an, Liberation and Pluralism (1996), On Being a Muslim: Finding a Religious Path in the World Today (1999) and An Introduction to the Qur'an (forthcoming), all by Oxford: Oneworld. Delivered as the Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, October 10, 2001.www.crosscurrents.org/Esack.htm
Timothy Schoonover

Liberation Theology

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DHWhile I generally find myself amenable to the spirit of the material you have provided in this thread, although I have yet to read all of it, I think that the message you wish to communicate would be infinitely more compelling if you were to at least preface the various essays with your thoughts on why you think they are important. As is, I feel like I am swamped by a veritable wall of text which without rigorous scrutinization, lacks coherency and a unified theme. The articles are interesting, don't get me wrong, but I'm having difficulty finding the appropriate direction to channel my reaction to the material. Perhaps you could at least provide us with an idea of what you wanted to accomplish with this growing aggregate of articles?
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Re: Liberation Theology

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TS,Thank you for your very collegial approach to entering the maze of subjects and ideas I've assembled under the Liberation Theology heading. The initital post The Basic Question: How to Be Christians in a World of Destitution sets the parameters of meaning for the term "Liberation Theology". The following posts from Mujerista Theology, Eco-Theology, Progressive Islam, Center for Natural Sciences and Theology, Feminist Theology, Queer Theology, Jewish Renewal, Fundamentalism, and the many essays providing scathing critiques of American imperialism and capitalism from a Christian perspective...this litany of radical spirituality and progressive religious movements carries the Liberation Theology theme into all areas of life and across the globe.Primary to this process is an attempt to show how the quest for what is holy and sacred is a diverse, complex and wondrously humane process. Obviously, like any human endeavor, it has its shadow of stupidity, abuse and destructiveness...and, if you read most of these posts, they are the first to point out the very horrid history and threatening future such religious ignorance offers. And, they offer a vision and practice of the human heart full of courage, hope, compassion and love. In this context, the question "Does God Exist?" or the challenge "Prove your God exists!" becomes almost trivial. In the context of Liberation Theology, the answer to such questions and challenges is through courageous acts of healing and love, where injustice is confronted, peace embodied, and reconcilliation between warring parties is paramount. One place to follow how this sort of religious attitude and spiritual practice is understood within this Book Talk community is along the "How We Believe" thread discussing Michael Shermer's book. More specifically, the thread titled "Attitudes towards Religion".As for a lack of user friendliness, I plead the vice of sloth and an absence of time to give each post its needed attention and analysis. My guess is that most of the participants on this board know very little of the values and practice of "Liberation Theology", thus I am hoping to make the reasearch at least more available.Cheers
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