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Quote of the Week

March 17, 2007

Increasingly the energies of our civilization are pointed toward destruction–toward destruction of the poor, toward destruction of those who speak for life and justice, toward destruction of family and community, toward destruction of our precious earth, toward destruction of the human race. At their root, these energies of destruction are extinguishing the image of God in humanity and in all of creation. They become demonic.

The classic secular Left has rightly perceived the great drive toward social destruction at the heart of modern civilization. But it has generally failed to perceive the destructive blocking of divine creativity, which flows from an ever-deepening “progressive” secularization of society. The classic Left thus challenges social destruction, but cuts itself off from the religious root of creativity.

As a result, its efforts to stop the destruction often prove sterile, and sometimes even compound the crisis. The flat vision of secular scientific socialism, or of a secular scientific state as the key to the future, feeds the loss of cultural creativity.

The situation on the classic religious Right is just the opposite, with the same unfortunate result. For the religious Right, the main problem is secularization. It correctly sees the whole “progressive” movement as deepening secularization and therfore cutting itself off from the divine root. But the religious Right fails to understand the prophetic side of the divine, and winds up defending the very social destruction that the Left fights against.

The Right tries to retrieve an authoritarian, patriarchal, militaristic society tied this time to powerful modern technology. It apeals to a divine image, but that divine image is no longer the living God of justice and peace. It is rather a war god, a god of oppression, an idol. This idol in turn provides religious legitimacy for demonic destruction.

Thus on one side the secular Left often makes of secularization its own idol and cuts itself off from the divine root of human creativity. On the other side, the religious Right holds high the principle of religous transcendence, but often allows a false god to unleash the demonic.

The complete task is to link faith energies with energies of justice and peace in service of the Living God and social transformation. Faith and justice need to become as one flesh in service of both. The secular hunger for justice from the Left needs to find its deeper root in spirituality. The spiritual hunger of the Right needs to find God’s true face in justice and peace.

There are two seeds of creativity in the world–social engagement and spirituality. Similarly within the Christian community, these two movements have their echo–on one side the justice and peace movement, often developed in secular style; and on other side the prayer movement, often without social engagement.

It is sad when good people from both sides fail to see the other’s complementary gift.

Is it the terrible sin of human pride on both sides which causes this division? Is it the pride of secularism on the Left–afraid of spiritual energies because they are not subject to rational control? And is it the pride of religiosity on the Right–afraid of the Spirit’s prophetic power in the secular arena because it is not subject to religious control?

Thus we may speak of two criteria for guiding our path in the crisis which envelops us. The first criterion is openness to the creative transformation of our civilization. The second criterion is openness to the spiritual roots of creative energies. The classic secular Left fails the test of the second criterion. The classic religious Right fails the test of the first criterion.

Joe Holland, Social Analysis: Linking Faith and Justice


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