Thursday, November 15, 2007
Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice: Navigating the Path to Peace (Theology in Global Perspective) (Paperback)
By Mary J. Miller (Iowa and Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
"This book may take our breath away." So states the cover blurb from Walter Brueggemann on "Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice: Navigating the Path to Peace," released on April 17, 2007 by Daniel G. Groody. The basic premise is, metaphorically, that the global family has booked passage and is now aboard the ship of globalization and there is no turning back to the shore. The question we must ask ourselves, as passengers on this ship, is, "who is at the helm and where are we going?" As Gustavo Gutierrez quips, "Being against globalization is like being against electricity." We can't stop the ship, and one would question the wisdom of wanting to, but the issues of who's driving and where will we end up are legitimate.
The book begins by offering an overview of the dual nature of globalization--its inherent propensity for good, such as the triumphs of technology, and for ill, such as the tragedy of poverty. Perhaps more importantly, chapter one details where we have sailed on this ship so far. This chapter seeks to give a realistic picture of the world today and paints that picture by using the most current statistics available. These statistics were gathered from sources such as the World Bank, the United Nations annual Human Development and World Development reports, and the World Institute for Development Economic Research. It is staggering to learn that 19 percent of the global population lives on less than $1 per day, 48 percent live on less than $2 per day, 75 percent live on less than $10 per day, and, according to the World Bank, two-thirds of the population of the planet lives in poverty. The weight of these income disparities is compounded when one looks at the unequal distribution of wealth and our disordered spending patterns. According to an article in the December 2006 issue of "The Economist," half of all wealth is held by only 2 percent of the world's adults. The world spends almost as much money on toys and games as the poorest 20 percent of the population earns in a year, and four times as much on alcohol as on international development aid. The troubling area of military spending is also addressed.
The world picture, from the perspective of poverty and need is indeed bleak, but Professor Groody does not leave us in the grip of its reality with no hope. He is convinced that, while fully aware of the abuses committed in the name of religion throughout history, the gift theology can bring to the process of globalization is a navigation system that has the potential to guide us to a place of solidarity and peace, where if globalization is left to itself or to those leaders who are only motivated by profit we may run aground on the icebergs of greed. As Groody notes, we are doing theological reflection all the time, but he argues that to find a place of human solidarity we must undergo a conversion from "money-theism" to monotheism. The remaining eight chapters of the book deal with how the various sub-disciplines of theology inform the process of globalization.
* Chapter two details the core narratives of the Bible--the Narrative of the Empire, the Narrative of the Poor, the Narrative of Yahweh, the Narrative of Idolatry, and the Narrative of the Gospel, integrating them all with the Narrative of the Passover.
* Chapter three challenges idolatry and excessive wealth through the words of the early church writers.
* Chapter four lays out an overview of Catholic social teaching with an acronym ("A God of Life") that provides a framework on which to hang the basic tenets. There are also several very useful charts that detail the documents of the universal and regional churches by categories of year, author, context, and key concept.
* Chapter five consists of a short section (five or six pages) on the basic social teachings of each of the major, non-Judeo-Christian, world religions--Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahai Faith, and African Indigenous religions. Here we see that social justice is not unique to Christianity.
* In chapter six the lives of five contemporary models of justice are briefly chronicled: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and Oscar Romero. Attention is paid especially to their foundational experiences, the major metaphor of their life, their operative theology, and their core contribution to justice.
* Chapter seven reflects on God through the perspective of the poor by looking at liberation theology and the preferential option for the poor. This chapter is an especially helpful read for anyone who wishes to understand what is meant by these two terms and the position of the Vatican on liberation theology. The global perspective is readily apparent again in this chapter as attention is paid to Black, Hispanic, Feminist, and Asian liberation theology.
* Chapter eight concerns the rite of the liturgy, and justice as living in right relationships with God, self, others, and the environment. This chapter also has several nice charts that are helpful in linking the sacraments to social teaching by way core issue.
* The final chapter on spirituality and transformation beautifully sums up the book by looking to the spiritual disciplines which can strengthen us for doing the work of justice in the world: fasting, prayer, community, solidarity, nature, simplicity, recollection, and Sabbath.
Each chapter begins with a relevant story, and ends with a set of questions that would be helpful for personal reflection, group discussion, or classroom use, and a detailed bibliography for further reading and study.
I recommend Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice for upper level undergrads and graduate students in theology, peace studies, political science, ethics and justice, and economics and business, as well as justice groups, and the general reader interested in this vital and timely topic. Groody has managed to research and write a compelling treatise on global injustice without conveying a bleak and hopeless message. At its core, this book seeks to respond to the deeper issues of the human heart that globalization has largely left unexplored--questions related to belonging and loneliness, good and evil, peace and division, healing and suffering, meaning and meaninglessness, hope and despair, love and apathy, justice and injustice, freedom and slavery, and ultimately life and death. He is not interested in overwhelming readers with guilt, but rather with guiding readers to examine our personal and corporate lives and motivations, all the while encouraging us to think beyond ourselves to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the global family. The book is clear and well documented, exquisitely written, and sings a wonderful melody of the gratuitousness of God that is both a gift to and a demand on our lives.