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Liberation Theology

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Dissident Heart

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Liberation Theology

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The Basic Question:How to Be Christiansin a World of DestitutionBy Leonardo Boff and Clodovis Boff. From the book Introducing Liberation Theology published by Orbis Books. Reprinted by permission.Com-passion, "Suffering with"What lies behind liberation theology? Its starting point is the perception of scandals such as those described above, which exist not only in Latin America but throughout the Third World. Meeting the Poor Christ in the PoorEvery true theology springs from a spirituality -- that is, from a true meeting with God in history. Liberation theology was born when faith confronted the injustice done to the poor. By "poor" we do not really mean the poor individual who knocks on the door asking for alms. We mean a collective poor, the "popular classes," which is a much wider category than the "proletariat" singled out by Karl Marx (it is a mistake to identify the poor of liberation theology with the proletariat, though many of its critics do): the poor are also the workers exploited by the capitalist system; the underemployed, those pushed aside by the production process -- a reserve army always at hand to take the place of the employed; they are the laborers of the countryside, and migrant workers with only seasonal work.All this mass of the socially and historically oppressed makes up the poor as a social phenomenon. In the light of faith, Christians see in them the challenging face of the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ. At first there is silence, silent and sorrowful contemplation, as if in the presence of a mystery that calls for introspection and prayer. Then this presence speaks. The Crucified in these crucified persons weeps and cries out: "I was hungry... in prison... naked" (Matt. 25:3146).Here what is needed is not so much contemplation as effective action for liberation. The Crucified needs to be raised to life. We are on the side of the poor only when we struggle alongside them against the poverty that has been unjustly created and forced on them. Service in solidarity with the oppressed also implies an act of love for the suffering Christ, a liturgy pleasing to God.The First Step: Liberating Action, Liber-a(c)tion (note 2)What is the action that will effectively enable the oppressed to move out of their inhuman situation? Many years of reflection and practice suggest that it has to go beyond two approaches that have already been tried: aid and reformism."Aid" is help offered by individuals moved by the spectacle of widespread destitution. They form agencies and organize projects, the "Band-Aid" or "corn-plaster" approach to social ills. But however perceptive they become and however well-intentioned -- and successful -- aid remains a strategy for helping the poor, but treating them as (collective) objects of charity, not as subjects of their own liberation. The poor are seen simply as those who have nothing. There is a failure to see that the poor are oppressed and made poor by others; and what they do possess -- strength to resist, capacity to understand their rights, to organize themselves and transform a subhuman situation -- tends to be left out of account. Aid increases the dependence of the poor, tying them to help from others, to decisions made by others: again, not enabling them to become their own liberators."Reformism" seeks to improve the situation of the poor, but always within existing social relationships and the basic structuring of society, which rules out greater participation by all and diminution in the privileges enjoyed by the ruling classes. Reformism can lead to great feats of development in the poorer nations, but this development is nearly always at the expense of the oppressed poor and very rarely in their favor. For example, in 1964 the Brazilian economy ranked 46th in the world; in 1994 it ranked 8th. The last twenty years have seen undeniable technological and industrial progress, but at the same time there has been a considerable worsening of social conditions for the poor, with exploitation, destitution, and hunger on a scale previously unknown in Brazilian history. This has been the price paid by the poor for this type of elitist, exploitative, and exclusivist development in which, in the words of Pope John Paul II, the rich become ever richer at the expense of the poor who become ever poorerThe poor can break out of their situation of oppression only by working out a strategy better able to change social conditions: the strategy of liberation. In liberation, the oppressed come together, come to understand their situation through the process of `conscientization,' discover the causes of their oppression, organize themselves into movements, and act in a coordinated fashion. First, they claim everything that the existing system can give: better wages, working conditions, health care, education, housing, and so forth; then they work toward the transformation of present society in the direction of a new society characterized by widespread participation, a better and more just balance among social classes and more worthy ways of life.In Latin America, where liberation theology originated, there have always been movements of liberation since the early days of the Spanish and Portuguese conquest. Amerindians, slaves, and the oppressed in general fought against the violence of the colonizers, created redoubts of freedom, such as the quilombos and reducciones, note 4 led movements of revolt and independence. And among the colonizers were bishops such as Bartolome de Las Casas, Antonio Valdivieso, and Toribio de