Globalization and Theology

Overview

Globalization is a catchword of our time, referring to the interdependence that affects us all. But we often meet globalization with extreme ambivalence, recognizing that it has both positive and negative consequences for economics, politics, and culture.Joerg Rieger makes the point that even theology, itself, can be a manifestation of globalization. At its worst, theology can reflect Western intellectual imperialism and at its best, theology can encourage a compelling vision of diversity within unity.The author ...
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Overview

Globalization is a catchword of our time, referring to the interdependence that affects us all. But we often meet globalization with extreme ambivalence, recognizing that it has both positive and negative consequences for economics, politics, and culture.Joerg Rieger makes the point that even theology, itself, can be a manifestation of globalization. At its worst, theology can reflect Western intellectual imperialism and at its best, theology can encourage a compelling vision of diversity within unity.The author articulates a theology of globalization as a diverse phenomenon that respects different ways of seeing and knowing, thus encouraging harmony rather than homogeny.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426700651
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Globalization and Theology


By Joerg Rieger

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2010 Joerg Rieger
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-2006-2



CHAPTER 1

Globalization, Theology, and Hard Power


It is often forgotten today that globalization is not without precedent. A look at history tells us that globalization is an old phenomenon, which is closely connected to the emergence of a variety of empires in human history. While empires come in different forms and shapes, they share in common the effort to expand their reach as far as possible, geographically and otherwise, and to bring all of life under their control. Such control can be exercised in various ways, as we will see, but one of the most common forms of control is hard power.

Globalization, in this context, means the expansion of control primarily through the use of hard power over an ever larger geographical area, linked to the expansion of control over more and more aspects of life—not only economic and political but also cultural, religious, personal, emotional, and so on. This sort of globalization can be defined in terms of the expansion of top-down power at all levels of life, of mounting power differentials, of suppression of alternatives at all levels, and in terms of a concomitant erasure of local difference. This erasure of difference happens at the cultural level, as is often noted; for instance, as traditional ways of life and of thinking are abandoned. Nevertheless, this erasure of difference even manifests itself in the erasure of biological diversity, both past and present. For example, the Romans deeply influenced ecological circuits when they deforested large coastal regions in order to build their fleets. The landscape of the Mediterranean coasts still bears the marks of these actions. The goal of this sort of globalization is control over as much of the world and over as large a part of reality as possible, and one of the results is a growing gap between those on the top and those on the bottom, between the rich and the poor. Top-down globalization, in its various manifestations, creates concentrations of power and wealth in the hands of a few, to the detriment of the majority of people.

The Roman Empire will serve as our first example, as it provides the context in which Christianity was born—a context that deeply influenced Judeo-Christian traditions. The centralization of the Roman government under Gaius Julius Caesar constituted a major step in the Roman transition from being a republic to becoming an empire. In the process, power and wealth became even more concentrated at the top. The birth of Jesus occurred during the reign of the first official Roman emperor, Augustus, only a few decades later. This setting is important because the influence of empire extends to all aspects of life, and so it is not surprising that the Jesus movement ran into conflicts with the status quo and with all those who saw no alternative but to adapt to it. At the heart of these conflicts was the question of power and its theological justification: was divine power located at the top, with the various elites, or was divine power at work at the bottom, with the people—where the Jesus movement kept building?

The tensions between the Roman Empire, its supporters, and emerging Christianity can be seen in many of the writings of the New Testament, though only between the lines or in coded language. The writers needed to be cautious, as the influence of the Roman Empire was all-pervasive not just in the days of Jesus but also in their own time, in the latter parts of the first century. The writers of the Gospels, for instance, narrate the involvement of the Roman authorities in Jesus' crucifixion in slightly different ways, some of them more cautious than others. Nevertheless, they all preserve a "dangerous memory" of the fact that Jesus had been a threat to the aspirations of the empire.

In this context, politics and religion as well as the various actors are inextricably connected: the Roman Empire is not only represented by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, but also by the Jewish high priests, who were appointed by the Roman governors, and by vassals of Roman power such as Herod and his people. The hard power of the Roman Empire, which was brought to bear with special force in unruly and faraway provinces, was at work through all of these channels. Direct military exercises, brutal devastation of whole communities, and massacres were not uncommon; some of these manifestations of empire were mirrored in the life of Jesus. Soon after Jesus' birth, the Gospel of Matthew reports, Herod ordered the killing of all children in the area of Bethlehem in order to get rid of what might become a threat to his power. This way of terrorizing and traumatizing the population had consequences, one of which is still prevalent in the contemporary world in migrant and refugee communities: Jesus' family, too, was forced to migrate to Egypt as refugees (Matt. 2:13-18).

