Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seeing Visions and Dreaming Dreams: Impending Socioeconomic and Ecological Crisis and Religious Theories of Change

In a two-part interview with Xavier Casanovas, Oscar Mateos, Santi Torres, and Nani Vall-llossera in Cristianisme i Justícia (via Iglesia Descalza, here and here), Benedictine Sister Teresa Forcades continues to insist that all viable, effective change in both church and society happens from the bottom to the top, not vice-versa: when the interviewers ask her about the euphoria surrounding Pope Francis and his papacy, she replies, 

Change comes from the bottom to the top, and that's how it will happen in the Church too.  . . . The agent of change is in the grassroots. You can't trust in reform from above.

And then when they ask what she means when she speaks of "regaining political identity" as a precondition for building a more humane and inclusive society, she responds,

From the beginning of history as we know it until now, all social change seeking greater social justice has been change from below. It's logical. If you have a system of social inequality with people below and people on top, why would those on top want to change anything? There might be individual cases of change of heart -- it happens sometimes -- people from a privileged environment who realize that "this doesn't work," but to become political agents of change, the people "from the top" must join agents acting from below. 

As she looks at the now almost unimaginable gap between the number of priests available in many parts of the world, and the number of Catholics living in these parts of the world, Colleen Baker echoes what Teresa Forcades is saying: Colleen notes that,

It is perhaps this issue that gives a real idea of the kind of 'yes sir, no sir' bishops bequeathed to us by the last two papacies. Apparently the current zeitgeist in the collective clerical Church is that it is much better to lose the flock than advocate for any change in the priesthood.

And then she concludes,

And then there is the whole question of ordaining women, but that probably won't happen until the last male priest has taken his last breath and there is no other choice. However, I think long before that happens, the Church will break out into intentional Eucharistic Communities who will not be tied down by mandates from Rome about who can or cannot say Mass. The People of God will find their own solutions long before Rome comes up with anything meaningful and maybe that's the answer as to why the Vatican has refused to act for so long. The answers don't reside in the Vatican. They reside in the hearts of the People of God where in resides the Holy Spirit. 

And, at Truthdig, Chris Hedges argues that the United States (and the entire planet) finds itself in a mell of a hess at present, as it faces combined economic and ecological crisis. As this crisis deepens, the corporate masters that call the shots for all of us including our government ruthlessly suppress the creative contributions of artists, academics, journalists, educators, and critical thinkers:

The corporate assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts and critical thinking has left those who speak this truth marginalized and ignored, frantic Cassandras who are viewed as slightly unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. We are consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate masters lavishly provide, at the expense of truth.

And so where does hope for any effective change reside? In Hedges's view, it will require the following:

The dispossessed working poor, along with unemployed college graduates and students, unemployed journalists, artists, lawyers and teachers, will form our movement. This is why the fight for a higher minimum wage is crucial to uniting service workers with the alienated college-educated sons and daughters of the old middle class.

And then he adds,

It is not the poor who make revolutions. It is those who conclude that they will not be able, as they once expected, to rise economically and socially. This consciousness is part of the self-knowledge of service workers and fast-food workers. It is grasped by the swelling population of college graduates caught in a vise of low-paying jobs and obscene amounts of debt. These two groups, once united, will be our primary engines of revolt. Much of the urban poor has been crippled and in many cases broken by a rewriting of laws, especially drug laws, that has permitted courts, probation officers, parole boards and police to randomly seize poor people of color, especially African-American men, without just cause and lock them in cages for years. In many of our most impoverished urban centers—our internal colonies, as Malcolm X called them—mobilization, at least at first, will be difficult. The urban poor are already in chains. These chains are being readied for the rest of us. 

I see a common thread (of sorts, at least) running through these three pieces of intellectual analysis.  And I wonder as I read them side by side and in connection with Waldemar Boff's meditation piece about the impending arrival of the "great tribulation" at Leonardo Boff's blog site, how much time the human community has left for any effective change to avert the combined socioeconomic and ecological crisis many of our finest thinkers see on our horizon —see already here — and what role religious communities have to play in fostering such effective responses to this crisis.

No comments: