Tag Archives: Moral Theory

The Umbrella Revolution, #FergusonOctober, & the Social Order

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

Over the past couple of months, Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has written a few provocative posts on Christian perspectives of the moral order and revolution: Apocalyptic and creation: why I changed my mind ; Christianity and Social Vision: once more on creation and the apocalyptic; politics, society, & institutions: a theological outline#FergusonOctober, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss my own theology of revolution (which , albeit, is still in process).

1. I, for one, respectfully disagree with Meyers (and other Radical Orthodox writers) when they argue things like “The sole rationale for politics is original sin. The principal aim of political order is not to produce justice but to restrain injustice; not to cultivate the spirit of the law but to enforce the rule of law; not to create love but to set limits to self-interest […]” The art of politics in the original sense of the word, working toward the good of the polis, finds its ground and being in the goodness of the Creator. Yes, I assume that humanity and creation are fallen, but sin does not reign, and nor should the dictates of our human pride be considered the sovereigns of the world. If in fact Jesus IS LORD, and if Christ Jesus is the Creator who sustains all systems of the world (Colossians 1), then politics is humanity’s act of co-creating with the Holy Trinity. It is not the eschatological society {THE IDEAL CHURCH OF RADICAL ORTHODOXY, NO DOUBT!} but rather Christ Jesus himself who just as Deborah and Gideon did in the days of Israel’s judges, maintains justice between just and unjust parties.

2. As fallen human beings under the kingship and judgment of Jesus the Messiah, technically we are all in revolt versus the one true King. The only Law that truly matters is The Golden Rule [a summary of the Ten Commandments], given to the Church and the World by God’s Son Himself, the Second Person in the Trinity. Given the fact that Christians recognize One Lawgiver, Christians’ preference should be for freedom as a rule, rather than the Law and Order of Whiteness. For example, let’s take the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. There, an alliance of Christian ministers calling themselves the “Clergy for Peace” were making calls for reconciliation, slow revolution, and pretty much softer versions of Law & Order churchianity. While these slow revolutionaries were acting in the name of a false peace, their neighbors were having tear gas thrown in their eyes, being denied the basic right to worship and assemble, and suffering under the repressive curfews. While Meyers and others might argue, “Civil disobedience is not rebellion against political authority but an act of political responsibility in which some particular law is broken for the sake of another (more basic or more important) law, or for the sake of some widely shared value in a society,” I say with James Cone and others, that there needs to be an upheaval in values. Also, while yes Civil Disobedience can be a responsible political act, it is not a choice of choosing between a “more basic or more important” man-made laws, but between the conflicts of divine law of neighborly love that Christ revealed over and against the tyranny of the status quo.

3. Lastly but NOT LEAST, probably most importantly, the shape of revolution should not look backwards while walking slowly; rather, Revolution as a concept should follow in the hope-filled forward-marching paths set forth by the LORD of Hosts. Revolution as a future-oriented concept will not rely on abstract, celestial visions of a transcendental moral order. Rather, a would-be revolutionary must have a theology of the cross, and that means that in order for there to be a morality, there must be human bodies. God shows God’s goodness in the act of creation, Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. If a revolution is oriented towards hope, this means that the revolutionary moment must be tied to the pedagogical moment. Revolutions must exist for the sake of the future, for the sake of future generations. Without such a view, the present realities of oppression are lifted up as the norm, and our responses to those realities remain limited. My friend and fellow KillJoy Prophet Justin Tse has two excellent write ups on Occupy Central: EXAM REVIEW: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central with Love and Peace and Benny Tai As Political Theologian. (side note: check out this post by my friend Valerie on what she’s learned from being in Hong Kong and observing Occupy Central ) One of the important takeaways from his pieces is the fact that Benny Tai, the organizer of Occupy Central, sees the Occupy Central movement as an educational movement. In a similar vein, a number of scholars and activists are using Twitter and the #Ferguson hashtag to educate others about police brutality, the militarization of the police, racial profiling, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. If indeed, knowledge is power, perhaps a more appropriate measurement of how successful a revolution is in how many persons from around the globe find that revolution to be an important learning moment for humanity? Perhaps this a way forward, but it is only a sketch for now.

Until next time, class dismissed.

