Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Presbyterians Dancing With Karl Marx! Part 2
In the 1920’s the National Socialists, the Nazis, and the International Socialists, the Communists, fought in the streets of Berlin. Alike in some ways, both political groups considered their movements, movements of the people. Likewise they considered their movements to be in opposition to the exploiters, the monolithic outsiders, enemies of the people.
Yet, one group called for their ideology to be placed under the control of their national leaders. In the same vein they tied religion to blood and soil. The other group opted for international controls and insisted that religion was the opiate of the people.
Today, in the twenty-first century, within the new socialist movements swirling through many countries, one finds the ghosts of the last century. But they are no longer two different entities they have merged.
Politically the peasant movements are tying themselves to their own ethnic or national groups through such ideas as growing and using only foods that are natural to their regions, using local herbs as alternative medicine, re-awakening forgotten spiritual and cultural practices.
Rejecting such entities as the World Bank or NAFTA they have in some ways become nationalists or at least isolationist. Yet in other ways they are tied to an international body of peasant movements that all adhere to the same ideology of land re-distribution generally for collectives rather than individuals.
Within the various groups is a strong religious under-current that is frightening in its lack of grace. It is human centered not God centered. Because some of the socialism that is prevalent in South America was and still is birthed out of liberation theology that sees God as partial to the poor or to the people, religion is tied to a particular group. It has moved on from there.
Now the sacred or religion is tied to different ethnic groups, to the ethnicity of a people. Or in the case of indigenous peoples to both the people and the land. Through liberation theology, and the many fragmenting theologies of feminism, religion, a kind of pseudo-Christianity, is once again tied to blood. Through Indigenous people to soil and blood.
And in this strange mix of politics and theology, some mainline denominational advocacy groups have entered the fray with out a clue about the distinctions between authentic biblical Christianity and the idea of the sacred centered in humanity.
In the last post I looked at two groups promoting various socialist and Marxist causes. I also explained how those groups are promoted by some in the mainline denominations and their organizations. I, in particular looked at my own denomination the Presbyterian Church USA.
In this second posting I will look at two more groups. In my final and third posting I will make some suggestions as to how orthodox Christians within the Presbyterian Church should respond to those Presbyterians who are dancing with Marx.
World Social Forum & United States Social Forum
The Presbyterian Church USA’s “Just Trade” is announcing the work of the 2007 World Social Forum’s meeting in Africa. They write, “January 2007, the World Social Forum was held in Africa for the first time serving as a platform for Jubilee Campaigners across the Continent.”1 Agricultural Missions, Inc., an affiliate of Presbyterian Women, has information about both the World Social Forum and the United States Social Forum all over their web site.
The Presbyterian Women’s magazine, Horizons, March/April 2006, contains an article on women in Brazilian prisons with a title which is the theme of the World Social Forum, “Another World is Possible.”
Although the article had nothing to do with WSF, still it ended with these words, “The theme of the annual World Social Forum—people from all over the world who come together to work for change—is “Another World Is Possible.”
The World Social Forum is a vast grassroots group of organizations that hold annual meetings in various places in the world to offer alternative programs, ideas and concepts in opposition to some forms of globalization. They are a movement growing out of the 1999 Seattle protests and their emphasis is anti-capitalism.
The WSF began meeting in January 2001. Its first meeting was in Porte Alegre, Brazil and it did have some connections to the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil as well as many other socialist movements.2
The World Council of Churches gives this description of the WSF:
"The World Social Forum saw itself as a space for the democratic debate of ideas and proposals, for exchanging experiences and for social movements, networks and organizations in civil society to meet together. Its aim was to discover and build alternatives to neo-liberal globalization. It made no claim, however, to be representative of world civil society. It was non-governmental, non-party and non-confessional in nature. It did not include representatives of governments, political parties or military or armed organizations." 3
Yet, the truth is, the WSF, except for some mainline church groups, new age spirituality representatives, radical feminists advocates and LGBT organizations, is mostly made up of labor organizations, far left Socialists and Marxists groups.
The forums always offer hundreds of workshops and seminars, running the gamut from Palestinian liberation issues to alternative health promotion to conspiracy theories connecting 9/11 to President George Bush.
Sherry Flyr, Board member of Agricultural Missions as well as Vice Moderator for Mission Relationships for Presbyterian Women participanted in the recent United States Social Forum. She was a member of the team AMI sent. Another member of that team wrote that those workshops included, “Katrina, the War, Gender and the struggle against Homophobic Patriarchical Violent Capitalism, Immigration Rights, Worker Justice and Indigenous Peoples and their Prophetic Struggles and Cosmovision.”4
As the forum has evolved many papers and analysis of the WSF have been offered by other Socialist and progressive groups. One particular organization, Foreign Policy in Focus, has several representatives, participants in the WSF and Marxists in their ideology, who have focused their papers on the WSF.
