History of religion

The Christian mission - a failed utopia

In the past it was Christian missionaries, today it is the preachers of neo-liberalism who fail to address the concerns of the peoples "to be converted".

(Published in GralsWelt 66/2011)

For centuries, the churches of the West saw it as their task to spread Christian teachings all over the world. The call for this can be found in the Bible, for example in Matth. 28, 18-20. Accordingly, the risen One said to his disciples:

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go to all peoples and make all men my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them all to obey what I have commanded you. "  

Soon after Jesus' death on the cross, the missionary work of his followers began. Within three centuries, Christianity spread across the Roman Empire and beyond to Abyssinia and India. (Cf. "On the spread of Christianity").

The next big boost for missionary work came with colonialism. Wherever Portuguese or Spanish conquistadors or other European conquerors invaded foreign lands, they were accompanied by priests and monks. They feel called to convert the ignorant “pagans” overseas to Christianity. Through baptism and faith in Jesus Christ, the natives were to be redeemed and kept from the fire of hell.

During the colonial period, different Christian churches (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) and even different orders (Dominicans and Jesuits) vied for the souls of the pagans and competed with one another - sometimes even in an ugly way.

Many missionaries worked with the best of conviction, tried very hard, endured hardships and not infrequently even risked their lives in the service of their church. One cannot avoid speaking with respect of the achievements of some missionaries. (Cf. “Short, concise, curious” on page 254 “Utopia in the jungle”). However, they mostly lacked an understanding of the culture and traditions of those who were to be converted. If they did not want to part with their old rites, they were treated as heretics and their cultural and religious heritage destroyed. For example, almost all of the Mayan writings were burned - much to the chagrin of modern researchers.

Even the well-intentioned teaching in the mission schools - especially in the 20th century - often did not lead to the hoped-for success. The older pupils who were literate in reading often preferred to read Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao rather than the Bible. Missionaries in developing countries unintentionally contributed to the spread of communist ideas.

In the second half of the 20th century, Christian missionary work largely came to a standstill. New believers are more likely to be won by Islam, for which aggressive preachers are massively advocating in many countries, while in most Islamic states no dissemination of other religious ideas is possible.

Arrogance under the mask of philanthropy
"The human rights activist, like the missionary, is in reality often an incorrigible enemy of the people he claims to be friends with because he has neither enough imagination to understand their real needs, nor enough humility to heed their needs, as if it were his own. This is how arrogance, fanaticism, intrusiveness and imperialism appear in the guise of philanthropy. "
George Santayana (6, p. 249)

A missed opportunity

In South America, in the second half of the 20th century, Christianity had an opportunity to seriously practice its own teachings, and thus to give its faith and missionary work beyond America a new and up-to-date impetus.

Catholic Liberation theologians saw a task for their church in the fight against poverty, oppression and injustice. After all, early Christianity was particularly a religion of the poor, the oppressed, the slaves; a target group that is still recognizable in Christian preaching today (cf. "The Fire of Christianity" under "History of Religion").

But in the 20th century, the official churches could bring themselves to take a stand against state repression and officially practiced injustice as little as in the Middle Ages. Apparently, the fear of losing power was greater than the courage to stand up for Christian values and, in extreme cases, even to accept martyrdom. A second Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) and a pope who understood his concerns were probably missing. [1]

The liberation theologians were defamed as communists and were marginalized. Some of their followers despaired of their church and became violent extremists - for example the Jesuit novice Michael Nothdurfter (1961-1990) from South Tyrol: Disillusioned with his church, he came to communist views via liberation theology. He was shot during a hostage-taking.

"Man is addicted and dependent like never before"
“We have been living in a unified globalized economic order of technocracy since 1989, which claims and establishes absolute control over space, time and creation. The machine, driven by the compulsion to produce more, is running, confirmed by technological successes of unimaginable proportions. It is programmed for “more” speed, productivity, consumption and profit for around twenty percent of humanity. This program is more effective and more violent than any historically comparable empire with its Babylonian towers. Within the big machine people are not only, as Marx saw it, "alienated" from what they could become, but at the same time addicted and dependent like never before. "
Dorothee Sölle (10, p. 241)

Neoliberal promises of salvation

In the second half of the 20th century, Christian missionaries were replaced by propagandists who advocated neoliberal ideas with the same ideological bias as the missionaries once did their dogmas.

