Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011

A European Revival of Liberation Theology

by Ulrich Duchrow

What should Christianity be saying about global capitalism? The World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Lutheran World Federation have begun a significant exploration of that question.

It's a discussion I hope you will bring into the churches of North America. The conversation doesn't have to be limited to Christianity, either. What should Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism be saying about global capitalism? It's a debate to bring into your synagogues, mosques, ashrams, and schools of theology and divinity, and into local secular communities as well, since the issues bear on the entire human race and the survival of the planet. After you develop a perspective on capitalism within your own religious group, you can then -- as a community -- share your views in the international debate now taking place. The global religious community could play an important role in challenging the growing materialism and selfishness that have characterized the growth of a global capitalist worldview.

Not surprisingly, the process of creating a joint statement has sparked a rather striking debate among Christians about how explicitly we ought to challenge global capitalism. A group of us European theologians have put forward what we believe to be a rather strong statement of a Christian perspective -- one that goes much further than many of our fellow Christians in the Northern hemisphere would choose. The perspective we articulate in "Life in Just Peace," the joint statement reprinted below, better reflects the views of many Christians in the Southern hemisphere. To speak to some of the concerns that our visionary statement commonly raises among skeptics from the global North, I have constructed a response to an imagined criticism from a North American pastor (see page 78) that channels the type of energy and analysis more common among Christians from the global South.

Life in Just Peace

A joint statement by a group of twenty-six European initiatives and networks, including Kairos Europe, Pax Christi (German section), INKOTA, Christians for a Just Economic System, Pleading for an Ecumenical Future, Winds from the South, and several regional ecumenical grassroots networks, working together in the "German Ecumenical Network" in preparation for the May 2011 International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica.

Humanity and the earth are undergoing a unique crisis. Above all, this is manifested in the form of the financial and economic crisis, the food crisis, the social crisis (the growing gap between those who are becoming poorer and those becoming richer), the energy crisis, the climate crisis, the crisis of the extinction of species and the crisis of increasing violence at all levels -- from the family and schools to imperialist wars. The causes of these crises are clearly related to the dominant civilization, which from the "West" has conquered the entire globe in the areas of economics, politics, ideology, and the understanding of what it means to be human. This crisis is threatening life itself. As we see it, just peace must therefore be understood as leading toward a new culture of life at all levels -- from institutional to spiritual life.

The necessary turnaround toward a life in just peace includes at least three dimensions:

  • A spiritual vision of a new, emerging culture of life, based on faith or a humanist motivation.
  • The fundamental rejection of the dominant economic, political, violence-producing culture and world order, for the sake of the integrity of faith and the very being of the church.
  • Short-, medium-, and long-term steps toward realizing this vision.

We therefore present the following declaration, which is based on the biblical message and affirms decisions by the assemblies of ecumenical organizations, inviting all churches, congregations, and Christians to embrace it and to publicly advocate for the implementation of its demands.

1. Which god shall rule?

We believe that God created the whole universe in love, inviting all people to cooperate with God's ongoing creative work in mutual solidarity and respect for God's gifts. "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it" (Ps. 24:1). With faith in God's Trinitarian dynamic we confess with all Christians the sociality of God as the source of the unity of all creatures.

Therefore, we reject the current world economic order imposed by global neoliberal capitalism -- using both structural and direct violence. We reject every claim to an economic, political, and military empire that attempts to subvert God's order of life and whose actions stand in contrast to God's love and justice. We reject an economic system and way of life that exploits nature and propagates unlimited growth so that the conditions of life for future generations are forcibly destroyed and the survival chances of the entire earth are threatened.

The power of God's Spirit frees us as individuals and churches to resist the ruling political-economic-cultural system and to work for crucially necessary alternatives.

2. God's good gifts for all should not be privatized by force.

We believe that God is a God of life and desires the fullness of life for all creatures. "I came that they might have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

Therefore we reject a policy that through the privatization of collective and common goods produces wealth for the capital owners but scarcity and poverty for the vast majority of the world's population -- the worst kind of violence (Gandhi) -- and which exploits and even destroys nature. With particular emphasis we reject the patenting of seeds and of medicines that are necessary to meet people's basic needs. We say no to the privatization of genes as well as acts of biopiracy; no to the privatization of water and other gifts of nature; no to the privatization of services of general interest such as energy, transportation, health, education; also no to the destruction of solidarity-based social insurance systems through privatization; no to their submission to profit-oriented insurance companies and at the same time to speculative finance markets. All of this is structural violence at the service of the rich. But especially we reject the direct violence of a policy that wages wars to realize these private interests and wastes immeasurable resources on armaments.

