Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda.  References are to the kindle version.

Leads the reader to see the systemic evil of colossal structures that will only be changed as we are also changed. Transformation by another name, of both ourselves and the systems we live by. And how is that done? Only by forces with the tenacity and strength of genuine faith in the possibility of a different way of life, this one attuned to all life and its parental, generative elements—earth (soil), air, fire (energy), and water. In short, attuned to creation and its claims upon our lives. My response to the author and the book is gratitude. The times ahead will be neither comfortable nor easy. They are not for the faint of heart. Yet gratitude is the fitting response for a work in which the right questions and the right analysis are brought to the challenge we and future generations face: creating new wineskins for the new wine of a tough, new planet. 109

What does it mean for the “uncreators” to “love”? Christianity, along with other religious and wisdom traditions, must enter the question anew for each time and place, learning from the wisdom and the mistakes of the past. We must step cautiously into this mystery, moving with the humility of knowing that the question defies conclusive answers. This volume will tease out what is entailed in loving for a particular people in a particular context. It is a context of economic and ecological violence that shapes our moral relationships with self, neighbor around the globe, and Earth itself. For the material beneficiaries of that violence, love becomes not only an interpersonal vocation but also an economic-ecological vocation. That the two—economic and ecological—are inseparable will become apparent. 215

One tiny part of a much larger human endeavor, the seeming impossibility of which should dissuade no one from joining it. It is the reorienting of human life to render it both sustainable on this planet home and characterized by increasing degrees of social justice. In this reorientation we are called by God and by life itself to celebrate, relish, and stand in awe of Earth’s beauty, unfolding complexity, and life-generating goodness.

1 Introduction “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. . . . Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘too late.’ . . . Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world.” Martin Luther King Jr.[1]  ♦ “If we don’t do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.” Petra Kelly[2] 228

crisis divides us both in terms of culpability and vulnerability.”[4] The devastating hand of economic violence is not limited to other lands. It strikes incessantly in the U.S. as well, and has been all the more virulent with the rise of neoliberal economic globalization in the late 1970s through today. Of the “new financial wealth created by the [U.S.] American economy” from 1983 through 2004, 94 percent went to the richest 20 percent of the nation’s people. It should come as no surprise then that the most recent census shows nearly half (48 percent) of [U.S.] Americans are either poor or low-income.[5] The “sinking abyss of poverty” now traps all kinds of Americans.[6] However, the poor in this country are disproportionately women and people of color.[7] That racial wealth gap is the “largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago.”[8] Poverty today in the United States is devastating; it renders countless children malnourished and without homes or healthcare. I recall the sinking feeling when I learned that many of the homeless people in my city, Seattle, are children whose parents or parent work but are not paid enough to cover the rent. 292

the prevailing social order morally legitimates our exploitative ways of life by failing to effectively recognize them as such. Structures of exploitation persist and grow when people who benefit from them fail to recognize and resist them. This moral oblivion and the ensuing abdication of moral power are pernicious forms of sin pervading our society, and must therefore be faced practically and theologically. In this book, I seek to do so. Assumed powerlessness in the face of systemic evil is a fundamental problem of contemporary United States society. It is a society rich with compassionate and well-intentioned people who, nevertheless, live in ways that spell death for many of Earth’s most impoverished human beings and for the planetary web of life. I write for these dangerous people, and as one of them. What does it mean for us, killers, to claim moral lives? Morality and Christian ethics in the context of systemic evil that parades as good is the focus of this book. 310

My purpose, rather, is to nourish moral-spiritual power for imagining, recognizing, forging, and adopting ways of life that build equity among human beings and a sustainable relationship between the human species and our planetary home. (By “ways of life,” I mean overarching principles, policies, and practices applied on household, corporate, institutional, and government levels.) Moving in that direction requires recognizing truths about society that most people strive to avoid. I believe that vast numbers of “us,” the “overconsumers,” would refuse to comply with economic and ecological exploitation if we truly recognized the pain, suffering, and damage caused by the ways that we live and if we could envision viable alternatives. This simple statement belies an extraordinarily complex claim. My intent in this book is to play it out by enabling moral vision. Moral vision is clearer vision of (1) the consequences of economic and ecological injustice woven into our lives; (2) more just and sustainable alternatives; and (3) moral-spiritual power for embracing these alternatives. For me, that moral-spiritual power lies in a trust that the sacred forces of life, known in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions as God, is coursing through all of creation, and is bringing about healing and liberation despite all evidence to the contrary. This 323

I am not asking you to take on another cause—be it poverty, environmental degradation, economic exploitation, or other. Rather I am inviting you and myself to perceive more fully: the profound necessity of radical change in foundational aspects of the way “we” live, the shape of that change and paths toward it, and sacred power at work in the world to bring abundant life for all. It is my fervent hope that you and I will experience a growing sense of power and hope for living into those paths and that sacred power. 338

