The aim of Christian ethics, also Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation

Some excerpts I was working on going through yesterday, from a book on resisting structural evil.   

The aim of Christian ethics is, in the words of Christian ethicist Miguel de la Torre, to enable “relationships where all people can live full abundant lives, able to become all that God has called them to be,”[24] to “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)

By definition, then, ethics seeks to dismantle dehumanizing and destructive forces such as racism, colonialism, classism, sexism, and ecological degradation, and seeks to cultivate conditions that enable right relationships within Earth’s web of life and with God. However, Christian ethics in the North Atlantic world has not significantly enabled church or broader society to craft ways of life that counter both the ecological destruction and the economic violence that mark our day. The problem in Christian ethics has roots in fundamental presuppositions about neighbor-love as a biblical and theological norm, about sin, and about moral vision.

Equally significant, ethical norms and processes in any society are established by dominant sectors to reflect their sense of morality and to uphold the power arrangements that maintain their dominance. Thus, the established moral code rationalizes itself and cannot assess itself. That is, socially constructed moral values and norms perpetuate, through moral sanctioning, a prevailing order that might be considered unjust according to another moral vision. As de la Torre points out, conscience, and even interpretations of “what Jesus would do,” are socially constructed within this moral code and therefore are ill-equipped to counter it.

The focus of ethics becomes determining what is ethical according to the prevailing moral code, rather than challenging the rightness of that moral framework itself.[25] Christian ethics, therefore, must reveal the presupposed assumptions regarding what is morally good that sanction “the way things are.” 577

Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda. References are to the kindle version.

The prevailing social order morally legitimates our exploitative ways of life by failing to effectively recognize them as such. Structures of exploitation persist and grow when people who benefit from them fail to recognize and resist them. This moral oblivion and the ensuing abdication of moral power are pernicious forms of sin pervading our society, and must therefore be faced practically and theologically. In this book, I seek to do so. Assumed powerlessness in the face of systemic evil is a fundamental problem of contemporary United States society. It is a society rich with compassionate and well-intentioned people who, nevertheless, live in ways that spell death for many of Earth’s most impoverished human beings and for the planetary web of life. I write for these dangerous people, and as one of them. What does it mean for us, killers, to claim moral lives? Morality and Christian ethics in the context of systemic evil that parades as good is the focus of this book.  My purpose, rather, is to nourish moral-spiritual power for imagining, recognizing, forging, and adopting ways of life that build equity among human beings and a sustainable relationship between the human species and our planetary home… Moral vision is clearer vision of (1) the consequences of economic and ecological injustice woven into our lives; (2) more just and sustainable alternatives; and (3) moral-spiritual power for embracing these alternatives. For me, that moral-spiritual power lies in a trust that the sacred forces of life, known in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions as God, is coursing through all of creation, and is bringing about healing and liberation despite all evidence to the contrary.  323


I am not asking you to take on another cause—be it poverty, environmental degradation, economic exploitation, or other. Rather I am inviting you and myself to perceive more fully: the profound necessity of radical change in foundational aspects of the way “we” live, the shape of that change and paths toward it, and sacred power at work in the world to bring abundant life for all. It is my fervent hope that you and I will experience a growing sense of power and hope for living into those paths and that sacred power. 338


That nothing in this world or beyond it can separate us individually or collectively from this Love, and that we have it as pure gift, is known theologically as grace.[12] Trust in the steadfastness of this Love enables me to face the horror of my own participation in systemic evil, and thus to repent. To begin with faith claims is dangerous. It could imply that this book is not relevant for people outside of these claims. Be assured that it is not important for the reader to share this faith perspective, only to be aware of it in order to understand the grounding of the work to come. Two other motivations beyond the aforementioned theological claims motivated this project. One is outrage that a small portion of the world’s people are disproportionally responsible for severe ecological degradation, yet others, who bear far less responsibility for the ecological disasters at hand, suffer first and foremost from them. Equally important as a motivating force is the beauty and sacredness of creation. The extravagant beauty surrounding and imbuing this planet’s living beings and the life-force pulsing within creation feed my spirit. 353


Theology is the age-old effort to make sense of our many stories in light of God’s presence and power in, with, and for this good creation. Theology is the quest to hold the stories of one’s life and kin, of societies and cultures, of humankind, of otherkind, of the Earth, and of the cosmos in one breath with the mystery that some call God. 369

I believe that all of Earth’s great spiritual traditions are called upon to plumb their depths for the wisdom to meet the moral challenges of our day. 373

(Given) the damage done by Christian beliefs and practices undergirding human dominion and oppression. I assume also that, having played this historic role, Christianity bears a tremendous responsibility to offer its resources to the pan-human task of rebuilding Earth’s health. Yet I write out of a sister assumption, a conviction that the damage wrought by Christianity is matched and surpassed by the potential within Christianity for helping to build new ways of being human marked by equity among people and mutually enhancing Earth-human relations. This potential exists, I believe, in all of Earth’s great faith traditions. As a result, all bear a tremendous moral responsibility: if the people faithful to particular religious traditions do not uncover and draw upon the resources offered by their tradition, then those life-saving and life-sustaining resources remain dormant. Tremendous gifts of power for life and for the good are left untapped. 390


If religion were understood primarily as doctrinal teaching about God, then it would be an inappropriate resource for use beyond the sphere of the particular religion considered. However, that is a highly truncated understanding of religion, so much so as to be false. Religion in a broader sense refers to the systems of beliefs, moral vision and norms, ethical behaviors, rituals, symbols, institutional arrangements, and historical legacy that “are premised on the understanding of human beings as other than or more than simply their purely social or physical identities”[16] and that link humans to the “matrix of mystery from which life arises and unfolds.”[17] As such, religious wisdom is essential to debates about what will enable human and planetary flourishing. To exclude it from discussions of how to shape society would be to rip the heart and purpose out of the deliberations that shape how we will live together. In reality however, the question of whether religion should play a role in matters of public morality is moot. Because so much of Earth’s human population derives its moral bearing from religious grounds, religion is inherently at play in public morality. The question is not whether but how; by what criteria is religion’s role appropriate and valid? 402

Love as an Economic and Ecological Vocation

In Christian traditions, “vocation” refers to a calling, something to which a person or group is called by God. (The word comes from the Latin vocare, meaning “to call out.”) Neighbor-love is understood as a vocation. Humans are called by God to love neighbor as self. This is the central moral norm of Christian life. 525

This book is, in the first place, about morality, about living a moral life for people whose everyday ways of life have decidedly immoral consequences on others and on the Earth. Secondarily this book is about ethics. Within Christianity, Christian ethics is the theological discipline charged with enabling people to draw upon their faith heritage to meet the moral challenges of each particular time and place in a way that reflects the love of God for all of creation. The aim of Christian ethics is, in the words of Christian ethicist Miguel de la Torre, to enable “relationships where all people can live full abundant lives, able to become all that God has called them to be,”[24] to “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

By definition, then, ethics seeks to dismantle dehumanizing and destructive forces such as racism, colonialism, classism, sexism, and ecological degradation, and seeks to cultivate conditions that enable right relationships within Earth’s web of life and with God. However, Christian ethics in the North Atlantic world has not significantly enabled church or broader society to craft ways of life that counter both the ecological destruction and the economic violence that mark our day. The problem in Christian ethics has roots in fundamental presuppositions about neighbor-love as a biblical and theological norm, about sin, and about moral vision.

Equally significant, ethical norms and processes in any society are established by dominant sectors to reflect their sense of morality and to uphold the power arrangements that maintain their dominance. Thus, the established moral code rationalizes itself and cannot assess itself. That is, socially constructed moral values and norms perpetuate, through moral sanctioning, a prevailing order that might be considered unjust according to another moral vision. As de la Torre points out, conscience, and even interpretations of “what Jesus would do,” are socially constructed within this moral code and therefore are ill-equipped to counter it.

The focus of ethics becomes determining what is ethical according to the prevailing moral code, rather than challenging the rightness of that moral framework itself.[25] Christian ethics, therefore, must reveal the presupposed assumptions regarding what is morally good that sanction “the way things are.” 577

According to one understanding, Christian ethics is the disciplined art of coming to know ever more fully the mystery that is God and the realities of life on Earth, and holding these two together, so that we may shape ways of living consistent with and empowered by God being with, in, among, and for creation. “Knowing” here refers not merely to “knowledge of,” but to “being in relationship with.” Where vision and knowledge of God and of life’s realities (what is going on and the historical roots and consequences of what is going on) are obscured or distorted, a task of Christian ethics is to know and see differently, so that we might live differently.

In another and complementary sense, the “meaning of ethics” is, as Paul Tillich writes, “to express the ways in which love embodies itself and life is maintained and saved.”[26] The boundless implications of ethics thus understood depend upon the meaning of “love” as a biblical and theological norm. Herein lies the import of our effort to see love as inherently justice-making and Earth-honoring, and as an ecological-economic vocation. Third, Christian ethics may be seen as disciplined inquiry into morality. It is the art-science bringing self-consciousness, method, critical vision, and faith to the tasks of (1) discerning what is good and right for any given situation and context, (2) finding the moral-spiritual power to act on that discernment, and (3) discovering what forms individuals and society toward and away from the good. Finally, Christian ethics is the theological art-science enabling Christian communities to draw critically upon their traditions and read “the signs of the times,” in order to shape ways of living consistent with faith in the God whom Jesus loved. That God is revealed in Jesus Christ and through the Spirit and may be revealed in scripture and in God’s first book of revelation, the creation itself. Critical mystical vision is key to “reading the signs of the times” in ways that disclose and counter structural injustice. In all four of these understandings, the overall question of Christian ethics becomes: “How are we to perceive our world, and how are we to live in it because of God’s boundless love for creation and presence with and in it?” 597

to perceive and “tell the truth” about the human capacity to render and rationalize brutality while never subordinating that reality to the bigger one: the goodness, beauty, joy, and laughter in life and the inherent goodness of being created in the image of God. To “tell the truth” about the former without also celebrating the latter, in the long run, is to harbor a lie. Clearly, my approach to ethics assumes an overlap of the mystical and the moral aspects of life. That is, the human longing for the sacred relates in some vital ways to the longing for more compassionate, just, and Earth-honoring ways of being human. That connection is central to a moral framework capable of meeting the challenge of systemic evil in our day. The moral framework emerging herein has four fundamental markers. The first is its focus on moral agency. The inadequacies in ethical method addressed in this work contribute to (and, to a certain extent, derive from) a basic flaw in Christian ethics. It is the reduction of ethics to questions of moral deliberation and formation, largely bypassing questions of moral agency. The “deliberative dimension” of ethics refers to processes of moral decision making, responding to the question of “what are we to do and be?” “Moral agency” on the other hand, refers to moral-spiritual power to “do and be” what we discern we ought. Ethics as response to the question of “what we are to do and be” is dangerously inadequate, especially in the contemporary context, because far too readily we do know what we ought to do in response to economic and ecological violence, but fail to find the moral agency to act on that knowledge. Ethics in the context of structural sin must go beyond moral deliberation and formation; ethics must be concerned with the moral agency to move toward more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable social orders. The basic moves in ethics and morality developed herein foster moral agency. 616

argues for a more structural sense of sin and of love, and more relational and collective notions of moral being and doing. The next marker is the commitment to hold the quest for social justice and the quest for ecological sustainability as inseparable. Finally, the proposed ethical framework centers in critical mystical vision—enhanced capacity to see “what is,” “what could be,” and God’s presence within creation working toward the latter. 632

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in its rituals of baptism and confirmation, makes an utterly astounding (but often not recognized as such) affirmation. The people gathered in worship affirm that, at baptism, God makes a covenant with the baptized person that she or he will “strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” The Spirit is breathed into us, and into all of creation, as moral-spiritual power for this lifework. 646

tumult. Life lived in ways that cost other people their lives, where alternatives exist or are in the making and where political action toward them is possible, is not a moral life. To claim a moral life without seeking to challenge the systemic evil of which I am a part seems to me an absurdity.[7] The truth is that the structural violence depicted in these stories will not change unless some of us who benefit materially from it decide to recognize the problem and act on 769

“Financialization” refers to the “increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors, and financial institutions in the operations of the domestic and international economies.”[8] Various forms of speculative investment are the core of financialization. Financialization redirects capital toward achieving short-range high profits for its owners despite the terrible costs to many others.[9] The recent global financial crisis was one result. Two of these links—ecological injustice and neoliberal globalization—are maintained currently through policies and practices established by human beings. As humanly constructed, they can be challenged and changed. That is, perhaps, the most important point in this glimpse of the links between affluence and poverty. 778

Catastrophic impacts on food production have begun and will increase for already-impoverished people. “Even slight warming decreases yields [of major cereal crops: wheat, corn, barley, rice] in seasonally dry and low-latitude regions. . . . Smallholder and subsistence farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fisherfolk will suffer complex, localized impacts of climate change . . . [including] spread in prevalence of human diseases affecting agricultural labor supply.”[16] 874

a 3-foot sea-level rise by 2100. According to a 2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, this increase would inundate some 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.” Loss of 878

Gus Speth, former Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, speaking of the factors behind environmental deterioration, avers: The much larger and more threatening impacts stem from the economic activity of those of us participating in the modern, increasingly prosperous world economy. This activity is consuming vast quantities of resources from the environment and returning to the environment vast quantities of waste products. The damages are already huge and are on a path to be ruinous in the future. So, a fundamental question facing societies today—perhaps the fundamental question—is how can the operating instructions for the modern world economy be changed so that economic activity both protects and restores the natural world?[18] 884

before. The distance between the incomes of the richest and poorest country was about 3 to 1 in 1820, 35 to 1 in 1950, 44 to 1 in 1973 and 72 to 1 in 1992.”[19] Recent reports indicate the distance to be nearing 100 to 895

225 people now possess wealth equal to nearly half of the human family.[21] The number of children under age five who die each day, mostly of poverty-related causes, equals roughly 26,000.[22] Pause for a moment, to resist letting these numbers drift by unconsidered.  .   Regional Wealth Shares (%) 901

Wealth in the United States is highly concentrated, with income disparity rising dramatically since the late 1970s (the beginning of neoliberal economic globalization) and reaching its highest recorded level in 2007.[23] The wealthiest 1 percent now owns nearly 43 percent of financial wealth (defined as net worth excluding the value of one’s house), while the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent.[24] Imagine, then, an accompanying chart revealing a United States of ten people in which one of them owns close to half the wealth and eight of the people have a mere 7 percent. 912

this: poverty on a global and domestic basis is directly related to what Pope John Paul II called “inadmissible overdevelopment.” By this he means an economic order that enables a few of us to consume a vast proportion of Earth’s life-enabling gifts, while many others die or suffer for want of “enough,” and in which the poverty of many is linked to the wealth of others.[29] Vigorously avoided in common knowledge, for example, is the reality that famine often is not the result of insufficient food supplies. It is the result of maldistribution of land and income.[30] And the distribution of the world’s food supplies is determined by the decisions, policies, and actions of the world’s powerful nations and people.[31] The global wealth gap, like wealth inequity in the U.S., is shaped around color lines. Worldwide, people of colors other than white are overwhelmingly among the economically impoverished. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times,” declared Nelson Mandela in 2005, “that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils.”[32] 929

United States citizens, to illustrate the former, daily produce roughly forty times the greenhouse gases per capita as do our counterparts in some lands,[33] while the world’s more impoverished people and peoples suffer most and first from the more life-threatening consequences of global warming.[34] White privilege also marks the climate crisis. The over six hundred million environmental refugees whose lands will be lost to rising seas if Antarctica or Greenland melt significantly will be disproportionately people of color, as are the twenty-five million environmental refugees already suffering the consequences of global warming. So too will be the people who starve as global warming diminishes crop yields of the world’s three staples—corn, rice, and wheat. The 40 percent of the world’s population whose lives depend upon water from the seven rivers fed by rapidly diminishing Himalayan glaciers are largely not white people. Moreover, impoverished countries are less able to implement adapting strategies 942

