Continuing our [ten week] conversation in relation to the thought of Yuval Noah Harari. Last week, with regard to remarks he’d made concerning universal basic income [UBI], I wrote:
Obviously, Harari’s concern regarding how to define “universal” gets to the heart of the present political turmoil over “open borders” and “nationalism” vs. “globalization.” Any significant UBI would be an existential threat to many localized systems of privilege.
One of Harari’s contentions is that practical realities are putting our legacy thought systems (theological and philosophical) sorely to the test. This means that many of the ‘up in the air’ arguments that theology/philosophy have entertained for millennia are being called to the dock by an incarnational reality unable to wait for practical answers to presently emerging life conditions.
Questions raised by technological realities expose inadequacies/shadows/blind spots in our thinking. When the questions of who is included and who is not become existential, the inadequacy of conventional thinking is fully revealed. For example:
Theology problems have become engineering problems, e.g., needing an algorithm for fair/inclusive immigration.
Borders: Theology and inclusion
Boundaries of exclusion serve in dividing ‘us’ from ‘them’—the perennial problem of defining ‘insiders and outsiders’—are increasingly breaking down in life on the ground. Whether theological boundaries that exclude persons from full participation in the life of God, or national borders that exclude people from participating in a society/national economy, it’s the same question: Who’s in and who’s out?
Theology has been anemic in our society for some time, perhaps human sexuality and immigration issues reveal this best right now. Regarding immigration, remember: ‘Any significant UBI would be an existential threat to many localized systems of privilege’ because UBI fully exposes the privilege-protection dimension of economic nationalism.
While contemplating the practical question of how we define ‘universal’ with respect to UBI, some fairly high Christian liturgy, the Lord’s prayer, came to mind. More specifically: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” On my reading, to take this supplication seriously means to genuinely desire the same reality incarnate on earth as God has made in heaven.
So, is Hell empty? Or, more positively, is everyone included in Heaven—as with a doctrine of universal salvation—or are some excluded? Unreconciled doctrine, like this ‘salvation’ question, offers little in the way of practical guidance.
Ludwig Feuerbach’s work reminds us our Christian doctrines, including those regarding the kingdom of heaven—’heaven,’ the highest order—are the projections of our highest human ideals/aspirations. This is another way of saying our ‘highest liturgy’ reflects our best ability to articulate our spiritual intuitions regarding God’s revealing of Godself. This is just another way of describing the limitations of language—e.g., ideally, our theological doctrines reflect the best language we have to express the ineffable truths we encounter in divine union.
It needs to be our best thought and language because it seeps into—or trickles-down into—our everyday thought and practice as justification.
So, if we say grace is grace and God includes everyone in heaven, then what’s the problem with that? I mean, that would indicate God would be including you, me, and everyone. What could possibly be the problem with that? Well, the chief complaint to that seems to reflect deep concern that the evil/wicked among us will get a free pass (grace). This is an issue, to some, of fairness (justice/ judgment), a violation against equality. “How can we think of heaven as the good place if God includes the wicked among those welcome there?”… is the limiting kind of question coming from a dualistic/binary perception of reality.
Wisdom needed right now
This generation is called to discern the issues of borders, universality, and human inclusion on earth. In the West this means a reckoning with the shadows/blind spots of capitalism and economic nationalism. Namely, modern nation-states are, in part, systems to protect the privilege of those who are included. If God doesn’t include everyone, then we are certainly justified in excluding others as well. Conversely, if God privileges none/includes all, and we pray the Lord’s prayer, then shouldn’t we include all somehow as well?
Seeing that equality reaches every human being on earth is no short-term project. However, unless we are convinced that God privileges no one/includes all—and set our aim accordingly—we will forever find justification for not creating inclusion/equality.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?