This deep-seated knowing led me to advocate against the death penalty for these men. That nothing in this world or beyond it can separate us individually or collectively from this Love, and that we have it as pure gift, is known theologically as grace.[12] Trust in the steadfastness of this Love enables me to face the horror of my own participation in systemic evil, and thus to repent. To begin with faith claims is dangerous. It could imply that this book is not relevant for people outside of these claims. Be assured that it is not important for the reader to share this faith perspective, only to be aware of it in order to understand the grounding of the work to come. Two other motivations beyond the aforementioned theological claims motivated this project. One is outrage that a small portion of the world’s people are disproportionally responsible for severe ecological degradation, yet others, who bear far less responsibility for the ecological disasters at hand, suffer first and foremost from them. Equally important as a motivating force is the beauty and sacredness of creation. The extravagant beauty surrounding and imbuing this planet’s living beings and the life-force pulsing within creation feed my spirit. 353

theology or social theory alone. Theology is the age-old effort to make sense of our many stories in light of God’s presence and power in, with, and for this good creation. Theology is the quest to hold the stories of one’s life and kin, of societies and cultures, of humankind, of otherkind, of the Earth, and of the cosmos in one breath with the mystery that some call God. 369

with any religious tradition. I believe that all of Earth’s great spiritual traditions are called upon to plumb their depths for the wisdom to meet the moral challenges of our day. 373

the damage done by Christian beliefs and practices undergirding human dominion and oppression. I assume also that, having played this historic role, Christianity bears a tremendous responsibility to offer its resources to the pan-human task of rebuilding Earth’s health. Yet I write out of a sister assumption, a conviction that the damage wrought by Christianity is matched and surpassed by the potential within Christianity for helping to build new ways of being human marked by equity among people and mutually enhancing Earth-human relations. This potential exists, I believe, in all of Earth’s great faith traditions. As a result, all bear a tremendous moral responsibility: if the people faithful to particular religious traditions do not uncover and draw upon the resources offered by their tradition, then those life-saving and life-sustaining resources remain dormant. Tremendous gifts of power for life and for the good are left untapped. 390

If religion were understood primarily as doctrinal teaching about God, then it would be an inappropriate resource for use beyond the sphere of the particular religion considered. However, that is a highly truncated understanding of religion, so much so as to be false. Religion in a broader sense refers to the systems of beliefs, moral vision and norms, ethical behaviors, rituals, symbols, institutional arrangements, and historical legacy that “are premised on the understanding of human beings as other than or more than simply their purely social or physical identities”[16] and that link humans to the “matrix of mystery from which life arises and unfolds.”[17] As such, religious wisdom is essential to debates about what will enable human and planetary flourishing. To exclude it from discussions of how to shape society would be to rip the heart and purpose out of the deliberations that shape how we will live together. In reality however, the question of whether religion should play a role in matters of public morality is moot. Because so much of Earth’s human population derives its moral bearing from religious grounds, religion is inherently at play in public morality. The question is not whether but how; by what criteria is religion’s role appropriate and valid? 402

This chapter faces head-on the paralyzing forces of hopelessness and denial that so easily thwart the desire to confront social injustice and work for a more just and ecologically healthy world. We examine seeds of hope and moral vision for contemporary life that are found in ancient theological claims. Love as an Economic and Ecological Vocation In Christian traditions, “vocation” refers to a calling, something to which a person or group is called by God. (The word comes from the Latin vocare, meaning “to call out.”) Neighbor-love is understood as a vocation. Humans are called by God to love neighbor as self. This is the central moral norm of Christian life. 525

This book is, in the first place, about morality, about living a moral life for people whose everyday ways of life have decidedly immoral consequences on others and on the Earth. Secondarily this book is about ethics. Within Christianity, Christian ethics is the theological discipline charged with enabling people to draw upon their faith heritage to meet the moral challenges of each particular time and place in a way that reflects the love of God for all of creation. The aim of Christian ethics is, in the words of Christian ethicist Miguel de la Torre, to enable “relationships where all people can live full abundant lives, able to become all that God has called them to be,”[24] to “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). By definition, then, ethics seeks to dismantle dehumanizing and destructive forces such as racism, colonialism, classism, sexism, and ecological degradation, and seeks to cultivate conditions that enable right relationships within Earth’s web of life and with God. However, Christian ethics in the North Atlantic world has not significantly enabled church or broader society to craft ways of life that counter both the ecological destruction and the economic violence that mark our day. The problem in Christian ethics has roots in fundamental presuppositions about neighbor-love as a biblical and theological norm, about sin, and about moral vision. Equally significant, ethical norms and processes in any society are established by dominant sectors to reflect their sense of morality and to uphold the power arrangements that maintain their dominance. Thus, the established moral code rationalizes itself and cannot assess itself. That is, socially constructed moral values and norms perpetuate, through moral sanctioning, a prevailing order that might be considered unjust according to another moral vision. As de la Torre points out, conscience, and even interpretations of “what Jesus would do,” are socially constructed within this moral code and therefore are ill-equipped to counter it. The focus of ethics becomes determining what is ethical according to the prevailing moral code, rather than challenging the rightness of that moral framework itself.[25] Christian ethics, therefore, must reveal the presupposed assumptions regarding what is morally good that sanction “the way things are.” 577

According to one understanding, Christian ethics is the disciplined art of coming to know ever more fully the mystery that is God and the realities of life on Earth, and holding these two together, so that we may shape ways of living consistent with and empowered by God being with, in, among, and for creation. “Knowing” here refers not merely to “knowledge of,” but to “being in relationship with.” Where vision and knowledge of God and of life’s realities (what is going on and the historical roots and consequences of what is going on) are obscured or distorted, a task of Christian ethics is to know and see differently, so that we might live differently. In another and complementary sense, the “meaning of ethics” is, as Paul Tillich writes, “to express the ways in which love embodies itself and life is maintained and saved.”[26] The boundless implications of ethics thus understood depend upon the meaning of “love” as a biblical and theological norm. Herein lies the import of our effort to see love as inherently justice-making and Earth-honoring, and as an ecological-economic vocation. Third, Christian ethics may be seen as disciplined inquiry into morality. It is the art-science bringing self-consciousness, method, critical vision, and faith to the tasks of (1) discerning what is good and right for any given situation and context, (2) finding the moral-spiritual power to act on that discernment, and (3) discovering what forms individuals and society toward and away from the good. Finally, Christian ethics is the theological art-science enabling Christian communities to draw critically upon their traditions and read “the signs of the times,” in order to shape ways of living consistent with faith in the God whom Jesus loved. That God is revealed in Jesus Christ and through the Spirit and may be revealed in scripture and in God’s first book of revelation, the creation itself. Critical mystical vision is key to “reading the signs of the times” in ways that disclose and counter structural injustice. In all four of these understandings, the overall question of Christian ethics becomes: “How are we to perceive our world, and how are we to live in it because of God’s boundless love for creation and presence with and in it?” 597