Keeping in mind this inextricable relation of religion and politics, Jesus' proverbial response to paying taxes must be seen in a new light: the advice to "give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" is often referenced as if Jesus were arguing for a peaceful coexistence of empire and religion, as if the emperor would be the ruler of things political and God would be the ruler of things religious. But Jesus can hardly be accused of forgetting what every Jew knew, namely that God could never be relegated to the religious realm (an idea which, in essence, is a modern invention), leaving the political realm to the emperor. All three Gospels that report this story mention that the context of Jesus' advice was a trap—set by both religious and political adversaries (as Mark and Matthew note). Luke emphasizes that they were amazed that they were not able to trap Jesus "in the presence of the people." The people, therefore, must have gotten this deeper meaning, what James Scott has called the "hidden transcripts," which are an important part of the "arts of resistance" (see Luke 20:20-26). The globalizing empire's strategy of erasing local difference appears not to have worked in this situation.

These tensions with the hard power of the Roman Empire continued and intensified after Jesus' execution, supporting the impression that the Crucifixion cannot be seen as a one-time mistake of the empire. Early Christianity stood in sharp contrast with the emperor cult, which directed religious worship toward the emperor and was a much more significant part of the overall structure of the Roman Empire than theological scholarship has realized. The early Christian confession that "Jesus is Lord" was a direct challenge to the power of the empire, which held that the emperor was lord. Other statements of the Christian faith implied as much: confessing Jesus as savior when the emperor was considered savior, proclaiming faith in—and therefore allegiance to—Jesus when the object of faith was the emperor, and claiming that Jesus was the Son of God when the emperor was considered the son of the divine could not go unnoticed. Other language would have been available for Jesus, but it seems that Paul was not interested in using it.

It should be clear by now that a merely religious explanation of these tensions will not suffice. The Romans were religiously quite tolerant and managed to include gods of other religions, like the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris, in their worship. In a globalizing world, both then and now, those in power often do not mind some diversion when their interests are not challenged. What cannot be tolerated, however, are real alternatives, such as the ones that were provided by early Christianity. Whereas there might have been some well-defined space in Roman minds for other lords, saviors, and divine sons who were willing to play along with the power of the emperor, defined space in Roman minds for other lords, saviors, and divine sons who were willing to play along with the power of the emperor, what was unacceptable was to put Jesus in such a place of power. A day laborer in construction from Galilee who led a movement of the common people and who ended up on one of the crosses of the empire—Paul kept reminding his constituents of this cross—could not easily be assimilated by the empire and its concentration of power in the hands of a few.

The tolerance of those who seek to rule the world from the top down, via hard power, can only go so far: they cannot accept the existence of real alternatives, and they are unable to incorporate in their globalizing schemes alternative sorts of power—particularly the ones that move from the bottom up and thus counter the typical top-down movement of empires' aspirations to global domination. If the control of the Roman Empire was to be maintained, the control of the emperor needed to be maintained as well. The whole theological apparatus of the Roman Empire was designed to maintain this sort of control, and imagining God's power in terms of the power of the emperor was crucial.

Unlike the confession of the lordship of Jesus, the principles of classical theism matched the requirements of the empire and provided valuable support for its goals. Classical theism envisioned God not only as all-powerful but also as immutable and impassible, qualities that were designed to affirm unilateral and top-down power. The divine would be less than all-powerful, and its top-down power would be compromised, if anything were in a position to affect it, touch it, or change it. The Nicene Creed, produced in the fourth century at the initiative and under the oversight of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, has often been read in this light. If Jesus is of the same substance as God, as Constantine proposed to the Nicene Council and as the Council affirmed in the Nicene Creed, the question is how God is envisioned. If God is envisioned in the terms of classical theism and thus in terms of the top-down power of the elites, Jesus can now also be envisioned in these terms and thus as a supporter of the top-down power of the empire.

