Globalization and Human Solidarity by Tissa Balasuriya
Fr. Tissa Balasuriya from Sri Lanka is a leading spokesperson of Third World Theologies. He is the Director of the Centre of Society and Religion in Sri Lanka. He is the author of numerous books, including Eucharist and Human Liberation, Planetory Theology, and Mary and the Human Liberation. Published by Christiava Sahitya Samithy, Tiruvalla 689 101, Kerala, S. India, November 2000. Used by permission of the publisher. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.
Chapter 8: Globalization and Spirituality
1. The Teaching of the Religions and Capitalistic Globalization
In this context of increasing injustices in the world, the religions could be a light to make us all aware of the false values of capitalistic globalization that cannot bring happiness and peace to persons or a lasting solution to our social and economic problems. The teaching of the world religions is diametrically opposed to the values of capitalistic globalization. The development of science and technology can improve human life, but the capitalistic values that inspire the social relationships are disastrous.
While the religions teach a detachment from the search for material wealth and that all beings should be cared for and respected, maximization of private profit is the supreme goal of capitalism that has now reached a global dimension. The religions advocate that society ensures that each person is cared for as a human being with rights to life and the means to contented living. All the religions stress the spirit of sharing of material resources among all humans.
The effort to bring food to the hungry, house to the roofless, work for the unemployed, freedom to captives, knowledge to the ignorant is a primary call of all the major religions of the world. This is a demand of sisterhood and brotherhood that all religions stress. It is also the way to honour the Supreme Being or Transcendent Dhamma and spiritual values that all religions acknowledge. This requires a change in human relationships and societal structures to accept all persons as equal in dignity and rights.
A Specific spiritual challenge for the present and coming generation everywhere and for religions is to make these values the guiding principles of day to day social life. In order to progress towards the ideal proposed by the religions the renunciation of selfishness by individuals at personal level should lead to a social concern for a positive loving caring for all, especially the many in dire need in our globalized society. This needs a collective rejection of the mechanism of the mere “free market” as the guide of social policy. The inspiration of the life and teaching of their founders and seers and sages can lead people towards a movement for decent living and human dignity of all and peace among all communities. The festivities and liturgical celebrations of the religions could be the means of fostering a deeper personal and societal reflection on their deeper spiritual message.
2. Christian spirituality
Christian spirituality is based on the teaching of Jesus, as known through the Scriptures, and interpreted by the Christian tradition, generally through the authority of the churches.
Christian spirituality is foundationally life affirming and life giving. God, the Father is the Creator of the universe and of the human race. Creation is good: “God saw all that he (Sic) had made, and it was very good” Gen. 1:31. God is life giving in and through the abundance of nature. Jesus says: “I have come that you may have life; life in all its fullness” John 10:10. The gift of the Spirit is the presence of divine life in humans, inspiring us to be more arid more god-like, loving one another and motivated towards love and social justice.
The teaching of Jesus is that God is love, and love is divine. This is the new and all encompassing commandment of Jesus. Love of neighbour, including the enemy, is the good news of salvation. Thus Jesus says: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13.
Our call is to love one another as God has loved us. God is the God of life. Genuine love for the other is the means and the measure of our love for God. Such love must be concerned with the life of the other in all its aspects. Each person shares in the divinity, being created to the image and likeness of God and tending towards union with God. Human relationship and the world are to be transformed so that God would be all in all. We are called to be divinized by love and effective concern for one another.
An essential and indispensable aspect of Jesus teaching is love and unselfish service to the poor, the disinherited, the oppressed, the aged, the sick and the imprisoned.
“For when I was hungry you gave me food;
when thirsty you gave me drink;
when I was a stranger you took me into your home;
when naked you clothed me;
when I was ill you came to my help;
when in prison you visited me...
“I tell you this: anything you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did for me anything you did not do for one of these, however humble, you did not do for me” Matthew 25:31-45.
