Christian Biopolitics: A Credo & Strategy for the Future by Kenneth Cauthen
Dr. Cauthen is the John Price Grazer Griffith professor of theology at Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Grazer Theological Seminary. Published by Abingdon Press, Nashville; New York, 1971. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
A preface may serve a useful purpose if it provides the prospective reader with some indication of what he may expect in the pages to follow. I want to spell out some of the underlying principles that are assumed in the book and to suggest the audience that is most likely to be interested in what I have to say.
My thesis is that a planetary society is emerging which sets requirements for human fulfillment for the species as a whole that cannot be met unless there are profound changes in the ideas, values, and power coalitions that now determine our priorities and shape our politics. Our present ways of thinking and doing are not adequate to deal with the emerging ecological realities of Spaceship Earth in ways that not only allow us to survive but to provide justice and joy for all. In short,
Among those who believe that fundamental changes in American society are essential for the fullest achievement of the good life, a distinction can be made between the cultural transformationists and the political reformers. The former believe that the most important consideration is to nourish a new consciousness -- values, attitudes, goals, commitments, and life styles which will gradually remake society as the new vision takes hold of crucial segments of the population. Charles Reichís notion of "Consciousness III," which he thinks will accomplish "the greening of America," is an example of this type of thinking. The latter believe that what is essential is developing a politically effective coalition among present and emerging groups that can gain the necessary power to effect policies designed to achieve a more just society and a more satisfying life for all. John Gardnerís "Common Cause" operates on this premise, although the changes he seeks are toward the liberal rather than the radical side.
A dichotomy such as this is too neat, simplistic, and misleading if pushed very far. Nevertheless, in terms of this typology the present work is on the side of the cultural transformationists, although I do contend that both approaches are necessary. My basic appeal is for the development of a vision and a set of values appropriate to the emerging biological realities of the planetary society as an essential ingredient in accomplishing the political transformation that the fulfillment of life for all of earthís people demands. What is needed to make this a relevant proposal is a critical empirical analysis of the present situation in terms of whether there is any real likelihood of any class, group, or coalition of groups emerging as the agency of both ideological and political change. My own thinking is still inchoate on this point, but my tentative conclusion is that a new consciousness is arising in groups strategically placed in the socio-economic structure.
Advanced capitalism functions in a society in which a sizeable majority of people are relatively content with their roles as producers, consumers, and citizens. They tend to vote conservative and to defend the presently established institutions and values. But in two regions of the population are a minority of persons who are either presently excluded from many of the benefits of the society or alienated from some of its operating assumptions and values. The first is an underclass of the pre-affluent consisting of blacks and other racial minorities, the poor, and others at the margins of the socio-economic order. The second is a restless to radical, largely post-affluent group made up of the militant young, women in quest of liberation, students, intellectuals, and a variety of others scattered through the professions and other sectors largely outside the primary goods-producing area of the society. A common feature of this minority is a desire, expressed in rhetoric that runs from liberal to leftist, to achieve a society that is more humanly fulfilling and which extends its benefits to all persons. Likewise, such persons share various degrees of opposition to the conservative, nationalist, militarist, private enterprise ideologies and values designed to protect the vested interests of the privileged classes.
In the light of this analysis, then, my own scenario is cautiously hopeful, depending on (1) whether a creative minority of dreamers and doers with visions of a new life-fulfilling social order really emerges in strength, (2) the alliances that can be worked out with blacks, the poor, and other minorities now excluded from major social benefits, (3) the extent to which the populist idealism of the lower middle classes and working people generally favoring the extension of rights and equality to the "little man" everywhere wins out over the reactionary fears and prejudices which establishment elites and opportunist politicians are all too willing to exploit, and (4) what takes place at the center of the political spectrum itself under the pressure of events and in response to challenges to the established system from militant seekers of change.
This book is addressed primarily to those among the disenchanted minority who also belong to churches. To be more specific, I am thinking of a group of Christians -- mostly white, middle class, urban, highly educated, mainline Protestants -- who belong to what I earlier referred to as the restless to radical post-affluent class now surfacing at strategic points within the socio-economic order. I say this not to discourage any potential reader -- heaven forbid -- but merely to recognize that such persons are the most likely readers of a book like this. My aim is to nourish what I believe is an emerging new consciousness among many potential dreamers and doers in the churches who can help provide us with the visions and the values we need to promote a movement toward an ecologically optimum world community full of justice and joy in which the human race can not only survive but embark on exciting new adventures of physical and spiritual enjoyment.
Rochester, New York
June 10, 1971