Even the form of the Nicene Creed, the first so-called ecumenical creed, bears the stamp of the globalization efforts of the Roman Empire: this is the first time that Christian theology finds expression in the form of universal imperial decrees. While the New Testament canon witnesses to the diversity of the early church and to what might be called "unity in diversity," the Nicene Creed presents a different model. At the Council of Nicaea, the church adopted the procedures by which the empire hammered out its decrees: a unified council that was called, funded, and led by the emperor made the decisions. Presiding over the Council of Nicaea, Constantine proposed the central theological term of the Nicene Creed: the homoousia (essential sameness) of God and Jesus, the first and the second person of the Trinity. With the Council of Nicaea, the church entered a process of globalization that was qualitatively different from what had gone before. Nevertheless, these efforts at globalization were not entirely successful, and there are alternative ways to interpret the Nicene Creed, as we will see in the next chapter.

The power that drives all these forms of globalization is of a hard sort and clearly top-down. The Roman military exploits and conquests designed to expand the empire as far as possible are well known, but similar force was applied within the confines of the empire. Jesus was one of many others who were crucified—this was a preferred way for executing political rebels. This method of execution demonstrated the power of the Roman Empire over its subjects and their communities. The Romans would crucify as many as two thousand people on a single day in one area. The terror that such events must have struck in the population is hard to imagine. Crucifixions and other harsh forms of execution, such as using people as human torches for parties given by those in positions of power, were means of executing Christians long after Christ's death, and even the Apostle Paul seems to have been executed by similar methods.

Remembering the fact that Paul spent his life in and out of Roman prisons, we cannot consider his fate—like the fate of Jesus—as a mistake of the empire either. The sort of local difference that was supposed to be erased here was indeed dangerous, as it held real promise of providing broad-based alternatives and thus presented a challenge to the empire. Hard, top-down power, held in the hands of a few, needs to draw clear lines in order to maintain its force with the masses, even if it may show some tolerance within these lines.

Another example of a sort of globalization that proceeds via hard power and from the top down is the Spanish conquest. Here, too, theology and globalization go hand in hand. Columbus sailed westward in the firm belief that it was the will of God to expand the reach of the Spanish Empire. After the Spanish had set foot in the New World in order to take possession of it, it was Pope Alexander VI who in 1493 endorsed the reign over this world by Spanish emperors, who carried the title "Holy Roman Emperor." Critics of this move have often claimed that the main purpose for this sort of globalization was greed. Gustavo Gutiérrez, for instance, has proposed that the alternative before the conquistadors was "God or gold."

It must not be overlooked, however, that the conquistadors held strong theological concerns of their own, and that the pope's endorsement cannot be reduced to the matter of greed either. The conquest was guided not merely by hunger for wealth and power but also by particular images of God as heavenly monarch who, through the Roman Catholic Church, endorsed the earthly monarchies of the Spaniards and Portuguese both at home and abroad, and by a particular sense of mission.

The hard power that was brought to bear in the conquest is firmly established by the history books. The natives of the Americas were enslaved with such effectiveness that millions of them died—amounting to genocide. Even cautious estimates put the population of the colonized territories at seventy million before the Spaniards arrived, and at ten million in 1625. Any resistance was brutally repressed, and in the early years of the conquest the conquistadors killed hundreds of thousands of people, often using the cruelest methods imaginable, such as slitting open people's stomachs and burning their chiefs alive in public. Even the missionary work that went hand in hand with conquest reflects the use of hard power, though in a very particular way, as the leading theologians of conquest, writing in Spain, did not want to extend the methods of conquest directly to missionary conversion. As a result, they did not permit the conversion of the natives by force.

War as direct means of conversion was rejected not only by opponents of the conquest, like Bartolomé de Las Casas, but also by the theologians who supported the conquest—thinkers as different as Juan Gines de Sepulveda and Tomas de Vitoria, the latter of whom laid important foundations for modern law. The use of the means of war was only permitted when the natives put up resistance to the proclamation of the gospel. In other words, hard power was permissible when the natives sought to assert and maintain their local differences, which might have provided alternatives to the Christianity promoted by the Spanish and, by extension, to Spanish imperial rule. As long as real alternatives could be suppressed in this way, the missionaries would prove to be successful.