This service is more than the mere demands of justice, which is the fulfillment of a strict obligation towards another. What Jesus demands is a self-giving towards others who are in need because they are in need, not due to any strict right on us as a matter of justice. This is a demand and obligation of love: of caring for the other as for oneself. This is because God identifies with the other, especially the one in need. It is also taught in the scriptures and by the Fathers of the early Church that the goods of the earth belong to all humanity. Therefore no one should waste what belongs to God and to all, nor accumulate too much to the detriment of the needs of others.
A specificity of the Jesus spirituality is that we should love our enemies.
enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for
those who ill-treat you. If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other
too; If someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well.
Jesus wanted love of neighbour to be understood in a universal sense as the quality of divine love than the narrow circle of natural affection and concern. The Jesus teaching is that we must love because God loves all, the good and the bad alike. This is the goodness of the Father.
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on good and bad people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil... You must be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect!” (Matt. 5:44-48).
To the teacher of the law who tried to trap Jesus asking the question “who is my neighbour?”, Jesus responded with the parable of the good Samaritan “where love to neighbour is, quite simply, doing for him what needs to be done in the emergency, the good neighbour is both alien and heretic.”
Jesus teaches a new relationship among humans that exceeds the demands of both justice and mere rationality. Such love is more than the natural love of our friends. It is not necessarily according to reason or human rationality. It is not a sort of philosophical or stoic indifference towards others. It is not a keeping away from enemies to avoid further trouble. It is not at all a right that the enemy has over us. It is new relationship of love of the other that has to flow from a conversion of heart and mind, of intellect and will inspired by the love of God.
Forgiveness of the one who hurts or sins against us is a specific aspect that Jesus stresses. It is a constitutive element in the prayer he taught.
“Forgive us the wrongs we have done,
Jesus answered “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven” (Mt. 18:21-22). His reference to seventy times seven or 490 times indicates without limitation.
It is easy to discern how far these are from the competitive spirit of present day global capitalism, that would crush a competitor and marginalize the poor.
The very knowledge of God is intimately connected to the love of the neighbour, we know God through love of neighbour. As St. John stresses, we cannot love the God whom we do not see if we do not love the neighbour whom we see.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God. Everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God, but the unloving know nothing of God. For God is love... Though God has never been seen by any man, God himself dwells in us if we love one another; his love is brought to perfection within us.” 1 John 4:7-12.
Aloysius Pieris develops the relationship between such knowledge and love as an approximation between gnosis and agape:
“loving one’s neighbour is the Christian way of knowing God. In other words, love is Christian gnosis, because one who does not love one’s fellows does not know God.”
Jesus’ spirituality encourages meditation on the divinity present in all humans and invokes love and respect from us. As we enter into our deepest self through meditation, self purification and in contemplation we meet the divine in us and others in God. Union with God, which is the goal of spirituality, makes us habitually see God in the neighbour, especially the poor and the despised of the earth. God is thus experienced more deeply.
his mission thus:
Jesus preaches the kingdom of God. This term appears 112 times in the gospels, 90 of them attributed to Jesus. His kingdom means that the plan of God for humankind is to be fulfilled in a radically profound way, here on earth. It is a reversal of the usual conditions of society.
poor become rich (Luke 6.20)
This reversal of positions is contrary to the values of Jewish society of the day, not to mention Roman imperialism.
In the “Our Father” Jesus links the honouring of the Father with the coming of the kingdom of God and the meeting of human needs such as daily bread and genuine forgiveness of the other.
Jesus’ teaching on prayer is very challenging. He teaches that prayer should be sincere, authentic and transformative of human relationships. In the circumstances of his times the coming of another kingdom as a challenge to the kingdom of the Caesars was a subversive prayer.
God’s love respects each persons’ freedom and uniqueness. The love for the other must include a concern and care for the rights of the other beginning with the right to life, to food, to housing, to health, to work, to freedom and one’s identity as a person including the right to be different, while being equal as humans. Jesus message, mission and spirituality are thus intimately linked to socio-political action for transformation in inter-personal relations and in society.