to perceive and “tell the truth” about the human capacity to render and rationalize brutality while never subordinating that reality to the bigger one: the goodness, beauty, joy, and laughter in life and the inherent goodness of being created in the image of God. To “tell the truth” about the former without also celebrating the latter, in the long run, is to harbor a lie. Clearly, my approach to ethics assumes an overlap of the mystical and the moral aspects of life. That is, the human longing for the sacred relates in some vital ways to the longing for more compassionate, just, and Earth-honoring ways of being human. That connection is central to a moral framework capable of meeting the challenge of systemic evil in our day. The moral framework emerging herein has four fundamental markers. The first is its focus on moral agency. The inadequacies in ethical method addressed in this work contribute to (and, to a certain extent, derive from) a basic flaw in Christian ethics. It is the reduction of ethics to questions of moral deliberation and formation, largely bypassing questions of moral agency. The “deliberative dimension” of ethics refers to processes of moral decision making, responding to the question of “what are we to do and be?” “Moral agency” on the other hand, refers to moral-spiritual power to “do and be” what we discern we ought. Ethics as response to the question of “what we are to do and be” is dangerously inadequate, especially in the contemporary context, because far too readily we do know what we ought to do in response to economic and ecological violence, but fail to find the moral agency to act on that knowledge. Ethics in the context of structural sin must go beyond moral deliberation and formation; ethics must be concerned with the moral agency to move toward more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable social orders. The basic moves in ethics and morality developed herein foster moral agency. 616

argues for a more structural sense of sin and of love, and more relational and collective notions of moral being and doing. The next marker is the commitment to hold the quest for social justice and the quest for ecological sustainability as inseparable. Finally, the proposed ethical framework centers in critical mystical vision—enhanced capacity to see “what is,” “what could be,” and God’s presence within creation working toward the latter. 632

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in its rituals of baptism and confirmation, makes an utterly astounding (but often not recognized as such) affirmation. The people gathered in worship affirm that, at baptism, God makes a covenant with the baptized person that she or he will “strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” The Spirit is breathed into us, and into all of creation, as moral-spiritual power for this lifework. 646

tumult. Life lived in ways that cost other people their lives, where alternatives exist or are in the making and where political action toward them is possible, is not a moral life. To claim a moral life without seeking to challenge the systemic evil of which I am a part seems to me an absurdity.[7] The truth is that the structural violence depicted in these stories will not change unless some of us who benefit materially from it decide to recognize the problem and act on 769

“Financialization” refers to the “increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors, and financial institutions in the operations of the domestic and international economies.”[8] Various forms of speculative investment are the core of financialization. Financialization redirects capital toward achieving short-range high profits for its owners despite the terrible costs to many others.[9] The recent global financial crisis was one result. Two of these links—ecological injustice and neoliberal globalization—are maintained currently through policies and practices established by human beings. As humanly constructed, they can be challenged and changed. That is, perhaps, the most important point in this glimpse of the links between affluence and poverty. 778

Catastrophic impacts on food production have begun and will increase for already-impoverished people. “Even slight warming decreases yields [of major cereal crops: wheat, corn, barley, rice] in seasonally dry and low-latitude regions. . . . Smallholder and subsistence farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fisherfolk will suffer complex, localized impacts of climate change . . . [including] spread in prevalence of human diseases affecting agricultural labor supply.”[16] 874

a 3-foot sea-level rise by 2100. According to a 2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, this increase would inundate some 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.” Loss of 878

Gus Speth, former Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, speaking of the factors behind environmental deterioration, avers: The much larger and more threatening impacts stem from the economic activity of those of us participating in the modern, increasingly prosperous world economy. This activity is consuming vast quantities of resources from the environment and returning to the environment vast quantities of waste products. The damages are already huge and are on a path to be ruinous in the future. So, a fundamental question facing societies today—perhaps the fundamental question—is how can the operating instructions for the modern world economy be changed so that economic activity both protects and restores the natural world?[18] 884

before. The distance between the incomes of the richest and poorest country was about 3 to 1 in 1820, 35 to 1 in 1950, 44 to 1 in 1973 and 72 to 1 in 1992.”[19] Recent reports indicate the distance to be nearing 100 to 895

225 people now possess wealth equal to nearly half of the human family.[21] The number of children under age five who die each day, mostly of poverty-related causes, equals roughly 26,000.[22] Pause for a moment, to resist letting these numbers drift by unconsidered.  .   Regional Wealth Shares (%) 901

Wealth in the United States is highly concentrated, with income disparity rising dramatically since the late 1970s (the beginning of neoliberal economic globalization) and reaching its highest recorded level in 2007.[23] The wealthiest 1 percent now owns nearly 43 percent of financial wealth (defined as net worth excluding the value of one’s house), while the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent.[24] Imagine, then, an accompanying chart revealing a United States of ten people in which one of them owns close to half the wealth and eight of the people have a mere 7 percent. 912

this: poverty on a global and domestic basis is directly related to what Pope John Paul II called “inadmissible overdevelopment.” By this he means an economic order that enables a few of us to consume a vast proportion of Earth’s life-enabling gifts, while many others die or suffer for want of “enough,” and in which the poverty of many is linked to the wealth of others.[29] Vigorously avoided in common knowledge, for example, is the reality that famine often is not the result of insufficient food supplies. It is the result of maldistribution of land and income.[30] And the distribution of the world’s food supplies is determined by the decisions, policies, and actions of the world’s powerful nations and people.[31] The global wealth gap, like wealth inequity in the U.S., is shaped around color lines. Worldwide, people of colors other than white are overwhelmingly among the economically impoverished. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times,” declared Nelson Mandela in 2005, “that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils.”[32] 929

