Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Look Out For My Love

pastordan picks up on this meme, dissects the politics of it, then gives me credit for presenting an alternative theology to it. But the passage he quotes inspires me to be a bit more direct:

Natural law and human nature easily discredit liberation (progressive) theology. Here's how.

Liberation theology denies scarcity, stating that it is a merely a state of mind enabling greed and promoting private property. Genesis 3, economics, physics, and the history of socialism prove otherwise. Denying scarcity is the same as denying reality, which is something that progressive ideology frequently does.

Next, Christian ideas regarding freedom are based on its unique understanding of the human ego. The human ego desires two things: to retain the fruits its efforts and to avoid its trespasses and debts. However, if the ego is not held accountable for its debts, it will run amok. Hence, scarcity & law.

Human freedom must be based on two things - individual civil rights AND personal accountability. The state simply can't protect those who turn their freedom against themselves to destroy their own lives. The state is not a Good Shepherd, capable of healing society's ills. Most American Christians understand this, which is why liberation theology has been such a tough sell in the United States.
First, the lack of understanding of the Thomistic concept of "natural law" makes this argument bogus. Aquinas did not posit a Hobbesian nature "red in tooth and claw" and following the "natural" dictate of "survival of the fittest" (a Social Darwinism concept, not a biological evolutionary one). "Natural law" is about the ordering of nature, and the essential harmony between all organisms: not a constant "war" provoked by "scarcity."

But, without speaking for liberation theology, here are two reasons theology speaks against scarcity as the natural state of being (and therefore requiring, in response, a near constant expression of power):

Isaiah 55: 1-2: "Come for water, all who are thirsty; though you have no money, come, buy grain and eat; come, buy wine and milk, nor for money, not for a price. Why spend your money for what is not food, your earnings on what fails to satisfy?"

and Luke 12:27: "Think of the lilies: they neither spin nor weave; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his splendour was not attired like one of them. If that is how God clothes the grass, which is growing in the field today and tomorrow is thrown on the stove, how much more wil he clothe you! How little faith you have! Do not set your minds on what you are to eat or drink; do not be anxious. These are all things that occupy the minds of the Gentiles, but your father knows that you need them. No, set your minds on his kingdom, and the rest will come to you as well."

I sometimes think we in America (the author of the quote clearly addresses Americans) are so accustomed to abundance that we consider it the only natural state, and any diminution of it, like those supposedly in the presence of Plato's "Good," is to move away from perfection downward into imperfection again. And yet, do we consider that the Sabbath was a radical affirmation of abundance, not scarcity, originating in a time of subsistence agriculture and the need to prepare fresh food daily, or not eat at all? Is it really what we have and own and want that is most important to us, that most accurately defines us?

Is a diminution in any of that incessant craving really "scarcity"? And isn't it a consistent Biblical teaching, from Genesis 1 on, that the earth is abundant and provides for the needs of all?

Or does it only provide for those who covet all they have, and all they can think of having?

And is any of this really a denial of personal responsibility? Is that passage from Luke inconsistent with this one?

"Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, with never a thought for the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you are blind to the plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's." (Luke 6:41-42)

And I don't know of anything in liberation theology which denies the truth of that teaching.

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