The love of neighbour as oneself has social implications such as concerning the use of material resources. Jesus was not neutral towards the rich and the poor and the use of riches. Though Jesus was gentle in his ways he did not mince his words when he had to speak to the rich. Jesus was very critical of the accumulation of wealth and power that comes through the exploitation of others:
cf. Luke 6:20-26 the beatitudes “. . .But how
terrible for you who are rich now: you have had your easy life. . .
The parable of the rich young man, (a Jewish leader, of the ruling class, as Luke describes him) illustrates clearly how Jesus wanted riches to be used for the benefit of the needy. The young man had observed the commandments from his early days; “what else do I need to do”? he enquired. Jesus told him ”there is still one more thing you need to do”.
If you want, to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me. But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich” Matthew: 19:21; Luke 18:18-24.
It was at this stage that Jesus said that it is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. This made Peter raise the question as to “who could then be saved”. Thus the work “Quis dives salvetur?”, “What rich person will be saved”, was the topic of reflection of the Fathers of the Church. This shows the centrality of sharing in the teaching of Jesus, as well as the difficulty of implementing it. This is a spiritual challenge for the present day disciples of Jesus, to take this teaching seriously.
Jesus is uncompromising in his criticism of hypocrisy and the false values of the leadership “How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You give to God a tenth even of seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill and cumin; but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice and mercy and honesty. These you should practice, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23-24)
In the parable of the sower Jesus warns against the false values: “but worldly cares and the false glamour of wealth and all kinds of evil desire come in and choke the world and it proves barren” Mark 4:19.
The disciple of Jesus has to make a clear option between the values of mammon and the loving service of God through the neighbour: “No servant can be slave of two masters.., you cannot serve both God and mammon (money) Luke 16:13.
Jesus, an active socially committed mystic
Jesus was profoundly contemplative, intensely human in his personal relations and authentically radical in his social options. He was a mystic given to quiet contemplation, solitary prayer and silence. “He would steal away from them into the desert and pray there” Luke 5:16.
At the same time he was a person of intense action and radical commitment. These two aspects were intimately connected and inextricably intertwined. It was because he was in close union with God that he could not accept the way in which men and women, children of God, were treated in the society of his day.
His “good news to the poor” was the fruit both of his meditation as well as of his deep awareness of the condition of his people.
His was an integrated. personality; a spirituality that was both authentic subjectively, as well as objectively in keeping with the demands of the kingdom of God on earth. It was not a mere flight from the world to be united to God. He did not understand the spiritual life as an ascetical exercise of self-negation that had no relation to justice in society and to love of the other even beyond the demands of justice. He did not distinguish himself from others in anything except his loving service and self-sacrifice.
His asceticism involved being suspect by others, both by those close to him and his opponents. Even the members of his family doubted his wisdom, if not his sanity, in living and teaching as he did. He had to face the threats of being killed by the religious and social leaders of the day. He has also to escape the adulation of his followers. He was open to those whom society despised and marginalized or excluded from “respectable” society. His holiness took him to meeting with public sinners or the unpopular such as tax collectors, rather than to shunning them. A Jesus school of spirituality would inspire forms of asceticism and mystical experience in the search for the kingdom of God within human society that always has strong elements of sinfulness including social sin.
Jesus’ spirituality inspires a vision of a just world in which all humans have a chance of obtaining the means for a decent life. Realizing the vision requires an effort to bring food to the hungry, houses to the roofless, work for the unemployed, freedom to captives, knowledge to the ignorant, and above all the loving acceptance of one another irrespective of differences.
These are the strange promises of Jesus to be partly realized in this life by persons and by humanity over the ages. We can discern it through faith, contribute towards it by struggling in hope. Love is its fulfillment, joy its fruit. To live the values of this spiritual mastery over our selves is to realize a new power, a peace and joy that surpasses all other joys. It is a pure, selfless, active, creative, liberative joy. This is the joy of the wedding feast to which liberated humanity is invited.
It is for us to respond willingly by a conversion of heart, a reversal of values and a fundamental option for life, solidarity, friendship and effective sharing in love. Then heaven would begin for us here on earth. This is redemption, salvation, human liberation and fulfillment. Jesus died testifying to these values. “Jesus did not preach himself, but the kingdom of God”. “Jesus did not talk simply about ‘God”’ but the kingdom of God (Jon Sobrino, Karl Rahner). Jesus spirituality has to be elaborated in terms of those teachings also. In Jesus there is a close relationship between union with God and his ministry or mission which is the realization of the kingdom of God, the liberation of the oppressed. Union with God is in bringing about God’s vision for humanity. Jesus had to face tremendous odds against his radical spirituality. This can be a source of inspiration to the powerless victims in the struggle against the evils of present globalization that seems inevitable and invincible.
Fathers of the Church
That God is love, and love requires social justice is a constant teaching of the Fathers of the Early Church such as Clement of Alexandria, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Ambrose and Augustine. That is how they understood the Jesus teaching and call of God in the Old Testament.
The Fathers of the Church commented frequently on the social teaching of the Bible and of its implications for their times. They saw clearly Jesus’ struggle against Mammon and all forms of exploitation, and his vision of virtue as love leading to effective sharing in community. An example from one of them, St. Basil the Great (born in Cappadocia about 330, died in 379) Bishop of Caesarea who in his sermons to the rich landowners, gives an indication of the tenor of their thought:
‘Whom do I injure,’ the rich persons says, ‘when I retain and conserve my own? Which things, tell me, are yours? Whence have you brought them into being? You are like one occupying a place in a theatre, who should prohibit others from entering, treating that as one’s own which was designed for the common use of all.
Such are the rich. Because they were first to occupy common goods, they take these goods as their own. If each one would take that which is sufficient for one’s needs, leaving what is in excess to those in distress, no one would be rich, no one poor.
‘Did you not come naked from the womb? Will you not return naked into the earth?’ (Job 1:21). Whence then did you have your present possessions? If you say, ‘by chance’, you are godless, because you do not acknowledge the Creator, nor give thanks to the Giver? If you admit they are from God, tell us why you have received them.
Is God unjust to distribute the necessaries of life to us unequally. Why are you rich, why is that one poor? Is it not that you may receive the reward of beneficence and faithful distribution...
Are you not avaricious? Are you not as robber? You who make your own the things which you have received to distribute? Will not one be called a thief who steals the garment of one already clothed, and is one deserving of any other title who will not clothe the naked if he is able to do so?
The bread which you keep, belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, belongs to the naked;... Wherefore as often as you were able to help others, and refused, so often you do them wrong”. . .
Things of this kind are from God: the fertile land, moderate winds, abundance of seeds, the work of the oxen, and other things by which a farm is brought to productivity and abundance... But the avaricious one has not remembered our common nature, and has not thought of distribution...”
Many references to the Church Fathers are available in other publications. We give here a few main themes of their teaching.
Some of the concepts developed by the Fathers in the first few centuries of Christianity may be presented as follows:
Creation by God. Hence all wealth belongs to God as possessor. All persons are from God; God provides for all generously. Hence it is idolatrous of the rich to usurp God’s absolute dominion over things.
Nature has brought forth all things in common, sunshine and rain for all without discrimination. See the birds of the air, the lilies of the field... we are born naked, with death return to earth naked; so why be attached to things; we are all pilgrims, sojourners on earth; no mine and thine.
Property: Common destination of all material good, stewardship of property, for use for all. Private property: material goods are not bad in themselves. Virtue in the use of wealth. We should not be possessed by wealth; not become its slaves. How was wealth acquired?... by work, by exploitation?
