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by Dolores Bauer
Sunday, Jun. 01, 2003 at 7:18 AM
The neighbor falls by the wayside amid the burning questions "How do I accept myself?" and "How am I beautiful?" The liberation theologian Dorothee Soelle sees individualism as one of the stigmata of the American way of life.
“For Another World”. Dorothee Soelle and the “Pax Americana”
The Unbroken Resistance of a Protestant Mystic
By Dolores M. Bauer
[This article published in: Die Furche, Vienna, Dec 19, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.uni-kassel.de/fb10/frieden/themen/Globalisierung/soelle.html. Ms. Soelle died at age 73 in April 2003. Among her important books are: “Suffering”, “The Arms Race Kills Even Without War”, “Thinking about God” and “On Earth as in Heaven”.]
Sing the song of the earth in a world of violence! With this title, the well-known Protestant theologian and author Dorothee Soelle and the musicians of “Grupo Sal” recently performed in Vienna. Latin American music full of power and zest for life rebelling against the reality of exclusion and impoverishment combined with the soft fragile voice of the female author presenting her severe, difficult and passionate texts in her own inimitable way. What a fascinating intense evening! No one could elude its inner tension.
Dorothee Soelle at 73 has not lost her verbal power, openness, courage to name things by name and say clearly what others hardly imagine or only dare to say reservedly. The title of her main work “Mysticism and Resistance” was implicit in every word. All in all, Dorothee Soelle was a combative refractory daughter of God from the time of the famous “Koln Night Prayer” that wasn’t conducive to her church career in Germany.
I asked Dorothee Soelle whether she would still write this book today. “Yes”, she said. “At that time I denounced the miserable consequences of globalization. I wrote against this dreadful de-solidarity, this individualization where the neighbor has no place any more.”
The American Stigma
Then she described a text that she was finishing “Love your neighbor as yourself”. These two words “as yourself” occurred in 36 out of 40 essays from modern theological literature. A neighbor whether near or far has no chance any more amid the burning questions: “How do I accept myself?”, “How should I treat myself?”, “How am I beautiful?” et cetera. In Soelle’s eyes, this individualization is obviously only one of the stigmata of our contemporary society marked by the American way of life. She came to know this way of life from her teaching activity in the US.
Asked about events since September 11, she shook her head. “The developments are incomprehensible to me. All my friends are speechless and silenced by the enormous effect of these massive dummification instruments under which all of us ultimately live. Spirit, reflection, questioning and inquiry are lost. How others experience this new Pax Americana is not recognized any more. Very intelligent and educated people are at the same time completely blind.”
Money as a Driving Force
What worries Dorothee Soelle is the fact that the germ of this “totalitarian Pax Americana” is also spreading in Europe. She refers to the example of an Italian journalist burdened with a massive fine on account of remarks critical of the government. Claims, indemnification and money are central in many cases, no longer rights and the discovery of truth.
With sharp words, the evangelical theologian denounced this dilution of the rule of law, the undermining of democracy, the idolization of capital, the growing injustice, the self-aggrandizement of the rich and the impoverishment of the masses, everything pope John Paul II subsumed under the term “structures of sin” and deplored the deficient resistance of church leaders and Christians generally. “We speak too moderately, too cautiously and too nervously before the power of the seemingly powerful. The power hidden in faith must be rediscovered. We argue about secondary things like whether we Christians may hold a common meal or not instead of pleading hand in hand that our world and contemporaries are driven into misery and our mother earth is exploited before our eyes. We should revolt against the license to plunder, the license to kill and the charter to war because we see the real horror in these structures of sin.”
Dorothee Soelle’s power of hope shone through. This hope joined to the small and to the colorful diversity of base movements is trivialized or marginalized in the media.
She summarized this in the following picture. “Again and again these marvelous little flowers grow somehow out of the concrete. This is also a theme in the Bible. Jesus didn’t simply abolish or conjure away the Egyptian eye disease that always existed. He moved toward individual persons, turned completely and personally to them and healed some blind persons of the several thousand. This is also true today. Isolated groups in Israel and Palestine for example team up and cooperate in helping persons in enclosed villages. Then Israelis and Palestinians celebrate a feast together. This happens everywhere in God’s wondrous world.”
Dorothee Soelle also referred to her experiences with globalization opponents who represent a great hope potential in her opinion. Mammoth protest against the world owners took place in December 1999 in Seattle. This was something very new and lively. Then protests were staged in Porto Alegre and Florence. Something is changed in that a breath of a life-giving future is manifest. The wondrous sentences “Another world is possible” and The world is not for sale” as the masters of the world imagine are sentences that could also be in the Bible. These people have many sentences that sound very simple and express a piety of life that I find incredible because they brighten the rampant pessimism imposed on us by the totalitarian system.
Then she told of a night prayer that she organized in Koln in 2002 together with two other senior combatants from the time of the “balance of terror”. In the evening, a group of youths in the church set up a signpost. One beam was inscribed WTO (World Trade Organization) while the term democracy pointed in the opposite direction. Young people understand that these two terms are not compatible.
“This young generation that we imagine to be obsessed with cash and fun has awakened. The truth cannot be silenced. The truth walks about on light soles and with strange clothing but attracts attention again and again. I am convinced that resistance grows against the terror of the economy.”
The face under the glistening white hair smiles at me and puts her hand on my arm as though this brave person would say: “Come, we have both known for a long time from our faith: Another world is possible.”
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