United States citizens, to illustrate the former, daily produce roughly forty times the greenhouse gases per capita as do our counterparts in some lands,[33] while the world’s more impoverished people and peoples suffer most and first from the more life-threatening consequences of global warming.[34] White privilege also marks the climate crisis. The over six hundred million environmental refugees whose lands will be lost to rising seas if Antarctica or Greenland melt significantly will be disproportionately people of color, as are the twenty-five million environmental refugees already suffering the consequences of global warming. So too will be the people who starve as global warming diminishes crop yields of the world’s three staples—corn, rice, and wheat. The 40 percent of the world’s population whose lives depend upon water from the seven rivers fed by rapidly diminishing Himalayan glaciers are largely not white people. Moreover, impoverished countries are less able to implement adapting strategies 942

The ongoing grind of “hidden” environmental racism is ubiquitous. Our food, clothing, transportation, housing, and consumption are built on it. “The production chain of textiles is a sequence of poisons: cotton fields are sprayed with chemical cocktails to which the workers are also exposed without protection and which subsequently contaminate the soil. In spinning and weaving factories, workers are exposed to dust as the dyers later are to fumes from the dye.” The razing of rainforests for cattle strips livelihood and home from many of the world’s 350 million forest dwellers. The beneficiaries are the corporations responsible and “we,” the consumers. Neither bear the environmental and human costs. The victims are disproportionately not white. The transfer of ecologically dangerous production plants and toxic waste in mass quantities to countries of the Global South are two further manifestations of environmental racism on a global level. 977

Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus of Harvard University and former Secretary of the Treasury (1999–2001) “is infamous for writing a 12 December 1991 memo as a chief economist at the World Bank that argued that ‘the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable,’ and that the Bank should be ‘encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [less developed countries].’”[38] Thus we see two broad dimensions of the link between social injustice and ecological degradation: climate injustice and environmental racism. Together on the global stage, they are known by some as “ecological imperialism.” 985

Julian Agyeman, Robert Bullard, and Bob Evans summarize it well: While the rich can ensure [at least for the time being] that their children breathe cleaner air . . . and that they do not suffer from polluted water supplies, those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are less able to avoid the consequences of motor vehicle exhausts, polluting industry and power generation or the poor distribution of essential facilities. This unequal distribution of environmental ‘bads’ is, of course, compounded by the fact that globally and nationally the poor are not the major polluters. Most environmental pollution and degradation is caused by the actions of those in the rich high-consumption nations, especially by the more affluent groups within those societies . . . [yet] affluent countries in the North are avoiding or delaying any real reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions.[39] 992

High-level leaders of Christian denominations and networks throughout India, they had been gathered by the National Council of Churches of India to design an “eco-justice Sunday School curriculum” to be used throughout the nation. The next day would begin a second consultation, in which I had been invited to participate as a co-planner and a presenter. It convened thirty-some professors of theology from throughout India and Sri Lanka who taught or were preparing to teach green theology and eco-justice as a required component of graduate-level education in theology and ministry. They were people of courage and commitment. They were teaching eco-justice because the lives of their people depended upon it and because they understood it as integral to faith in God. 1009

Earth as a biophysical system cannot continue to operate according to the defining features of capitalism as we know it. Capitalism as it has developed from classical economic theory, through neoclassical theory and on to neoliberalism, aims at and presupposes what Earth can no longer provide or provide for: Unlimited growth in production of goods and services. Unlimited “services” (required for unlimited growth) provided by Earth. Those services include “soil formation and erosion control, pollination, climate and atmosphere regulation, biological control of pests and diseases,” and more.[44] Unlimited “resources” (required for unlimited growth) provided by Earth, such as oil, coal, timber, minerals, breathable air, cultivable soil, air with a CO2 concentration of somewhere between 275 and 350 parts per million,[45] oceans with a balanced pH factor, the ocean’s food chain, potable water, etc. An unregulated market in which the most powerful players are economic entities having: a mandate to maximize profit the legal and civil rights of a person limited liability the legal right and resources to achieve size larger than many nations no accountability to bodies politic, be they cities, states, nations, or other the right to privatize, own, and sell goods long considered public. Freedom of individuals to do as they please with economic assets (including unlimited carbon emissions and speculative investment that may result in the economies of nations crashing). 1065

This is not a stand against business. It is a stand for business that is not dominated by mega-corporations, business that is not entitled to the rights of a citizen and compelled by a mandate to maximize profit. And it is an appeal for business to become an active force of ecological sustainability and restoration. Moreover, it is a firm appeal to resituating the market as one instrument of society, rather than the determining actor in society. While we have no choice in whether or not economic life will change dramatically, we have tremendous choice about the nature of that change. Enter here ethics and morality. Humankind understands itself to be a moral species. We determine (or seek to determine) how to live together based not only on brute force, bare necessity, or survival of the fittest, but on what whatever we deem to be right, true, and good. What are the options for the economic order following corporate and finance-driven, fossil-fueled global capitalism? The default option is to try to carry on with the economy largely as it is while establishing a few regulations related to carbon emissions and pollution. The consequence—relatively unchecked climate change—is horrific. Another possibility would be serious concerted efforts to mitigate climate change, without also questioning some basic market norms, such as the assumption that certain rights (the right to potable water, protein sources, nontoxic food, clean air, and so on) are based on ability to pay. This option would continue to grant a few people of the Global North disproportionate use of the atmosphere and oceans for absorbing carbon emissions. This group also would continue to have relatively greater protection from floods, hurricanes, and other climate-related “natural” disasters. As crops and water supplies diminish, this group would consume an increasingly disproportionate share of them. Where this option would lead, we do not know. We do know that it would produce millions of environmentally caused deaths in Asia and Africa. Or we could choose to move toward economic orders shaped by other norms. This book will propose four. They are ecological sustainability, environmental equity, economic equity, and distributed accountable power. Said differently, we would aim toward economies that: operate within, rather than outside of, Earth’s great economy. move toward more equitable “environmental space” use. move toward an ever-decreasing gap between the world’s “enriched” and “impoverished” people and peoples, and prioritize need over wealth accumulation. are accountable to bodies politic (be they of localities, states, nations, or other), and favor distributed power over concentrated power. At first glance, these aims may seem far beyond the realm of the possible. I will argue the opposite. Let us assume, for a moment, adequate moral courage and political will to move toward economies shaped by the four aforementioned norms. A flock of birds flying gracefully through the sky presses forward in one direction. Then, in a flash and as a whole, a great swoop occurs and they are off in an utterly different direction. The radical change to which we are called is that dramatic: an “utterly different direction.” The birds have an ingrained mechanism that enables them to redirect themselves radically as a whole and with tremendous grace and apparent ease. We don’t. We must forge an unknown path, step by step, piece by piece. The only way to get there is to go there. We will end up in the direction that we head. Needed is an ethic for this move toward more sustainable, equitable, and democratic economic orders. This book is one small contribution to that ethic. Something New Required of Religion and Religious Ethics When something new is required of humankind, something new is required of Earth’s longstanding faith traditions, primary sources of moral wisdom and moral courage. They are called to plumb their depths for relevant moral-spiritual wisdom, and to offer those gifts to the table of public discourse and decision making. 1082

Where Christian beliefs and practices have contributed to the Earth crisis, we are called to critique and “re-formation.” Where the resources of Christian traditions reflect God’s boundless love for creation and offer moral power for the good, we must grasp their depths, and tender them to the broader community. Similar opportunity and responsibility sits on the shoulders of people within the other religious traditions. 1118

Structural Violence as Structural Evil “The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer[1] ♦  “Evil exists as an interstructural web of oppressive relationships.” Mary Hobgood[2] ♦ “Evil is as long as evil has the last say.” Dwight Hopkins and Linda E. Thomas[3] 1214

In the first thirty waking seconds of my day—between pulling back the sheets on my bed, placing my feet on the carpet, and reaching for my glasses—oil has already played an indispensible role. My sheets are a cotton polyester blend; the cotton was grown in fields dependent upon petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides, as well as the irrigation systems and machinery to grow and harvest the crop. Afterwards, this cotton was mechanically picked, separated in a mechanical gin, blended with polyester (petroleum-derived) fibers and treated with polystyrene (also derived from crude oil). Finally, it was dyed with petroleum-based chemicals, wrapped in plastic, and transported in an oil-fueled vehicle to a distribution center and then a store. An oil-burning furnace in the basement of my home heats my bedroom. The carpeting on my floor is polypropylene-based with synthetic latex backing, all derived from petroleum. The lenses in glasses that I sleepily don contain ore-based strontium and barium oxide, coated in graphite made from petroleum. Circling the lenses are frames made of petroleum-based plastics and covered with a petroleum-based varnish. My morning continues as I pull on a polyester-cotton blend shirt, which started out as a few ounces of petroleum. [5] The 1930s saw the introduction of nylon, a petroleum-derived synthetic polymer, into the textile industry. I slip nylon stockings on my legs, followed by shoes with rubber soles made of styrene-butadiene, synthesized from Saudi petroleum and benzene. Breakfast consists of Cheerios, the grains of which were grown, irrigated, and transported with the help of petroleum. Nearly all plastics are derived from oil. After consuming my Cheerios, I reach into my freezer and pull out a plastic drawer containing bags of frozen fruit—enclosed in plastic wrapping made of polyethylene terephthalate, kept from expiring by petroleum-derived preservatives. While eating, I peruse information on my laptop about my upcoming flight across the country to see my family for Thanksgiving. Little do I know that the round-trip flight will consume about 30,000 gallons of fuel and produce a total of about 0.68 metric tons / 650,000 pounds of greenhouse gases. [6] Divided by some 200 passengers, my share is about 3,250 pounds. As I step outside, my first inhalation sends traces of traffic-produced petroleum fumes and microscopic particulate matter into my lungs. My car pulls out of the driveway and onto pavement: twelve inches of asphalt from Texas petroleum poured over a graded roadbed. Petroleum fuels my car and about 87 percent of the cars I see on the road, as well as the airplanes flying over my head. [7] The rubber tires of my car came from oil, and the petroleum-based engine lubricant and antifreeze trace my path with a drip line that will end up in the water system after the next rain. The voices on my radio include politicians who are heavily influenced by oil lobbies, reporters announcing a catastrophic oil spill, and guests commenting on a war that depends upon and is arguably fought over, oil. Living on the outskirts of a city and commuting by car is made possible by the powerful automobile industry’s influence on developers.[8] Transportation is the primary use of oil in the U.S. The estimated cost of financial aid given directly or indirectly to the auto and oil industry by each American every year is $2700. [9] In short, I am a petroleum addict. Facing the moral implications of this addiction means asking, how do we acquire that oil? What happens to people and the earth in the extraction and refining process? 1240