This approach throws some light on the often-observed phenomenon that the conversion of the Native Americans to Christianity was only skin-deep. Underneath the adopted Christian faith, they were able to maintain some of their traditions, an arrangement that resulted in hybridized religious images. Yet such arrangements may not be unusual for situations of grave power differentials based on hard, top-down power, where the elites in power do not need to be overly concerned about micromanaging people's lives. As long as the mass of the people conform to commonly accepted standards in public—for the Spaniards these standards were contained in Christianity—the empire appears to be secure.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Globalization and Theology by Joerg Rieger. Copyright © 2010 Joerg Rieger. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Globalization, Theology, and Hard Power 5

2 Globalization and Theologies Providing Alternatives to Hard Power 15

3 Interlude: Posteolonialism, Binaries, and Dualisms 27

4 Globalization, Theology, and Soft Power 33

5 Globalization and Theologies Providing Alternatives to Soft Power 43

6 Theology and Power in a Globalizing The Lessons of Globalization and Empire 53

Conclusion: In a Globalizing World, the Middle Road Leads to Death 61

Notes 65

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Globalization and Theology


By Joerg Rieger

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2010 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4267-0065-1


Chapter One

Globalization, Theology, and Hard Power

It is often forgotten today that globalization is not without precedent. A look at history tells us that globalization is an old phenomenon, which is closely connected to the emergence of a variety of empires in human history. While empires come in different forms and shapes, they share in common the effort to expand their reach as far as possible, geographically and otherwise, and to bring all of life under their control. Such control can be exercised in various ways, as we will see, but one of the most common forms of control is hard power.

Globalization, in this context, means the expansion of control primarily through the use of hard power over an ever larger geographical area, linked to the expansion of control over more and more aspects of life—not only economic and political but also cultural, religious, personal, emotional, and so on. This sort of globalization can be defined in terms of the expansion of top-down power at all levels of life, of mounting power differentials, of suppression of alternatives at all levels, and in terms of a concomitant erasure of local difference. This erasure of difference happens at the cultural level, as is often noted; for instance, as traditional ways of life and of thinking are abandoned. Nevertheless, this erasure of difference even manifests itself in the erasure of biological diversity, both past and present. For example, the Romans deeply influenced ecological circuits when they deforested large coastal regions in order to build their fleets. The landscape of the Mediterranean coasts still bears the marks of these actions. The goal of this sort of globalization is control over as much of the world and over as large a part of reality as possible, and one of the results is a growing gap between those on the top and those on the bottom, between the rich and the poor. Top-down globalization, in its various manifestations, creates concentrations of power and wealth in the hands of a few, to the detriment of the majority of people.

The Roman Empire will serve as our first example, as it provides the context in which Christianity was born—a context that deeply influenced Judeo-Christian traditions. The centralization of the Roman government under Gaius Julius Caesar constituted a major step in the Roman transition from being a republic to becoming an empire. In the process, power and wealth became even more concentrated at the top. The birth of Jesus occurred during the reign of the first official Roman emperor, Augustus, only a few decades later. This setting is important because the influence of empire extends to all aspects of life, and so it is not surprising that the Jesus movement ran into conflicts with the status quo and with all those who saw no alternative but to adapt to it. At the heart of these conflicts was the question of power and its theological justification: was divine power located at the top, with the various elites, or was divine power at work at the bottom, with the people—where the Jesus movement kept building?

The tensions between the Roman Empire, its supporters, and emerging Christianity can be seen in many of the writings of the New Testament, though only between the lines or in coded language. The writers needed to be cautious, as the influence of the Roman Empire was all-pervasive not just in the days of Jesus but also in their own time, in the latter parts of the first century. The writers of the Gospels, for instance, narrate the involvement of the Roman authorities in Jesus' crucifixion in slightly different ways, some of them more cautious than others. Nevertheless, they all preserve a "dangerous memory" of the fact that Jesus had been a threat to the aspirations of the empire.

In this context, politics and religion as well as the various actors are inextricably connected: the Roman Empire is not only represented by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, but also by the Jewish high priests, who were appointed by the Roman governors, and by vassals of Roman power such as Herod and his people. The hard power of the Roman Empire, which was brought to bear with special force in unruly and faraway provinces, was at work through all of these channels. Direct military exercises, brutal devastation of whole communities, and massacres were not uncommon; some of these manifestations of empire were mirrored in the life of Jesus. Soon after Jesus' birth, the Gospel of Matthew reports, Herod ordered the killing of all children in the area of Bethlehem in order to get rid of what might become a threat to his power. This way of terrorizing and traumatizing the population had consequences, one of which is still prevalent in the contemporary world in migrant and refugee communities: Jesus' family, too, was forced to migrate to Egypt as refugees (Matt. 2:13-18).