The power of God's Spirit frees us as individuals and churches to work for the democratizing of the economy and the solidarity-based social systems toward serving life, among ourselves and in society, so that all might have enough, so that neither hardship nor excessive consumption prevails and that the earth can remain intact for future generations. Economic systems should be for the common use and not for the expansion of capital. For this reason goods and services for basic needs as well as global common goods must be publically run for mutual benefit, so that in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all governments recognize their responsibility for the welfare of their citizens. We pledge to struggle for an order at all levels, in which economics and politics are put at the service of life for all and thereby overcome the fundamental causes of violence.

3. God's good earth should not be destroyed by greed.

We believe that God entrusted human beings with a rich and beautiful earth. "The Lord took the human beings and put them in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it" (Gen. 2:15).

Therefore, we reject an economic and social order that converts God's gifts into commodities and in so doing increasingly destroys them. We especially call on Christians, congregations, and churches in the industrialized countries to recognize their enormous ecological debts, particularly their destructive climate debts, toward people who have been living in impoverished regions for the past five hundred years, and at least to offer symbolic compensation, to radically reduce their harmful greenhouse emissions, and to oblige their governments to pass national and international laws to keep global warming under two degrees and to stop the extermination of species.

The power of God's Spirit frees us as individuals and churches to set an example and reduce our consumption of energy and the environment as well as to force our governments to establish binding rules for reduction under international law (allowing for transitional arrangements for newly industrialized and developing countries). All in all, we will work for a cyclical economy that makes the gifts of nature available for just and sustainable use.

4. God liberates working people from violent exploitation.

We believe that God intends human labor to become participation in God's creative power and as a means for self-sufficiency in human societies, without exploiting working men and women. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other Gods before me" (Gen. 20:2).

Therefore, we reject an economic order in which working people, especially women, are (structurally or directly) violently exploited and driven into unemployment. We reject governments that tax workers more and more but levy less and less taxes on capital gains from profits and fortunes and refuse to abolish tax havens.

The power of God's Spirit frees us as individuals and churches to struggle in cooperation with labor unions for legal systems and economic decisions in which those able to work can find useful employment and socially meaningful jobs and --  owing to increased productivity -- comprehensive reduced working hours. In reaching these decisions, all of those involved in the productive process must have a voice.

5. God does not want any accumulation of wealth beyond that which is necessary for life.

We believe that God despises the accumulation of wealth for the few at the cost of the majority. "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matt. 6:24). "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, nor ox nor donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exod. 20:17).

Therefore we reject an economic order that stimulates and rewards greed, which is dependent on nature-destroying and socially antagonistic growth, because it makes money and capital a commodity and its increase an end in itself.

The Spirit of God frees us as individuals and churches to overcome the violent power of money and especially its speculative misuse as a "financial weapon of mass destruction." We ourselves will only use money at the service of genuine economic activity. In concert with social movements we will struggle to induce political institutions to make money a national and international public good that only serves useful economic activity, and to ensure that all use of property becomes socially and ecologically beneficial to all.

6. God wants to create human security through justice rather than through military means.

"This is the word of the Lord to Zerubabbel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). "Until a spirit from on high is poured out upon us, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness, and trust forever" (Isa. 32:15-17).

Therefore we say no to the institution of war, which -- under the conditions of present-day weapons technology -- cannot be justified under any circumstances; no to the more than 1 billion U.S. dollars wasted annually for armaments while more than 30 million people die from the causes of hunger. Arms do not murder only when they are used, but already while they are being produced. In particular we reject the imperialist wars, which stand in violation of international law, such as those against Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the unlimited "war on terror." Therefore we reject the presence of more than 800 U.S. military bases, under whose protection authoritarian and pseudo-democratic regimes such as those in the Philippines and Colombia commit notorious violations of human rights, and also the arming of the European Community with international rapid intervention forces. When the international community needs to intervene in individual countries and regions because of notorious violations of human rights, this must be done only by police forces under the umbrella of a democratized United Nations.