If by inheritance, how did parents acquire wealth? Riches are theft, robbery, fraud, depriving the workers of just dues.
Private property causes divisions, jealousy, pride, wars. Greed is the root of all evils, cupiditas radix omnium malorum. The few who are wealthy cause the many to groan in misery. Accumulated wealth is selfishness; “you strip men naked”, plunder, murder; superfluous wealth belongs to needy.
Liberation is in non-attachment, in not taking more than one needs. The few who are rich are accountable to all. Distribute the superfluous wealth among the poor; in doing so the rich are not giving what is their own but returning what belongs to the poor, the needy. Giving alms is meaningless, if there is no sharing in superfluity. Warnings to the rich: store your wealth in the hearts of the poor.
The poor reveal the demands of the gospel. The rich have to be evangelized by the poor. The poor are a sacrament of salvation for the rich: “I was hungry”, Mt. 25. The poor are the saviours of their benefactors. The poor are not slothful; the rich may be worse.
Unfortunately this period of Church history and such concepts have not been accentuated in the formation of the Christians including the priests and religious in the recent centuries. Over the centuries the Church developed a spirituality based on another fundamentally different paradigm. Gradually the Church became part of the social establishment of the Roman empire, later of feudalism and the princely rulers and medieval kingdoms. These brought about different understandings of the message and mission of Jesus and of Christian spirituality.
On the one hand Church could not teach a radically egalitarian message as the Fathers of the Church following Jesus. On the other hand the Church developed another view of God and human life in which original sin was the all enveloping condition of human existence, and the ministrations of the Church were essential for salvation and sanctification. Thus a spirituality was evolved in which the accent was on the sacramental life with their exopere operato effect.
3. Contradiction between Christianity and Aparthideic Globalization.
Reflecting on the teaching of Jesus and the life of the early Church it is clear that there is an irreconcilable contradiction between the spirituality of Jesus (and the early church) and the neo-liberal globalization. Their assumptions, values, ways and means of operation and the social consequences are diametrically opposed to each other.
is for humans for all law
and system are for profit
The ten commandments of God are against idolatry, avarice, lust, stealing, killing and falsehood, Globalization makes a god of the market (a form of idolatry), takes away of people’s property by fair or foul means,
Jesus teaches us to love and respect nature as God’s providence for all humanity; globalization abuses and pollutes nature with grave harm to future generations. Whereas the Church should be a prophetic voice for justice and peace and the integrity of creation, this globalization invites the Church to neglect the core message of the Gospel, to legitimize this social order based on greed and injustice to the majority of humanity and is racist in defending the present European-made world order.
Marian Spirituality of the Magnificat can give an indication of the commonality of struggles requiring radical changes in economic, political and social life, beginning with personal humility, confident in God’s promises to humanity, especially the poor.
The values and rights treasured by Jesus and Mary are endangered, especially for the poor, by the capitalistic globalization process. The paradoxical and sad situation is that while Jesus’ teachings are totally at variance with the assumptions and values of capitalistic globalization, it is people and countries who call themselves Christians that have built up this iniquitous, capitalistic global system and benefit from it. The system gives respect and freedom to the Churches, so long as these do not contest it seriously. How has this been possible? Is the ongoing secularization of Western peoples due to the gap between the teaching of Jesus and the practice of the Christian churches?
In the face of capitalistic globalization, disciples of Jesus may find a better inspiration in Jesus himself and in the early Church rather than in subsequent period of Church history, when the Church was compromised with political and socioeconomic power.
Catholic Church’s Response to Globalization
The response of the Catholic Church to capitalistic globalization can be studied at different levels and from different perspectives. There is the level of the universal teaching of the Church at the level of the Papacy and the entire College of Bishops, the teaching of different conferences of Bishops, of theologians and the action of the church related groups locally and perhaps globally. This subject can be reflected in terms of the overall approach of the Church to human and social life, and in relation to the specific phenomenon as it has developed during the 1990s, after the fall of the soviet Empire.