Mogrovejo, and other missionaries and priests who defended the rights of the colonized peoples and made evangelization a process that included advancement of their rights.Despite the massive and gospel-denying domination of the colonial centuries, dreams of freedom were never entirely extinguished. But it is only in the past few decades that a new consciousness of liberation has become widespread over the whole of Latin America. The poor, organized and conscientized, are beating at their masters' doors, demanding life, bread, liberty and dignity. Courses of action are being taken with a view to release the liberty that is now held captive. Liberation is emerging as the strategy of the poor themselves, confident in themselves and in their instruments of struggle: free trade unions, peasant organizations, local associations, action groups and study groups, popular political parties, base Christian communities. (note 5) They are being joined by groups and individuals from other social classes who have opted to change society and join the poor in their struggle to bring about change.The growth of regimes of "national security" (for which read "capital security"), of military dictatorships, with their repression of popular movements in many countries of Latin America, is a reaction against the transforming and liberating power of the organized poor.The Second Step: Faith Reflects on Liberating PracticeChristians have always been and still are at the heart of these wider movements for liberation. The great majority of Latin Americans are not only poor but also Christian. So the great question at the beginning and still valid today was -- and is -- what role Christianity has to play. How are we to be Christians in a world of destitution and injustice? There can be only one answer: we can be followers of Jesus and true Christians only by making common cause with the poor and working out the gospel of liberation. Trade union struggles, battles for land and for the territories belonging to Amerindians, the fight for human rights and all other forms of commitment always pose the same question: What part is Christianity playing in motivating and carrying on the process of liberating the oppressed?Inspired by their faith -- which must include commitment to one's neighbor, particularly to the poor, if it is to be true (Matt. 25:31-46) -- and motivated by the proclamation of the kingdom of God -- which begins in this world and culminates only in eternity -- and by the life, deeds, and death of Christ, who made a historic option for the poor, and by the supremely liberating significance of his resurrection, many Christians -- bishops, priests, religious, nuns, lay men and women -- are throwing themselves into action alongside the poor, or joining the struggles already taking place. The Christian base communities, Bible societies, groups for popular evangelization, movements for the promotion and defense of human rights, particularly those of the poor, agencies involved in questions of land tenure, indigenous peoples, slums, marginalized groups, and the like, have all shown themselves to have more than a purely religious and ecclesial significance, and to be powerful factors for mobilization and dynamos of liberating action, particularly when they have joined forces with other popular movements.Christianity can no longer be dismissed as the opium of the people, nor can it be seen as merely fostering an attitude of critique: it has now become an active commitment to liberation. Faith challenges human reason and the historical progress of the powerful, but in the Third World it tackles the problem of poverty, now seen as the result of oppression. Only from this starting point can the flag of liberation be raised.The gospel is not aimed chiefly at "modern" men and women with their critical spirit, but first and foremost at "nonpersons," those whose basic dignity and rights are denied them. This leads to reflection in a spirit of Prophecy and solidarity aimed at making nonpersons full human beings, and then new men and women, according to the design of the "new Adam," Jesus Christ.Reflecting on the basis of practice, within the ambit of the vast efforts made by the poor and their allies, seeking inspiration in faith and the gospel for the commitment to fight against poverty and for the integral liberation of all persons and the whole person -- that is what liberation theology means.Christians who have been inspired by its principles and who live out its practices have chosen the harder way, exposing themselves to defamation, persecution, and even martyrdom. Many have been led by its insights and the practice of solidarity at its origins to a process of true conversion. Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who had been conservative in his views, became a great advocate and defender of the poor when he stood over the dead body of Fr. Rutilio Grande, assassinated for his liberating commitment to the poor. The spilt blood of the martyr acted like a salve on his eyes, opening them to the urgency of the task of liberation. And he himself was called to a martyr's death in the same cause.Commitment to the liberation of the millions of the oppressed of our world restores to the gospel the credibility it had at the beginning and at the great periods of holiness and prophetic witness in history. The God who pitied the downtrodden and the Christ who came to set prisoners free proclaim themselves with a new face and in a new image today. The eternal salvation they offer is mediated by the historical liberations that dignify the children of God and render credible the coming utopia of the kingdom of freedom, justice, love, and peace, the kingdom of God in the midst of humankind.From all this, it follows that if we are to understand the theology of liberation, we must first understand and take an active part in the real and historical process of liberating the oppressed. In this field, more than in others, it is vital to move beyond a merely intellectual approach that is content with comprehending a theology through its purely theoretical aspects, by reading articles, attending conferences, and skimming through books. We have to work our way into a more biblical framework of reference, where "knowing" implies loving, letting oneself become involved body and soul, communing wholly -- being committed, in a word -- as the prophet Jeremiah says: "He used to examine the cases of poor and needy, then all went well. Is not that what it means to know me? -- it is Yahweh who speaks" (Jet. 22:16). So the criticisms made of liberation theology by those who judge it on a purely conceptual level, devoid of any real commitment to the oppressed, must be seen as radically irrelevant. Liberation theology responds to such criticism with just one question: What part have you played in the effective and integral liberation of the oppressed?Translator's NotesThe Latin American bishops' conference, CELAM, has held three General Conferences since the Second Vatican, Council. The second, held at Medellin, Colombia, in 1968, can be considered the "official launching" of the theme of liberation. The third, held at Puebla, Mexico, in 1979, with Pope John Paul II in attendance, developed in some ways, but also watered down, the conclusions reached at Medellin. Puebla produced its own "Final Document, " published in England as Puebla: Evangelization at Present and in the Future: Conclusions of the Third General Conference of the Latin American Bishops. Catholic Institute for international Relations, (Slough, Berkshire: St. Paul Publications, 1979) and in the U.S.A. as Puebla and Beyond: Documentation and Commentary. Ed. John Eagleson and Philip Scharper (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1979).The Portuguese word for "liberation" is liberac
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Church contra Imperial Culture

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Perhaps the core of our challenge is this: How do we remain an alternative community in opposition to the dominant imperial culture? For most of world history, this was hardly a question: You opposed the powers, and you were persecuted and likely killed. But our society has refined co-optation to an art form. Walter Brueggemann has suggested that if Moses were alive today, Pharaoh would make him a talk-show host. Our alternative stance is tamed into a benign example of society's "tolerance of dissent." God's word becomes one voice on a panel discussion. The powerful seduction of the culture continues, indefinitely, waiting for our resolve to grow weary, and we are lured back or find ourselves suddenly enmeshed without knowing quite what happened. How, then, do we as a community remain in opposition? Of one thing I am certain: Our disciplines become more important than ever--prayer, meditation, proportional giving, study, worship and liturgy, commitment to the poor, and simple living. Similarly, celebration is vitally necessary for those living in exile. Finally, we must find ways to act. As Walter Wink wrote in these very pages, "It is of the nature of the powers that they wish to appear invincible. They do not want their great vulnerability revealed." One of the perverse effects of the torrent of media images that washes over us every day is to make our little efforts feel meaningless. But as Wink also suggests, "There is no such thing as objective powerlessness. Our belief that we are powerless is a sure sign that we have been duped by the powers." We don't have to do big, important things. God can and will use our small, individual acts of faithfulness to achieve God's purposes. But we must do something if for no other reason than to defy the propaganda of the powers--and leave the responsibility for results up to God. The war is over (Iraq 2003)--or at least we have seen the end of one particularly brutal expression of the powers and principalities of our times. But the powers thrive, and surely more war is coming. Our task is paradoxical: to live in a society that will probably collapse, yet continue to work with hope for peace, for justice, and for more humane, democratic structures. This is a task fit for people of faith, accustomed (as we should be) to God's taking our pitiable offerings and fashioning them into newness, miraculous and surprising, despite our lack of vision. This is not a call to a new political agenda. It is an invitation to recognize that, as Christians today, we are a community in exile, that we live in opposition to our culture, and that we desperately need each other. The primary task of the church is to be a community of resistance. I am convinced that it is only within such community that we will have the strength and fortitude to continue the long struggle. Our little, raggedy groups are our only chance. The Coming ExileBy David Hilfiker From The Other Side Online,
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Womanist Theology

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Womanist Theology in the USAWomanist theology is critical reflection upon black women's place in the world that God has created and takes seriously black women's experience as human beings who are made in the image of God. The categories of life which black women deal with daily (that is, race, womanhood, and political economy) are intricately woven into the religious space that African American women occupy. Therefore the harmful and empowering dimensions of the institutional church, culture, and society impact the social construction of black womanhood. Womanist theology affirms and critiques the positive and negative attributes of the church, the African American community, and the larger society. Womanist theology's goals are to interrogate the social construction of black womanhood in relation to the African American community. The normative discourse among African American women creates the space for an energetic claiming of the life stories of African American women and their contribution to the history of the United States and the African diaspora. An additional way of achieving this goal is to engage in a critical conversation with black (male) theology so that a full theology for the African American community can emerge from that dialogue. Likewise the pursuance of the black family's sanctity ranks high on the womanist's theological agenda. Another the goal of womanist theology is to unearth the ethnographic sources within the African American community in order to reconstruct knowledge and overcome subordination. And, finally, womanist theology seeks to decolonize the African mind and to affirm our African heritage. Womanist theology engages the macro-structural and the micro-structural issues that affect black women's lives and, since it is a theology of complete inclusivity, the lives of all black people. The freedom of black women entails the liberation of all peoples, since womanist theology concerns notions of gender, race, class, heterosexism, and ecology. Furthermore, it takes seriously the historical and current contributions of our African forebears and women in the African diaspora today. It advances a bold leadership style that creates fresh discursive and practical paradigms and "talks back" ( hooks 1988 ) to structures, white feminists, and black male liberation theologians. Moreover, womanist theology asserts what black women's unique experiences mean in relation to God and creation and survival in the world. Thus the tasks of womanist theology are to claim history, to declare authority for ourselves, our men, and our children, to learn from the experience of our forebears, to admit shortcomings and errors, and to improve our quality of life. Womanist theology assumes a liberatory perspective so that African American women can live emboldened lives within the African American community and within the larger society. Such a new social relationship includes adequate food, shelter, clothing -- and minds which are free from worries so that there can be space for creative modalities. Womanist theology draws on sources that range from traditional church doctrines, African American fiction and poetry, nineteenth-century black women leaders, poor and working class black women in holiness churches, and African American women under slavery. In addition, other vital sources include the personal narratives of black women suffering domestic violence and psychological trauma, the empowering dimensions of conjuring and syncretic black religiosity, and womanist ethnographic approaches to excavating the life stories of poor women of African descent in the church. Womanist theology, moreover, grasps the crucial connection between African American women and the plight, survival, and struggle of women of color throughout the world. Womanist theology intentionally pursues and engages the cultural contexts of women who are part of the African diaspora, for instance. To enhance the dialogical networking among women of color all over the globe, the methodology of anthropology, a key discipline within the social sciences, aids womanist theology in this engagement. Anthropological methodology encourages womanist religious scholars to embrace the cultural, symbolic, and ritual diversity dispersed throughout the religious lives of women of color on this earth. www.crosscurrents.org/thomas.htm Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 10/20/03 11:14 pm
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Jesus contra U.S. Militarism

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Jesus lived in a world that was unjust, violent, and dangerous like our own. Rome dominated first-century Palestine through a combination of brutal force and sophisticated propaganda. It ruled with the assistance of compliant client kings like Herod and with the help of religious leaders who controlled the people through the Jerusalem Temple. Many Jews were oppressed within the Roman- and Temple-dominated system. They hoped for an imminent reversal of fortune based on human or divine violence. As promised in their sacred text and stories, salvation was understood as the crushing defeat of enemies within history (Exod. 14:30, 15:1-5; Ps. 18:43-48a; Isa. 25:9-12) or at the apocalyptic end time (Dan. 8:17, 10:14, 11:35, 12:13; Matt. 3:7-8,10,12). Many placed hope that the glorious reversal described by the prophet Isaiah would be realized through their own violence supplemented by God's power. God would come "with vengeance," would "save" the people and "spare no one" (Isa. 35:4; 47:3). The oppressed would receive God's favor and become oppressors. Jesus saw these messianic and apocalyptic hopes as dangerous fantasies. In the midst of a deadly spiral of violence--oppression, rebellion, and repression--Jesus embraced nonviolent resistance. He taught love of enemies (Matt. 5:43-44) and told parables exposing the inner workings of the oppressive system, including one depicting the futility of violent rebellion (Mark 12:1-12). He blessed peacemakers (Matt. 5:9), warned that "all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52), and modeled nonviolent resistance (Matt. 5:38-42). Jesus' nonviolence was rooted in the character of the nonviolent God he embraced (Matt. 5:45). Christianity today is gravely and starkly disconnected from the nonviolent Jesus. Although 84 percent of U.S. adults identify themselves as Christians, the United States is the functional equivalent of the Roman Empire that dominated first-century Palestine. While claiming to follow a Jesus who challenged and was executed by the oppressive system of his time, many Christians today conform to, embrace, and benefit from the U.S.