The power of God's Spirit frees us as individuals and churches to refuse to cooperate in any way with waging war. Instead, in the spirit of Jesus and Gandhi we wish to confront all injustice with readiness to accept conflicts and suffering, to cooperate in reconciliation processes therapeutically and in terms of prevention, and to contribute to a political stance that seeks to outlaw war.

7. Weapons of mass destruction are blasphemy against God.

We believe that weapons of mass destruction are blasphemy, since human beings are created in the image of God. "Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person's blood be shed; for in God's own image God made humankind" (Gen. 9:6).

Therefore, we reject unequivocally the production, deployment, and use of means of mass destruction, which always shed innocent human blood and can even eliminate all life on earth. We reject the strategies of the United States and NATO, which claim the right to a nuclear first strike and already are making use of enhanced munitions with disastrous effects for the people targeted.

The power of the Spirit of God frees us to refuse to collaborate under any circumstances in the production, deployment, or use of weapons of mass destruction or to vote for any political party that has not declared its support for the complete abolition of any means of mass destruction. We call on all members of Christian churches to do likewise. Especially we call on the government of the United States as well as on other governments to make deeds follow their words and to create a nuclear-free world. Only then can governments now working to achieve a nuclear capacity be prevented from realizing their plans.

8. God has created a people, which has invited all peoples to a life with a just peace.

We believe that God has called us to be a people that lives a life of justice and peace and can so become the light of the world, the city on the hill and salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-16). "Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that God may teach us God's ways and that we may walk in God's paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:3-5, NRSV).

Therefore, we reject all misuse of the name of God and Christ for achieving power, be it by governments, political parties, groups, theologies, or churches. We especially reject prosperity theologies, fundamentalist crusade theologies, and ideologies that in the name of freedom increase the wealth of capital owners and even support the use of imperialist violence to this end.

The power of God's Spirit frees us as individuals and churches to follow Jesus and to participate in building God's domination-free kingdom, God's life-affirming order with a human face. This includes collaboration in developing

(1) a new economic approach based on solidarity and serving life;

(2) the practice of nonviolent behavior for conflict resolution and therapy, avoiding and reducing violence at all levels, from the family to a world peace order; and

(3) a style of life that promotes ecological and social justice.

We seek the company and cooperation of people of other faiths or of none, who respect and promote the lives of the most humble human beings and of the endangered earth. In the name of Jesus we ask God for the spiritual power to rejoice at the wonderful gifts of creation, to lead a life of justice and peace, and to work toward the day when this will be enjoyed by all people.

Why Liberation Theology Is Necessary for Us All

A Response to an Imagined Critic from North America

by Ulrich Duchrow

Peace be with you! I have received your letter from Minnesota raising important questions about our church endorsing and following up the decisions taken by the Assemblies of the Lutheran World Federation in Winnipeg in 2003 and of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Accra in 2004. I'm happy to be in dialogue with a pastor from North America. The passages you particularly challenge are:

  • The Lutheran World Federation's Statement on Globalization in its 10th Assembly saying, "As a communion, we must engage the false ideology of neoliberal economic globalization by confronting, converting, and changing this reality and its effects. This false ideology is grounded on the assumption that the market, built on private property, unrestrained competition, and the centrality of contracts, is the absolute law governing human life, society, and the natural environment. This is idolatry and leads to the systematic exclusion of those who own no property, the destruction of cultural diversity, the dismantling of fragile democracies, and the destruction of the earth."
  • The Accra Confession of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 2004 stating, among other thing, "We believe that God is sovereign over all creation. ‘The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof' (Psalm 24.1). Therefore, we reject the current world economic order imposed by global neoliberal capitalism.... We reject any claim of economic, political, and military empire which subverts God's sovereignty over life and acts contrary to God's just rule."

Your first argument against the intent of these passages is:

We have to be "realistic" and achieve something real, rather than utopian transformation. We weaken our ability and our "credibility" if we in the Christian progressive world use language that is anti-capitalist or that envisions global transformations, because the people with power in the political system, including people we believe really have goodness in their hearts and want to make whatever changes they think are possible, stop listening to us or taking us seriously when we talk in these broader terms or with what seems like the jargon of communist Russia -- socialism, anti-imperialism, or even anti-capitalism. So, though we know that you too have a good heart, we cannot publicly identify with you because you'll weaken our ability to accomplish what really can be accomplished, which is less than what we would want, but more than what the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches, and your church can accomplish with your ideologically based language and political orientation.

