An Excerpt from “The Triumph of God Over the Powers” in Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization
“Moral commitment alone and organization alone do not build breadth. Shared delight, heavy laden with creative signs of a coming alternative future—this is what invites the many, encourages them to stand up in new solidarity to powers that rule by their spectacles of terror.” Mark Lewis Taylor
Moving from despair to hope is a primary form of struggle in resistance to the Powers that would crush the heart and spirit of life out of human beings. Hope for the future is countercultural. It requires spiritual resistance to the mind-numbing and heart-hardening distractions and excesses of modern life. Despair is easy, painful, but easy, for it enables us to excuse inaction. On the other hand, despair can become a hole so deep and so dark that anything would be better than continuing our descent into our own personal hell. When we hit bottom, we are at a turning point, a point of decision. The choice is to stay as we are or to take responsibility for ourselves and our world and become willing to take action. Our “no” to despair is based upon our “yes” to life.
In resistance to the institutions and systems that destroy the earth and crush the life out of people, hope comes alive. As we withdraw our consent to these Powers, practicing noncooperation, finding or creating life-supporting alternatives, what has seemed impossible becomes possible because we are willing to pay the price to make it so. It is like the difference between being a spectator in the stands and being a player on the field. As Dorothee Soelle says, “Only when we ourselves enter the game and bind our own life inextricably to the game’s outcome does hope arrive.”
In nonviolent resistance, we leave behind not only our validation of the ruling Powers, but their “stratagems,” which are violent to the core. In faith-led resistance, instead of reacting out of old patterns into which we have been socialized and acculturated, we go deeper. We open ourselves to the Spirit of Love that resides in our hearts and at the heart of the universe. In prayer and meditation, the Spirit touches us and we groan inwardly together with all creation “as in the pangs of childbirth,” freedom from bondage, the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” Our hearts reach out in solidarity to all who suffer, to victims of the Powers near and far, to God in Christ, who is crucified in our neighbors and in the earth, and who is crucified in us as we face our own pain and darkness and as we share the world’s suffering. We enter into something deeper than the influence and socialization by the Powers. We begin to live intuitively rather than automatically, to live in community rather than as part of an unthinking collective, and in so doing we allow God to triumph over the Powers in us. We change.
As we begin the process of breaking free, we recognize others engaged in the same process and we see that change is not only possible, but is happening now. Then, in spite of the risks, losses, and even sacrifices, the struggle becomes joyous, even fun. Fun? Yes, fun, energizing, inspiring, hopeful.
In his book The Executed God, Mark Lewis Taylor speaks of how important it is to create a “theatrics of counterterror” to counter the “spectacles of terror” engaged in by the Powers through creative, empowering, joyful, public actions. Many are creating such a “theater, as many are doing in small acts of witness and in mass demonstrations for the pageant of empowerment . . . , the triumph of God, will be not only deep, it will also be wide, galvanizing an array of diverse forces.” In this way, “The many who are either terrorized or mesmerized by lockdown America will take note. They will wake up, and the wider power will join the deeper power in one pageant of empowerment, in a kind of triumph of God most needed.”
It is a gift to participate in the saving work of God in the world. It is poignant and painful, yet satisfying, to stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, to cast our lot with “the least” (Matt. 25:45) of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, and so with him. It is a privilege to struggle in solidarity with people around the world, to throw off the oppressive weight of institutions that ruin people’s lives. It is here that we find hope. In James Douglass’ words:
“Here, among the most radically powerless and oppressed of the world, is where the nonviolent coming of God begins, at that moment when faith catches fire in their hearts. . . . No empire has ever had the power to stand against such faith. The British had as little success with Jesus’ Hindu successor, Gandhi, as the Roman Empire had with Jesus and the early Christians. The nonviolent coming of God is a growing force in Humanity that will not be denied its full flowering in the world.”
What a blessing it is when such faith catches fire in our hearts, enabling us to live in hope. By living in hope and taking hopeful actions, we actually make the world a more hopeful place. We make positive change more likely when we manifest hope, when we embody hope. We live hope into being.
How do we embody hope? By becoming who we really are, by coming into our own as human beings, by defining our own identity. The Powers try to convince us that we are primarily consumers, motivated by competition, self-interest, and personal gain. They would teach us to be realistic on their terms, to believe that violence and domination are basic to who we are. Like Caiaphas they would have us accept that it is expedient for there to be winners and losers, that some people are expendable. They would have us believe that the consolidation of the current global order is inevitable, and that we are powerless to stop it.
But who are we really? We are children of the universe, brought to this amazing moment here and now through a process of evolution that has taken billions of years. We are children of God, alive, breathing, embodied human beings in whom God lives and through whom God can act. We are children of humanity, humanity’s hope in this generation when change must come. We carry the legacy of the saints and prophets through the ages, as well as the hopes and dreams of mothers and fathers from time immemorial for the well-being of future generations. And we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus the Christ, The Human Being, who shows us what God is like and what human life can be when lived in the light and presence of God.