“Please ladies and gentlemen, we did not do any of these things [lead high carbon-emission lifestyles] but if things go business as usual, we will not live. We will die. Our country will not exist.” President of Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed[10] The Maldives is a country composed of 1200 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, covering about 115 square miles. Its highest point is only eight feet above sea level, making it one of the countries most vulnerable to sea level rise. In addition to loss of land, the impacts of climate change threaten the Maldives with more powerful tropical storms and higher storm surges, beach erosion, biodiversity loss, and a blow to the fishing industry upon which many livelihoods depend. [11] The Maldives has become a leading nation in calling for serious action around climate change. In 2009 the president and his advisors staged an underwater cabinet meeting in scuba gear, to draw attention to the plight of this nation and other countries that may be first and hardest hit by the effects of unchecked climate change. Sea level rise is just one impact of climate change. Ocean acidification, caused by dissolved CO2 from the atmosphere, threatens the bottom rung of the marine food chain by lowering the pH of the entire ocean. Algae and other tiny sea creatures are strongly affected by this phenomenon. [12] Pteropods, for example, have translucent shells that are literally dissolving from the levels of acid in the ocean. As they die off, so do the small fish that feed on them, and the larger fish that in turn feed on the smaller fish. A significant part of humankind’s food chain is in a state of invisible jeopardy. Mississippi River Chemical Corridor The Louisiana industrial corridor, aka “Cancer Alley,” is a stretch of the Mississippi River lined with petrochemical companies and oil refineries. The ground, air, and water along this corridor are so infused with carcinogens and mutagens that the area has been called a “massive human experiment.” [13] Louisiana ranks number one in per capita toxic releases into the environment. [14] The polluting facilities are clustered predominantly in areas with high concentrations of African Americans. Eighty percent of the total African American community in this industrial corridor lives within three miles of a polluting facility. The petrochemical industry denies any responsibility for the noxious odors and ill health effects on the area residents, despite contradictory scientific evidence. Petrochemical corporations wield tremendous power in the state of Louisiana. The industry’s lobby shamelessly uses its power to ensure that the state legislature represents its interests, such as offering tax incentives and loopholes that privilege the industry. In 2000, the Louisiana Shell Corporation had an income of 26 billion dollars and ranked fourth in the state in receipt of tax exemptions. During a tour of Cancer Alley by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, a Nigerian man said, “I cannot believe that this is happening in the U.S. I know that the oil companies exploit my people and degrade and devastate the environment, but I had no idea that this was being done in the U.S.” [15] Niger River Delta Nigeria exported 962,000 barrels of oil per day to the U.S. in 2010. [16] Oil and violence travel hand in hand in Nigeria, Africa’s leading petroleum producer. The Ogoni are a minority ethnic group that have lived in the Niger River Delta for centuries. Today they live daily with oil spills, gas flares, seepage from drilling, soot spewing from the methane gas flares, and constant noise and flickering lights. Their aquatic life is decimated, their waterways are infused with oil, and their mangrove forests are destroyed. They suffer from elevated rates of asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, skin diseases, and emphysema. Food shortages and limited health services and educational opportunities are their reality. [17] In the industrial city of Port Harcourt, natural gas flares dot the land, acid rain rusts the galvanized iron roofs within two… 1274

Fundamental to Christian faith is the claim that creation is “good,” tov (Genesis 1). The Hebrew tov, while often translated as “good,” also implies “life-furthering.” 1344

Its essential quality seems to be its life-furthering capacity. Earth is the only body in our solar system and the only body of which we are aware in the universe that generates the capacity to produce and further life itself. The great Mystery that we call God must have a voracious, insatiable hunger for life. This God uses even death and destruction to produce life. The signature moment of the God revealed in Jesus was to raise up life from a brutal death, execution on a stake. Resurrection is the song of Earth. The song resounds throughout the earth. After Mount Saint Helens erupted over thirty years ago in Washington State, it was thought that life could never return to the barren volcanic wasteland that once was a mountaintop. To the surprise of all, within a year plants began, as if by miracle, to emerge. Walking in the Olympic rainforest, one occasionally is struck by an absolutely straight line of five or six young hemlocks. Again, death itself spawns life; this string of trees has emerged from the decay of a magnificent cedar fallen to the ground. These logs, known as nurse logs, are a voice in the forest’s song of resurrection. So thirsty for the tov (the life-furthering goodness) was this Originating Force that from cold lifeless cosmic space and from cosmic infernos it caused a rocky muddy watery planet capable of generating life to spring forth. But no, not merely life—what came into being was more. It was life capable of furthering life in ever more complex and life-generating forms. It was creative and life-creating life. This is the mystery of tov. And God says it over and over, seven times: “God saw that it was tov.” Out of nothingness, some fourteen billion years past, spewed forth all the matter and energy that ever would exist. Some four hundred thousand years after the “big bang,” as this wildly expanding universe began to cool, free electrons and other subatomic particles combined with nuclei to form neutral atoms. Hydrogen, helium, and traces of lithium were made. By the time of Earth’s birth some 4.6 billion years ago, the creative energy and cosmic elements of the universe had formed carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the other elements in the periodic table. Earth thus had all the ingredients to form rocks and water, and to generate life. Yet, lifeless it was. The creating urge toward life and toward greater complexity forged on. Organic molecules composed of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon (with traces of sulfur and phosphorus) came into being. As they combined variously to form cells of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acid, a creative process—beyond human full comprehension—gave birth to life itself. Possibly as “soon” as a billion years after earth formed, single-celled life emerged. This lone planet had become life-generating, Planet Home. 1347