The ongoing grind of “hidden” environmental racism is ubiquitous. Our food, clothing, transportation, housing, and consumption are built on it. “The production chain of textiles is a sequence of poisons: cotton fields are sprayed with chemical cocktails to which the workers are also exposed without protection and which subsequently contaminate the soil. In spinning and weaving factories, workers are exposed to dust as the dyers later are to fumes from the dye.” The razing of rainforests for cattle strips livelihood and home from many of the world’s 350 million forest dwellers. The beneficiaries are the corporations responsible and “we,” the consumers. Neither bear the environmental and human costs. The victims are disproportionately not white. The transfer of ecologically dangerous production plants and toxic waste in mass quantities to countries of the Global South are two further manifestations of environmental racism on a global level. 977

Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus of Harvard University and former Secretary of the Treasury (1999–2001) “is infamous for writing a 12 December 1991 memo as a chief economist at the World Bank that argued that ‘the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable,’ and that the Bank should be ‘encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [less developed countries].’”[38] Thus we see two broad dimensions of the link between social injustice and ecological degradation: climate injustice and environmental racism. Together on the global stage, they are known by some as “ecological imperialism.” 985

Julian Agyeman, Robert Bullard, and Bob Evans summarize it well: While the rich can ensure [at least for the time being] that their children breathe cleaner air . . . and that they do not suffer from polluted water supplies, those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are less able to avoid the consequences of motor vehicle exhausts, polluting industry and power generation or the poor distribution of essential facilities. This unequal distribution of environmental ‘bads’ is, of course, compounded by the fact that globally and nationally the poor are not the major polluters. Most environmental pollution and degradation is caused by the actions of those in the rich high-consumption nations, especially by the more affluent groups within those societies . . . [yet] affluent countries in the North are avoiding or delaying any real reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions.[39] 992

High-level leaders of Christian denominations and networks throughout India, they had been gathered by the National Council of Churches of India to design an “eco-justice Sunday School curriculum” to be used throughout the nation. The next day would begin a second consultation, in which I had been invited to participate as a co-planner and a presenter. It convened thirty-some professors of theology from throughout India and Sri Lanka who taught or were preparing to teach green theology and eco-justice as a required component of graduate-level education in theology and ministry. They were people of courage and commitment. They were teaching eco-justice because the lives of their people depended upon it and because they understood it as integral to faith in God. 1009

Earth as a biophysical system cannot continue to operate according to the defining features of capitalism as we know it. Capitalism as it has developed from classical economic theory, through neoclassical theory and on to neoliberalism, aims at and presupposes what Earth can no longer provide or provide for: Unlimited growth in production of goods and services. Unlimited “services” (required for unlimited growth) provided by Earth. Those services include “soil formation and erosion control, pollination, climate and atmosphere regulation, biological control of pests and diseases,” and more.[44] Unlimited “resources” (required for unlimited growth) provided by Earth, such as oil, coal, timber, minerals, breathable air, cultivable soil, air with a CO2 concentration of somewhere between 275 and 350 parts per million,[45] oceans with a balanced pH factor, the ocean’s food chain, potable water, etc. An unregulated market in which the most powerful players are economic entities having: a mandate to maximize profit the legal and civil rights of a person limited liability the legal right and resources to achieve size larger than many nations no accountability to bodies politic, be they cities, states, nations, or other the right to privatize, own, and sell goods long considered public. Freedom of individuals to do as they please with economic assets (including unlimited carbon emissions and speculative investment that may result in the economies of nations crashing). 1065

This is not a stand against business. It is a stand for business that is not dominated by mega-corporations, business that is not entitled to the rights of a citizen and compelled by a mandate to maximize profit. And it is an appeal for business to become an active force of ecological sustainability and restoration. Moreover, it is a firm appeal to resituating the market as one instrument of society, rather than the determining actor in society. While we have no choice in whether or not economic life will change dramatically, we have tremendous choice about the nature of that change. Enter here ethics and morality. Humankind understands itself to be a moral species. We determine (or seek to determine) how to live together based not only on brute force, bare necessity, or survival of the fittest, but on what whatever we deem to be right, true, and good. What are the options for the economic order following corporate and finance-driven, fossil-fueled global capitalism? The default option is to try to carry on with the economy largely as it is while establishing a few regulations related to carbon emissions and pollution. The consequence—relatively unchecked climate change—is horrific. Another possibility would be serious concerted efforts to mitigate climate change, without also questioning some basic market norms, such as the assumption that certain rights (the right to potable water, protein sources, nontoxic food, clean air, and so on) are based on ability to pay. This option would continue to grant a few people of the Global North disproportionate use of the atmosphere and oceans for absorbing carbon emissions. This group also would continue to have relatively greater protection from floods, hurricanes, and other climate-related “natural” disasters. As crops and water supplies diminish, this group would consume an increasingly disproportionate share of them. Where this option would lead, we do not know. We do know that it would produce millions of environmentally caused deaths in Asia and Africa. Or we could choose to move toward economic orders shaped by other norms. This book will propose four. They are ecological sustainability, environmental equity, economic equity, and distributed accountable power. Said differently, we would aim toward economies that: operate within, rather than outside of, Earth’s great economy. move toward more equitable “environmental space” use. move toward an ever-decreasing gap between the world’s “enriched” and “impoverished” people and peoples, and prioritize need over wealth accumulation. are accountable to bodies politic (be they of localities, states, nations, or other), and favor distributed power over concentrated power. At first glance, these aims may seem far beyond the realm of the possible. I will argue the opposite. Let us assume, for a moment, adequate moral courage and political will to move toward economies shaped by the four aforementioned norms. A flock of birds flying gracefully through the sky presses forward in one direction. Then, in a flash and as a whole, a great swoop occurs and they are off in an utterly different direction. The radical change to which we are called is that dramatic: an “utterly different direction.” The birds have an ingrained mechanism that enables them to redirect themselves radically as a whole and with tremendous grace and apparent ease. We don’t. We must forge an unknown path, step by step, piece by piece. The only way to get there is to go there. We will end up in the direction that we head. Needed is an ethic for this move toward more sustainable, equitable, and democratic economic orders. This book is one small contribution to that ethic. Something New Required of Religion and Religious Ethics When something new is required of humankind, something new is required of Earth’s longstanding faith traditions, primary sources of moral wisdom and moral courage. They are called to plumb their depths for relevant moral-spiritual wisdom, and to offer those gifts to the table of public discourse and decision making. 1082

Where Christian beliefs and practices have contributed to the Earth crisis, we are called to critique and “re-formation.” Where the resources of Christian traditions reflect God’s boundless love for creation and offer moral power for the good, we must grasp their depths, and tender them to the broader community. Similar opportunity and responsibility sits on the shoulders of people within the other religious traditions. 1118

Structural Violence as Structural Evil “The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer[1] ♦  “Evil exists as an interstructural web of oppressive relationships.” Mary Hobgood[2] ♦ “Evil is as long as evil has the last say.” Dwight Hopkins and Linda E. Thomas[3] 1214

In the first thirty waking seconds of my day—between pulling back the sheets on my bed, placing my feet on the carpet, and reaching for my glasses—oil has already played an indispensible role. My sheets are a cotton polyester blend; the cotton was grown in fields dependent upon petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides, as well as the irrigation systems and machinery to grow and harvest the crop. Afterwards, this cotton was mechanically picked, separated in a mechanical gin, blended with polyester (petroleum-derived) fibers and treated with polystyrene (also derived from crude oil). Finally, it was dyed with petroleum-based chemicals, wrapped in plastic, and transported in an oil-fueled vehicle to a distribution center and then a store. An oil-burning furnace in the basement of my home heats my bedroom. The carpeting on my floor is polypropylene-based with synthetic latex backing, all derived from petroleum. The lenses in glasses that I sleepily don contain ore-based strontium and barium oxide, coated in graphite made from petroleum. Circling the lenses are frames made of petroleum-based plastics and covered with a petroleum-based varnish. My morning continues as I pull on a polyester-cotton blend shirt, which started out as a few ounces of petroleum. [5] The 1930s saw the introduction of nylon, a petroleum-derived synthetic polymer, into the textile industry. I slip nylon stockings on my legs, followed by shoes with rubber soles made of styrene-butadiene, synthesized from Saudi petroleum and benzene. Breakfast consists of Cheerios, the grains of which were grown, irrigated, and transported with the help of petroleum. Nearly all plastics are derived from oil. After consuming my Cheerios, I reach into my freezer and pull out a plastic drawer containing bags of frozen fruit—enclosed in plastic wrapping made of polyethylene terephthalate, kept from expiring by petroleum-derived preservatives. While eating, I peruse information on my laptop about my upcoming flight across the country to see my family for Thanksgiving. Little do I know that the round-trip flight will consume about 30,000 gallons of fuel and produce a total of about 0.68 metric tons / 650,000 pounds of greenhouse gases. [6] Divided by some 200 passengers, my share is about 3,250 pounds. As I step outside, my first inhalation sends traces of traffic-produced petroleum fumes and microscopic particulate matter into my lungs. My car pulls out of the driveway and onto pavement: twelve inches of asphalt from Texas petroleum poured over a graded roadbed. Petroleum fuels my car and about 87 percent of the cars I see on the road, as well as the airplanes flying over my head. [7] The rubber tires of my car came from oil, and the petroleum-based engine lubricant and antifreeze trace my path with a drip line that will end up in the water system after the next rain. The voices on my radio include politicians who are heavily influenced by oil lobbies, reporters announcing a catastrophic oil spill, and guests commenting on a war that depends upon and is arguably fought over, oil. Living on the outskirts of a city and commuting by car is made possible by the powerful automobile industry’s influence on developers.[8] Transportation is the primary use of oil in the U.S. The estimated cost of financial aid given directly or indirectly to the auto and oil industry by each American every year is $2700. [9] In short, I am a petroleum addict. Facing the moral implications of this addiction means asking, how do we acquire that oil? What happens to people and the earth in the extraction and refining process? 1240

“Please ladies and gentlemen, we did not do any of these things [lead high carbon-emission lifestyles] but if things go business as usual, we will not live. We will die. Our country will not exist.” President of Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed[10] The Maldives is a country composed of 1200 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, covering about 115 square miles. Its highest point is only eight feet above sea level, making it one of the countries most vulnerable to sea level rise. In addition to loss of land, the impacts of climate change threaten the Maldives with more powerful tropical storms and higher storm surges, beach erosion, biodiversity loss, and a blow to the fishing industry upon which many livelihoods depend. [11] The Maldives has become a leading nation in calling for serious action around climate change. In 2009 the president and his advisors staged an underwater cabinet meeting in scuba gear, to draw attention to the plight of this nation and other countries that may be first and hardest hit by the effects of unchecked climate change. Sea level rise is just one impact of climate change. Ocean acidification, caused by dissolved CO2 from the atmosphere, threatens the bottom rung of the marine food chain by lowering the pH of the entire ocean. Algae and other tiny sea creatures are strongly affected by this phenomenon. [12] Pteropods, for example, have translucent shells that are literally dissolving from the levels of acid in the ocean. As they die off, so do the small fish that feed on them, and the larger fish that in turn feed on the smaller fish. A significant part of humankind’s food chain is in a state of invisible jeopardy. Mississippi River Chemical Corridor The Louisiana industrial corridor, aka “Cancer Alley,” is a stretch of the Mississippi River lined with petrochemical companies and oil refineries. The ground, air, and water along this corridor are so infused with carcinogens and mutagens that the area has been called a “massive human experiment.” [13] Louisiana ranks number one in per capita toxic releases into the environment. [14] The polluting facilities are clustered predominantly in areas with high concentrations of African Americans. Eighty percent of the total African American community in this industrial corridor lives within three miles of a polluting facility. The petrochemical industry denies any responsibility for the noxious odors and ill health effects on the area residents, despite contradictory scientific evidence. Petrochemical corporations wield tremendous power in the state of Louisiana. The industry’s lobby shamelessly uses its power to ensure that the state legislature represents its interests, such as offering tax incentives and loopholes that privilege the industry. In 2000, the Louisiana Shell Corporation had an income of 26 billion dollars and ranked fourth in the state in receipt of tax exemptions. During a tour of Cancer Alley by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, a Nigerian man said, “I cannot believe that this is happening in the U.S. I know that the oil companies exploit my people and degrade and devastate the environment, but I had no idea that this was being done in the U.S.” [15] Niger River Delta Nigeria exported 962,000 barrels of oil per day to the U.S. in 2010. [16] Oil and violence travel hand in hand in Nigeria, Africa’s leading petroleum producer. The Ogoni are a minority ethnic group that have lived in the Niger River Delta for centuries. Today they live daily with oil spills, gas flares, seepage from drilling, soot spewing from the methane gas flares, and constant noise and flickering lights. Their aquatic life is decimated, their waterways are infused with oil, and their mangrove forests are destroyed. They suffer from elevated rates of asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, skin diseases, and emphysema. Food shortages and limited health services and educational opportunities are their reality. [17] In the industrial city of Port Harcourt, natural gas flares dot the land, acid rain rusts the galvanized iron roofs within two… 1274

Fundamental to Christian faith is the claim that creation is “good,” tov (Genesis 1). The Hebrew tov, while often translated as “good,” also implies “life-furthering.” 1344

Its essential quality seems to be its life-furthering capacity. Earth is the only body in our solar system and the only body of which we are aware in the universe that generates the capacity to produce and further life itself. The great Mystery that we call God must have a voracious, insatiable hunger for life. This God uses even death and destruction to produce life. The signature moment of the God revealed in Jesus was to raise up life from a brutal death, execution on a stake. Resurrection is the song of Earth. The song resounds throughout the earth. After Mount Saint Helens erupted over thirty years ago in Washington State, it was thought that life could never return to the barren volcanic wasteland that once was a mountaintop. To the surprise of all, within a year plants began, as if by miracle, to emerge. Walking in the Olympic rainforest, one occasionally is struck by an absolutely straight line of five or six young hemlocks. Again, death itself spawns life; this string of trees has emerged from the decay of a magnificent cedar fallen to the ground. These logs, known as nurse logs, are a voice in the forest’s song of resurrection. So thirsty for the tov (the life-furthering goodness) was this Originating Force that from cold lifeless cosmic space and from cosmic infernos it caused a rocky muddy watery planet capable of generating life to spring forth. But no, not merely life—what came into being was more. It was life capable of furthering life in ever more complex and life-generating forms. It was creative and life-creating life. This is the mystery of tov. And God says it over and over, seven times: “God saw that it was tov.” Out of nothingness, some fourteen billion years past, spewed forth all the matter and energy that ever would exist. Some four hundred thousand years after the “big bang,” as this wildly expanding universe began to cool, free electrons and other subatomic particles combined with nuclei to form neutral atoms. Hydrogen, helium, and traces of lithium were made. By the time of Earth’s birth some 4.6 billion years ago, the creative energy and cosmic elements of the universe had formed carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the other elements in the periodic table. Earth thus had all the ingredients to form rocks and water, and to generate life. Yet, lifeless it was. The creating urge toward life and toward greater complexity forged on. Organic molecules composed of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon (with traces of sulfur and phosphorus) came into being. As they combined variously to form cells of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acid, a creative process—beyond human full comprehension—gave birth to life itself. Possibly as “soon” as a billion years after earth formed, single-celled life emerged. This lone planet had become life-generating, Planet Home. 1347