-dominated global system, and offer uncritical support for the militarization that makes the oppressive system possible. In this context, Christians need to take the nonviolence of Jesus seriously. We must confront U.S. militarization and challenge the complicity of our churches. Our task in the coming years is to offer and live out an alternative global vision, one that addresses the economic, social, political and environmental needs of all people and the planet we inhabit. There are many avenues for creative action. We can work to close the School of the Americas, support efforts to create a U.S. Department of Peace, help build a global nonviolent peace force, and expand the "Every Church A Peace Church" network. We can continue to challenge the abusive power of the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. We can demand that our nation develop an alternative energy policy, and work to demilitarize our nation's budget and foreign policy, as well as our own hearts and minds. Never has the futility of violence been more evident in our world than today. Yet never has our nation been more dominated by political and economic groups who benefit from militarization. Our efforts to work for justice, to embrace nonviolence, and to build a broad-based movement for peace are of vital importance. In the spirit of Jesus, we must rediscover our blessed roots as peacemakers. By the SwordBy Jack Nelson Pallmeyer www.theotherside.org/arch...meyer.html
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Fundamentalism and the Modern World

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Jim Wallis: Fundamentalists often feel attacked by what I call "secular fundamentalism." At Harvard a couple of years ago I gave a talk on religion and public life to a group of Harvard's "best and brightest," the left intelligentsia. After I finished, the first question was, "But, Jim, what about the Inquisition?" I said, "Well! I was against it at the time. And I'm still opposed to it. But how about if every time you talk about national health insurance, I don't raise Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge? Instead, let's have a good conversation here."Religion is not as undemocratic as the secular fundamentalists want to make it out to be. But fundamentalists need to learn that bringing faith into public life doesn't happen by the takeover of the mechanisms of the state. They have to learn the dynamics and disciplines of prophetic religion.I think prophetic faith is, finally, the best counterpoint to fundamentalist religion. You bring your faith into the public square in a way that says your political conviction is because of your faith. But to win, you have to win a democratic argument about why the policies you propose are better for the common good. That's the discipline religion has to be under when it brings its faith to the public square. Some fundamentalists haven't learned that yet. But they shouldn't be told to be quiet or to take over. They should be told to win in a democratic arena by offering their faith as their deepest conviction.Karen Armstrong: What we must all be striving for, whether we are religious or secularist, is the compassion that our religions teach us and that our own Western society prizes so highly. We regard ourselves as a compassionate, tolerant society that respects the rights of others. We got this from the Abrahamic religions, from all three of these faiths.Fundamentalism has achieved some successes. At the middle of the 20th century it was widely assumed by pundits and intellectuals that never again would religion play a major part in world affairs. But now we know, to our cost, that that has not proven to be the case. There has been a crying out, not just in the violence, but by those Muslim fundamentalist movements that work for better social justice within an Islamic society. Those Christians that are demanding that religion play a great centrality in public life. The extraordinary struggles that Jews have made to reconcile the terrible assaults that they suffered in the 20th century, and to rebuild faith and hope again in a world which seems to want to get rid of God.There has been a religious resurgence. Fundamentalism has been part of that resurgence. But ultimately fundamentalism represents a defeat, because when people are so fearful, so threatened, they tend to accentuate those aggressive aspects of their faith or their scripture and downplay those that speak of compassion and justice. But, in our response too we must also stress compassion, the importance of reaching out, understanding even those forms of religiosity or ideology that we find abhorrent. Because in that struggle to understand, I am convinced we'll find a deeper sense of the Divine.Fundamentalism and the Modern Worldwww.sojo.net/archives/mag...20310.html
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Renewal Judaism