Pope John Paul II:
In his Encyclical Letter: “Centesimus Annus” of 1st May 1991, he deals ex professor on the free market and on capitalism as it was seen in 1990, within an year of the fall of the Soviet Union. At the time there was a general euphoria over the victory of capitalism over Marxism and state socialism in Eastern Europe.
The Pope’s position is that
a) The fall of the Soviet Communist empire is not necessarily an indication that capitalism is the only way out for the development of the world.
b) He sees the right to private property as a primary right of human freedom,
c) but this right is limited by the “original common destination” of all earthly goods for the common good of humanity, as willed by the Creator, as well as the will of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Gospel. This is also the teaching of the Popes since Leo XIII in 1891, and of Vatican II in “Gaudiumet Spes” Nos. 69, 71.
d) The origin of individual property is in work, with intelligence and freedom (no. 31); know how, technology and skill, initiative and entrepreneurial ability (no. 32).
e) The “business economy” has positive aspects and risks and problems: such as inability to compete, inequality, marginalization and exclusion of many of the Third World, and even in the developed countries. Capitalism can be ruthless as in the dark first phase of Western industrialization. Inhuman exploitation, even attempts at elimination of some peoples from history. Exploitation of women (no. 33).
f) The free market is historically seen as “the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But all needs, such as need for food, are not marketable or negotiable. (no.34).
g) In this sense, it is right to speak of a struggle against an economic system, if the latter is understood as a method of upholding the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work. In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be state capitalism, but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and the state, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied”... (no.35).
h) “Profit is the regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be important for the life of a business
i) “It is necessary to break down the barriers of monopolies which leave so many countries on the margin of development, and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions which will enable them to share in development. This goal calls for programmed and responsible action on the part of the entire international community.” (No. 35).
j) “It cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices. In such cases it is necessary to find-as in fact is partly happening-ways to lighten, defer or even cancel the debt, compatible with the fundamental right, of peoples to subsistence and progress.” (no. 35)
k) He criticizes the phenomenon of consumerism, and of the creation of artificial demand especially by the media.
“Drugs, as well as pornography and other forms of consumerism which exploit the frailty of the weak, tend to fill the resulting spiritual void”.
Duty to give of one’s abundance for those in need.
l) the disastrous ecological question is due to present day human regarding themselves as God and thinking they can use nature as they wish, without concern for the future of nature and of humanity.
m) Need of an authentic “human ecology”, and a “Social ecology” of work.
“The decisions which create a human environment can give rise to specific structures of sin which impede the full realization of those who are in any way oppressed by them. To destroy such structures and replace them with more authentic forms of living in community is a task which demands courage and patience.” (no. 38).
n) With the new capitalism too the State has to defend the common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be defended simply by market forces.
“Here we find a new limit on the market: there are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important human needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought and sold... Nevertheless these mechanisms carry the risk of an “idolatry” of the market. (no. 40).
o) In the Western societies too there is an alienation in consumerism, in work that neglects human values, in various forms of exploitation of humans, manipulated by the means of mass communication. (no. 41).
p) The Pope rejects a capitalism “in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridicial framework in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious.” (no. 42)
q) The Pope stresses the needs of a workers ‘movement “directed towards the liberation and promotion of the whole person.
r) “Ownership of the means of production, whether in industry or agriculture, is just and legitimate if it serves useful work. It becomes illegitimate, however, when it is not utilized or when it serves to impede the work of others, in an effort to gain a profit which is not the result of the overall expansion of work and the wealth of society, but rather in the result of curbing them or of illicit exploitation, speculation or the breaking of solidarity among working people. Ownership of this kind has no justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man.” (no. 43).
s) The economic system must create opportunities of work and human growth for all.
(also cf: “Tertio Millennio Adveniente” of 1994)