Science today suggests yet another depth of life-generating capacity. Amino acids, the building blocks of living cells, may have the capacity not only to encode and transmit the instructions and patterns that shape life but to alter them based upon learning.[22] With the evolution of the human animal, the complexity gravitated to the human mind. The creature called human had the ability and fierce urge for something new. It was the impulse for self-reflection and conscious pursuit of the good. Morality was born. With time, the scope of that morality expanded, both temporally and spatially, from tribe to nation to global community, and from things of the present and past to include things of the future. In the last century, yet another unprecedented human ability emerged. Humankind today possesses the knowledge and resources to abad and shamar (Genesis 2:15)—“tend and protect”[23]—Earth’s life-web on a global scale. That is, we comprehend that actions in one location on Earth have impacts around the globe (deforestation in the Amazon affects the North Pole and North Dakota), and we have the resources to take actions that either “tend and protect” or degrade the planetary garden. We arrive at the first and haunting theological problem. The primal, first, and most characteristic act of the God proclaimed in Judaism and then in Christianity is not merely to create a magnificent world but a magnificently life-furthering world that mirrors and embodies the Life-Creating Energy who brought it into being. The scandalous point is this. We are undoing that very tov, life-generating capacity. We, or rather some of us, are “uncreating.”[24] A second theological problem concerns the ancient faith claim, present in multiple streams of Christian traditions, that God dwells within creation. If Christ fills Earth’s creatures and elements, then the Earth now being “crucified” by human ignorance, greed, and arrogance is, in some sense, also the body of Christ. Are those of us most responsible for global warming, poisoned rivers, the extinction of tens of thousands of species per year, and ocean acidification crucifying Christ? A third theological problem concerns revelation. Christian traditions hold that God not only creates the Earth and sees it as good, but also reveals Godself in that creation. It is the “first book” of revelation. If to do and be as God would have us, we must receive God’s self-revelation, then God’s self-revelation is necessary for the life of faith. Yet, humankind is pelting headlong down a trajectory of destroying essential features of God’s “first book” of revelation. What do we make of endangering the first and enduring “book” of revelation? Fourth, Christians claim that human beings are created “in the image of God.” Yet, if global warming continues unchecked, we may be, in the words of Catholic moral theologian Daniel Maguire, “an endangered species.” How do we make sense of a human trajectory now aimed at destroying the creatures crafted “in the image of God”? These four unprecedented theological problems are accompanied by a fifth that is more familiar. Two millennia of Christians and the Hebrew people before them claimed that God calls Her people to receive Her love and then “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deut. 6:5),” and “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). This is our lifework, to receive God’s love, and to live that justice-making mysterious and marvelous love into the world. This, according to a widespread understanding of the Christian story, is the human vocation. Love implies active commitment to the well-being of whom or what is loved. Where people suffer under systemic injustice, seeking their well-being entails seeking to undo that injustice. The implication is shaking: If we fail to recognize the injustice that is damaging neighbor, and hence fail to address it, are we not defying the call to love? If I am professing love for neighbor by feeding the poor… 1371

Sin in its fullest sense refers to disorientation from right relationship with God, which then leads to disorientation from right relationship with self, others, and all of creation. That disorientation results in wrongdoings. Sin is dislocating God from the center of reality. Sin as disorientation may be manifest in serving one’s own uncensored desires and perceived interests regardless of the cost to self, others, and Earth, and regardless of what would “displease” God. Paradoxically, sin may be quite the opposite of this “self-centeredness” for people whose full self and center have been denied them. For those who have been socialized or coerced into self-sacrifice, self-denial, or self-hatred, sin may take the form of not attending to one’s own well-being. The former is sin as defined by patriarchy and the experience of men in positions of domination, while the latter reflects womanist and feminist theologies. Both are valid and powerful expressions of human reality. In either case, sin counters the call to love God with “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and to love neighbor as self. Martin Luther provides a useful image of sin in the former and more recognized form. Drawing upon Augustine, he taught that human beings tend toward serving their own self-interest above all other considerations and deceive themselves into believing that they are not. He insisted on the pervasive presence of sin, the humanly insurmountable reality of “selves curved in on self” (se incurvatus in se).[26] This idea that sin denotes both the individual’s wrongdoings (sins) and the individual’s state of profound disorientation (sin) overcomes the problem of reducing sin to wrongdoings. Yet this expanded notion remains inadequate and misleading. The remaining problem is the reduction of sin to a condition of individuals. To the contrary, sin exists not only in the individual, but also in the social structural relationships that shape societies and their impact on eco-systems. That is, groups and societies as well as individuals may be agents of sin. Racism, classism, sexism, and imperialism are examples of social structural sin. The increasing destructive power of humankind, seen most blatantly in the buildup of nuclear weaponry and in destructive climate change, calls for probing structural sin and its power more deeply. The image of many human beings “curved in on” their imagined self-interest speaks directly to the heart of life for people positioned in relative privilege in the global community today. Collectively, we are selves curved in on ourselves. We may long to live according to justice-making, self-honoring love for Earth and neighbor, to live without exploiting neighbor or Earth. But look at us. A species destroying the very life-support systems upon which life depends. A society so addicted to our consumption-oriented ways that we close our hearts and minds to the death and destruction required to sustain them. Advanced global capitalism gorges on “selves turned in on self.” For the global market to continue in its purpose of maximizing growth and accumulating wealth, it must convince people to consume as much as possible. Advanced global capitalism is an engine of “selves turned in on self.” It stokes the compulsion to consume, quietly coiling chains 1420

Given my concerns in this book, however, I expand the understanding of salvation to include not only liberation from oppression but also liberation from committing or perpetrating it. Ultimately, salvation entails the restoration of the entire created world to one in which none flourish by degrading others or otherkind. The church’s entry into struggles for ecological well-being has expanded the notion of sin to include degradation of the earth. This move—first made on an ecclesial level by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of Orthodox Christianity—is now affirmed by many Catholic, mainstream Protestant, and evangelical voices. With this move, sin as “selves curved in on self” expands to include not only individuals and societies but humankind in relationship to the rest of creation. We became a species “turned in on itself,” oriented around humankind and human desire as the centerpiece of earthly reality to the detriment of all else. Sin as disoriented relationship with God, self, others, and “the rest of creation” takes on fuller meaning. 1449

four defining features of structural injustice as structural sin reveals more about their implications for the moral life. These features are: the relative invisibility of structural injustice to those who do not suffer directly from it, the fact that structural injustice continues regardless of the virtue or vice of people involved, its transmission from generation to generation unless exposed and confronted, and its expansion as a result of concentrated power. 1465

If Unseen, Then Unrenounced The first challenge pertains to renouncing sin. Fundamental to virtually all forms of Christianity is the claim that Christians are called to eschew sin, and that freedom from sin begins with repentance. Repentance means ceasing the way of sin and “turning the other direction.” Teshuvah, the Hebrew word often translated as repentance, suggests turning from sinful ways and toward the good by means of turning back to God. It is a powerful act of changing direction that can redirect one’s life. The Greek metanoia means to think and perceive differently, to have a new mind and consciousness. Repentance then involves a distinct turning away from sin, in both consciousness and action. Repentance and confession are possible only where sin is acknowledged. One insidious characteristic of structural injustice (structural sin), however, is its tendency to remain invisible to those not suffering from it. If we do not see the structural injustice in which we live, we cannot repent of it. Failing to renounce it, we remain captive to it. Failure to see structural sin breeds complicity with it, and passes it on to the next generation. The call to renounce sin contains a call to “see” the structural sin of which we are a part, in order that we might repent of it, renounce it, and resist it.[27] 1471

This is an impossible calling for individuals alone; it is, instead, the work of communities. The Paradox of Privilege The first challenge thickens with the second. It is the paradox of privilege.[28] Even when a person does recognize and repent of structural sin, it is not possible to divest oneself from the impact of the social structures into which our lives are woven. Not by will or intent, I am involved in the sins of economic and ecological exploitation even where I seek to resist them. Regardless of personal repentance through radical changes in how I live, I continue to reap the “benefits” of economic and ecological violence. My life continues to depend, for example, upon products containing petroleum extracted by destroying the homelands and livelihoods of people in the Niger Delta, Chad, the Gulf Coast of the United States, or elsewhere, or by waging war in Iraq. I cannot refuse all use of petroleum-based roads, fabrics, plastics, fire trucks, public utilities, and medical care, and more that, in today’s world especially, depend on petroleum. Social sin transcends individual moral agency. Aida Hurtado, speaking of white privilege, cuts to the heart of the paradox of privilege: “[I]t does not matter how good you are, as a person, if the political structures provide privilege to you individually based on the group oppression of others; in fact, individuals belonging to dominant groups can be infinitely good because they never are required to be personally bad. That is the irony of structural privilege: the more you have, the less you have to fight for it.”[29] As a citizen of this nation, I belong to a group that “has an oppressive relationship with” other groups without being “an oppressive person who behaves in oppressive ways.”[30] This paradox helps to hide oppression. But that is not the end of the story. The fact that individual actions are relatively powerless in the face of structural sin does not mean that personal efforts to counter it are immaterial, ineffectual, or unnecessary. To the contrary, the individual’s response is essential and effectual. I cannot overstate the importance of recognizing this paradox: Structural sin, while it cannot be dismantled by individual actions, cannot be dismantled without them. As James Poling notes: Every “system of evil requires personal actions to make it work.”[31] Thus every system of evil also requires people to resist their own and others’ participation in it, even while acknowledging that their acts of resistance in themselves appear relatively ineffectual. While individual acts will not in themselves change the course of social structures, they are necessary for that change to be achieved. This is powerful knowledge. It makes individuals’ actions infinitely important. Living responsibly within this paradox is central to the work of loving neighbor as self in the context of structural sin. While structural sin transcends individual moral agency, it does not transcend collective agency. The imperviousness of structural sin to individual actions “forces us to look beyond individual agency.”[32] Social movements demonstrate that people, working together, can indeed counter structural sin. Again, a systemic view of the world is called to the fore as a vital ingredient of moral vision. From Generation to Generation unless Challenged The structural sin of socio-ecological injustice is transmitted from generation to generation. Because human beings are inherently social, we establish patterns of interaction. Sociologists refer to these patterns, power arrangements within them, and belief systems by rationalizing them as “institutions” or “social structures.” They may be as small as families and as large as economic systems. Members of a society are socialized toward assuming unconsciously that its social structures and attendant values and worldviews are normal, natural, inevitable, and even divinely ordained. In this process of socialization cultural, political, economic, and ideological structures that perpetuate injustice… 1490

Perhaps more than any other nation in history, the United States has held power to pursue its perceived interests regardless of the harm to others or to Earth’s ecosystems, and to distort that state of affairs into the appearance of a moral “good.” Accordingly, we, the nation’s citizens, participate in that unprecedented power for committing structural sin. The call to renounce sin entails a hermeneutic of suspicion regarding moves to concentrate power. The movement against the reigning form of economic globalization is in large part a movement against the concentration of economic power (and hence political power). Neoliberal globalization, by concentrating wealth into the hands of a few enormous global corporations, also has concentrated their power for structural sin. Structural injustice, when it is viewed as structural sin, unearths these four moral challenges. Facing them requires acknowledging the reality of structural or collective sin. Jesus’ call to repent entails a call to see the social and ecological systems and collective actions in which our lives are entangled. This notion of a “systemic” moral vision will emerge as central in our quest for moral–spiritual power to counter systemic injustice. 1547

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison. In taking these steps, our primary aim is insight into how evil manages to hide itself from the consciousness of its perpetrators, or to become acceptable. Bonhoeffer, reflecting from prison on the widespread complicity with fascism in Hitler’s Germany, provides striking insight into the hiddenness of evil. “The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts,” he writes. “For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his [sic] life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.”[41]Its ability to “appear disguised”—to hide—confirms its wickedness. That is, the cloaked nature of structural evil is at its very heart. Bonhoeffer’s words reveal more. They name four masks behind which evil hides: “light, charity, historical necessity, [and] social justice.”[42] As a Lutheran theologian, Bonhoeffer is steeped in the longstanding theological recognition that, in all things human, evil and good are intertwined. That is, though we strive for the good, the human condition of finitude and fallibility means that never is the good, as a human doing, completely free from evil. This insight draws attention to the ambiguity of what is just and unjust, what is consistent with the ways and will of God and what is not. The call to resist evil is fraught with vexing ambiguity in a world in which all alternatives to an unjust situation may themselves be tainted with injustice and in which what brings well-being to some vulnerable people may bring damage to others. For example, if public advocacy closes down a shale-fracking operation in Pennsylvania because of the many dangers it poses, what becomes of the families whose bread-earners are left unemployed? 1600

Poling too finds evil hiding by “masking itself as good,” “claiming necessity,” or “remaining intertwined with the good.”[43] And like Bonhoeffer, he sees evil’s “double character—its existence and its hiddenness.”[44] People perpetrating structural evil enable it to hide either by denying its existence or allowing it to remain in the unconscious.[45] 1623

Gebara suggests three avenues for evil’s slippery escape into obscurity: it may be “accepted as fate, as God’s design, or as punishment for hidden sins.” Moreover, like Bonhoeffer and Poling, she notes that evil slips into obscurity by intermingling with good: It is “not easy to spot evil’s presence” when it is “intermingled in our culture, education, and religion—events or behaviours regarded as normal, common, even good.”[47] 1640

“Free” Trade and Sweatshops For generations, the Chantico family of Oaxaca, Mexico grew maize on their three-hectare plot, just as their Zapotec Indian ancestors did for centuries before Columbus landed. This corn fed the family, providing 70 percent of their caloric intake, with some left over to sell in the local market.[48]The Chanticos and their ancestors developed this particular corn cultivar, criollo, over centuries to suit the area’s climate and soil, to resist pests, and to provide essential proteins and vitamins. This lifestyle staved off poverty and allowed the Chanticos to provide for themselves and their community. In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed into law an international trade agreement between American neighbors Mexico, Canada, and the United States called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As the name suggests, this trilateral agreement reduced tariffs on trade between these countries in an effort to foster economic growth for all three nations and reduce protectionist policies on certain types of goods or industries. But in practice several measures required by NAFTA prevent the agreement from being fair, beneficial, or effective. In 1994, the Mexican government enacted a series of “reforms” called for by NAFTA. These included signing away its right to protect its own corn industry. Inexpensive U.S. corn flooded the Mexican market, priced around 20 percent less than Mexican corn. Although the U.S. corn was intended for animal feed, it nevertheless depressed the entire Mexican corn market. American agribusinesses, highly subsidized by its own federal government, bankrupted Mexican farmers like the Chantico family, who were forced off their land—land that had grown indigenous corn for centuries. Their land was bought for a pittance by foreign direct investors who streamlined operations and planted mass monoculture acres of genetically modified, chemical-dependent crops for export—all in order to meet the American demand for off-season fruits and vegetables, and cheap beef. The profits of these exports pad the coffers of foreign-based corporations. The displaced Chantico family migrated north to the town of Nogales at the border, where rumor spoke of $0.85 per hour factory shifts in the maquiladoras. [49] Many factories in Nogales had formerly operated out of small towns in the United States, but the managers knew costs would now be lower in Mexico. No labor unions, no worker benefits, longer hours, lower wages, no disability benefits, and the possibility of child labor all made the shift an enticing one. Maria Chantico began mind-numbing work in a factory, hunched over for fifteen hours a day and ending her shift at 4:00 am. The youngest children scavenged food and clothing from the nearby trash dump. They lived in a cramped shack made of cast-off materials from the factory, next to a dry riverbed (dry due to the factory’s overpumping) that now served as a dumpsite for industrial waste: copper tailings, unregulated dumped toxic chemicals, and untreated sewage. [50] The people of Nogales experience unusually high rates of cancer, neurological disease, miscarriages, and birth defects. Maria’s children scavenge a 55-gallon drum from the factory to contain the potable water brought in on trucks—a drum that used to hold toxic chemicals. In addition to the injuries that Maria and her fellow workers experience due to the elimination of safety devices, many of the women are victims of sexual exploitation and physical abuse. Meanwhile, Colleen, a young woman living in New Hampshire, shops at her local Old Navy where tank tops are on sale for $5.99. In the clearance section she can buy two and get the third for free. The “Made in Mexico” label was tiny, hard to see. Holding the clean, fresh-smelling shirt in her hands, surrounded by immaculate tile floors, fluorescent lighting, and pleasant music, it’s difficult to imagine the series of events that led to the production of this shirt. Colleen knows none of this backstory as she compares the sky-blue racerback tank to… 1648

“Social structure” is a very broad term used to denote the ordering of human relationships on multiple levels from macro (that is, a national economy or social classes) to institutional (that is, an educational system), to micro (that is, a family), to ideological (that is, a value system). A structural perspective assumes that social structures shape human identities, interests, and interactions, providing, to an extent, “both the possibilities and limits for human action.”[55] “Structural violence” refers to the physical, psychological, and spiritual harm that certain groups of people experience as a result of unequal distribution of power and privilege. James Gilligan, Harvard Medical School professor, defines structural violence as “the increased rates of death and disability suffered by those who occupy the bottom rungs of society.”[56] Astrophysicist and sustainability leader Robert Gilman describes structural violence as “physical and psychological harm that results from exploitive and unjust social, political and economic systems. . . . Hunger and poverty are two prime examples of what is described as ‘structural violence.’”[57] He cites others who estimate structural violence on an international level by asking, “[H]ow many extra deaths occur each year due to the unequal distribution of wealth between countries?”[58] In short, structural violence degrades, dehumanizes, damages, and kills people by limiting or preventing their access to the necessities for life or for its flourishing. I suggest a second aspect of structural violence: the complicity or silent acquiescence of those who fail to take responsibility for it and challenge it. Herein structural violence refers to these two dimensions—the harm that is done and silent acquiescence to it. Racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are common forms. Paul Farmer vividly illustrates the ways in which structural violence causes extreme poverty and ill health in Haiti. He emphasizes that structural violence is the result of power disparities.[59] This power disparity generally runs along the lines of class, race, and gender. “Structural violence” is his shorthand for “inegalitarian social structures.”[60] Power asymmetries determine who is most at risk for devastation by disease, weather-related disasters, unjust imprisonment, economic downturns, poverty, and other afflictions, including incidents often labeled natural disasters. “These afflictions,” Farmer insists, “are not the result of accident . . . they are consequences, direct or indirect of human agency.” This agency is not primarily the acts of individuals but of historically developed and often economically driven social processes. The importance of these final points cannot be overstated: That which is the result of human agency can be challenged by it! My use of “structural violence” shares Farmer’s emphasis. 1720

Violence The presence and nature of structural violence become clearer in contrast to what Galtung refers to as “personal violence” or “direct violence.”[61] Whereas in direct violence the perpetrator (person or group) can be identified, in structural (or “indirect”) violence, “there may not be any person who directly harms another person in the structure. The violence is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently unequal life chances.”[62] “In both cases individuals may be killed or mutilated. . . . But whereas in the [case of direct violence] these consequences may be traced back to concrete persons or actors, in the [case of structural violence] this is no longer meaningful. . . . The important point here is that if people are starving when this is objectively avoidable, then violence is committed, regardless of whether there is a clear subject-action-object relation.”[63] Galtung illustrates, “[I]n a society where life expectancy is twice as high in the upper as in the lower classes, violence is exercised even if there are not concrete actors one can point to directly attacking others, as when one person kills another.”[64] “Direct violence is an event; structural violence is a process.”[65] 1744

Maria’s misery is not Colleen’s fault. No specific person may be held responsible for what has been done to Maria. No single person was responsible for the NAFTA treaty that destroyed her corn-based livelihood and forced her to move north to the border. No one “forced” her to hire on with the maquiladora; she technically is “free” to leave if she wants to avoid the toxic dangers and sexual overtures of supervisors. The wage structure was set by corporate policy and is not traceable to any one person. Plant managers are simply carrying out their orders and obeying policy; they may even be paying a slight bit more than neighboring plants. The constellation of violence against Maria and countless like her is a process, not a direct act by identifiable individuals.[66] Many people involved in that process and benefiting from it remain oblivious to the impact on Maria. Structural violence generally is not criminalized. Direct violence is far more likely to be perceived by society as a crime, punishable by legal systems. This status of legality helps to maintain the relative “invisibility” of structural violence. Galtung’s assertion that structural violence is a “process” involving many people over time yields further insight into society’s astounding capacity to ignore it. The people involved generally are disconnected from each other and are kept relatively unaware of each other’s actions and of other stages in the process. More importantly, many actions required to maintain structural violence are taken by people who may not be responsible for the decisions that mandate those actions. To illustrate: the middle-level manager at Walmart did not make the policy that denies some employees benefits and wages adequate to maintain their health. The gas station employee did not decide to pay militias to kill Ogoni people who protested Shell Oil’s desecration of their lands in the Niger Delta. The insidious nature of structural violence has yet another face. Those who perpetrate one form of structural violence may themselves be victims of another form that precludes their taking opposing actions without the support of a broader community. 1761

The Walmart middle manager may risk losing her job if she fails to fire the employee who has been unable to work due to illness. The gas station employee may have lost his previous job to downsizing by a corporation whose CEO earned 450 times what this worker earned. Resistance to structural violence calls for change not only in individuals’ lives but also in the structures of society—public policy, corporate rights, and institutions. The call to neighbor-love pertains not only to private life but also to the ecological and economic dimensions of life. Structural violence at any given time stands on a vast array of decisions and actions that began decades, sometimes centuries, ago. Without structural moral vision—vision that enables seeing that history—we march on in moral oblivion. When structural violence begins to break into public awareness, those responsible for it briskly and effectively deflect that dawning awareness onto more sensational and easily understood acts of direct violence. When torture at Abu Graib prison in Iraq was publicly exposed, the high-ranking people who had decided to make torture an “acceptable” means of interrogation and to socialize young soldiers into accepting it as normal, quickly hid by blaming the individual soldiers at Abu Graib. The powerful people and processes responsible for implanting brutality into the hearts and minds of the young soldiers were off the hook. Blaming direct violence obscures the more dangerous structural violence. Structural violence theory offers yet another tool for explaining complicity with structural evil. It is the concept of “cultural violence.” The term was coined by John Galtung to denote “those aspects of culture . . . that can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence. . . . Cultural violence makes direct and structural violence look, even feel, right—or at least not wrong.”[67] Direct, structural, and cultural violence form what Galtung calls a tri-fold paradigm of violence. “[A]t the bottom is the steady flow through time of cultural violence, a substratum from which the other two can derive their nutrients. In the next stratum the rhythms of structural violence are located. Patterns of exploitation are building up, wearing out, or torn down. . . . And at the top, visible to the naked eye . . . is the stratum of direct violence with the whole record of direct cruelty perpetrated by human beings against each other and against other forms of life and nature in general.”[68] Dismantling structural violence thus calls for identifying the cultural violence that nourishes it. What is the cultural violence that enables U.S. society to normalize and accept the practice of paying CEOs 450 times the earnings of their lowest-paid workers, especially when that wage does not meet the bare-bone needs of food and shelter? What mesmerizing forces of cultural violence make it desirable for Seattleites to build huge luxurious houses while ignoring the city’s six to ten thousand homeless people and lobbying against the movement to effect an income tax on the wealthiest citizens of Washington State? Tom Shadyac in his film, “I Am,” calls such cultural violence into question with a brief story: “Here’s a story, a true story,” he begins, “to show just who we’ve become.” Once there was a native tribe that lived in peace and harmony for thousands of years, and every day the routine was the same: the hunters would go out from the tribe, and when they returned, the bounty from the hunt was shared equally by all members of the tribe. No one went hungry when food was available, not even the weak, the sick or the elderly. One day the most skilled hunter said, ‘I’m the best hunter. I kill more than my share of deer. Why should I share the bounty of my hunt?’ And from that day forward he began storing his meat in a high mountain cave. And then other skilled hunters said, ‘we kill more than our share of deer too. Shouldn’t we have the right to keep the bounty of our hunt?’ And they too began to store… 1777

Trying to solve the problems of structural violence with individualized responses not only fails to solve the problem, but also reinforces its invisibility. To counter structural violence, moral vision must, itself, be structural. In Sum We noted five theological problems stemming from our complicity in structural injustice, and identified them as structural sin. Viewing structural injustice as structural sin revealed obstacles to overcoming it: Where we remain unaware of structural sin/injustice, we cannot repent of it. Where awareness leads to repentance, we are faced with the paradox of privilege. Structural sin/injustice is passed on from generation to generation unless recognized and challenged. Concentrated power renders structural sin/injustice more potent. Next, seeing structural injustice as structural evil illumined how it is woven into our daily lives and how it hides under the guise of good, inevitability, divine mandate, or social necessity. The lens of structural violence theory confirmed power disparity as a cause of structural injustice, and pointed out the ominous role of cultural violence in breeding and perpetuating structural violence. These dynamics cry out: A core aspect of Christian faith, renouncing sin, requires a moral consciousness that accounts for the impact of people’s collective actions. The structural nature of sin and evil calls forth also a structural understanding of neighbor-love. We will call it love as an ecological-economic vocation. 1842

Unmasking Evil That Parades as Good “Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round.” Adolf Hitler[1] 1948

In the context of a Congolese war in which warlords use terror as an essential weapon to ensure control of regions where international companies mine for valuable metals, sexual violence is especially horrendous. “Competing militias rape in order either to drive communities out of contested areas or else as a means of controlling or subjugating those living in the areas they control.” [4] The impact of coltan mining on biodiversity and soil and water quality is devastating. Much coltan is mined near national parks, and some workers rely on poaching to eat. Kahuzi Biega National Park, home of the mountain gorilla, has suffered particularly from coltan mining. Widespread hunting has driven lowland gorillas and elephants to the brink of extinction, and massive deforestation from mines and airstrips, as well as water pollution from mine tailings, has killed off all edible wildlife in the park. The ecosystem has been effectively plundered, according to a UNEP report. [5] When I upgrade my cell phone using Verizon’s “new every two” plan, or replace my old TV with a plasma screen, or make the leap to an iPad, the new devices will not come with a label that reads “Warning! This device was made with raw materials from Central Africa that are nonrenewable, were mined in inhumane conditions, and then sold to fund a bloody war of occupation. Moreover, the device has caused massive soil and water contamination and the virtual elimination of endangered species. Enjoy.” Even with such a label, would I think twice about where my electronics come from? Would I speak up to influence public policy around coltan imports? Would I consider sharing electronics with neighbors, or forgo owning some of them at all? Would I contact Apple, Microsoft, or other companies that produce 1987

Coltan is a shorthand term for columbium-tantalum. Many devices beyond cell phones contain this mineral: cameras, mp3 players, computer chips, pagers, DVD players, video game systems, missiles, and airplanes all depend on coltan. Americans use and discard cell phones at a faster rate than any other nation and tend to own far more household electronics than do other people. The United States is the largest consumer of coltan in the world, accounting for 40 percent of global demand. 2006

Power arrangements, economic power in particular, play a role in obscuring from the “haves” the reality of the “have nots.” Public sociologist, Gary Perry, describes how freeways were designed in New Orleans to enable tourists and other airline travelers to move from the airport to tourist havens and other relatively wealthy parts of town without seeing the impoverished areas and the people who inhabit them.[8] They are hidden from view of wealthier people. People who live, work, and play in non-poor neighborhoods are drawn into moral oblivion by “powers that be” who have a strong vested interest in hiding the horrors of abject poverty. Indeed, crucial moral weight lies in perceptions of “what is.” What we see and refuse to see, and how we see are morally loaded, bearing on whether we foster or thwart life-saving change. A primary function of Christian ethics is developing tools for morally responsible vision, especially vision of the power dynamics that determine who has the necessities for life and determine humans’ impact on planet Earth. 2022

Christian ethicist Daniel Maguire: The “bane of ethics” is to ignore or “inadequately see reality.”[11]   Jesus: “Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see?” (Mark 8:17-18) 2040

The challenge is to do so in ways that evoke and sustain moral agency for the long haul toward forms of economic life that do not accumulate massive wealth for a few at great cost to the many and that do not endanger Earth’s regenerative capacities. 2047

Or if “the way things are” is not perceived as good, it is accepted as the way things simply must be. More specifically, vision is constructed to normalize and rationalize existing social and ecological conditions (the way things are) that may be evil, allowing them to parade as good, inevitable, or normal. This entails not seeing (or seeing but disregarding) evidence to the contrary. To understand the social construction of vision, we turn to a sister concept with a more developed body of theory: hegemonic knowledge or vision. 2052

“What in any given circumstance is uncritically presupposed to be natural, normal, inevitable, or divinely ordained, that in fact may be none of these, but rather a social construct?” The purpose of this “boilerplate question” is to expose and examine the “knowing” and social vision that shapes our unconscious and semi-conscious assumptions about what is natural, normal, inevitable, or divinely ordained and about what power we have or do not have to build a more just world. The students are exposing “hegemonic vision.” The term refers to the constellation of socially constructed perceptions and assumptions about “what is,” “what could be,” and “what ought to be” that maintain the power or privilege of some people over others, and “blind” the former to that privilege. We are working here with a basic insight of the postmodern turn: that ideas have the power to shape social reality and to do so in ways that may not be recognized by those who benefit most from that constructed reality. The grave danger of hegemonic vision is its deadening impact on social change. What is natural, inevitable, or divinely mandated is not subject to human decisions and actions. With hegemony, notes Stephen Brookfield, “there seems to be no chance of opposition, no way to develop alternative possibilities.”[13] To probe the forces that hide injustice from the eyes of those who “benefit” from it, but could resist it, may seem to be a breeding ground for hopelessness itself. To the contrary, it is an excursion of hope and into hope. For this quest is born of the firm conviction that human beings—enlivened by the breath of God—bear vast moral power. It is the power to see and resist what betrays God’s boundless, unquenchable yearning toward abundant life for all. That power requires stark honesty. Uncovering hegemonic vision is an act of stark, subversive honesty. The theorist most associated with the term “hegemony” is Italian political theorist and cultural critic Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci used “hegemony” to denote the social control exercised by dominant sectors through ideological means. Neither state nor military domination is required to elicit the general population’s consent to the overall direction imposed on life by dominant sectors or culture. Rather, consent is garnered through worldview, values, and ideas, even where that societal direction is exploitative or oppressive to the very people who consent to it. For Gramsci and many other theorists, hegemony refers in particular to the processes that convince people to accept rather than to resist cultural norms and practices that betray their own best interests while appearing to support them.[14] A hegemonic culture, notes Cornel West, is “a culture successful in persuading people to consent to their oppression and exploitation.”[15] Hegemony elicits consent in part by convincing people that existing social arrangements are normal or necessary. Hegemony is, in West’s words, “the set of formal ideas and beliefs and informal modes of behaviors, habits, manners, sensibilities, and outlooks that support and sanction the existing order.”[16] Particularly relevant to the contemporary reality of unintentional yet brutal economic and ecological exploitation woven into our lives is the insight that hegemony “constitutes a sense of reality . . . beyond which it is very difficult for most members of the society to move, in most areas of their lives.”[17] In opposition to hegemonic vision stands critical vision. To accept as reality the world as it appears to be through lenses constructed by dominant social forces is, in Gramsci’s words, to live without “a critical awareness.”[18] It is to adopt “the uncritical and largely unconscious way of perceiving and understanding the world that has become ‘common’ in any given epoch” regardless of its detrimental impact on the very people who hold it.[19] My intent is not to adopt precisely Gramsci’s use of “hegemony.” Rather, I draw critically upon his insights and the… 2060

What processes garner consent to the dominant mode of economic life despite its dangerous consequences? What convinces us that there is “no chance of opposition, no way to develop alternative possibilities”?[22] The factors behind moral oblivion may be values, ideas, practices, symbols, social trends, norms, emotions, presuppositions, or other influences. They may be conscious or not. 2107