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Judaism has always had within it two competing strands, one that affirmed the possibility of healiing the world and transcending its violence and cruelty, the other that saw "the Other" (be that the original inhabitants of the land, who were to be subject to genocidal extermination, or later Greeks, Romans, Christians, or now Arab) as inherently evil, beyond redemption, and hence deserving of cruelty and violence. The latter strand, which I call "settler Judaism" because it reflects the ideology of settling the land that reaches its fulfillment as much inthe Book of Joshua (and in some quotes in Torah) as in the reckless acts of Ariel Sharon and the current manifestations of the National Religious Party in Israel, was actually a very necessary part of keeping psychologically healthy in the long period of Jewish history when we were the oppressed and we were being psychologically brutalized by imperial occupiers or by our most immoral "hosts" in European societies. But today, when Jews are the rulers over an occupied people, or living in Western societies and sharing the upper crust of income and political power with our nonJewish neighbors, the supremacist ideas of Settler Judaism create a religious ideology that can only appeal to those stuck in the sense that we are eternally vulernable. For a new generation of Jews, bred in circumstnces of power and success, a Judaism based on fear and demeaning of others, a Judaism used as a justification for every nuance of Israeli power and occupation, becomes a Judaism that has very little spiritual appeal. Ironically, the need to be a handmaiden to Israel distorts Judaism and causes a "crisis of continuity" as younger Jews seek spiritual insight outside their inherited tradition.Yet Judaism has another strand, what I and others call "Renewal Judaism," which started wth the Prophets and has reasserted itself in every major age of Jewish life, insisting that the God of Torah is really the Force of Healing and Transformation, and that our task is not to sanctify existing power relations but to challenge them in the name of a vision of a world of peace and justice. Perhaps the greatest danger that Israel poses to the Jewish people is the extent to which it has helped Jews become cynical about their central task: to proclaim to the world the possibility of possibillity, to affirm the God of the universe as the Force that makes possible the breaking of the tendency of people to do to others the violence and cruelty that was done to them, the Force that makes possible the transcendence of "reality" as it is so that a new world can be shaped. If Israel is ever to be healed, it will only be when it is able to reject this slavish subordination to political realism and once again embrace the transformative spiritual message of renewal.A Jewish Renewal Understanding of the State of Israel By Rabbi Michael Lernerwww.tikkun.org/renewal/in...srael.html
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A Hymn For Resisters

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Creation and time are already underway when death enters the garden; death, the undoer of creation. That which arose from the dust, returns to the dust. This is written not only to "put the human in place" (though it does that also). It is a way of asserting dramatically that God is God. The One calls the other from the dust of earth. And to dust, women and men and children return, ineluctably. Thus the story of our genesis and our brief passage on earth, is also the story of God's non-genesis, God's being "from ever to ever." We could not be offered a more stark contrast, a more chastening lesson in the pivotal modes of being in the universe; the nadir and the zenith. But God is hardly to be thought of as self-contained, self-aggrandizing, as One content with a creation bereft of the human. Least of all as One who takes a dark satisfaction in plowing humans under, condemning us to Sheol. We must think of a love that takes a great chance. Thus the summoning of ourselves from the dust, as well as our return to the dust, is more than a chastening reminder of lowly beginnings and final humiliation. The psalm is a canticle of love, even of the love that has survived outrage. The prayer ends on a chastened note, chastened, hopeful, twice repeated: Strengthen the work of our hands for us! Strengthen the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17. Can it be that another "work of our hands" is possible to us, far different from the nuclear idols we have created, adored, gloried in? It must be so; nowhere in Scripture is assurance or blessing implied for a tribe of wreckers and despoilers. The community of faith is summoned to a far different vocation; to resistance, the scriptural "work of our hands." A Hymn For Resisters by Daniel Berrigan www.theotherside.org/arch...rigan.html
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Eco-Theology and the Green Face of God

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The message of the cross is that senseless death is not foreign to God because it is through the cross that God lives in solidarity with all who suffer. The promise of new life that flows from the suffering God hanging from a tree is recapitulated in the ministry of the wounded Spirit whose solidarity with a broken world is a token of divine forbearance and love. Hope, then, for a restored earth in our time is theologically rooted in the belief in the Spirit's benevolent cohabitation with all of the damaged and forgotten members of the biosphere -- human and nonhuman alike. The Spirit's abiding presence in a world wracked by human greed is a constant reminder that God desires the welfare of all members of the life-web -- indeed, that no population of lifeforms is beyond the ken of divine love, no matter how serious, even permanent, the ecological damage is to these biotic communities.One of the many ironies of Christian faith is the belief that out of death comes life, from loss and suffering comes the possibility of hope and renewal. This irony is symbolized in the Creator's emptying of herself in creation so that all beings may enjoy fullness of life; in Jesus' crucifixion where the spilling of his life blood becomes the opportunity for all persons to experience the fullness of new life in him; and in the Spirit's kenotic coinherence with the earth and concomitant willingness to endure our ecological violence so that we can be offered again and again the chance to change our habits and reenter