I think theology is a highly important topic. That’s why I write about it so much. Our theology (or lack of one) is important because it influences the way we live, and therefore it influences the way we see justice and how we take action.
Justice, or social justice, is a big topic these days. Everyone’s talking about it in some form or another, while fewer may be doing something about it, and even fewer can get to do something about it full-time.
If you’re a pantheist (the belief that God is everything, and everything is God, basically) or a panentheist (the belief that God is IN everything, and everything IN God) I think social justice will be a challenge. If God is everything, God is also the evil people of the world, and he is also that instinct, that tendency, to do evil. If God is IN everything, he is also IN that tendency, and IN evil people (and they are IN him).
Pantheism and panentheism is a very interesting and romantic way of looking at the world. But I think it can lead to problems of justice. I think Taoism is one of the most mature pantheistic philosophies out there, but a core tenet of Taoism is not to disrupt the flow of things — as the Beatles sang: “Let it be.” Evil and death can seem so natural because it’s all we’re used to, but if we believe we must not disrupt the ‘flow’ of things, then how could we be passionate about social justice? I don’t see any logical way that we could.
Now I would like to be fair to pantheism and panentheism and not write it off just like that with a few words. I’d be open to debate it as I think it would make an interesting discussion. But even pantheism’s modern cousin (a kind of spiritual environmentalism) presents the same problem. Even its strange cousin (a sort of atheist pantheism, which we’ll talk about) presents problems for justice.
Our theology influences our worldview, and our worldview influences the way we live. We’ll expand on this through a series of posts.
7 thoughts on “Why Theology is Important for Social Justice Pt 1”
Brilliant bro. i really look forward to you posting more on this. Its going to be an exciting series and i am sure it will ruffle some feathers. HAHA bring it on!
i’m not really qualified to comment on pantheism, but surely we could evaluate the society by the outcomes if we’re talking about social justice?
pantheism seems to be, by its very nature, inclusivist, tolerant, peaceful and non-extremist. hindu and taoist societies have been around for centuries and if we survey the modern world, i don’t see these as typically belligerent or violent cultures. strongly monotheistic cultures on the other hand…
the other issue is around what form of social justice pantheism itself advocates and what form the host culture advocates. these aren’t necessarily the same thing.
you seem to be saying that if a criminal or civil offense is committed in these cultures that the general populus will just shrug their shoulders and look the other way. i can’t see a belief system which embraces antisocial practices as being particulary effective, nor can i see it gaining currency in a culture. are you sure this is really what pantheism advocates? it would be nice to have some examples to demonstrate what you’re saying.
Hindu society can be pretty violent — ever heard of Hindutva? Not that that applies to all Hindus. And not all Hindus are pantheists.
Ah, yes. But of course, I’m talking about True Hindus(TM) here…
This would require quite a lengthy discussion. Taoism and Hinduism have their own history of militancy and persecution of other beliefs as well. It’s not a consistent reality, but neither is persecution of others and militancy a consistent reality in monotheistic societies. I think one can get into the danger of looking at the familiar negatively simply because they’re familiar with it.
Looking at a society to evaluate a religion/philosophy/spirituality can be a way in which we can get an idea of the ‘fruit’ of that belief, but not the only way. Politics will usually (or rather, always) distort this image.
As to inclusiveness, every belief is only inclusive to a point. The Tao Te Ching does say that if you do not follow the “Tao” (The Way) ‘you will die.’ Hinduism’s strict moral codes linked with Karma deserve a fairly lengthy discussion too. Even something like Unitarian Universalist (whom I believe accept anything, really) is only inclusive to those who will accept that it’s ‘right’ to believe anything. So even the most extreme inclusiveness is exclusive to you and I if we do not ‘accept’ that we, too, should become as inclusive.
That’s the irony of modern day ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusiveness’. Those who claim to be tolerant can often be religiously and militantly intolerant to those who they perceive to be too exclusive.
Anyway, I’m digressing. Note that I’m not saying that one cannot be a pantheist and passionate about social justice, I’m just not sure how they can do it consistently if they’re pantheists alone. They would need to tag another philosophy to their pantheism to be so, IMO.
Taoism itself does appear to be, from what I’ve read of the Tao Te Ching and my little research, to be fairly anarchistic in its political views. In this I am in agreement with it — (see my posts on separation of Church and State). But in another sense, one cannot be so anarchistic about politics that there is no drive for social justice or for development.
There is more to say but I’ll leave it there for now… got to get to work anyway, and I think I’ll try and address some of this in my next post.
“I am the Way the Truth and the Life”
Where I see life I see God’s nature. Where I see creation I see God nature. Where I see development and the opposite of death “life abundantly” I see God’s nature.
Murraybiscuit said: “Ah, yes. But of course, I’m talking about True Hindus(TM) here…”
I think that kind of gets to my point: theology is important when it comes to how someone sees social justice.