Ingredient #1: Privatized Morality and the Blinders of Charity Impervious adherence to economically and ecologically exploitative lifeways stems in part from a historical penchant for misperceiving social problems as individuals’ problems. 2116

the tendency to locate the causes of social suffering—particularly poverty—in individual failings or misfortune rather than in the historical and current political, economic, and cultural forces that produce it. We sever the link, for example, between a certain homeless woman on the street and the real estate development that replaced her low-cost apartment complex with luxury condos. Another common avenue for avoiding structural causes of poverty is locating them in the inadequacy or historical misfortune of groups. What do Euro-Americans in areas of significant indigenous American populations do to rationalize the vast economic disparity between white people and the indigenous of their locales? A mere 150 years ago, native peoples thrived on land now covered by cities in northwest Washington. Today, the native population suffers from shockingly high rates of death from diabetes, alcoholism, tuberculosis, suicide, and unintentional injuries compared to all other Americans.[24] On some deep unconscious level, do we rationalize the disparity by assuming historical necessity or tribal peoples’ inadequacy in the face of modernity? In like manner, if hunger in Africa or India is understood to be caused by the tragic misfortune of drought or by people’s inability to develop adequate farming techniques, then foreign aid and development assistance are in themselves adequate responses. If, however, hunger is the result of colonial policy that destroyed African economies, trade policies that shift market advantage to wealthier nations, corporate takeover of coastal fishing areas, lakes dried up by global warming, or water supplies privatized and sold on the global market, then the moral response called for is quite different. Our turn to foreign aid and development assistance may distract us from the trade policies, corporate exploitation, climate change, and other connections between our overconsumption and others’ hunger. Even where social structural causes of suffering are recognized, solutions often are seen in personalized terms of charitable giving or service. Far too readily, deep and heartfelt concern about poverty and hunger is channeled primarily into the interpersonal or private arenas of charitable service and giving, and concern for the morality of society itself drifts to the wayside. Impeded then are sustained efforts to counter injustice in public policies, social systems, institutions, economic policies and theories, corporate practice, public budgets, cultural norms, and other dimensions of public life. While in many circles—ecclesial, academic, activist—“social justice” is common parlance, it often is used to signify a commitment to service in society or to helping the needy rather than to uprooting structures of unjust power and privilege. 2119

My point here is not the long-touted and mistaken idea that charity must be replaced by work toward social justice. I do not believe this simplistic formula. The two overlap and are both mandates of Christian faith. To affirm work for systemic change while devaluing charitable response to suffering would be naïve and cruel. Rather, my point is this: Where suffering is caused, at least in part, by societal or systemic factors, rather than singularly individual factors, charitable service aimed at meeting the needs of individuals and groups without also challenging those systemic factors may build social consent that perpetuates the suffering’s powerful systemic roots. It is crucial, therefore, to excavate the dangers of channeling compassion for suffering singularly through the individualized lens of charitable service and giving. Charity may become a blinder, obfuscating the systemic roots of suffering. A problem that is addressed by helping individual people may be seen as a problem rooted in individual misfortune, inadequacy, loss, or lack of knowledge or opportunity. In Lee Artz’s terms, charitable service throws a “cloak of invisibility” over structured oppressions and may lead inadvertently to constructing the oppressor as good.[25] Charitable service may individualize or privatize the causes of social problems, obscuring their systemic roots. 2150

second danger is that a turn to charity suggests its adequacy. An old adage notes that it is better to teach a person how to fish than to give her or him a fish. And yet the charitable act of teaching someone to fish will not provide food if the fish supply is rapidly drained by a large dam built upstream to benefit elite interests, overfishing by global corporations, global warming, or toxic waste. The individualized response of charitable service and giving may reinforce a dominant worldview that “a thousand points of light” is alone the answer to social suffering. Privitizing systemic problems helps us ignore and accept unjust systems. In the words of Margaret Miles, the “effort to remain altogether private [beings] is to become “morally insensible.” Bonhoeffer’s warning that evil can “masquerade as . . . charity” echoes here. Ingredient #2: Blessings Veiling Stolen Goods “The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally. . . . [If they do not share,] the wealthy are a species of bandit.”      John Chrysostom, fourth-century church “father” 2160

accepted as a moral good. I firmly agree. Christians affirm that material goods and the life-enhancing opportunities they provide are fundamentally a blessing, a gift from God for which we give thanks. According to this idea, we ought to live in gratitude for these gifts and generously share them with others. The liturgical life and prayer life of the church, as well as Christian education, teach this understanding. It is the basis of the stewardship practices that have enabled the church worldwide (in its various ecclesial communions) to provide hospitals, schools, housing, and other vital life services. Gratitude 2172

Many of the material goods for which I give thanks became mine because they were “taken” from others through complex economic, political, cultural, and military systems. For those others, as illustrated in the stories throughout this book, that loss may have been devastating, even deadly. Is it possible that our prayers and attitudes of gratitude for our many blessings subtly rationalize and normalize the ways of life that produced my material blessings while also generating global warming and toxic dumping?[26] Do those prayers conceal the enormous extent to which those blessings are stolen goods, stolen primarily from the world’s peoples of color? To conceal that theft is to perpetuate it. Here, therefore, we dare to look. 2186

St. Ambrose, a fourth-century theologian, cried out: “How far, oh rich, do you extend your senseless avarice? Do you intend to be the sole inhabitants of the earth? Why do you drive out the fellow sharers of nature, and claim it all for yourselves? The earth was made for all, rich and poor, in common. Why do you rich claim it as your exclusive right? The soil was given to the rich and poor in common—wherefore, oh, ye rich, do you unjustly claim it for yourselves alone? Nature gave all things in common for the use of all.” Ambrose speaks to us. The questions raised are these: Does giving thanks for our material benefits help us not “see how the suffering and unearned disadvantages of subordinate groups are the foundation for [our material] privileges?”[27] If so, how could our practices of gratitude spur us to the work of creating more equitable and ecologically healthy economic relationships? 2209

Many of us do not see because seeing would be too terrible. We are like the mourner, distracting himself or herself from engaging the grief of a loss because the emotions are simply too raw, too sad. It would be too painful to recognize our implication in profound and widespread suffering, and in what threatens the life of the world today. 2227

Profoundly needed is knowledge that they exist and recognition of the connections between them. 2653

the public was aware, on a regular basis, of these movements and the rapidly growing number of people they represent, we would be far more likely to believe that alternatives are possible and are worth joining. That knowledge whittles away at the doors of denial and allows recognizing the economic and ecological violence embedded in our lives. Seeing “what could be” opens windows to seeing “what is.” Moreover, seeing “what could be” breeds the joy and freedom of moving in that direction. Indeed, seeing alternative paths is a crucial ingredient of moral power. 2657

Recognizing systemic violence and the possibilities for a more equitable and Earth-honoring future is impeded by the privatized, victor-oriented, and anthropocentric moral consciousness that shapes the Western world. Developing “critical mystical vision” calls for profound shifts in moral consciousness. To that challenge we now turn. A Profound Shift in Moral Consciousness A Revealing Contradiction Contradictions often illumine a way through murky problems. Here, the contradiction between the public or collective moral impact of our lives on the one hand, and pervasive perceptions of the moral life as a private matter on the other, is revealing. Collective human activity is shaping the material and cultural conditions of life. Yet, moral consciousness enacted in our society is, generally speaking, increasingly privatized. We practice the privatization of morality and deny our moral responsibility for collective morality, even while that collective activity has enormous moral consequences.[8] For instance, the culture of the automobile—generated through many forms of corporate persuasion including legislative lobbies, campaign financing, and consumer persuasion—is a central feature of public life in the United States. The ecological consequences of the automobile obsession are infinitely public and costly. Yet we hold the absurd assumption that driving a large vehicle that produces enormous quantities of greenhouse gases is a matter of individual freedom, and that the move not to do so must depend upon individual conscience rather than on a move of public policy aimed at limiting global warming. Moral consciousness must confront the contradiction between the collective shaping of public life on the one hand, and our privatized sense of moral response on the other. Here, we call for and sketch a shift to moral consciousness that: (1) perceives the world as interconnected; (2) seeks persistently and humbly to perceive reality through the narratives and experiences of subjugated people and peoples; and (3) locates human life and morality within Earth’s matrix of life, rather than outside of it. While others have called for similar shifts in worldview, I relate these shifts specifically to moral consciousness. And I aver that they are required if we are to see more clearly the roots and consequences of ecological and economic violence. Moreover, I insist that such shifts have vast implications for the meaning of neighbor-love. Moral Consciousness: Seismic Shifts This contradiction between privatized moral consciousness and the inherently public moral impact of our lives presents a clue to morally responsible vision. It prescribes a shift in moral consciousness that would be an antidote to many ingredients of moral oblivion identified in the previous chapter. We consider three facets of that shift and then suggest a way of putting them into practice. Moral Consciousness: Interconnected In the first place, the shift is away from the privatized sense of morality created by modernity’s “turn to the individual” as the primary unit of existence and neoliberalism’s fetishizing of it. The modern individualized moral consciousness allows us to assume that because I am not individually culpable in another’s suffering, I am innocent. An interconnected sense of morality, in contrast, recognizes that while I am I, I am not only I, but also am “we” and “us.” What I do as part of a larger body of people has moral consequences for which I am, to some extent, accountable. What I eat, how I heat my home, what I purchase, where I vacation, how I speak as part of a society in which these ways are common practice has moral impact even if my individual piece, isolated, does not. By “interconnected,” therefore, I mean not only awareness of the structural connections between me and others the world over, but also awareness of the moral weight of those connections. A privatized moral consciousness has another related consequence. It is the subtle but engulfing persuasion to serve the well-being of self, family, and… 2722

A responsible moral consciousness must seek to stand “outside dominant thought patterns and to know something we could not have known without the tools of the outsider’s point of view.”[9] That is, we are to learn about what is and what could be from people whose lives are damaged or threatened by ours, and who are proposing alternatives. There is revealed the deeply disturbing truth from which we run. “If the perpetrators of injustice want to step into the truth of their lives,” writes Jürgen Moltmann, “they must learn to see themselves through the eyes of their victims.”[10] Perhaps the most unsavory revelation of a structural view of the world informed by voices from the underside of history is awareness that “privilege and oppression do not simply coexist side by side. Rather, the suffering and unearned disadvantage of subordinate groups are the foundation for the privileges of the dominant group.”[11] In short, humanity and the planet now need wisdom born on the underbelly of power and privilege. Moral wisdom for a humane future will be learned by listening to people and places who suffer from the ecological and social exploitation of our day, and by putting their wisdom into conversation with other moral sources. 2770

philosopher of science Donna Haraway says it well. “To see from below is neither easily learned nor unproblematic.”[12] The problems are countless. Who has the right to determine what is “below” or what are the “margins”? How are we to locate and see from social sites that we never have imagined and that we may not even know exist? One cannot “be” a colonized indigenous person, a poisoned river, a displaced campesino if one is not. Furthermore, the standpoints of the subjugated are infinitely multiform and conflicting, and they are not “innocent positions.”[13] The intention to see and learn from standpoints on the underside of one’s own privilege, though crucial, is also audacious and presumptuous unless accompanied by admitting the inherent dangers. How am I to “learn from” without repeating colonializing assumptions of my right to possess what “they” have, in this case knowledge or wisdom? And what of the dangers of patronizing and silencing when I try to communicate another’s story? The effort to see from the margins demands accountability. 2781

represent the other while unknowingly misrepresenting. All in all, “from below” or “from the margins” is not an uncomplicated visual lens. Nevertheless, it is imperative because the magnitude of evil is known most fully by those who experience it, and by their stories that reveal my participation in it. Beyond this, a surefire antidote to hopelessness is to encounter and act with people who are indeed impoverished or otherwise hurt by our economic or ecological violence and who are going forward in hope to resist it and build alternatives. Becoming an “ally” ignites hope and with it, moral agency.[14] Moral Consciousness: Ecocentric Finally, the requisite shift in moral consciousness includes moving from our anthropocentric to an emerging ecocentric perception of the world and of morality. By ecocentric I do not mean necessarily prioritizing the well-being of Earth over that of humans. Such prioritizing by a person of the Global North is morally questionable, given that so many of Earth’s human beings still are denied the basic necessities for human life. The shift from anthropocentric to ecocentric consciousness does not refer to a shift in what gets priority. It means a shift in how we fundamentally see the human in relationship to the rest of creation. It is a move from assuming that all of life centers around the human, to recognizing that this is biologically not true. And it is a move to expand the moral universe beyond the human. Moving from anthropocentric to ecocentric perceptions of reality is not, in itself, adequate. Alone, it would not address the power asymmetries within and between human societies. Indian Christian ethicist George Zachariah says it well: “Environmental ethics that locates the earth crisis in anthropocentrism that can be rectified by interconnectedness, relationships, community and the like” is sorely mistaken. The crisis of earth is also a “crisis of prevailing social relations,” by which he means in particular relations of domination.[15] Ecocentric moral consciousness will perceive the “exquisite interconnectivity of all life” and its implications for morality.[16] That interconnectedness renders humankind first and foremost a part of nature and its economy, rather than apart from these. Moral obligation and even moral agency extend beyond the human to the greater community of life. The purpose of economic life is not only production and distribution, but also the well-being of Earth’s ecosystems.[17] Such a sense of morality recognizes that “I” and “we” do not act apart from our literally countless relationships with other species and elements. They enable every breath we take. Not even a twitch of my muscle is possible without the aid of other creatures and the elements that give them life. And all that I do has impact on the other-than-human conglomerates of organic and inorganic molecules making home on this planet. D. John Chelladurai, Director of the India Peace Center in Nagpur, expresses eloquently this ecocentric dimension of the shift in moral consciousness. He writes: The five elements . . . make us shareholders of the same body. The oxygen we consumed ten minutes before is now part of our body. We can no more distinguish it as oxygen. It has gone into the remotest interior of our body and merged with it to become an integral part of the body. . . . The oxygen we consumed just now was released a while before by a plant close to us. Before it was released, that oxygen was part of the plant’s body. That which was the body of a plant is now the body of me. Blood is our lifeline, an integral part of our being. The blood cells in our body have a life span of forty to one hundred and twenty days. Then they are eliminated from our body through excretion and urination. The epithelial cells constantly are eroded and washed out of our body. Every day when we bathe, we remove a thin layer of our body that is flushed out down the gutter. The cell that was ‘I’ travels through the gutter and reaches a canal or a pond in the outskirts, settles in… 2794

of witnessing to the power and presence of God. Moral consciousness 2853

The call for privileging perspectives from the margins of power discussed in the previous section alters dramatically from an ecocentric moral perspective. The Earth crisis has moved the “margins” and the “underside.” If moral wisdom is to be found on the underside of dominant power structures, then the other-than-human has wisdom to communicate. 2858

the rise of fascism and totalitarianism. His findings attribute that acquiescence in part to an “individualized view” of life, an inability to perceive the broader societal dimensions of personal life. He called for “a structuralized picture of the world” as a necessary ingredient in action for social change toward “a social order governed by the principles of equality, justice and love.”[21] A structuralized view of the world “interprets individual experience in terms of broader social and economic forces,” analyzing “private problems and personal dilemmas as structurally produced.”[22] Fromm held that the lack of “structuralized picture of the world . . . [paralyzes] the ability to think critically.” In 1959 the American sociologist C. Wright Mills coined the term “sociological imagination” for the capacity to connect the experiences of individual life with broader social and historical forces. He recognized the trauma of ordinary people attributing their difficulties to personal circumstances while, in fact, their lives were tossed about by circumstances of social history such as wars, industrialization, and macroeconomic developments. By recognizing that seemingly private troubles are manifestations of larger societal circumstances, people would see that change in personal life required political action and could seek to become politically engaged. Subsequently, political theologies arising in Germany and liberation theologies beginning in Latin America insisted that work for justice requires social analysis, analysis of the historical and structural roots of poverty and oppression. The early decades of liberation theologies paid special attention to uncovering the players and power arrangements that enabled wealthy and powerful—yet relatively small—social sectors to accumulate enormous wealth by exploiting and subduing the majority of people who were forced into abject poverty. Liberation theologians were not the first theologians to insist that Christian moral responsibility demands close and critical attention to the structural dynamics that determine the distribution of economic resources. “The lack of thinking in economic terms is fatal to a sense of reality, and every Christian is under orders to learn how to think in these terms.” The voice is Vida Scudder, a late nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century Episcopalian churchwoman and professor of literature at Wellesley College. Scudder was an economically privileged United States citizen. Having spent much time in the burgeoning Settlement House movement, seeking to help people in poverty, Scudder decried Christians’ tendency to see poverty as a malady affecting individuals that could be addressed primarily through helping those individuals. Christian faith, she insisted, calls people to see the social structural roots of poverty, and to engage actively in advocacy for systemic change. Scudder insisted on action for structural change as a necessary and integral dimension of Christian faith. Fromm’s “structuralized picture of the world,” Mills’s “sociological imagination,” liberation theology’s “social analysis,” and Scudder’s insistence on “thinking in economic terms” all demystify social systems that accumulate wealth for some at the expense of poverty and oppression for others. These movements have been invaluable. Efforts to dismantle social justice in its many insidious forms are indebted to them. These early- and mid-century admonitions to a structural sense of morality, important as they are, bear two lethal flaws. First, they prescribed and described a structural worldview that was not a view of the world, but rather a view of the human world. The rest of creation was a kind of stage on which the “real” drama, the story of humankind, unfolded. Clearer perception of the economic and ecological violence infecting our lives requires a view of reality that encompasses the earth as well as its human societies. The other faultline is epistemological and stems from socio-ecological… 2878

uncovering the ecological and social justice consequences of our lifeways and building that knowledge into common consciousness is not the work of individuals alone. It is collective work, people collaboratively generating the wisdom they need to live responsibly. This means incorporating such inquiry into church life, healthcare, childrearing, educational systems, and dinner conversations. It means weaving these questions into the body of “tips for living” that we commonly pass from friend to friend. “Ecological-economic justice literacy” implies making questions about the consequences of our individual and collective economic practices and policies a fundamental frame of reference while treading the hallways of everyday life. Ecological-economic justice literacy calls for shifting the information-gathering habits of daily life—frequenting websites and journals that provide information about the justice implications of products and activities. And it implies a shift in public discourse on individual and institutional levels and in the discourse of faith. In teaching this shift to my students, I have instituted a set of “reality-revealing questions” for them to weave into daily life. The first is this: Who benefits and who loses from “the way things are”? “The way things are” could refer to a purchase, a public policy, a power structure, or more. The economic side of “ecological-economic justice literacy” is arguably integral to Christian faith; it is a tool for responding to God’s love and God’s call to “love neighbor.” This tool enables unmasking structural evil; it enables discerning where our lives serve to “love neighbor” and where they do quite the opposite. For this reason, economic justice literacy ought to be integral to Christian education. In Vida Scudder’s words, “[T]he lack of thinking in economic terms is fatal to a sense of reality, and every Christian is under orders to learn how to think in these terms.” “Ecological literacy,” the ability to “read” the language and realities of Earth’s life-systems and how they interact with human factors, is equally key to the life of faith. If God loves this world, found it essentially good, and calls upon it to witness, testify, and praise God’s self, then how wildly absurd that many of us have assumed no need to understand how it works (with the exception of the scientists among us), or to interpret its languages. 2950

did not realize that a single gram of forest soil contains about ten billion individual organisms—and only four thousand or so are known to scientists. Never did I imagine that the cells in my body contain atoms that were once part of stars. More elusive than learning about the Earth and its life-systems is the question of learning from them. What—in practical terms—does it mean to “learn” moral wisdom, and how to live from voices that are not human? Of this, modern humans know very little. We 2971

The move to ecological literacy is underway. Ethicist Dan Spencer initiated ecological autobiography exercises for his students, and he identifies “ecological location” along with social location. Elementary school children in Seattle work with salmon and their life-cycles vis-à-vis the city’s waterways. The Earth Bible series explores scripture from perspectives of the Earth. “Green Sisters” (Catholic sisters dedicated to hearing the cry of the earth, healing the earth, and developing religious culture that enables both) offer “earth-literacy training.”[32] 2978

Biomimicry, the art and science of imitating nature’s designs for human use, has gained traction in recent years. Airplane designers are inspired by the tiny bumps on the edge of a whale fin called tubicles, which could increase airplane efficiency by 32 percent and save significant fossil fuels. Peacocks emit color in their feathers not with pigment, but through carefully designed shapes that emit a certain hue when light passes through—potentially reducing our use of harmful dyes. In short, if our economic policies and practices mean life and death for people thousands of miles across the globe, and threaten Earth’s life-systems, then we must develop tools to understand the impact of what we are doing and the possibility of alternatives. From a theological perspective, if repentance calls for seeing structural sin that is craftily hidden, then repentance also calls for literacy in the fields of that sin, including ecological and economic violence. Literacy of this kind is a way to practice a transformed moral consciousness. Countering Moral Oblivion: A Re-View The individualized, anthropocentric, and victor-oriented moral consciousness shaping the modern world obscures critical vision—our sense of “what is” and “what could be.” A transformation in moral consciousness is called for. It will be less privatized and anthropocentric, and will seek persistently to know reality as it is experienced on the losing side of power and privilege. Such a consciousness will acknowledge the moral consequences of collective human actions as well as individual actions. If critical mystical vision entails three forms of seeing—“what is,” “what could be,” and “the sacred powers of life at work in the world to bring wholeness for all”—then it remains to consider the third of these, what I call the “mystical vision” dimension of critical mystical vision. Like seeing “what could be,” seeing sacred healing power at play is an antidote to the denial, hopelessness, and the powerlessness that may ensue with daring to see “what is.” “Mystical vision” and the hope it brings claim our attention in the next chapter. Before going there, we return to a life story begun in chapter 3. In hearing it, be alert for the shifts in moral consciousness traced in the current chapter. 2983

NativeSUN is a solar project of the Hopi Foundation, an organization by and for Hopi people.[34]The Foundation makes photovoltaic cell panels affordable to the low-income reservation community through a revolving loan fund. Over three hundred homes now have solar panels on the roof. The project reflected the assessment of the Hopi community regarding its needs. Author and activist Winona LaDuke summarized the guiding mentality as: “Use less, produce what you can on your own, and be cognizant of the implications of each decision on others.”[35]In these few words, LaDuke eloquently voices the call to ecological-economic justice literacy. And what of the places far from home where oil is extracted and refined? How can we practice a collective moral consciousness that attunes itself to the lives of the workers and residents in the Niger River Delta? Rehabilitating our oil addiction in our own homes is certainly necessary. There are also ways to influence the inhumane living and working conditions for communities in Nigeria, the Mississippi River Delta, and other places on earth where oil is extracted or refined. Amnesty International, for example, runs a campaign that would force the Nigerian government to hold oil companies accountable for the oil spills and gas flares that kill the fish, pollute the water and air, and endanger the people of the Niger River Delta. 3030

According to Amnesty International, multinational oil companies such as Shell, Total, and Chevron, as well as the Nigerian government are jointly responsible for gas flaring, but no one is held accountable. Amnesty International teams have now collected over ten years’ worth of satellite imaging, and mapping data revealing the close proximity of gas flares to waters where people drink, bathe, fish, and wash their clothes. When representatives meet with government officials and oil company officials to urge an end to gas flaring, they do so armed not only with collected data but the names of thousands of citizens in the U.S. and across the world who have signed a petition indicating that they know and care about what is happening there. Without that participation of individual citizens, these initiatives would not work. Some people choose to organize around public policy change and corporate change. is a global, decentralized, volunteer-led, grassroots movement of campaigns, organizing, and mass public actions to solve the climate crisis. The movement is active in 188 countries and at one point initiated a campaign to address the problem with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is notoriously supportive of a gas-guzzling America. It fought to weaken clean air standards, [37] lobbied against the Kyoto Protocol, and opposed a hazardous waste dumping ban. The Chamber petitioned the EPA to do nothing about climate change, arguing that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” [38] Recognizing that the Chamber of Commerce no longer represents many businesses in America, especially small businesses, is committed to organizing small businesses to weaken the Chamber’s grip on political life. “Maybe,” the organizers write, “we can finally get rid of the huge subsidies to our fossil fuel industries. Maybe we can finally get a law passed to start dealing with the worst crisis our planet has ever faced.” 3042

We must sleep with eyes open, we must dream with our hands, we must dream the dreams of a river seeking its course, of the sun dreaming its worlds. . . . We must dream backward, toward the source. . . . Octavio Paz Danger lurks. The expansive moral consciousness called for in the previous chapter easily aggravates denial and powerlessness. This enhanced moral vision exposes the devastating impact of economic life as we know it, on the Earth and on neighbors who are dispossessed by our possessions. To acknowledge the widespread suffering that may be linked to my material abundance would be tormenting. How could I live with the knowledge if I truly took it in? And if I dare to see, then I view also the power and complexity of structural violence and the relative insignificance of individual efforts at change. Where would I find the moral-spiritual power to transgress tidal waves of cultural, political, economic, and military force pushing to maintain the way things are? A sense of inevitability has almost magnetic power for depleting hope. What is inevitable, I cannot change. Hope for economic and ecological relations may fade before ever it sees full bloom, and with it moral vision and power. 3114

We are not alone in our quest for just and Earth-honoring ways of living. 3145

The Earth Charter illustrates this recognition that the world’s religions and spiritual perspectives can catalyze the human community toward a sustainable future. Internationally renowned scientists are beckoning religious leaders to address the environmental crisis. In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists released their “Warning to Humanity,” stating that “we require the help of the world’s religious leaders” for evoking a “new ethic . . . for caring for ourselves and for the earth.”[1] In 1990 thirty-four internationally recognized scientists wrote an Open Letter to the Religious Community, arguing that “Problems of such magnitude and solutions demanding so broad a perspective must be recognized from the outset as having a religious as well as a scientific dimension” and that “efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred.”[2] Hundreds of religious leaders from multiple faith traditions responded, forming the Joint Appeal in Religion and Science, and eventually, the Forum on Religion and Ecology. In such appeals, religion is seen as offering moral norms, values, networks, a sense of obligation beyond the self and “tribe,” hope, vision, and courage. These foment moral power. 3152

One aspect of Christianity (and of some other religions) that breeds hope is the claim that we are called toward some form of union with the great power of life, the source of all, what many call God. We are destined to be with or fully a part of the Holy Source, and that union begins this side of death. In Christian traditions, union with God is also union with the force that we call love. Our destiny is union with divine love. It is not a task to be achieved as much as a gift to be received and then shared, in the present. Irenaeus of Lyon, leader of a persecuted second-century community of Christians, is one of the first to flesh theologically the conviction that human destiny is union and communion with God. According to Irenaeus, not only human beings but the entirety of creation is destined for that end. The role of human creatures is to be “educated” or “matured” by the Spirit. Irenaeus’s imagery is compelling. The “dew of the Holy Spirit [is] dispersed throughout all the earth.”[3] We are to remain moist by that Spirit so that Word and Wisdom may mold us like moist clay toward our destiny of union and communion with God. Throughout the ages, many have referred to this union, experience of it, trust in it, and movement toward it as “mysticism.” 3176

For our purposes here, “mysticism” refers to the experience of or faith in the presence and power of God with, in, and among human beings and the other creatures and elements of Earth, even when God seems absent. In this sense, mysticism does not refer to an esoteric experience to be had by only the few who are dedicated to and privileged by visions or periods of extraordinary consciousness. Nor does it refer singularly to moments of heightened experience of God’s presence. Mysticism, as used herein, is accessible to all. 3188

Seeing Self through the Eyes of God “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” may also be translated accurately as “You will love your neighbor as God loves you.” To love neighbor as God loves oneself implies viewing oneself through the eyes of God’s love. Here we take a clue from the Beguines, a heterogeneous movement of Northern European women religious that rose, flourished, and was suppressed from the late twelfth through mid-fourteenth centuries. Medieval convention bound religious life to specific rules and church-recognized orders that remained detached from secular life. Beguine communities, in contrast, lived dedicated religious lives while remaining engaged in worldly life and relatively unaccountable to male authority figures. Many Beguines professed to be authorized by God, trusted the truth of their own experience, and engaged in public theological discourse. They were, therefore, seen as challenging the exclusive authority of the church hierarchy in its roles as singular medium of redemption, exclusive source of theological truth, and regulator of discourse. The strength of Beguine moral-spiritual power cast fear into the heart of hegemonic power. While some were burned at the stake, others were forbidden to spread their teachings, speak publicly, travel, or become Beguines before the age of forty. The words of Beguines’ persecutors reveal the power of their agency in spite of efforts to repress it. The “way of life” of the Beguines, wrote the General Council of Vienne in 1312, “is to be permanently forbidden and altogether excluded from the Church of God. Because they . . . promise no obedience to anyone and do not profess an approved Rule.” These women did not perceive themselves as “moral agents” or as undermining hegemonic power structures of their day. (Such assertions would be anachronistic.) Yet, many of them were both.[4] Wherein lay their moral-spiritual power to exercise such agency despite the threat of death, even death by fire? It had many roots. Their power derived in part from the lens through which they perceived themselves. The Beguines, at least as we know them through their surviving literary works, saw themselves as they believed that God saw them—as beloved by God. The extraordinary extent to which these women were moral agents and subjects of their lives seems to lie in a perception of self and each other derived directly from knowing themselves as in God, beloved by God, and lovers of God. Hadewijch of Brabant, a thirteenth-century Beguine poet and mystic, declares: “I entreat you . . . open the eyes of your heart (Eph. 1:18) to see clearly and contemplate yourself in God.”[5] This way of knowing self issued in a way of doing and being, a form of moral life characterized by nearly irrepressible agency. They understood themselves to be “subject to no one save Love alone doing service and performing the works of Love . . . day and night in all liberty, without delay of fear and without counting the cost.”[6] 3194

conviction. It was grounded in seeing God as Love itself and seeing self as primarily God’s beloved, in whose veins Godself coursed and was poured out to others. This vision found self to be good and able to act because of who they understood themselves to be in the eyes of God: “. . . and then you will be Love, as I am love . . . go forth and live what I am,” declared God’s voice to Hadewijch. 3219

voices not widely recognized for it. One of those is Martin Luther. “. . . the power of God,” he declares, “. . . must be essentially present in all places even in the tiniest leaf.”[8] “Christ . . . fills all things. . . . Christ is around us and in us in all places . . . he is present in all creatures, and I might find him in stone, in fire, in water.”[9] The assertion that God indwells all created being has been present in Christian theology for two millennia. It is far more present in Orthodox theology than Western, 3237

Broadly speaking, panentheism refers to the idea that the world is “not merely a product of God’s willing or doing, but also a part of God’s very being.”[15] The world is in God and God is in the world. Panentheism is a radical declaration of God’s immanent presence. Panentheism affirms God’s immanence within creation while simultaneously affirming God’s transcendence beyond it and beyond human understanding. Immanence comes from the Latin “immanere”—to remain within. 3257

Christian ethicist Nancy Erhard argues convincingly that other-than-humankind may play a role in moral agency. Her work on Genesis 1–3 and 6–9 finds these texts attributing moral being and doing to creatures and elements. Waters and earth collaborate with God in the acts of creating. “In Genesis 1-2:4a, the waters and Earth respond to God. They fulfill God’s command by action of their own, becoming collaborators if not co-creators.”[17] And what they do in response to God’s bidding, God deems as “good,” tov, connoting not only aesthetic goodness but also moral goodness of a life-generating nature. The story of the flood reveals that “all flesh,”—a category including birds and animals as well as humans—had a role in the destruction resulting in the flood. Their capacity for knowing and acting for good (or refusing) is confirmed in the covenant that God makes with them along with Noah (Gen. 9:10). Moreover, Erhard reminds, “A tree confers ‘knowledge of good and evil.’”[18] Erhard’s point is that the biotic community plays a role in shaping the moral values, assumptions, norms, and imagination that comprise the morality of a given context. These “moral habitats” influence moral agency. They may, she concludes, “transform . . . human agency on behalf of the flourishing of the whole earth community.”[19] Other biblical texts also suggest roles that otherkind may play in nurturing the moral power of human creatures to serve God’s ways. For example: Job 12:7-10 portrays animals and plants as teachers of humans who are admonished to learn from the plants and animals what God does on Earth. “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” Psalm 19:1 shows the cosmos itself revealing to humans some of the nature of God. “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims [God’s] handiwork.” In Psalm 148 God enjoins even fire, frost, cedars, and “creeping things” to praise God. “Praise [the Lord], sun and moon; praise [the Lord], you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! . . . Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost . . . Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!” (vv. 3-4, 7-10). Praising God has moral implications. According to the Deuteronomistic historian, the Earth is called upon as witness in one of the most crucial choices faced by the ancient Hebrews and by people of all times who read life through the lens of faith in God: to choose life or to reject life in accord with God (Deut. 30:19-20). In Job 38:1, as in numerous texts, God works through winds, waters, and creatures: “The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” 3286