the sorority of the earth and her Creator. Our rapacious habits daily wound afresh the Earth Spirit who breathes life into all things; and daily the Earth Spirit intercedes for us and protects us by allowing us to remain richly alive in spite of our behavior to the contrary. The Spirit in and through the body of the earth groans in travail over our addictions to ecoviolence. But in her wounds we have life because it is in the wounded Spirit that we see God's love overabundant and outpouring on our behalf. In her wounds we see God's refusal to remain aloof from creation -- apathetic, unmoved, uncaring -- just insofar as God decided to enflesh herself in all of the processes and lifeforms that constitute life as we know it. We continue unabated in our ravaging of the earth body of the one who has given herself for us so that we might live. But to this point the cruciform Spirit has not withdrawn her sustaining presence from the planet -- a reminder to us that God is a lover of all things bodily and earthly -- and a call to a renewed passion on our part for nurturing and protecting the biosphere that is our common inheritance and common home.Can a recovery of the ancient, biblical idea of the Spirit as the Green Face of God provide the necessary focus for the practice of earth-healing in our time? The answer to this question has been the focus of this paper. In this essay, I have proposed that one of the most compelling Christian responses to the threat of ecocide lies in a recovery of the Holy Spirit as God's power of life-giving breath (ruah) who indwells and sustains all lifeforms. I have said that the answer to the increasing environmental degradation in our time is not better technology -- a matter of more know-how -- but a Spirit-motivated conversion of our whole ways of life to sustainable living -- a matter of the heart. Such a change of heart can occur through an encounter with Christian earth wisdom. This wisdom for our troubled times can be found in the rich biblical imagery of God as Spirit who sustains and renews all forms of life on the planet; the corresponding belief, since the Spirit vivifies all things, in the interdependence that binds together all members of the biosphere in a global web of life; and the concomitant ethical ideal of working toward the healing of various biotic communities whenever they suffer ecological degradation.Today we need a conversion of the heart to an integrated planetary vision of a green earth where all persons live in harmony with their natural environments. May the Holy Spirit, as divine force for sustenance and renewal in all things, come into our hearts and minds and persuade us to work toward a seamless social-environmental ethic of justice toward all God's creatures.THE GREEN FACE OF GOD:CHRISTIANITY IN AN AGE OF ECOCIDEby Mark I. Wallacewww.crosscurrents.org/wallacef00.htm
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Re: Eco-Theology and the Green Face of God

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"Conversion of the Heart" is code for "change human nature". No, this is not a good way to go. Maybe changing human nature would be a good thing, maybe not; but it isn't going to happen. The way we are going to solve our problems... IF we solve them (nature has her own nasty way of curing overpopulation and polution, if we don't). . . is by recognizing who we are and dealing with it, not by hoping or praying or pretending that we are some other way. Science is neither a philosophy nor a belief system. It is a combination of mental operations that has become increasingly the habit of educated peoples, a culture of illuminations hit upon by a fortunate turn of history that yielded the most effective way of learning about the real world ever conceived. E.O.Wilson
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Re: Eco-Theology and the Green Face of God

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"Conversion of Heart" is not a matter of changing human nature (whatever that means) but a matter of changing your fundamental attitudes and basic assumptions regarding what is most important and essential in your life. More importantly, its a matter of changing behaviors and habits; specifically, those acts that foul our resources and poison the earth from which we arise and to which we return.It has to do with a basic revaluation of those values which determine identities and allegiences; as well as those myths and fantasies we carry which help to define "human nature".Professor Wallace's "integrated planetary vision of a green earth where all persons live in harmony with their natural environments", may not resonate with yourself. And perhaps for good reasons. You see it as impossible. But, your reasoning is flawed as it requires an unsubstantiated leap into a ready-made idea of what "human nature" can or can't be. This is flawed reasoning because there simply is no way for you to know this. Nor could any of us. None of us knows what human nature is in its entirety, and what we do know is sparse, partial, incomplete and subject to profound cultural bias, ideological allegiences, and simple cognitive breakdown.Wallace's issue involves finding ways to get humans to take seriously the ecological threats they help to create. He employs Biblical and Eco-feminist imagery, theory, and narrative to foster advocacy, allegience and courage in his readers.As such, his final prayer, "May the Holy Spirit, as divine force for sustenance and renewal in all things, come into our hearts and minds and persuade us to work toward a seamless social-environmental ethic of justice toward all God's creatures." can be seen as one way to bring communities of people together in a unified, concerted effort to reconsider their beliefs, habits and actions.
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