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The Struggle against "Empire" By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 22, 2008

Calvinists who do not really believe in Calvinism any more, or much of Christianity for that matter, are rallying globally against “The Empire.”

The Empire mostly means the United States, which is the Death Star that presides over global exploitation, mayhem and murder.  The Empire’s tentacles stretch everywhere that globalization and capitalism have reared their avaricious heads.

Most recently, these effete Calvinists, operating under the Swiss-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), convened a “Feminist Discourse on Economy, Ecology and Empire” in Bangalore, India earlier this month.  The session echoed similar WARC events held recently in Cuba and the Philippines.  Enlightened feminist theologians from wealthy Western universities jetted in from around the world to an impoverished Indian city to rail against the global markets that are currently lifting tens of millions of Indians out of millennia of grinding poverty.  

“Resistance to empire is growing and women are very much in the forefront,” rejoiced Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, who heads the WARC's Office for Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership, according to a WARC news release. “I believe this discourse can open new paths in building solidarity in our common struggle for justice and peace.” 

Oddly, left-wing church groups that still adhere to Liberation Theology only struggle against “The Empire” that they discern in the democratic governance and free markets that accompany American influence around the world.  These theological gadflies emphatically do not recognize “empire” in competing political or economic systems, whether recalcitrant communist regimes like Cuba, North Korea, or China’s brand of one party authoritarianism, or Islamist regimes that openly proclaim allegiance to a mystical global caliphate. 

For the global Religious Left, only America can possibly represent a reincarnated Roman Empire that New Testament Christians and First Century Jews ostensibly struggled against.  For its own political purposes, the Religious Left largely reinvents the Christian Scriptures to tell a story of Jesus and His Apostles railing against Rome’s temporal powers.  In fact, the church has almost always understood that its founders were more concerned about a spiritual Kingdom of God.

Spiritual kingdoms, based on voluntary faith and good works, do not much interest the Religious Left, which prefers all the political coercion necessary to establish its version of economic and cultural justice.   “We envision the transformation of economic and political structures in ways that enable the 'fullness of life for all,'” proclaimed the feminist theologians who gathered in Bangalore, whose ponderous statement was appropriately entitled, "Exploring the Reality and Theological Challenges of Ecology, Economy and Empire from Feminist Perspectives."

In Religious Left mythology, only feminist theologians can truly understand and expose the persecutions of Western patriarchy, which has culminated in the current supposed empire.  “We call upon churches to live in the world in ways that engage the powers, systems and structures that deny human dignity and scorch the earth, denying justice to God's people and the created order,” the feminist theologians intoned.  “The human community has the capacity to transform the structures and systems of economic and political institutions in ways that promote sustainable life for all God's creation. We call upon churches to promote and practice sustainable ways of living that reject greed and over-consumption.” 

Of course, in India and countless other Third World nations, “over-consumption” is not the issue.  Guaranteeing the bare essentials of life is the more immediate challenge.  The free markets associated with “The Empire” are lifting many millions of Indians and Chinese and countless others out of bare sustenance to levels approaching Western middle class standards.  In truth, the Religious Left, like the secular left, must see this new wealth for so many previously impoverished millions as threatening to its own agenda of coercive redistribution and repressed consumption in the name of ecological protection.  

"There is an urgent need to bring together differing analyses and perspectives on the systemic roots of the life-threatening socio-economic and ecological crises and to explore possibilities of articulating a clear faith stance and envisioning a future beyond empire," the feminist theologians explained. "In particular, it is crucial to include feminist/womanist thinking in the current debates in order to fully identify the theological and ethical challenges posed by empire."

Were any local Indians invited to offer their own impressions on how The Empire is corrupting them with new economic opportunities?  It is not clear from the WARC’s account of the gathering whether they were.  But the Western feminist theologians certainly liked the Third World backdrop.  "Meeting in India, which embodies many of the contradictions we addressed at the meeting, was important as the struggles of Indian women informed the discussion,” opined Aruna Gnanadason of the World Council of Churches, which naturally also endorsed the summit.  “Women have their own alternative resources to offer to counter the power of empire and globalization. It was important, therefore, that this consultation gave the possibility for women to voice, not just their critique, but the hope they have to offer as women working together for a caring and just economy that live gently with the earth."

No doubt a lot of Indian and other Third World women, as they struggle to feed and clothe their families, are very concerned about how to “live gently with the earth.”   No doubt, they have a lot to learn from resentful but well-healed “feminist/womanist” theologians who are tenured in Western academia and who know, first hand, the struggles of oppression under The Empire and its patriarchy.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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