The point is not to hold up nature as a blueprint for morality. Rather, the point is to cultivate receptivity to hearing the voice of God in the other-than-human parts of nature, learning from them about how to live rightly, and being nourished for the work of Earth-keeping and justice-making by God’s Spirit at play in creation. We have considered the ancient faith claim that God’s love is “flowing and pouring through all things” and there offers creating, saving, and sustaining power for the healing of a broken world.[20] Two notions stemming from this claim—of Christ crucified in a crucified Earth and of God’s saving presence at work within creation—indeed may render hope and moral agency for the long and uncharted journey toward a world in which humankind is not toxic to our planetary home and in which none amass wealth at the cost of others’ impoverishment. 3314

indwelling human beings. A widely accepted Christian understanding is that we live in a paradoxical moral reality, corresponding to the “already and not yet” reign of God on Earth. This “already and not yet” condition has been expressed diversely throughout Christian history. In sweeping terms: We are alienated from God and as a consequence of this alienation (sin), we will betray (to some extent) the ways and will of God. Instead of living according to God’s commandments to love God, self, and others, and we will live as “selves curved in on self,” captive to self-interest. The profound paradox is that simultaneously, we are saved by God.[21] Salvation frees us from living as “selves curved in on self,” and saves us for loving God, self, others, and this good Earth. God renders us living abodes of God’s justice-making love. This paradox reverberates with power for the good. It means that regardless of our implication in cruel forms of oppression, human beings also are capable of and called to lives of justice-making love. We are the body of God on Earth, bearers of Christic love. We are, that is, filled with moral agency for healing and liberating. Dietrich Bonhoeffer probed the ethical implications of God’s love embodied in human communities. He was adamant that the love of Christ, revealed most fully in the cross, abides in the Christian community. After experiencing non-Christians courageously resisting fascism and the failure of much of the institutional church to do so, he determined that the God-bearing community includes non-Christians who are serving God’s purposes. In Bonhoeffer’s terms, Christ dwelling in the community of people who embody God’s love “conforms” them to “the form of Jesus Christ.” That is the form of God’s overflowing love embodied as community that acts responsibly in the world on behalf of abundant life for all, especially on behalf of those who are persecuted or marginalized.[22] This action requires recognizing structural evil, naming it, and “putting a spoke in the wheel” of earthly powers that demand disobedience to God. The power to resist structural evil, even when so doing is terribly costly, is the actual love of Christ taking form in human community.[23] As revealed in the cross and resurrection, this love is indomitable, even when it appears to be defeated. The God of Christian tradition—and Jewish tradition before it—works with and within extraordinarily fallible human beings and communities. Divine love does not come to people because they deserve it or are particularly noble, good, or courageous. All inhabit the paradoxical state of being both “in bondage to sin” and an “abode of God’s active love.” 3324

enter into it on behalf of life in its fullness. Spirit Awakens Healing Liberating Power Since shortly after Jesus’ execution, Christians have claimed that God’s Spirit works within and on believers. Pneumatology from the first century to the twenty-first affirms that the Spirit enables people to act as God would have them act. In the words of Catholic theologian Yves Congar: “The Spirit-Breath is first and foremost what causes [humans] to act so that God’s plan in history may be fulfilled.”[24] To the extent that living as God would have us live includes challenging structural evil, the Spirit enables that challenge. But what is that morally empowering role of the Spirit? In what sense does the Spirit enable moral agency for serving God’s will? With and through whom does the Spirit act to engender humans’ healing and liberating power? Myriad responses have found their way into church history and into the biblical texts. Responses in Western Christianity reflect its tendency—until recent decades—to prioritize the first and second persons of the Trinity over the third. The Holy Spirit, until recently, was underexamined in Christian ethics. This was unfortunate, for the Spirit is the person of the Trinity most closely aligned with moral agency, at least where moral agency is understood as the capacity to heed the ways and will of God. Here we focus on the biblical witness rather than on later Christian understandings. Seeking insight into how God’s Spirit within humans might engender hope and moral-spiritual power for the healing of the world, we look first at the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and then at the Second Testament (New Testament). In both, ambiguity and diversity abound. Hebrew Scriptures “Spirit,” where it refers to the Spirit of Yahweh translates the Hebrew, ruach.[25] According to the Hebrew scriptures, the ancient Hebrews experienced a power of the One whom they called YHWH reaching into their lives and into the entire created world, making things happen according to the will of that One. They called this power ruach.[26] Ruach (like pneuma, espiritu, and spirit, its most frequent renditions in Greek, Latin, and English respectively) has multiple denotations and connotations in the biblical texts. Its meanings shift over the centuries of the Old Testament and among different cultures within it. Those meanings range from a forceful movement of air to the fundamental energy of God. While our concern here is the last of these, a sense of it requires insight into what the word means and implies in its other usages. The word’s root significance “probably had to do with the movement of air,”[27] or more specifically with a “gale,”[28] but over time took on varied meanings. At times, ruach is a tempestuous or raging wind coming forth from God or sent by God to move things dramatically, materially, and with life-and-death consequences (that is, the wind that separated the Red Sea in Exod. 14:21 and 15:10). Elsewhere it is a breath, or an impersonal supernatural force, or a temporary or roving mood or disposition sent by God to occupy a person and influence her/his behavior (e.g., the “spirit of jealousy” in Num. 5:14, and the evil ruach from the Lord sent to torment Saul in 1 Sam. 16:14). Ruach may be the breath or animating life-force of all living things, usually but not always given and withdrawn by God (Gen. 7:22; Ps. 104:29, 30). As such its presence or absence determines life or death. The essential vivifying force or energy of a human being is ruach. (“Into your hand I commit my ruach in Ps. 31:5.) Most significant to us here, ruach may refer to the essential energy of God.[29] As such ruach “does not as a rule describe God’s inner personality . . . [but rather] God’s activity in relationship to the world.”[30] As a force that vivifies the human, ruach is the deepest self, the essential energies of the persons, the source of feeling, thinking, responding. (The ruach of Pharaoh was troubled Gen. 41:8.)[31] In this sense, ruach of a human and ruach of God are… 3352

Second Testament The Second Testament describes a presence and power of God reaching into Jesus’ life, speaking to him, leading or driving him, filling him, and empowering him for his work. The writers of these texts called that power Pneuma or Pneuma of God. Where the Spirit comes upon, fills, speaks to, bids, drives, leads, or anoints Jesus, the result is tremendous power for remaining faithful to God in the face of temptation; for proclaiming the reign of God and the Jubilee message; and for liberating, healing, and giving sight. These acts lead some people to follow Jesus and others to become furious with him. That anger often is somewhat cloaked. It becomes dangerous and ultimately deadly for Jesus. After Jesus’ ascension the apostles—and people who repented and were baptized—received this Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Many of them experienced or witnessed a power of God reaching into their own or other people’s lives, making things happen according to the ways of the God to whom Jesus pointed. This power touched both individuals and communities. These earliest believers apparently understood themselves, as individuals and as a body, to be filled with (Rom. 8:9) and led by the Holy Spirit, and empowered by gifts from that Spirit for doing the will of God. God’s will, in their estimation, seemed to be that all would hear the “good news” and would fashion ways of life oriented around “all that [Jesus] has commanded,” including the commandment to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. This power—like that which reached into Jesus’ life—was called Pneuma and was understood to be the Pneuma of Jesus himself, the risen Christ. Latin translations rendered this “Pneuma” as “Espiritu,” which in turn became “Spirit” for English speakers. Where the Spirit “comes upon” (Acts 19:6), “falls upon” (Acts 10:44), or “dwells within” (Acts 8:9) individuals or the believing community, the consequences are striking. The Spirit may instruct a person concerning what he or she is to do in a particular situation (as with Philip in Acts 8:29 and Peter in Acts 10:19; 11:12), empower a person to heed the instructions (Paul in Acts 20:22), or forewarn him or her about resulting persecutions (Paul in Acts 20:23). The Spirit also enables believers to communicate (Acts 21:4), discern what is good (Acts 15:28), belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9), claim that Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3), or “be [Jesus’] witnesses . . . to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit according to the Second Testament reveals Christ, sanctifies and justifies, gives life, sets people free from the law of sin and death, leads, prays on behalf of, renders people children of God, bears witness through the human spirit, intercedes within the children of God when they know not how to pray as they ought, enables people to live according to or in the spirit rather than the sarx (flesh), and allots or activates particular fruit or gifts. These gifts include strength, courage to proclaim Jesus as Lord in the face of other gods, prophecy, speaking in tongues, discernment, intercessory prayer, generosity, faith, love, and healing. Many of these gifts are useful for neighbor-love. Indeed Paul admonishes that these gifts are given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7), not for the elevation of the individual. The Spirit was understood to live within the people. This is variously expressed as “being in Christ,” God’s love being “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5), “Christ dwelling within,” and “the Spirit of God dwell[ing] in you” (Rom. 8:9). In the words of Finnish theologian Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, the coming of the Spirit is the coming of God’s power and presence to “dwell in and among the people.”[33] In heeding the direction of the Spirit and using the gifts of the Spirit, the early Christians seem—according to the biblical texts—to manifest a paradox. They tend to gain and use power for doing whatever the Spirit bids them do. Yet, they do so with mistakes, misjudgments, and… 3429

Horizon of Hope “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39). Christian teachings, at their best, are in the service of hope and life. According to one understanding of Christianity, the destiny of creation is abundant life for all. This is the promise toward which all else points. The God who called this world into being loves it with a love beyond human imagining that will never die. That love cannot be taken from us by any force in heaven or Earth. Nor will that love desist in bringing the entire world into its destiny of life according to God’s reign of love. While the forces of evil are fierce and virulent, the force of good—known in Christian tradition as divine love—ultimately will triumph. The fullness of this promise is neither fathomable nor fully describable. It is articulated with images varied and verdant: paradise, the reign of God, the city of God, the Garden of Eden, the great shalom, heaven, the blessed community, the arc of the universe toward justice. This destiny is glimpsed in human love and in Earth’s splendor, and has been the hope of peoples for millennia. For readers who embrace this promise and for those who find it untenable, may this brief sketch uncover some of its nuance and perplexing twists. Puzzling paradoxes of Christian faith are located in this horizon of hope. One is the strange conviction that while this reality of pure love governing life appears only to be in the future, it also exists already in the present; it is “already and not yet.” That is, eternal life does not begin after death; eternal life begins in the here and now. It is life in connection with the Spirit of God. God’s call to us to love is a call to live according to that destined reality. In doing so, we serve God’s purposes of bringing that reality into being, and of healing the world. By embodying God’s love—even in our desperately imperfect and limited ways—we witness to its presence in the world and God’s fierce intention to liberate and heal the world from all that thwarts the reign of that love. In other words, the future salvation of the world is in some sense already present. (One of the great self-betrayals of Christian faith by the tradition itself is the teaching that God’s intended reign—traditionally referred to as heaven—is for life after death only; life on Earth does not really matter, for our reward and hope are found after death in heaven. This teaching was used for centuries to subdue peoples into accepting their own oppression and domination. It betrays the promise that God’s gift of eternal life begins 3483

this hope in the face of evil’s apparent triumph is the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many people, as noted previously, moral inertia in the face of ecological and economic violence is born not of failure to see it, but lack of hope that it can change. The forces of wrong seem too powerful for human beings to impact. Resistance and work toward alternatives appear futile. Despair is sown by a deep sense that things will continue as they are in this world. The cross and resurrection promise otherwise. They testify that in the face of death and destruction, God’s life-bringing power prevails. Soul-searing, life-shattering destruction and death are not the last word. In some way that we do not grasp, the last word is life raised up out of brutal death. God “will not allow our complicity in . . . evil to defeat God’s being for us and for the good of all creation.”[37] I have experienced that paradoxical and life-saving hope. In my time of youthful despair about systemic injustice, I needed to talk with a person who recognized the horror of structural sin and yet maintained hope and a sense of deep joy. The late Jon Nelson proved to be that person. After hearing my desperation, he responded with words that flooded my being with hope. “I have hope and joy,” he calmly expressed, “because in all of my struggles for justice and peace, I know the end of the story.” By this he meant the promise that, regardless of compelling indications otherwise, all forms of death and destruction that humankind and this earth may experience are overcome by resurrection. This message of hope also bears danger. It may lead people to abdicate responsibility for public morality, leaving it in “God’s hands.” This would betray another central Christian claim—that God works through and with creation, and in a particular way, through human creatures. Here appears a third paradox of hope central to Christian tradition. It is the strange dialectic between absolute trust in God’s power to bring about the liberation and healing of the world on the one hand, and on the other hand the conviction that human beings—while unable to bring about the reign of God through human effort alone—are called to dedicate our lives to that very endeavor. God, not humans, can and will save the world. Yet, we are to live our lives toward that end, devoting our gifts and resources to it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed this startling dialectic between ultimate trust in God, and the necessity of human engagement through his unwavering critique of liberal Christianity’s notion that God can be called upon like a kind of fix-it machine to solve life’s problems while we just sit and wait. His ethic of responsible action to disclose and confront evil is grounded in absolute dependence on God and trust in God. “I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil,” he writes, “even out of the greatest evil.”[38] Yet Bonhoeffer denounces religion’s proclivity for replacing human responsibility with appeals to God to act. He insists that God’s power on behalf of the world is in God’s embodied presence in and with responsible actions by human beings. To “bring good out of evil,” he insists, “[God] needs [people].”[39] All this is to name a simple faith claim and then to admit the profound complexities within it. The world is in God’s hands and is/will be saved. Despite sin’s pernicious presence, especially manifest in structural evil, we are called by God to live toward that “already but not yet” accomplished salvation. We do so by trusting God’s justice-making love completely and embodying it in the world fallibly. This is, I believe, an inexhaustible source of hope. 3508

Walmart’s CEO makes 2,500 times what an entry-level associate makes in a year. The company cracks down hard on unions, issuing a document called “Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free” and shuts down stores where unions form. 3602

We could encourage this church to “adopt-a-Walmart” nearby to work for reforms. We could plan a movie screening and educate the congregation. We could write letters to the editor about this . . . there’s really a lot that we could do.” “Religious leaders are involved too,” added Ruth. “The group Wake Up Walmart announced a campaign by thirteen religious leaders from Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado, and Oklahoma to urge Walmart to adopt labor reforms.”[40]Eager to help, I used my iPhone to find an online version of the interfaith letter to Walmart CEO Lee Scott, and passed it around the circle. “Listen to this section,” said Ruth, reading out loud. “Walmart’s values are not Christian values, nor do they reflect the values of any of our faiths. As people of faith, it is our duty, it is our moral obligation, to write to you and ask Walmart to reverse its anti-family policies. Walmart’s anti-family policies are immoral, unjust, and a direct affront to the teachings of our faith. I bet our congregation would be willing to sign that.” We paused to gather our thoughts. Finally I decided to speak up. “You know, another option does come to mind. We keep talking about Walmart and these big box stores with their unjust worker policies, but there are other options for us as consumers: local, small businesses that care about their workers.” 3608

In Bellingham six hundred local businesses formed “Sustainable Connections”—an alliance that creates what they call a “relationship economy” instead of a “one-night stand” economy. [41] 3620