However, it is no longer about the salvation of the soul, but about (allegedly) ideal social conditions and economic prosperity. A secular utopia takes the place of the once promised spiritual paradise in the hereafter. The expected failure of this neoliberal, earthly utopia can hardly be concealed - unlike the religious promises of paradise, which are not enforceable.

Again it is being preached to all the world that in the new era of global capitalism for all peoples only a Can lead to a happy future. And again it is a way of the Europeans[2] and North Americans. The missionary's place has been taken by economists, development workers and human rights activists. Their promise of salvation is called democracy and a liberal economy based on the western model.
"This belief that humanity is on the threshold of a new era comes from a social science perspective, but is simply the latest variety of apocalyptic views that go back to antiquity"Cohn Norman writes in the book "Expectation of the end times" (3, p. 9).

"Dignity and honor no longer count!"
“The abolition of all rules, more precisely the reduction of all rules to the law of the market, is the opposite of freedom - namely its illusion. Old-fashioned and aristocratic values such as dignity, honor, challenge and sacrifice no longer count in it. "
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) (13)

After the cold war

Communism was a feared competitor to the West during the Cold War. It was a matter of proving to the world, for example, that the “social market economy” was based on the German model[3] leads to "prosperity for all" and is clearly superior to the communist approach.

A ruthless exploitation of people and nature in the sense of a neo-liberal “free market economy” was therefore prohibited in the competition between the two political systems.

After the failure of the Bolshevik mismanagement, neo-liberalism went on the offensive. Now it was propagated that ideal conditions must arise everywhere if only - following the American model - democracy, free market economy, free movement of goods and capital are introduced. Anyone who opposed this request was defamed as a communist, denounced as a threat to world peace or counted as part of the “axis of evil”.

The American political scientist Francis Fukuyama (5) believes that "The end of history" is reached when liberal democracy as the "ultimate human form of government" prevailed worldwide. This ideal type of government would bring the best possible living conditions for all people. (See. "The start of the 21st century", under “Economy and Social Affairs”).

The exponents of this “messianic liberalism” can certainly be compared with the missionaries. Both missionaries and preachers of neo-liberalism were or are unswervingly convinced of the correctness of their ideologies and do not consider it necessary to address the specific concerns - in culture, religion and economy - of the peoples to be converted.

Since the (still) strongest world power stands behind the market fetishists, they achieved success in dismantling trade barriers, in deregulation and globalization. These measures helped the industrialized countries in particular, while the poor countries are still waiting for the promised upswing.

A world conspiracy?

All sorts of conspiracy theories are being spread from all sides. Secret societies like Freemasons or Illuminati allegedly plan overthrow, (occult) world domination with different means. Presumably, such horror stories are deliberately spread to distract from the true approaches to ruling the world. De facto, a capitalist economy supported by the western leading power is already in the process of taking on "world domination":
“Under the New World Order, the military planners of the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA determine US foreign policy. You also maintain contacts with representatives of the IMF[4], the World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO). In turn, the international financial bureaucracy in Washington, responsible for the grueling economic reforms it is imposing on the Third World and most of the former East-facing countries, has close ties with Wall Street's financial establishment.
The powers behind this system are the global banks and financial organizations, the military-industrial complex, the oil and energy giants, the biotech corporations, and powerful media and communications companies with their fake news and blatant distortions of world events."
(2, p. 12; cf. also the box “Monetarism or human rights?” In "The start of the 21st century" under "Economy and social affairs").

"War and free markets go hand in hand"
“At the beginning of the third millennium, war and“ free markets ”go hand in hand. In a sense, the war is the multilateral investment agreement of last resort. It physically destroys what has not yet been destroyed by deregulation, privatization and the enforcement of “market reforms”. Direct military colonization and the establishment of western protectorates de facto serve the purpose of giving western banks and multinational corporations unhindered access to the relevant markets so that they can - as required by the provisions of the WTO - operate globally as on a national market. Today's "missile diplomacy" repeats the gunboat diplomacy that served to enforce "free trade" in the 19th century. "
Michel Chossudovsky (2, p. 34)

The risky financial transactions favored by this neo-capitalist economic system led to economic turmoil, bank crashes and national bankruptcy. The world economy oscillates between boom and crash. Skilled speculators can get rich in both phases. If risky speculations to maximize profits fail, then the failed managers try, sometimes with success, to pass the losses on to the taxpayers!