Erinc Yeldan, Professor in the Department of Economics at Bilkent University in Ankara, critiques the WSF in his article, “More Scholarly Debate Please.”
Yeldan looks at the two choices he sees possible for the forum’s activists.
The two choices, working within a capitalist system or simply pushing for revolution as a means of going around the system, are solved by a kind of merger of the two. His solution: “… the strategy here is to create class awareness within the capitalist system. Then at a further level of strategy, we can make our case for life after capitalism, that is, socialism.”5
Another author Bret Benjamin writes of the need for the movement to envision “both the ideal of horizontal, non-representational collectivity and the tactical efficacy of mass action.”
The first ideal means the people make decisions as a collective or group and probably by a consensus method rather than voting, which can be very authoritarian. The “tactical efficacy of mass action” means that the collective operates as a group, a mass movement to change society.
He goes on to state that such double vision has no historical precedent. Yet he mentions several historical movements the forum might draw inspiration from. Benjamin writes that the Critical Action: Centre in Movement “offers one useful genealogy, from Marx’s Manifesto to Bandung to the Zapatistas” 6
Walden Bello, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, and Professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines, has written “Forum at the Crossroads.” His description of the 2004 Forum is that it “was organized jointly by an unlikely coalition of social movements and Marxist Leninist parties, a set of actors that are not known for harmonious relations on the domestic front.”
Pointing out the weaknesses of the gatherings, Bello offers a solution by offering the words of Hugo Chavez, left-wing President of Venezuela. Quoting from a speech given by Chavez at the 2006 Forum, he writes, “We must have a strategy of ‘counter-power.’ We, the social movements and political movements, must be able to move into spaces of power at the local, national, and regional level.”7 Thus, apparently, the intellectual participants in WSF are pushing hard toward extreme leftist socialism and Marxism.
World Forum on Theology and Liberation
Running along side of the World Social Forum is another forum entitled the World Forum on Theology and Liberation.8 This is a newer forum but still a part of the World Social Forum, therefore the participants are attempting to redesign Christianity using mostly pluralistic versions of liberation theology. Most of the papers of the 2005 forum are clearly drawing on a past traditional Christianity and then leading toward a newer version of that same Christianity.
One paper totally redefines Christianity into political categories. Dwight N. Hopkins, Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, writes about “Theologies in the USA.”.
He names, what he sees as the most pervasive theology in the US, “neo-conservative theology,” which purportedly understands God as “the open face of aggressive US empire.” (Italics the author) Next is “liberal theology,” which according to Hopkins sees God as “bourgeois rights.” (Italics author)
The final category is prophetic theology which the writer states sees God as “Liberation toward the practice of freedom.” Clearly Hopkins’ ideology is not theology (the study of God) nor is it based on scriptures but on Marxism.9
One particular author, Rosino Gibellini rather chagrined, mentions, in her paper, that liberation theology took on a different hue among some in Eastern Europe. She writes:
"… One must take into account the situation of Eastern Europe and that of the Russian Orthodox. In the period between 1989 and 1991 these areas experienced a kind of 'liberation', different from that envisioned by Liberation theology. A Russian Orthodox theologian recently affirmed during a theological Forum in which I myself participated: 'We Orthodox had a rather complex relation with Liberation theology. Its concession to a so-called 'well intentioned Marxism (a definition which circulated in Orthodox circles in the Soviet Union) is absolutely foreign to the spirit of our faith which was subjected to that 'liberation' [i.e., the 'liberation' offered by Soviet communism]. Similar sentiments are expressed by philosophers and theologians of Eastern Europe, particularly by those from Poland." 10 (Bold mine.) (Brackets authors.)
Despite her remarks on Eastern Europe, Gibellini, proceeds to make a case for liberation theology in Europe. Consequently, it seems, progressive members of the PCUSA with, one supposes, good intentions, continue to align themselves with far left organizations including Marxists who are themselves fighting over their own causes.
1 See http://www.pcusa.org/trade/tradeweek.htm.
2 See http://anscombe.mcmaster.ca/global1/glossary_entry.jsp?id=EV.0010.
3 See http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/wsf-e.html.
4 See https://www.ussf2007.org/en/event/2007/06/28/week/content_forum_schedule/all/1. and http://www.pcusa.org/pw/about/churchwide/cct.htm, and Netline, June 2007.
5 See- http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4221.
6 See http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4220.
7 See http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4196.
8 See http://www.wftl.org/default.php?lang=en-us&t=padrao&p=capa&m=padrao.
9 Paper on file.
10 Paper on file.