While we were in Seattle, the wife allowed me to indulge one of my favorite pastimes, which is scouring used book stores. We managed to get to four in four hours, and I found several items on my sought-after list. One of the book stores we went into, Left Bank Books at the Pike Place Market, was like entering into another world. Posters of Che Guevara, black people with raised fists, and announcements of “queer” poetry readings and marches protesting pretty much everything were everywhere. The book selection had clearly been culled to ensure that only the right ones (meaning far left, of course) were on the shelves. It was as if I’d stepped into the International ANSWER Reading Room. And when I looked them up on the Web, I thought I’d walked into the middle of a Monty Python sketch:
Left Bank is collectively owned and operated by its workers, and has been since its inception. As an anarchist collective, Left Bank has no bosses or managers. Decisions are made in bi-monthly collective meetings based on a consensus process.
Anyway, aside from telling a little bit about our experience in Seattle, I bring this up because of an item I read this morning on the Web site of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). It’s about a conclave of feminist “theologians” who met in Bangalore, India week before last under the auspices of WARC and the World Council of Churches. A report on the meeting, entitled “Feminist Discourse on Economy, Ecology and Empire,” as well as the manifesto the participants put out, is at the WARC link above. Like my visit to Left Bank Books, reading it felt like stepping into another world, one in which God is a Marxist, reality can be made up as one goes along, and the law of contradiction has been suspended. It’s rather lengthy–too long to do a proper slice-and-dice on it–but here’s a sample:
What we learned: local realities
In the last four decades India has experienced a shift from an agricultural and textile-based society and economy, which provided livelihoods for people, to a monoculture-production and export-oriented consumer-driven economy and society. This has resulted in a shift from livelihood to employment, from a rhythm of life, which provides sustenance, identity in relationships and community, to one dominated by an individualized, job-defined, western, mechanized mode of being, has caused great trauma. It has resulted in increased poverty and loss of community especially for rural people.
So in six days (August 12-17), they figured out the entire history of India’s transformation from naturalist paradise to capitalist sewer? This is the revenge of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in spades. An interesting thing has happened in India while it was going to hell in a handbasket–the poverty rate dropped by more than half:
(Source: Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, Government of India.)
Does this mean that poverty is no longer a problem in India? Of course not. But it looks as if the “neoliberal” (read: market-based) economic approach that the feminists denounce has done an amazing job of reducing the percentage of people living below the poverty line.
Then there’s this:
War, economic immigration, ecological devastation, the destruction of water resources and other effects of this intersection are continuously causing homelessness for many people. In addition, loss of livelihood and/or employment, the disintegration of cultural norms and practices, the imposition of economic models based on profit maximization and other pressures cause both physical and psychological destruction of a sense of home. These realities deny people the biblical promise of life in its fullness and contradict the biblical and theological assertion that persons have a right to a “home,” to live in peace, prosperity and dignity under their own “vines and fig-trees” (John 10:10; Micah 4:4).
They decry “economic immigration,” and yet I feel absolutely certain that they oppose any American efforts to stem the tide of Mexican economic immigration as “racist.” They decry “profit maximization,” yet it is the drive for profit that has lifted tens, maybe hundreds, of millions out of poverty in dozens of nations across Asia, including India and China. They speak of “abundant life,” yet make no connection in this entire screed between it and its author, Jesus Christ. The “abundant life” of which they speak seems to be nothing more than a Rousseauean state of nature characterized by tribalism and subsistence farming. There’s certainly nothing particularly Christian about it.
Then there’s this:
Neoliberal ideology is increasingly intruding in many dimensions of life, propagating market-oriented values of consumerism, materialism, commodification and greed. Such values promote the view that human beings are valued by what they possess and have ownership over. This provides the ideological justification for fuelling patterns of over-production and over-consumption in the North and among the rich in the South. By “efficiently” creating wealth for a few, neoliberal economic systems, colluding with military power and patriarchy, have systematically shifted the cost burden to the ecological and social reproductive spheres, where women are in the majority.
That market-based economics can promote “consumerism, materialism, commodification and greed” is no great revelation. Nor is it a new insight that Christians must stand against these sinful mindsets and the behaviors to which they lead. The mistake these “theologians” make is in seeing market-based economics as leading inevitably to these distortions of values, a mistake that it’s easy for them to make since they apply a Marxist approach to economics, which dictates (as Scripture doesn’t) that any form of economic inequality as well as possession of private property is evil. A Christian approach would recognize that economic mechanisms, in and of themselves, are morally neutral. The way that people use them is what invests them with value. The fact that market-based economics have been spectacularly successful in lifting people out of poverty, and providing opportunities to countless people who would never have otherwise had the opportunity for a better life, doesn’t seem to make any difference to these women. I’d be willing to bet that that’s not the case for an awful lot of the folks for whom they profess so much concern.
One final excerpt:
Empire, economy and ecology are intimately interconnected. The “empire of a carbon-consuming [economic] system” is the driving force behind climate change. Whereas countries in the North are mainly responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, countries like India and people in poverty everywhere are most vulnerable to the disastrous effects of global warming. These include recurrent droughts and floods, and greater frequency and intensity of tropical storms.
There’s so much nonsense in this paragraph, so many unproven assertions and fallacious assumptions that it would take a post all its own to cover it all. But it’s typical of what these “theologians” (who, on this evidence, have little interest in theology and a great deal of interest in, if not knowledge of, economics and social policy) cobbled together under the sponsorship of WARC and the WCC.
UPDATE: Since the Left Bankers and feminist theologians would have been so at home in this setting, I really had to link to this: