Spiritual Resistance

Spiritual Resistance June 23, 2020

Here are some excerpts from Paul Lakeland’s inspiring manifesto published in Commonweal:

The many current crises in our world all have something in common. Whether they are humanitarian or economic, whether they are threats to democracy or to creation, there is a common thread running through them. Each in its own way exploits and thrives on division—between the rich and the poor, humanity and the rest of the natural world, citizens and immigrants, the relatively safe and the deeply desperate. Each thumbs its nose at the common human dignity of all people and our joint responsibility for a secure political order, true human freedom, and a healthy natural world. Somewhere at the back of all these and other challenges is the lust for money and power. These issues are all parts of one larger, fundamental crisis: the degradation of the very notion of the human, brought on by the complex mechanism today called neoliberalism…

In the struggle against the neoliberal system, there is a special role for theology. Both the individual theologian and the collective voice of the discipline must engage with the forces of dehumanization and resist their effects in the name of the God of love. Today, the form theological inquiry must take is one of active involvement in what might be a last-ditch struggle for human flourishing…

The task of theologians and ethicists is to be on the front lines of the struggle against the twin evils of excessive individualism and tyrannical neoliberalism.

We need more manifestos like this, and better ways of articulating this vision and summarizing it. Talk of white privilege, of defunding the police, and of black lives mattering has been open to rhetorical challenges as well as misunderstanding. What each is really talking about is a vision of common good shared by all and available to all in a just and fair way. Not that I ultimately object to any of those slogans, although “defund the police” seems a particularly unhelpful choice. But what that is really talking about is funding going elsewhere to support things that have been shown to reduce crime. “Defund the police” is really calling for “white suburban policing and support for schools and youth and housing and infrastructure” as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez emphasized in a recent quote that went viral. Challenging white privilege is likewise about giving the same privilege of not being discriminated against, of not being likely to be shot by police, to all rather than just to whites. “Medicare for all” also comes to mind.

We need good manifestos that are inclusive and that have the necessary theological underpinnings.

Sometimes we also need better slogans to help us get the point across…

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