Science today suggests yet another depth of life-generating capacity. Amino acids, the building blocks of living cells, may have the capacity not only to encode and transmit the instructions and patterns that shape life but to alter them based upon learning.[22] With the evolution of the human animal, the complexity gravitated to the human mind. The creature called human had the ability and fierce urge for something new. It was the impulse for self-reflection and conscious pursuit of the good. Morality was born. With time, the scope of that morality expanded, both temporally and spatially, from tribe to nation to global community, and from things of the present and past to include things of the future. In the last century, yet another unprecedented human ability emerged. Humankind today possesses the knowledge and resources to abad and shamar (Genesis 2:15)—“tend and protect”[23]—Earth’s life-web on a global scale. That is, we comprehend that actions in one location on Earth have impacts around the globe (deforestation in the Amazon affects the North Pole and North Dakota), and we have the resources to take actions that either “tend and protect” or degrade the planetary garden. We arrive at the first and haunting theological problem. The primal, first, and most characteristic act of the God proclaimed in Judaism and then in Christianity is not merely to create a magnificent world but a magnificently life-furthering world that mirrors and embodies the Life-Creating Energy who brought it into being. The scandalous point is this. We are undoing that very tov, life-generating capacity. We, or rather some of us, are “uncreating.”[24] A second theological problem concerns the ancient faith claim, present in multiple streams of Christian traditions, that God dwells within creation. If Christ fills Earth’s creatures and elements, then the Earth now being “crucified” by human ignorance, greed, and arrogance is, in some sense, also the body of Christ. Are those of us most responsible for global warming, poisoned rivers, the extinction of tens of thousands of species per year, and ocean acidification crucifying Christ? A third theological problem concerns revelation. Christian traditions hold that God not only creates the Earth and sees it as good, but also reveals Godself in that creation. It is the “first book” of revelation. If to do and be as God would have us, we must receive God’s self-revelation, then God’s self-revelation is necessary for the life of faith. Yet, humankind is pelting headlong down a trajectory of destroying essential features of God’s “first book” of revelation. What do we make of endangering the first and enduring “book” of revelation? Fourth, Christians claim that human beings are created “in the image of God.” Yet, if global warming continues unchecked, we may be, in the words of Catholic moral theologian Daniel Maguire, “an endangered species.” How do we make sense of a human trajectory now aimed at destroying the creatures crafted “in the image of God”? These four unprecedented theological problems are accompanied by a fifth that is more familiar. Two millennia of Christians and the Hebrew people before them claimed that God calls Her people to receive Her love and then “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deut. 6:5),” and “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). This is our lifework, to receive God’s love, and to live that justice-making mysterious and marvelous love into the world. This, according to a widespread understanding of the Christian story, is the human vocation. Love implies active commitment to the well-being of whom or what is loved. Where people suffer under systemic injustice, seeking their well-being entails seeking to undo that injustice. The implication is shaking: If we fail to recognize the injustice that is damaging neighbor, and hence fail to address it, are we not defying the call to love? If I am professing love for neighbor by feeding the poor… 1371

Sin in its fullest sense refers to disorientation from right relationship with God, which then leads to disorientation from right relationship with self, others, and all of creation. That disorientation results in wrongdoings. Sin is dislocating God from the center of reality. Sin as disorientation may be manifest in serving one’s own uncensored desires and perceived interests regardless of the cost to self, others, and Earth, and regardless of what would “displease” God. Paradoxically, sin may be quite the opposite of this “self-centeredness” for people whose full self and center have been denied them. For those who have been socialized or coerced into self-sacrifice, self-denial, or self-hatred, sin may take the form of not attending to one’s own well-being. The former is sin as defined by patriarchy and the experience of men in positions of domination, while the latter reflects womanist and feminist theologies. Both are valid and powerful expressions of human reality. In either case, sin counters the call to love God with “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and to love neighbor as self. Martin Luther provides a useful image of sin in the former and more recognized form. Drawing upon Augustine, he taught that human beings tend toward serving their own self-interest above all other considerations and deceive themselves into believing that they are not. He insisted on the pervasive presence of sin, the humanly insurmountable reality of “selves curved in on self” (se incurvatus in se).[26] This idea that sin denotes both the individual’s wrongdoings (sins) and the individual’s state of profound disorientation (sin) overcomes the problem of reducing sin to wrongdoings. Yet this expanded notion remains inadequate and misleading. The remaining problem is the reduction of sin to a condition of individuals. To the contrary, sin exists not only in the individual, but also in the social structural relationships that shape societies and their impact on eco-systems. That is, groups and societies as well as individuals may be agents of sin. Racism, classism, sexism, and imperialism are examples of social structural sin. The increasing destructive power of humankind, seen most blatantly in the buildup of nuclear weaponry and in destructive climate change, calls for probing structural sin and its power more deeply. The image of many human beings “curved in on” their imagined self-interest speaks directly to the heart of life for people positioned in relative privilege in the global community today. Collectively, we are selves curved in on ourselves. We may long to live according to justice-making, self-honoring love for Earth and neighbor, to live without exploiting neighbor or Earth. But look at us. A species destroying the very life-support systems upon which life depends. A society so addicted to our consumption-oriented ways that we close our hearts and minds to the death and destruction required to sustain them. Advanced global capitalism gorges on “selves turned in on self.” For the global market to continue in its purpose of maximizing growth and accumulating wealth, it must convince people to consume as much as possible. Advanced global capitalism is an engine of “selves turned in on self.” It stokes the compulsion to consume, quietly coiling chains 1420

