Morgan’s Economic Atheism in many ways strikes me as being similar to the political atheism of the early Christian communities who were deemed ‘atheists’ by their refusal to worship or serve the gods of the state, including Caesar. Instead they were communities of resistance who among other things were resisting the impulse towards empire and domination, seclusion and control and held their theos in trust. At least before Constantine showed up that is.
While holding true Morgan’s critiques, especially the call for a 12-step program for Economic Atheism to detox our culture from unhealthy economic processes, I want to push back a bit with a Theological Economic rooted in the call to resistance to dominant cultures as embodied in the early Christian communities. This will be accomplished by looking at the idea of Utopia and Apocalypse in Liberation Theology and my own work in using ADHD as a cultural analytic.
In many ways what follows is an argument for Morgan’s 12-step program to detox from and confront neoclassical economics. While my model is rooted in a theological model and the experiences of a historic community I can only hope that it has some relevance to Morgan’s argument.
Economic theorists of the neoliberal model promise us utopic existences when the rules of their models are followed perfectly. Those of us in the fields of post-autistic or real-world economics usually push back against these assumptions by pointing out that such models tend to overlook and trample on those who do not succeed and the nature of gaiacide implicit to such models.
Liberation Theology, in its Christian, Jewish and Islamic forms, all insist on two points 1) God’s preferential treatment for the poor and 2) God’s passability – the ability of God to suffer not for us, not to remove our suffering but to suffer WITH humanity. God suffers as we suffer, in solidarity with us. Incarnation, in the Christian tradition, would insist that God even suffers as one of us.
In his book ‘Toward A Theology of Liberation’ Gustavo Gutierrez outlines the Liberation Theology model as a form of theological Marxism in response to the exploitation of bodies by the governments and corporations of Latin America. It is here in this text that he first lays out his use of the phrase ‘Utopia’.
For Gutierrez Utopia is not the future world that is to come. He is not using the work to envision a perfect day where all their work comes to fruition and justice is served, though I am sure that as a labor advocate, theologian and priest he believes in the ‘Kingdom Come’. Instead he tells us that Utopia is a vision of the future that calls the present into action and repentance .
Likewise William Stringfellow, a North American Episcopal (Anglican to those outside the US) homosexual lay theologian – and Harvard trained street lawyer – talks about the apocalyptic imagination of the New Testament as not an end of the world scenario or a road map to the end of the world (my apologies to the ‘Left Behind’ crowd) but, in the same vein as the utopic – a call and warning to the present to envision a new way of being so as to prevent the human exploiting tragedy that the Hebrew and early Christian imagination used so poetically .
In this manner a Theological Economic is not utopic or apocalyptic in the manner of the neoliberal economist. Like Gutierrez and Stringfellow we instead engage in these activities as theopoetic reimaginings of the present world in order to ask the essential questions that would allow human flourishing.
ROME AND EMPIRE WORSHIP
Ancient Rome’s economic system was based around the worship of state-approved deities and the emperor as God. To engage in the cult/tures of ancient Rome was to engage in systems that supported the Roman war machine. Early Christian and Jewish communities by not engaging in such practices were participating in an alternative-economic that derived its power and strength from communities of justice engaged in resistance to the powers that be.
Early Christian communities chose to step out of the imperial model and create instead a model of equality. Rich and poor ate together, your mother may be your bishop and your priest might be your slave. In an empire of displaced persons the early churches reframed the idea of family and equality in order to create communities of bodies displaced by power. It should be noted that the word economy has its roots in theology.
These communities engaged in an alternative sensibility that subverted the national narrative of conquest. This Theological Economic then is not an economic or theology that denies the material world but is instead one that insists on the engagement of the concrete materiality in which we all live.
ADHD LIBERATION THEOLOGY
In my own work I have recently been exploring the notion of a Liberation Theology for the ADHD (attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder ). Just as economic theory has become predominated by monotone discourses so have our view of human flourishing become dominated by Cartesian assumptions. Just as economics must become plural – in both teaching and communities – so must our understanding of knowledge, learning and the human person.
In my model of an ADHD Liberation Theology I push back against Disability Theology’s (a model of Liberation Theology) claims of resurrection bringing us a body broken and thus revealing the goodness of broken and disabled bodies. While a valid model I argue such a model does not work for the Differently Wisdomed – the ADHD, autistic and others. I instead argue for an ‘upper room’ salvic model. Here I refer to the Christian poetic narrative of the upper room where the community encounters the Holy Spirit experienced through chaos and disorder – a model very similar to the ADHD mind.
In my argument I say that it is the learning of injustice which must be disabled. That like the ADHD mind we must engage in a disabling of learning that allows for outside the box thinking, impulsive creativity and the ability to work well in chaos (and in a ‘speaking in tongues’ moment to bring chaos when the insistence of order begins to squash human bodies).
In my next section I will attempt to draw the elements of my Theological Economic together. In order to do so I will be using the above mentioned cultural analytic of the ADHD. While I know the real-world economic movement has sought to retreat from it’s phrase ‘autistic’ I am using the phrase ADHD in the positive.