Your argument would be correct if we were still in a situation like that after World War II. After the disaster of classical liberalism in the great recession in 1929 and the two world wars, it was possible to tame capitalism to a certain extent. The labor movement had some power because the Fordist economy needed the buying power of the people to buy the products of mass production, capitalism had to make compromises in order to cope with the competition of socialism dragging more and more countries into its camp, there were no limits to growth because the ecological problems were not yet seen, and it was still possible for the Western world to extract raw materials and other wealth from many colonies. The result was a kind of social contract between labor and capital in the form of what was called the New Deal in the United States and the Social Market Economy in Europe.

However, this situation gradually changed. What were the reasons?

At the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, John Maynard Keynes, the famous British economist, proposed institutions and policies that took the European social market economy as the model for the postwar global economy. The United States, however, having become the hegemonic power after the self-destruction of the Europeans, refused. It wanted both the dollar as the world currency and trade liberalization for its big companies. This opened up space for neoliberalism to rise in various ways. In order to regain ideological hegemony in the 1930s, liberal economists had already started a transnational network leading to the foundation of the Mont Pelerin Society under the leadership of Friedrich von Hayek. Through think tanks, university institutes, journals, etc., they started a long-term campaign for privatization, liberalization, and deregulation.

At the same time, the United States put dictators in power, mainly through intelligence instruments (the CIA) and local collaborators. (Remember that the first case was Iran, where the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh was toppled because he wanted to nationalize oil. The Shah was installed by grace of the United States -- starting the tragedies of Iran that have lasted up to the present day.) The first task of the dictators was to open up their national markets to transnational capital in order to give it access to markets and resources for its own interest; the second was to crush all political and social resistance against this interference (resistance was crushed not only in Iran in 1953, but also in Congo in 1960, Brazil in 1964, Indonesia in 1965/1966, Chile in 1973, and Argentina in 1975). These dictators were also to contract national debts by buying Western products, thereby instigating the over-indebtedness of their countries. These foreign debts were used by Western-dominated, undemocratic institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, with the help of structural adjustment policies, to liberalize, privatize, and deregulate the economies and societies of these countries. In this way, the structural force of finance replaced direct military force. The result was massive impoverishment, expropriation of national resources, and increased violence among the people of these countries, now struggling bitterly for survival. Anyone who does not want to believe these facts should read the confessions of one of the "economic hit men," John Perkins, whose conscience did not allow him to continue working in this system and who, therefore, left his highly paid job in the hands of what he calls the economic Mafia (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: The Shocking Story of How America Really Took Over the World).

This development intensified after 1990, after the collapse of the competing system, state socialism (which in the same modern context as capitalism had in its own way concentrated political and economic power at the top and violated human rights): the neoliberal-capitalist model has now become globalized. Globally, mobile capital can play workers and governments of all countries against each other, leading to the dismantling of the welfare functions of the state and strengthening the security functions. The international aspect of this has been that the main military and political servants of capital empire -- the United States, the EU, and their allies -- are going back to methods of direct violence to steal and control resources in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, there is increasing social downgrading of more and more people, direct violent aggression, and destruction of nature around the earth. Human rights, originally formulated by the bourgeoisie, are increasingly being destroyed by global capitalism in the form of empire.

In this situation it is utopian and unrealistic to assume that some leaders with good hearts can save humanity and the earth from destruction. Finance capital is asking for maximum profits, at the moment up to 25 percent on the invested capital and even more -- a profit rate that no real economy can yield. That is why companies are forced to produce unemployment and to avoid all ecological care in order to save costs. Also all goods and services for the satisfaction of real needs are deteriorating in order to extract profit for capital. Politicians and media are being co-opted by both corruption and blackmailing, making democracy a farce. As capital by definition is the investment of money and other assets in order to create more capital, and as this is the driving force of the dominating economy, it is completely correct to call this system capitalism. And it is also correct to call the global political and military powers protecting this system imperialist.