What then seems like a conspiracy to many is mostly nothing more than the consequence of the neo-capitalist economic system that dominates the world and does not want to be restricted by legal regulations according to ethical guidelines. Those responsible in banks and in large-scale industry do what they are paid to do: generate the highest possible returns!

If, for example, a stock corporation does not strive for maximum returns, but instead acts in an economically responsible way, thinks socially, takes the interests of employees into account and wants to secure the long-term existence of the company, then its shareholders have to put up with a lower return on capital. The share prices of the company in question fall, and the “social model company” becomes a takeover candidate. Sooner or later this AG will be bought up cheaply, put on the “right course” under new management or broken up for a profit.

Resistance is growing

As expected, opposing forces are forming to the currently dominant, turbo-capitalist economic system. However, less so from political parties whose task it would be to counteract the undesirable developments. The counter-movements come mainly from civil society. They are NGOs (non-government organizations) such as Apollo Alliance, Attac, Greenpeace, citizens' initiatives, etc. Here, "visionaries without power" spread their alternative ideas and try to win a broader audience for new paths.

The paths taken by these alternative movements are arduous and tedious. The established groups and parties are difficult to induce to rethink, and the mass of the population, which is often insufficiently or one-sidedly informed by the media, needs time to understand a problem that nobody wants to explain to them clearly.

"Nobody wants a messianic US president!"
“What nobody in Asia, Latin America or Africa wants: a messianic US president à la George W. Bush, who believes that he can impose the American model on other states on a one-to-one basis. In the Third World, many can very well distinguish between arrogant cockiness and healthy self-confidence. "
Erich Follath (4, p. 93)

This has been shown, for example, in the ecological movement, which was initially pissed off by the establishment. There had to be spectacular actions by Greenpeace and the founding of new parties that campaigned for the essential protection of the environment and nature, the necessity of which the established ones did not want to see. When, as a logical reaction to the failure of the established parties, the Greens entered parliaments, the spectrum of parties became more diverse and the formation of a government more difficult.

There is some evidence that this path can repeat itself. Those in power are seldom empathetic. It would be good if they delved into the story a little more.

The American struggle for independence, the French and Russian revolutions, the American civil war, the overthrow of the Weimar Republic, the victory of Maoism in China - all these revolutionary upheavals with catastrophic consequences could have been avoided with a little insight on the part of those responsible or redirected into regulated reforms in good time permit; without serious loss of life or property. But foresight has never been an excellent virtue of those in power.

For the time being, we can still hope for a better understanding of the democrats elected by the people, who have made an oath to serve the well-being of the people. They should think more of the common good than of their party interests. The alternatives to be avoided would be chaos, upheaval, revolution, or even war, i.e. instabilities that have hardly ever brought anything good.

(1) Brunnengräber / Klein / Walk, NGOs in the process of globalization, Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2005.
(2) Chossudovsky Michel, Global Brutal, Zweiausendeins, Frankfurt 2002.
(3) Cohn Norman, The Expectation of the End Times, Insel, Frankfurt 1997.
(4) Der Spiegel, 30/2010.
(5) Fukuyama Francis, The End of the Story, Kindler, Munich 1992.
(6) Gray John, Politics of the Apocalypse, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2009.
(7) Heins Volker, cosmopolitan and local patriot, Bavarian State Center for Political Education, Munich 2002.
(8) Paczensky Gert von, Teurer Segen, Goldmann, Munich 1991.
(9) Sinn Hans-Werner, Casino Capitalism, Econ Berlin 2009.
(10) Sölle Dorothee, Mysticism and Resistance, Piper, Munich 1999.
(11) Steingart Gabor, Germany. The descent of a superstar, Piper, Munich 2006
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Liberation Theology:
Criticism of capitalism: 
[1] Pope Franciscus, born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1936, was probably influenced by liberation theology, as his following statement shows: "Not to share one's goods with the poor is to steal from them. The goods we possess do not belong to us, but to them." (Quoted from Thilo Sarrazin "Wishful Thinking," DVA, 2016, p. 430). This says the head of probably the richest organization in the world!
[2] Around 1900 Europe had a share of 25 percent of the world population. In 2007 this proportion was 11 percent. (9).
[3] Unfortunately, since Adenauer's time, the Germany model has had a design flaw that threatens to fail. The "Schiff Deutschland" is currently on the list and threatens to overturn if it is not resolutely reversed. So far, no political party has had the courage to honestly tell the people what is going on (cf. bibliography 9).
[4] CIA = Central Intelligence Agency; IMF = International Monetary Fund.