Our neighbors in the global community
"The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."
When Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the term "global village" in the early 1960s, he sensed the emergence of new technologies that could bring the whole world together. These rapid changes in the media industry, which included newer technologies that would modernize radio and television, prompted him to visualize a future world that would be interdependent and interconnected through media technology. For over six decades, the notion of the global village has taken different forms, meanings, and interpretations in describing and explaining the role of media, political ideologies, economic systems, cultural trends, and theological formulations that shape and influence the global community. Hence, a serious examination of the role of the Church throughout the centuries, as it tries to be relevant to its calling in the global community, is vital to understanding the practicality of its theological position. Additionally, continuous deconstruction of theological formulations spawned in the ponds of colonialism, imperialism, and neo-imperialism is vital to challenge religious imperialism in the global community.
Upon thorough investigation and a critical analysis of the world history, particularly Church history, it has exposed how the universal Church was used to advance Empire's unjust socioeconomic systems and political agendas. It has been observed that everywhere colonialism, imperialism, and neo-imperialism have existed, the Church has both benefited from and played a significant role in shaping and influencing the agendas of Empire. Through religious imperialism and its myriad theological formulations, the Church used its influence to soften the hearts of those colonized while at the same time manipulating the cultural values and faith traditions of those it purported to serve. Worse still, the Church and civil organizations used dominant theological and democratic languages to articulate and convey Empire's political and economic agenda.
For instance, different versions of the Bible, such as the New Testament Greek, the King James version, and others, were written in the language of Empire to help spread religious imperialism. Hence, as Empire was busy plundering and looting natural resources from inhabitants of the global community periphery, the Church, benefitting from much of this, designed and implemented theological schemes designed to brainwash the colonized masses seen as "others." The Church presided over theological formulations that led to policies defining and describing these "others" as uncivilized-primitive, heathen, and barbaric. The programmatic emphasis was that these people in the global community periphery needed repentance, correction, and redemption. All of this in the context of theology propagated to pave the way for the support and benefit of and from imperial agendas.
With the dawn of a new neo-imperialism, Empire has expanded this influence by using the Church, civil society organizations (non-governmental organizations), and the plutocrats to set a neo-imperialist agenda. It is very pathetic that the Church continues to promulgate a theology that conveys religious imperialism for the articulation of the essential agendas of Empire. Concurrently, civil society organizations use a language of human rights to articulate what they call "democratic values and principles" to which Empire pays only lip service. It has been observed that religious imperialism and human rights languages are designed to provide meaning and comfort to political ideologies, economic systems, and cultural trends deemed superior to those that are controlled and manipulated by Empire. As a result, the vocal support of these ideologies by the Church through religious imperialism, civil society organizations, and the plutocrats has served to justify the ruthless and merciless behaviors of Empire in the global community.
The prophetic voice of the Church has been silenced and overtaken by religious imperialism. Just as the prophet Isaiah warned and condemned the prophets who were only interested in aligning their prophetic office with the agendas of Empire, we also hear today in the global community that the Empire "says to the seers, 'see no more visions!' And to the prophets' give no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things and prophesy illusions. Leave this way and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!" (Isaiah 30: 10 – 11). The conformity of the Church to neo-imperialism at the cost of suffocating its' prophetic voice is both uncalled for and pathetic. The responsibility of the Church in the global community is not just to merely band-aid the physical, spiritual, and economic sufferings caused by Empire's misguided and self-serving interests. The Church in the global community is called to speak against these "interests" and all their biases and prejudices in advancing its political ideologies, economic systems, and cultural trends. More crucially, when international laws, treaties, and conventions are selectively implemented in the global community, as with the Old Testament prophets, the Church is called to learn from and condemn selective justice perpetuated by Empire.
Further, the Church must answer the call to speak up and teach when international laws and treaties benefit only those whose ideologies are aligned with Empire's agenda, whether openly or concealed by theological formulations. Again, it is the Church's responsibility to speak "for the least of these" (Matthew 25:40). For example, the Church should not shy away when inhabitants of the global community are paying ridiculous costs of programs designed to weaken and suffocate their economies. When citizens of the global community are being displaced or massacred because of natural resources beneath their feet or because they still cling to the land inherited from their forbears, the Church must stand up and demand hearing of "Let justice flow like a river." (Amos 5:24). When missiles and bombs are falling from the skies like rain, killing and displacing innocent souls of all ages, again because of land, political agendas, or unique natural resources they might possess, again, it is the calling of the Church to stand up and speak truth to power, that is Empire, not only for the sake of our neighbors in the affected areas of the global community but for the well-being of the entire planet.
Has the imperial Church, with its religious imperialism, forgotten that Jesus Christ did not come to this world just for Himself but that He appeared and existed for the sake of 'the other'? Hence, the Church must learn to further follow Christ in teaching that existing and serving the 'others' in the global community goes beyond serving the interests and 'desires of Empire – many of which have benefited the existence of the Church? Let us pray that the same spirit that led the Old Testament prophets, contemporary theologians, and leaders like Mbuya Nehanda, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Father Oscar Romero, John Chilembwe, and so many others whose names are too numerous to fit in this paper inspire the Church in the global community. The universal Church must continue to recognize that the responsibility of its lifetime is to share the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ – good news that is not diluted and tainted with theological formulations designed to align with the political and economic agenda of Empire primarily. The Church should remember that "The righteous care about just for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." [Proverbs 29:7], it is the responsibility of the Church in the global community to preach the word of God with neither favor nor fear of those whose economic or political power can kill only the body but never the soul [Matthew 10:28].
God bless our neighbors in the global community.
January 1, 2024.