As a pastor you know the Bible. Is it not the prophetic task of the people of God to name the powers, to unmask and engage them? But then the question arises: how to engage the powers and how to change the situation so that humanity and earth, God's creation, may live. If you look to the Bible for help, you can discover different strategies dependent on the context. If you look at the classical prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, they indeed try to change the situation of injustice by directly addressing the kings and the aristocracy. However, already in the case of the struggle for power after the deaths of Kings Manasseh and Amon (643-640 bce) the prophets join with the movement of the peasants who put the eight-year-old prince Josiah on the throne of David. Under his rule the faith in the liberating God of Israel and God's rules of solidarity for keeping freedom were restored, as you can read in the Torah's book of Deuteronomy. This situation can be regarded as an approximate analogy to the times of the New Deal and Social Market Economy. People had a common framework through which to address the elites.

However, by Hellenistic times the situation had changed completely. Particularly after the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV had taken power, he prohibited the worship of the God of Israel, YHWH, in the temple of Jerusalem, where he put a statue of Zeus. The economy was to be governed by the absolute rule of property, money, and slavery. No life according to the Torah was possible. In this situation there was no possibility of correcting the situation by speaking to the rulers. The Maccabeans took up arms for a liberation war and the Hasidim practiced passive resistance. A witness of this is the book of Daniel, the third chapter of which characterizes the situation by telling the parable of an emperor erecting a statue of gold and asking everybody to bow in front of it. All do so, except three Jewish men who are ready to suffer the consequences: martyrdom. So in this situation resistance against the absolutist system was the only way of following God and preparing for a future in dignity and faith for people.

The same can be seen in the Roman Empire. Many Judeans took up arms against the occupation forces, others tried to politically bargain; others engaged in passive resistance. One particular strategy was used by the Jesus movement. Building on the book of Daniel -- where in chapter seven the seer had envisaged the kingdom of God with a human face, overcoming the empires, characterized as wild beasts -- Jesus proclaimed and practiced God's coming kingdom as already happening among people. He liberated people from the demons of the oppressive powers of Rome and Mammon, the God of accumulating wealth, and built with them small cells living according to the life-giving Torah of solidarity. Thus he created leaven to penetrate the whole people, followed later by the apostle Paul building new communities of Jews and gentiles, living peacefully together in the whole oikumene of the Roman Empire. So in the midst of an absolutely exploitative and oppressive system, the realistic policy is to resist and develop concrete alternatives among the people.

But you have a second argument. You say:

We have learned that large-scale changes have unintended consequences that can often be disastrous, and that they too often lead to the rise to power of people who care more about power than about healing the world. We've learned from Reinhold Niebuhr and other Christian theologians that it is really more in accord with the Gospel to frame our vision in ways that are not utopian.

Your point is well taken. You could see this tendency of perverting liberation into oppression already when the Maccabeans came to power. They quickly developed into normal Hellenistic potentates. Also when the Christians got to power with the help of the Roman emperor Constantine in the year 312, they applied violence against Jews, later also Muslims, witches, and whole peoples through colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism, from 1492 up to this day. Minority Christian groups who did not follow this path were accused of being heretics and persecuted, too. The only way to overcome this heritage is to learn from leaders like Gandhi. The key point here is that the means in the struggle for justice and peace have to mirror the end. If you want justice and peace, these have to be the guiding criteria on the way. This is why Gandhi claimed that the strategy to achieve these goals is satyagraha (holding fast to truth) and ahimsa (active nonviolent direct action). With these you do not tolerate injustice but confront the perpetrator (in his case the British Empire), forcing it to react. By reacting with increasingly open violence, it discredited itself, losing legitimacy. As no power can survive without legitimacy, more and more people joined the struggle, encouraged by the pioneers who had been risking their lives.

But, finally, you have a third argument:

We also have learned from the Gospel that human beings were conceived in sin and have a strong tendency toward sin. For that very reason, we want to avoid giving any person or group of people the power to shape our lives. We know that human beings are so tempted to fall for their own egos, their own shadow side, and their own evil instincts that we cannot allow them to get the power to do that. By fighting for small incremental steps, we can be sure that each step is carefully measured and doesn't push human beings beyond their current capacities, and that provides us with much more safety than we could possibly get from large-scale changes.