If we are to insist on a pluralism of economic models then it follows that we should insist on a pluralism of economic realities in communities. A valid critique of neoclassical economics is that insistence that the real-life, true-world costs get over looked. This is as true for human bodies as it is for industries, Gaia and nations.
A Theological Economic would insist on an economic resistance to the powers that be, or the gods of the state. By this I mean that neoclassical economics will always insist on the exploitation of bodies, the flourishing of greed and the death of Gaia. These are principles that people of multiple faiths and no-faith can agree to, recognizing spirituality as being a wide experience with its own pluralities.
Here then our Theological Economic becomes a place of engagement with models that would exploit human bodies. In the face of war, gaiacide and crushing poverty and inhuman practices Theological Economic communities should engage in resistance economics based in the equality of the human person in relationship with each other and Gaia.
To begin its resistance the work of utopic and apocalyptic dreaming must first take place. By this I do not mean ‘the sky is falling’ scenarios or thinking that if we just change how we do economics then a perfect Kingdom Come/United Federation of Planets scenario will emerge. I mean we must engage in these practices as ways of speaking into the present in order to call them into a new way of being. We do this recognizing change is slow, incomplete and ongoing.
This work requires the return to the Liberation Theology base community model. At this point let me clarify that I am drawing from my own Christian tradition but to the inclusion of all traditions and not the exclusion. The base community movement began in Latin America as a resistance to the exploitation of workers and peasants by capitalist governments and corporations. These base communities formed a groundswell of action and activity in the resistance to corrupt powers. I am not advocating religious communities but communities of embodied religious action, as I have here defined it.
In a Theological Economic base communities would again form and would again be in resistance to exploiting economic models. Like the early Christian communities they would seek to embody alternative practices of inclusion, justice and mercy in the face of ‘perfect systems’ and their injustices. What the world is not, due to its investment to the system in which it was embedded, these communities must embody in practice. I will borrow this from Disability Theology – the resurrected Jesus, whom Christians see as the embodiment of perfection – resurrects with tears in his side and holes in his feet. Brokenness is closer to perfection than we would like to admit.
The base communities of a Theological Economy would affirm this by being a place of inclusion for bodies broken by injustice and unhealthy economic practices. Think of what would happen if base communities in poor communities stopped chasing the ‘American dream’ and began to network their own resources so as to encourage their own flourishing?
In an ADHD Liberation Theology model we are able to say that ‘normalcy is wounding’ . Like ADHDers who spend their lives trying to be normal and wound their sense of being and self in the process any economic model that seeks to create or maintain ‘normal’ or status quo as its operating procedure will inevitably wound individuals, communities and Gaia. Theological Economics in contrast are more concerned with human and gaia flourishing than they are with normalcy or status quo.
In the world today there are many ‘walking wounded’ ADHDers who bear the marks of forced normality. With brains prone to disruptions, creativity, outside the box thinking, hyperactivity and distractibility the wounds of normality can carry deep scars. Communities who do not fit the ‘perfect’ system of neoclassical economics can also carry deep scars of woundedness.
To envision communities of revolution in which a counter-cultural economic is embodied we must think beyond economics that insist on normalacy. Indeed, we must also insist that once any counter-cultural system becomes real – either in small communities or the wider world – that we immediately step back and begin the revolution again. Any system, once power is achieved, will begin to insist on its normalcy and will begin the wounding and breaking of bodies and Gaia.
Jamie Morgan’s Economic Atheism argued for job-insecurity and the need for a 12-step like program for a post-autistic/real-world model to do its job. A Theological Economic is not going to challenge this, as these are noble causes. Instead to this conversation we will add the need for communities of revolution – base communities – that embody the atheism of the early Christian movement. This was an atheism that involved a lack of faith in state-sponsored ideologies. Like neoclassical economics the Roman world was a false plurality whose credibility was only maintained by worship of Caesar. This Theological Economic (or Theological Economic Atheism) likewise rejects a false plurality for the reality of the embodied and concrete realities of people and Gaia.
If we take economic pluralism seriously then this is less an ideal for economic classrooms – though important – but for embodied realities. In this way we can imagine communities of economic resistance who must ‘be the change’ the world needs. This is not just a ‘theology’ but is an ‘ADHD Liberation Theology’. This will require us to disable learning that oppresses and wounds, think beyond normalcy and recognize that minds and bodies are not dualistic, but partners.
This ADHD Liberation Theology will also require us to work with the model that Dr. Hollowell develops to heal the ADHD soul . As we are envisioning an embodied community in resistance to unfair economics then we can see this as actions of communities, possibly the 12-step model Morgan encourages. These skills for healing are: mastery, interpersonal closeness or connection, practice and discipline, play, physical exercise, imaginative engagement with life and development of creative outlets. These are mentioned by Hollowell as skills to foster to heal the ADHD soul. But in reflection on my own model and Morgan’s call for a 12-step to confront neoclassical economics I believe these can become the spiritual disciplines of resistance.
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