Justin sighed. “You know, we came up with a lot of options tonight. How do we decide what to do?” “But it’s like Ruth said,” Rachel responded. “We’re not here to do it all, or do anything by ourselves. We’re here to discern what steps we can take, as a community, here and now. And we’re not acting alone.” Horace chuckled, “Some people in this church are not going to like these suggestions.” “Yeah,” Ruth replied, “but what better place to talk about tough moral issues than in a church?” The group continued discussing options, possible solutions, ways to engage and ways to educate their congregation. We debated how effective different measures would be, and continued long past the allotted meeting time. The array of possibilities for changing my relationship with people like Robin Martin are greater than I realized. We left the fellowship hall with a plan for several important first steps that we could take to do something about poverty in our city and the unjust working conditions that cause it. 3627

Union of Concerned Scientists, World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, 1992. ↵ Found at ↵ Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 3.17.3. ↵ The Beguines, as most movements undermining systems of domination, are riddled with paradox in their relationship to those systems, in some senses undermining but in others underwriting them. Excellent secondary sources include Emilie Zum Brunn and Georgette Epiney-Burgard, Women Mystics in Medieval Europe (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989); John Milhaven, Hadewijch and Her Sisters (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993); and various works by Carolyn Walker Bynum. Two primary sources for Beguine writings are: Hadewijch of Antwerp, Hadewijch: The Complete Works, trans. Mother Columba Hart (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1980), and Marguerite Porete, The Mirror of Simple Souls, trans. Ellen L. Babinsky (New York and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1993). ↵ Hadewijch: Complete Works, “Letters,” 1. ↵ Ibid., 18. ↵ Ibid., “Verses,” 3. ↵ Luther, “That These Words of Christ, ‘This Is My Body,’ Still Stand Firm against the Fanatics,” Luther’s Works 37:57. ↵ Luther, “The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ—Against the Fanatics,” in Timothy Lull, ed., Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Works (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 321. ↵ Leonardo Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997), 153. ↵ Mark Wallace, Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005) and other works; John Hart, Sacramental Commons: Christian Ecological Ethics (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006). ↵ Wallace, Finding God in the Singing River, 128. ↵ Hart, Sacramental Commons: Christian Ecological Ethics, 3. ↵ Philip Clayton, “The Panentheistic Turn in Christian Theology,” Dialog 38 (1999): 289–93. ↵ John J. Thatamanil, The Immanent Divine (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006), 6. ↵ G. W. H. Lampe traces controversies in concepts of God’s immanence as they developed in patristic thought. G. W. H. Lampe, God as Spirit (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977). The trend in modernity has shifted. Theological liberalism emphasized God’s immanence. Neo-orthodoxy critiqued this emphasis and emphasized God’s transcendence. More contemporary theologies, especially some feminist and eco-feminist theologies, have reclaimed the legacy of an immanent God. ↵ Nancie Erhard, MoralHabitat: Ethos and Agency for the Sake of Earth (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007), 50. ↵ Ibid., 55. ↵ Ibid., 4. ↵ Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 26, as cited by Larry Rasmussen, “Luther and a Gospel of Earth,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 51, no. 1–2 (1997): 22. ↵ Theologies vary on who and what is situated in this rather incomprehensible paradox. Some hold that it pertains singularly to followers of Jesus; some see it as the condition of all people; others see the entire cosmos located in the “already and not yet” reign of God. My stance is that no humans, this side of death, can know the parameters of the reality. But I do know that to err on the including side is far more true to the God revealed in Jesus than to err on the excluding side. Thus I rest my hat on understanding that the entire creation is within the fold of God’s “already and not yet” reign. ↵ For Bonhoeffer, conformation with the form of Christ implies refusing conformation with ways of life that betray Christ. His use of gestaltung for “conformation” is a play on the word used by Hitler to mean conforming to fascism. Conformation with the form of Christ crucified, for Bonhoeffer—in response to his context—came to mean both standing on behalf of the persecuted, and assuming the guilt of the Western world. This convergence of two meanings assumes very personal meaning for Bonhoeffer. He lived them both: he was imprisoned and executed for an assassination plot that was, in significant part, a defense of (standing on behalf… 3638

Two claims emphasized by my own tradition, a Lutheran form of Christianity, help to explain this ambiguity. One is the acknowledgment that—in things human—good and evil are intertwined. The other is similar: human finitude renders our actions toward the good, including our acts of love and justice, imperfect. However, despite our imperfection and the intermingling of evil with good, we are called to move forward in justice-making love to the best of our ability. 3735

The word “love” is used to translate more than one word in the Hebrew Bible. The word most frequently translated into English as “love” is aheb. It is used to designate love for neighbor (Lev. 19:18), for God (Deut. 6:5), and God’s love for God’s people (Deut. 5:10; Hos. 3:1). Aheb is rich, vast, and hardly captured by its English translation. The English “love” occasionally is a translation of the Hebrew Bible’s hesed—“steadfast love.” Hesed bears similar but not the same connotations as aheb. Three different words of New Testament Greek are translated into English as “love”: agape, eros, and philio. Most frequently used is agape, which is the word nearly always translating aheb and hesed in the Septuagint.[8]Agape is the Greek word used in Jesus’ injunctions to “love neighbor as self,” as recorded in the synoptic gospels. However, Jesus, as far as we know, may not have used the word “agape,” because he spoke primarily Aramaic and not Greek. “Love,” then, is a translation of a translation.[9] In this book, our inquiry into Jesus’ call to love neighbor as self pertains primarily to agape (and, therefore, also to the Hebrew words aheb and hesed). However, I make no firm or impermeable boundaries between agape and either eros or philio. In reading the word “love” in biblical texts, people make assumptions about what it means. Our unconscious inclination is to understand “love” in the biblical texts according to our existing understanding of the English term. Consequently, preconceived notions of love shape our understanding of Jesus and of what it means to heed his call to love. These assumed meanings may have little to do with love as a biblical norm, and they tend to limit our understanding of God’s love and neighbor-love to our own socially constructed notions of love. This limitation is immense. It diminishes and compromises our sense of divine love and the call to embody it. These problems are partially addressed by focusing on agape. Yet, other problems persist. The word’s meanings shift over time and context, both canonical and historical. Moreover, different scholars and other interpreters over the centuries have held differing accounts of agape, depending on theological stands, social location, worldviews, faith community, and political and cultural context. The differences are consequential; the loci of conflict over what “love” means are also the loci of love’s ethical implications. 3765

First, God’s love is the foundation or the root of human love for God, self, others, and Earth. “From an Old Testament point of view,” writes Hebrew Bible Scholar Katherine Dobb Sakenfeld, “any human loyalty, kindness, love or mercy is rooted ultimately in the loyalty, kindness, love and mercy of God.”[11] This conclusion is widely held. However, how God’s love roots human love remains a matter of inquiry and debate. Are human beings called to “love as God loves,” or because God loves, or in grateful response to God’s love, or with the actual love of God indwelling, or according to some other form of rootedness in God’s love? I recognize all of these “roots.” The call to love as God loves means that God’s love, in Christ, becomes the model for human neighbor-love. The obvious yet audacious question then becomes “What is the love of God like? What does it look like? What does it do?” The question permeates Christian history, human history, and this text. The indwelling love of God as an actual presence abiding within us, being lived into the world by us, implies a boundless power to love. The apostle Paul, the author of the Gospel according to John, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. all insisted that God’s love not only inspires human love but also abides within human beings or human communities. “[Those] who [abide] in love [abide] in God, and God abides in [them]” (1 John 4:16). The conviction that God’s love is not only for us but also works within us for the sake of the world, takes on yet more force when accompanied by the claim that love is the most powerful force in all of creation. “Love,” writes Martin Luther King, “is the most durable power in the world. This creative force, so beautifully exemplified in the life of our Christ, is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security.”[12] I, too, understand human love to be—in some way not humanly fathomable—the love of God dwelling within and among human beings and communities.[13] This love is at play there, on behalf of its human abode and on behalf of the world. This indwelling presence is pure gift from God. It is given freely, not bought by human goodness. God’s indwelling love may be called the Spirit of God or the indwelling Christ. Love is the presence of God active in history (not only human history but cosmic history). That this Spirit also indwells other-than-human parts of creation is highly significant. While these claims say a great deal, they also produce yet more unknowns. While the love of God may dwell within us, we humans do not necessarily love with it, or let it flow out. What enables it to flow, and what blocks it? This too is a core question of Christian life. 3813

A second mark of neighbor-love pertains to its transformative power. Christians throughout the ages have claimed that the love of God, including its embodiment in humans as neighbor-love, “proclaims and creates a new world situation.”[14] Recognizing love as transformative power becomes especially important in light of the historic tendency within Christianity to associate love with abnegation of power. Voiced strongly in feminist theology, the insistence on linking love with power found earlier expression in Martin Luther King. “Power, properly understood,” he writes in response to the Black Power movement, “is the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, or economic changes. In this sense power is not only desirable but necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice. One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love. . . . What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”[15] Third, neighbor-love actively serves the well-being of whomever is loved. It is a steadfast commitment to seek the good of whom or what is loved. Gene Outka refers to this as the “normative content most often ascribed to love. Agape is . . . an active concern for the neighbor’s well-being.”[16] Erich Fromm, in his classic text, The Art of Loving, concludes that love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.[17] Neighbor-love, thus, is a matter of action, not of emotion alone. The Jesus who reveals God’s love and pulls humankind into it, reveals God’s love in actions. “We must remember that love reveals itself not by words or phrases, but by action and experience,” cautioned Bernard of Clairvaux.[18] Centuries later, Martin Luther King insisted that “agape . . . is love in action.”[19] More recently, Daniel Maguire echoes: “[L]ove is an energy that must be incarnated in action.”[20] These figures base their assessment in the biblical witness. 3836

However, love as a theological and biblical vocation is not reducible to action. Love acting toward well-being entails something beyond both action and emotion. It seems that the love to which Jesus calls us emerges from a way of perceiving the world and of being in it, as well as a way of acting and feeling in response to it. It is a perception that the neighbor bears infinite worth and is irrevocably beloved by God; she or he is, before all else, a creature beloved by God. Moreover, the neighbor is no less beloved and no less imbued with inherent worth than am I or my people. The action of love not only is grounded in this perception, but also nurtures it. Perhaps this way of perceiving is a glimpse of reality through the eyes of God. It is a mode of perception that clings to the created goodness of each person and seeks to actualize that goodness and belovedness. In the words of Paul Tillich, “Agape sees [the other] as God sees him [or her].”[21] In this sense, love is a disposition, the fourth defining feature. Disposition, in the Aristotelian sense is nurtured by and nourishes action and emotion, but is distinct from them. It is a whole way of living, a state of being in the world developed and learned by exercising that very state of being. A disposition is an embodied attitude of the heart and mind that is formed by the practice of it and commitment to it. Disposition, used in this way, is not “natural,” as in the temperament with which one is born or that comes naturally to one; rather, a disposition is chosen and cultivated. This aspect of love draws us further into mystery, raising once again the questions: “From whence comes this love? How do people ‘get’ it? What brings it forth?” We harken here to two clues held paradoxically together. Neighbor-love, as God’s indwelling presence, is pure unwarranted and unconditional gift from the Lover of all. Yet, as disposition, neighbor-love is cultivated by one’s practices (choices, priorities, decisions, and actions), the ethos of society, and the communities with which one identifies. The relationship of love as indwelling presence and love as cultivated disposition is the relationship between gift and human response. This relationship has provoked controversy for centuries. I am not suggesting that practicing love is a means of gaining God’s love. One cannot do anything to earn or gain God’s love. It is given unconditionally. “Practicing love” is a response to the already freely given gift of God’s love. The salient point is this: love given by God to dwell within us may, then, be nurtured as a disposition. Through the practice of it, we grow in our tendency and ability to receive that love and live it into the world as neighbor-love. Questions of moral formation spring to the fore. What factors or circumstances form us to perceive the gift of God’s love and respond to it? What practices cultivate the disposition of love? Few questions are more important for opening the doors to more just and sustainable societies. While for Aristotle, a disposition is intentionally cultivated through practice, theories of social construction recognize the formative influence of unintended, even unconscious processes of socialization. We are socialized into practices that form disposition without our being aware of it. For example, our practice of consumerism forms a disposition toward consumerism. To form a disposition toward love in a society forming the disposition of consumerism demands intentionality. Next, loving in the biblical sense seems to be even more important for the well-being of the one who loves than for the beloved. “He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Not to follow the call to love then is, in some way, deadly. Likewise in Deuteronomy, God forewarns the people that choosing not to follow God’s commandments, laws in which neighbor-love is central, would be “to perish,” to choose “death and adversity” and “curses.” Following these commandments, in contrast, would bring “life” and “blessings”… 3859

Seventh, human love is never perfect. Love is subject to the brokenness that pervades human history. We are human creatures, not God. The imperfection of neighbor-love does not negate it, nor its power for social transformation. Feminist theology has established mutuality as a normative condition of love from a Christian ethical perspective, by virtue of the imago dei. This is an eighth quality of love as a biblical norm. The triune God is ontologically a relationship of mutual love moving between/within the three “persons” of God.[26] As beings created in the image of God, humans are created also in the image of mutual love; it is the true self toward which we are destined through God’s saving grace. Feminist theologian Dawn Nothwehr offers a definition of mutuality based on her detailed analysis of feminist theology and antecedents to feminist ideas of mutuality in the work of Thomas Aquinas, Martin Buber, John Duns Scotus, and H. Richard Niebuhr: “Mutuality is the sharing of ‘power-with’ by and among all parties in a relationship in a way that recognizes the wholeness and particular experience of each participant toward the end of optimum flourishing of all.”[27] As it pertains to society, mutuality refers to “the sharing of ‘power-with’ by and among members of a society in a way that recognizes the fundamental dignity of each and the obligation to attain and maintain for each what is necessary to sustain that dignity.” Mutuality as a feature of neighbor-love, then, calls for power shared with relative equity. In contexts of massively unbalanced power, love seeks dispersed and accountable power. Mutuality recognizes common power to give to, receive from, learn from, and challenge. And it aims at common well-being. 3913

Theology and many natural sciences have recognized that we are, by our very nature, first and foremost beings-in-relationship. For beings who are ontologically relational in vast and overlapping webs of relationship that span both time and space, mutuality is much broader than interpersonal relationships of individuals. The mutuality of one’s relationships is not a function of one’s personal actions alone, but also of the “me” that is at the same time a “we.” “I” may both give and receive from people and movements the world over by virtue of that collective “I” and a collective “you” or “they.” Said differently, the norm of mutuality in neighbor-love may be manifest in collective as well as individual relationality. As God’s love lures people and all of creation toward union and communion with God and hence union and communion among the creatures and elements, so too agape generates and nurtures community. This is the ninth quality of neighbor-love. Voices in the church since at least the second century have held that God is “reaching from creation to consummation, in which God and all creatures are destined to live together in the mystery of love and communion.”[28] Jesus in his ministry was incessantly creating community. The Hebrew Bible attests to a God who is seeking to build a community of God’s people. Both Testaments indicate that community shaped by this God may take surprising new forms. Always it is community that serves life, and is informed by love.[29] King expounded on “agape [as] love seeking to preserve and create community. . . . In the final analysis, agape means a recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated.”[30] Finally, love is subject to forces that work against it or that diminish, block, or distort it. They are known as sin. A theology of love must contend with sin’s power to sabotage it. As discussed in chapter 2, sin is manifest both in individuals and as structural sin. Neighbor-love is blocked in particular by love for wealth and prestige. According to nineteenth-century theologian Gerhard Kittel, “Two forces particularly are mentioned by Jesus as forces which man must renounce and fight against if he is to love God, namely mammon and vainglory.” By “vainglory,” the author means “love of prestige.” He continues, “The love of prestige is incompatible with the love of God.”[31] The monumental pull of sin, especially on a macro level, means that an adequate ethic of neighbor-love will account for the pervasive and pernicious presence of sin, especially at the societal level. We have noted ten features of neighbor-love as a biblical and theological norm. A remaining few pertain to the identity of the neighbor and to the relationship between love and justice. 3936





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