Brief Comment on Entitlements

'Libertarianism'

‘Libertarianism’ (Photo credit: Toban Black)

I am still working out what I think about publically funded healthcare, etc., but I just wanted to restate the reason why I left Libertarianism all those months ago. First, yes, Scripture does have a narrative of freedom and justice, but one should not forget that there are themes of social responsibility and duty throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Oddly, one conservative icon from Scripture shared all of his winnings and spoils with the poor. Sounds like a redistributionist! But his name was King David. History tells us that throughout human history, there are eras of great apathy and “libertarian triumphs” like the Gilded Age/Manifest DEstiny. When we have presidential candidates like Ron Paul see: Ron Paul: FEMA not necessary celebrating the fact that another President/politician refused to save human life, where 6,000 souls were lost during a deadly hurricane in Galveston in 1900. Talk about someone who claims to be pro-life! What an anachronistic and medieval way of looking at the world, and anti-Christian too. As if God cares if its the federal government or local people rescue those who suffer from disaster! This shows Paul’s legalism in the name of “liberty.”

Libertarianism overemphasizes freedom over duty, and this is why conservative/libertarian commitments to charity ring hollow, because charity makes notions of duty necessary. A friend shared this post recently with me on facebook: Are You entitled to Food, Housing, and Healthcare? at Political Theology.com by Meghan Clark. She argues,

Catholic social teaching has long held that human persons are valued and have dignity simply because they are created in the image and likeness of God and not for their utility. This same principle of human dignity is legally enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it is primarily the responsibility of the government to defend and protect those human rights. We all have a responsibility to respect the human rights of others; however, we claim those rights against the government – which in safeguarding the public order, is responsible for their protection.”

I would just like to add a couple of thoughts. First, if you read Jimmy Carter’s interview I linked to in yesterday’s post, Democrat and President Carter implemented the Women, Infant, and Children’s program as part of the Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition because he is pro-life, and disagreed with Roe V. Wade. Studies have also shown that those “47%” of the population who depend on the government, for the most part, are the working poor who need help to get by. Republicans, who once embraced compassionate, duty-driven conservativism, now show spite towards those poor while claiming to be Christian in most cases. Scripture warns us over and over again not to be mean those in need (Proverbs, Psalms, James) but it is libertarian legalism that leads our society turning a blind eye to injustice. In conclusion, I would also like to remark that since the USA is part of the United Nations by way of treaty, and since we are under the Geneva convention, the USA must learn to be more respectful of international law. Perhaps this explains reactionary dismissal of international institutions to begin with. This is rather surprising since Articles 16, 17, and 18 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
speak to conservative causes today. Living in the U.S. with the most workers who get the fewest hours of leisure, we overlook Sabbath as a human right itself per Article 24.

In Scripture, the widows, the orphans, and the poor are entitled (rather, the wealthy owe and are commanded to give) food and sustenance. The best science and medicine were made available to the people, both Jews and Gentiles (insiders and outsiders, thank you very much Teabagging Dominionists)by the prophets like with the story of Elisha and Naaman. Naaman was not charged for healthcare, but the man who did want Naaman to pay Elisha, Gehazi, E’s assistant was punished for doing so.

Maybe we ought to take a closer look at international law and religious ideas. Perhaps.

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Moral Theory and Green Lantern

Check out this article from today’s Globe and Mail newspaper on Moral Theory and Green Lantern.

An excerpt:

We can also see this play out in the debates between different forms of moral theory. Each of them is assumed as a commonsensical standpoint by its advocates, but they are deeply at odds with each other. For utilitarians, it seems obvious that decisions ought to be formed in a way that will promote the greatest good of the greatest number. For deontologists, who are focused on duty and universal principles, it seems just as obvious that we owe each and every person a respect that can’t be overridden. And for care ethicists, who focus on context and relationships between people, the impersonal calculations of utilitarians and deontologists can seem excessively cold and unfeeling. These debates show that, while our own moral principles are obvious to us, they’re not obvious to everyone.

A few tidbits:

1. A certain psychology professor that I know, takes issue with the authors’ presentation of Jonathan Haidt‘s research  on the five foundations of morality.  The authors of the article state that:

Prof. Haidt finds that people who identify as liberals tend to base their moral reasoning on the first two foundations, whereas people who identify as conservatives tend to use the last two.

What Haidt actually says is that liberals tend to use two foundations (harm and fairness), but conservatives use all five foundations.  (Check out his TED talk on the subject here, starting at about the 8:40 mark).

2. Turns out the authors of the Globe and Mail article are also authors of a book on philosophy and Green Lantern.  Check out their contribution to the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series — Green Lantern and Philosophy: No Evil Shall Escape This Book.

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