In this argument I see two strands. The first one puzzles me. Are you not contradicting yourself? Is not the present situation exactly characterized by "giving persons and groups of people the power to shape our lives"? Is it not the owners of capital and their agents -- the bankers, the managers, the business consultants, etc. -- who determine the lives of the people and even the whole earth? Do they not determine the decisions of the governments? What about the lobbyists in the capitals of the States and Washington, D.C.? In Brussels, the headquarters of the EU, there are 15,000 of them, highly paid, while the poor majorities have no money to make their voice heard. Have they not indebted our public budgets to an incredible extent in order to take our democratically elected governments hostage and blackmail them for their own purposes, i.e., making money at the cost of people and earth?

In order to really make governments accountable, you have to democratize the economy. Therefore, social movements and faithful parts of the faith communities around the world are developing alternative ways of doing economy: people form cooperatives; they take over companies that have gone bankrupt from the neoliberal policies like in Argentina after the crash in 2001; they develop networks of solidarity economy and participatory communal budgets like in Brazil; they produce their own decentralized alternative energy (sun, wind, water, biomass) at the communal level like in Germany; they stop the privatization of public goods and services like water, energy, public transport, health, and education. In Uruguay, after the social movements had achieved the change to a socially oriented government five years ago, the first action of the new government was to write into the constitution "Water must never be privatized."

All of this and many more things show that there is a great cultural paradigm shift in the making. More and more people realize that the present way of life and economic system has no future. The population of the United States already has a lifestyle that needs six planets; the Europeans use up three planets. How long can that last? The crisis we are in is not just a financial crisis, but a deep crisis of modernity that builds on a presupposition, formulated by the philosopher Descartes in the seventeenth century: "Man is lord and owner of nature."

This touches upon the last part of your argument: Who is the human being? You say you are following the Gospel. But in reality you are following Thomas Hobbes, the seventeenth-century philosopher who first projected what he saw in the capitalist market economy onto the nature of the human being: everyone, being an atomistic individual, strives for more wealth, power, and reputation. The Bible has a different view. Humans are created as relational beings, men and women, in the image of God, blessed by God and called to be stewards of the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Indeed, sin is tempting them but they are called to control it (Gen. 4:7). God gives them rules about how to stay in the blessing and in freedom (Deuteronomy). And Jesus reinforces this reality by radiating the spirit of solidarity to make the beginnings of God's kingdom happen among people, to penetrate humanity like salt and light (Matt. 5). So pinning people down in the inescapability of sin is not in accordance with the Gospel.

Nor is it in line with the latest scientific findings. Brain research shows that human beings have so-called mirror neurons that enables them to feel empathy with other creatures and make them enjoy cooperation. Relational psychology tells us that from the original relationship between mother and baby onward we become (strong) selves only in relationships of mutual recognition. Even economic happiness research shows that, having reached a certain standard of living, people do not become happier by accumulating more and more money. Instead, people's happiness increases by living in good relations at all levels. The same is experienced in other faiths like Buddhism. Happiness is achieved by living with empathy.

Besides all this scientific and spiritual evidence, the overcoming of the Western modern ideology of possessive individualism and the war of all against all is a question of survival of humanity and the earth. If we continue to declare the Western model "realism," we will not only kill the earth but also commit suicide. Therefore, the Jewish-Christian central call, "Love your neighbor as yourself," must be translated differently (in the tradition of Buber and Levinas): "Love your neighbor -- he/she is yourself." Bishop Desmond Tutu says the same idea is expressed in the African philosophy of ubuntu: "I live only when you live." This, of course, has to be organized within participatory institutions of power control, starting from the local level. But the basis is to overcome the illusionary suicidal Western utopia of the limitless growth of the individual and to become realistic with the spiritual and wisdom traditions and sciences of humanity.

So, dear brother, join us in AGAPE -- the Greek word for love; it is taken up by a program of the World Council of Churches, but here AGAPE is translated as Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth.

Ulrich Duchrow is a professor of systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, specialized in ecumenical theology and theology-economy issues. He is also cofounder and moderator of Kairos Europa, an ecumenical network striving for economic justice.

An expanded version of this document, that includes a Statement of Reasons, is available on http://www.oenid.net/IOeFK/Engl_FinalProposalDeclarationOnJustPeace.pdf).



Source Citation: Duchrow, Ulrich. 2011. A European Revival of Liberation Theology. Tikkun 26(1): 74

 
tags: Abiding Spiritual Perspectives, Christianity, Interfaith, Spirituality, Spiritual Politics  
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