Keeping in mind this inextricable relation of religion and politics, Jesus' proverbial response to paying taxes must be seen in a new light: the advice to "give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" is often referenced as if Jesus were arguing for a peaceful coexistence of empire and religion, as if the emperor would be the ruler of things political and God would be the ruler of things religious. But Jesus can hardly be accused of forgetting what every Jew knew, namely that God could never be relegated to the religious realm (an idea which, in essence, is a modern invention), leaving the political realm to the emperor. All three Gospels that report this story mention that the context of Jesus' advice was a trap—set by both religious and political adversaries (as Mark and Matthew note). Luke emphasizes that they were amazed that they were not able to trap Jesus "in the presence of the people." The people, therefore, must have gotten this deeper meaning, what James Scott has called the "hidden transcripts," which are an important part of the "arts of resistance" (see Luke 20:20-26). The globalizing empire's strategy of erasing local difference appears not to have worked in this situation.

These tensions with the hard power of the Roman Empire continued and intensified after Jesus' execution, supporting the impression that the Crucifixion cannot be seen as a one-time mistake of the empire. Early Christianity stood in sharp contrast with the emperor cult, which directed religious worship toward the emperor and was a much more significant part of the overall structure of the Roman Empire than theological scholarship has realized. The early Christian confession that "Jesus is Lord" was a direct challenge to the power of the empire, which held that the emperor was lord. Other statements of the Christian faith implied as much: confessing Jesus as savior when the emperor was considered savior, proclaiming faith in—and therefore allegiance to—Jesus when the object of faith was the emperor, and claiming that Jesus was the Son of God when the emperor was considered the son of the divine could not go unnoticed. Other language would have been available for Jesus, but it seems that Paul was not interested in using it.

It should be clear by now that a merely religious explanation of these tensions will not suffice. The Romans were religiously quite tolerant and managed to include gods of other religions, like the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris, in their worship. In a globalizing world, both then and now, those in power often do not mind some diversion when their interests are not challenged. What cannot be tolerated, however, are real alternatives, such as the ones that were provided by early Christianity. Whereas there might have been some well-defined space in Roman minds for other lords, saviors, and divine sons who were willing to play along with the power of the emperor, what was unacceptable was to put Jesus in such a place of power. A day laborer in construction from Galilee who led a movement of the common people and who ended up on one of the crosses of the empire—Paul kept reminding his constituents of this cross—could not easily be assimilated by the empire and its concentration of power in the hands of a few.

The tolerance of those who seek to rule the world from the top down, via hard power, can only go so far: they cannot accept the existence of real alternatives, and they are unable to incorporate in their globalizing schemes alternative sorts of power—particularly the ones that move from the bottom up and thus counter the typical top-down movement of empires' aspirations to global domination. If the control of the Roman Empire was to be maintained, the control of the emperor needed to be maintained as well. The whole theological apparatus of the Roman Empire was designed to maintain this sort of control, and imagining God's power in terms of the power of the emperor was crucial.

Unlike the confession of the lordship of Jesus, the principles of classical theism matched the requirements of the empire and provided valuable support for its goals. Classical theism envisioned God not only as all-powerful but also as immutable and impassible, qualities that were designed to affirm unilateral and top-down power. The divine would be less than all-powerful, and its top-down power would be compromised, if anything were in a position to affect it, touch it, or change it. The Nicene Creed, produced in the fourth century at the initiative and under the oversight of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, has often been read in this light. If Jesus is of the same substance as God, as Constantine proposed to the Nicene Council and as the Council affirmed in the Nicene Creed, the question is how God is envisioned. If God is envisioned in the terms of classical theism and thus in terms of the top-down power of the elites, Jesus can now also be envisioned in these terms and thus as a supporter of the top-down power of the empire.

Even the form of the Nicene Creed, the first so-called ecumenical creed, bears the stamp of the globalization efforts of the Roman Empire: this is the first time that Christian theology finds expression in the form of universal imperial decrees. While the New Testament canon witnesses to the diversity of the early church and to what might be called "unity in diversity," the Nicene Creed presents a different model. At the Council of Nicaea, the church adopted the procedures by which the empire hammered out its decrees: a unified council that was called, funded, and led by the emperor made the decisions. Presiding over the Council of Nicaea, Constantine proposed the central theological term of the Nicene Creed: the homoousia (essential sameness) of God and Jesus, the first and the second person of the Trinity. With the Council of Nicaea, the church entered a process of globalization that was qualitatively different from what had gone before. Nevertheless, these efforts at globalization were not entirely successful, and there are alternative ways to interpret the Nicene Creed, as we will see in the next chapter.