Given my concerns in this book, however, I expand the understanding of salvation to include not only liberation from oppression but also liberation from committing or perpetrating it. Ultimately, salvation entails the restoration of the entire created world to one in which none flourish by degrading others or otherkind. The church’s entry into struggles for ecological well-being has expanded the notion of sin to include degradation of the earth. This move—first made on an ecclesial level by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of Orthodox Christianity—is now affirmed by many Catholic, mainstream Protestant, and evangelical voices. With this move, sin as “selves curved in on self” expands to include not only individuals and societies but humankind in relationship to the rest of creation. We became a species “turned in on itself,” oriented around humankind and human desire as the centerpiece of earthly reality to the detriment of all else. Sin as disoriented relationship with God, self, others, and “the rest of creation” takes on fuller meaning. 1449

four defining features of structural injustice as structural sin reveals more about their implications for the moral life. These features are: the relative invisibility of structural injustice to those who do not suffer directly from it, the fact that structural injustice continues regardless of the virtue or vice of people involved, its transmission from generation to generation unless exposed and confronted, and its expansion as a result of concentrated power. 1465

If Unseen, Then Unrenounced The first challenge pertains to renouncing sin. Fundamental to virtually all forms of Christianity is the claim that Christians are called to eschew sin, and that freedom from sin begins with repentance. Repentance means ceasing the way of sin and “turning the other direction.” Teshuvah, the Hebrew word often translated as repentance, suggests turning from sinful ways and toward the good by means of turning back to God. It is a powerful act of changing direction that can redirect one’s life. The Greek metanoia means to think and perceive differently, to have a new mind and consciousness. Repentance then involves a distinct turning away from sin, in both consciousness and action. Repentance and confession are possible only where sin is acknowledged. One insidious characteristic of structural injustice (structural sin), however, is its tendency to remain invisible to those not suffering from it. If we do not see the structural injustice in which we live, we cannot repent of it. Failing to renounce it, we remain captive to it. Failure to see structural sin breeds complicity with it, and passes it on to the next generation. The call to renounce sin contains a call to “see” the structural sin of which we are a part, in order that we might repent of it, renounce it, and resist it.[27] 1471

This is an impossible calling for individuals alone; it is, instead, the work of communities. The Paradox of Privilege The first challenge thickens with the second. It is the paradox of privilege.[28] Even when a person does recognize and repent of structural sin, it is not possible to divest oneself from the impact of the social structures into which our lives are woven. Not by will or intent, I am involved in the sins of economic and ecological exploitation even where I seek to resist them. Regardless of personal repentance through radical changes in how I live, I continue to reap the “benefits” of economic and ecological violence. My life continues to depend, for example, upon products containing petroleum extracted by destroying the homelands and livelihoods of people in the Niger Delta, Chad, the Gulf Coast of the United States, or elsewhere, or by waging war in Iraq. I cannot refuse all use of petroleum-based roads, fabrics, plastics, fire trucks, public utilities, and medical care, and more that, in today’s world especially, depend on petroleum. Social sin transcends individual moral agency. Aida Hurtado, speaking of white privilege, cuts to the heart of the paradox of privilege: “[I]t does not matter how good you are, as a person, if the political structures provide privilege to you individually based on the group oppression of others; in fact, individuals belonging to dominant groups can be infinitely good because they never are required to be personally bad. That is the irony of structural privilege: the more you have, the less you have to fight for it.”[29] As a citizen of this nation, I belong to a group that “has an oppressive relationship with” other groups without being “an oppressive person who behaves in oppressive ways.”[30] This paradox helps to hide oppression. But that is not the end of the story. The fact that individual actions are relatively powerless in the face of structural sin does not mean that personal efforts to counter it are immaterial, ineffectual, or unnecessary. To the contrary, the individual’s response is essential and effectual. I cannot overstate the importance of recognizing this paradox: Structural sin, while it cannot be dismantled by individual actions, cannot be dismantled without them. As James Poling notes: Every “system of evil requires personal actions to make it work.”[31] Thus every system of evil also requires people to resist their own and others’ participation in it, even while acknowledging that their acts of resistance in themselves appear relatively ineffectual. While individual acts will not in themselves change the course of social structures, they are necessary for that change to be achieved. This is powerful knowledge. It makes individuals’ actions infinitely important. Living responsibly within this paradox is central to the work of loving neighbor as self in the context of structural sin. While structural sin transcends individual moral agency, it does not transcend collective agency. The imperviousness of structural sin to individual actions “forces us to look beyond individual agency.”[32] Social movements demonstrate that people, working together, can indeed counter structural sin. Again, a systemic view of the world is called to the fore as a vital ingredient of moral vision. From Generation to Generation unless Challenged The structural sin of socio-ecological injustice is transmitted from generation to generation. Because human beings are inherently social, we establish patterns of interaction. Sociologists refer to these patterns, power arrangements within them, and belief systems by rationalizing them as “institutions” or “social structures.” They may be as small as families and as large as economic systems. Members of a society are socialized toward assuming unconsciously that its social structures and attendant values and worldviews are normal, natural, inevitable, and even divinely ordained. In this process of socialization cultural, political, economic, and ideological structures that perpetuate injustice… 1490

Perhaps more than any other nation in history, the United States has held power to pursue its perceived interests regardless of the harm to others or to Earth’s ecosystems, and to distort that state of affairs into the appearance of a moral “good.” Accordingly, we, the nation’s citizens, participate in that unprecedented power for committing structural sin. The call to renounce sin entails a hermeneutic of suspicion regarding moves to concentrate power. The movement against the reigning form of economic globalization is in large part a movement against the concentration of economic power (and hence political power). Neoliberal globalization, by concentrating wealth into the hands of a few enormous glo

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