Thursday, May 9, 2013

Testament

by José Ignacio Gonzalez Faus (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Blog de Trotta
April 2, 2013

In 2013, I'll turn 80. The number makes one somewhat dizzy. Although I say in Herejías del catolicismo actual ("Heresies of Current Catholicism" -- Trotta, 2013) that I would like to follow it with a commentary on the Credo, I don't know if this will be possible. So I'm advancing my personal creed.

1. For almost half a century now, the issue of faith is framed for me in these two sentences, one by a Christian and the other by a non-believer. The first is the prophecy of Emmanuel Mounier: Men in the future will not be divided according to whether or not they believe in God, but by their attitude towards the poor. The other is the striking stanza by Atahualpa Yupanqui : "There are things in this world more important than God, that a man not spit blood so that others live better", which I have always seen as a good summary of the way God revealed himself in Jesus Christ (there are things in this world more important than Me ...).



2. This vision of faith is structured on two guidelines from the New Testament.

2.1. The first, positively, is the repeated commandment of brotherly love that not only runs throughout the biblical text but is present in almost all religions, although in the New Testament it takes on a particular tune: it's an old commandment that becomes "new" because it summarizes and interprets all the other commandments. And it's an explicitly universal commandment so that it's not just to love "my" brothers but that all human beings are my brothers -- the adjective "brotherly" doesn't restrict, but rather amplifies the commandment to love. The "neighbor" is not the one who is close to you but the one you must approach, Jesus says in a parable.

2.2. And negatively, the view of money as the great enemy of God. A view that runs throughout the gospels ("you can't serve God and money"), the Pauline texts ("greed is idolatry" and "the root of all evil is the love of money"), and the Johannine ones ("if someone who has worldly means sees his brother in need and doesn't come to his aid, the love of God is not in him").

3. This double summary of my faith (rather than "summary" I would say "heart", because human reality encompasses many other aspects) has today -- twenty centuries removed from Jesus' world -- a vital structural (not just personal) component which should not be ignored. If from here I look at our world today, I could write another Manifesto that would begin: "A specter is haunting the world." But now, seriously (and not ironically as in the 19th century [Communist] Manifesto), this specter, this great threat is not communism, but the capitalist system. However much it is masked with beautiful words of freedom and progress, the heart of this system is no more than wealth and power -- wealth that gives power and power that gives wealth. It is an anti-fraternal system whose stem cells tend to shape a world where a few (increasingly fewer) dominate the majority. And the time in which our world exists today is one in which that trend is congealing and taking shape.

That trend was held back in earlier years by two historic factors: the socialism of the Soviet Union that, even with all its disasters, frightened capitalism and forced it to make some concessions, and the socialism of so-called "social democracy" which tried to find a middle way between the other two extremes. The fall of the Soviet pseudo-empire put an end to that unstable equilibrium and unleashed the totalitarian dynamic of capitalism, allowing it to show its true face. It doesn't matter that the simple people are asking, "Why do they want so much money?", "Why would someone want to have thirty-six billion liters of water if they couldn't drink them in their whole lifetime?"... As elementary as these kinds of questions might seem, they're incomprehensible to those who have been narcotized by the god Mammon.

From here it seems to me that our historic moment marks an almost unstoppable trend, not towards "developing the Third World" as was said before, but towards "Third Worlding" the developed world. A few years ago, we were already beginning to talk about a "Fourth World" (the enclaves of poverty in the midst of the First one), but that term is an understatement and will be even more so when the economic crisis passes and, like a hurricane in the Caribbean, leaves destroyed more than half of the social state we thought we had assembled. The world will be reduced to one or two percent of humanity, immensely rich (though full of internal struggles because of having brought down others), and a large human majority subjected to a dictatorship camouflaged by big words (civilization, progress, development, freedom ...) that will be used as justification for the cruelty of that tyranny. It isn't unlikely that someday that majority will burst in an uncontrollable explosion, but it won't be easy either because there is always that buffer of those who don't belong either to the minority of rogues or to the subhuman majority, of those who were called "the second tier" and who are the ones who are most afraid of losing their position by falling into the abyss of misery. They unwittingly can act as lightning rods of a crazy desperate revolution. And besides, the tyrants have always had the old defensive resource (panem et circenses -- bread and circuses) that today we could translate as "Ipads and circuses."

4. But it's not about making prophesies. The ultimate conclusion of these reflections is that, if money is biggest idol and enemy of man, it is because it's the greatest enemy of God that Jesus revealed. Just as capitalism and democracy are incompatible in the long run, so are capitalism and the Christian faith. The denominations that are wondering today about the de-Christianization of the West just don't perceive this because they have been complicit in this process in their governing bodies. The atheists who lost faith don't perceive either that it might be due to this process of which they are just small drops of water in an epochal tsunami. So what will be left of Christianity in the West will just be a non-Christian Christianity -- fundamentalist in dogma and a servant of money in morals. A Christianity that's already being proclaimed in so many North American sects that are like the first clouds of the coming storm.

5. To conclude, there is nothing left for me to do but recall Ignacio Ellacuria's expression in the way I usually rephrase it: "a civilization of shared sobriety" (Ellacu used to say "a civilization of poverty") is the only lifetime offer left for our world. For believers and non-believers. If we don't take it very seriously, maybe it's time to read those chapters that close the Gospels by changing all Jesus' previous discourse (Mark 13 and Matthew 24), and begin to understand that neither does this world have a future nor can there be a place for God in a world like this.

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