The power that drives all these forms of globalization is of a hard sort and clearly top-down. The Roman military exploits and conquests designed to expand the empire as far as possible are well known, but similar force was applied within the confines of the empire. Jesus was one of many others who were crucified—this was a preferred way for executing political rebels. This method of execution demonstrated the power of the Roman Empire over its subjects and their communities. The Romans would crucify as many as two thousand people on a single day in one area. The terror that such events must have struck in the population is hard to imagine. Crucifixions and other harsh forms of execution, such as using people as human torches for parties given by those in positions of power, were means of executing Christians long after Christ's death, and even the Apostle Paul seems to have been executed by similar methods.

Remembering the fact that Paul spent his life in and out of Roman prisons, we cannot consider his fate—like the fate of Jesus—as a mistake of the empire either. The sort of local difference that was supposed to be erased here was indeed dangerous, as it held real promise of providing broad-based alternatives and thus presented a challenge to the empire. Hard, top-down power, held in the hands of a few, needs to draw clear lines in order to maintain its force with the masses, even if it may show some tolerance within these lines.

Another example of a sort of globalization that proceeds via hard power and from the top down is the Spanish conquest. Here, too, theology and globalization go hand in hand. Columbus sailed westward in the firm belief that it was the will of God to expand the reach of the Spanish Empire. After the Spanish had set foot in the New World in order to take possession of it, it was Pope Alexander VI who in 1493 endorsed the reign over this world by Spanish emperors, who carried the title "Holy Roman Emperor." Critics of this move have often claimed that the main purpose for this sort of globalization was greed. Gustavo Gutiérrez, for instance, has proposed that the alternative before the conquistadors was "God or gold."

It must not be overlooked, however, that the conquistadors held strong theological concerns of their own, and that the pope's endorsement cannot be reduced to the matter of greed either. The conquest was guided not merely by hunger for wealth and power but also by particular images of God as heavenly monarch who, through the Roman Catholic Church, endorsed the earthly monarchies of the Spaniards and Portuguese both at home and abroad, and by a particular sense of mission.

The hard power that was brought to bear in the conquest is firmly established by the history books. The natives of the Americas were enslaved with such effectiveness that millions of them died—amounting to genocide. Even cautious estimates put the population of the colonized territories at seventy million before the Spaniards arrived, and at ten million in 1625. Any resistance was brutally repressed, and in the early years of the conquest the conquistadors killed hundreds of thousands of people, often using the cruelest methods imaginable, such as slitting open people's stomachs and burning their chiefs alive in public. Even the missionary work that went hand in hand with conquest reflects the use of hard power, though in a very particular way, as the leading theologians of conquest, writing in Spain, did not want to extend the methods of conquest directly to missionary conversion. As a result, they did not permit the conversion of the natives by force.

War as direct means of conversion was rejected not only by opponents of the conquest, like Bartolomé de Las Casas, but also by the theologians who supported the conquest—thinkers as different as Juan Gines de Sepulveda and Tomas de Vitoria, the latter of whom laid important foundations for modern law. The use of the means of war was only permitted when the natives put up resistance to the proclamation of the gospel. In other words, hard power was permissible when the natives sought to assert and maintain their local differences, which might have provided alternatives to the Christianity promoted by the Spanish and, by extension, to Spanish imperial rule. As long as real alternatives could be suppressed in this way, the missionaries would prove to be successful.

This approach throws some light on the often-observed phenomenon that the conversion of the Native Americans to Christianity was only skin-deep. Underneath the adopted Christian faith, they were able to maintain some of their traditions, an arrangement that resulted in hybridized religious images. Yet such arrangements may not be unusual for situations of grave power differentials based on hard, top-down power, where the elites in power do not need to be overly concerned about micromanaging people's lives. As long as the mass of the people conform to commonly accepted standards in public—for the Spaniards these standards were contained in Christianity—the empire appears to be secure.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Globalization and Theology by Joerg Rieger Copyright © 2010 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

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