"On Earth as in Heaven" Pt. 3

The third section, Biblical Roots, gives Biblical example of God’s dream for the entire world in the story of Noah and the Arch. This example shows us that God is not a concept but very much a person, capable of very human action and emotion (p.69-70). She wishes to renounce “divine imperialism” which suggests that God is “commander and chief” because this mentality is used for the subjugation of people (p.70). “God is not our owner. If God is our ruler, it is in a sense completely different from a fateful superior force. God does not have us in hand but enters with us into a covenant whose foundation is not the order of having but being together and sharing life” (p.71). Soteriologically this story has huge implications. Salvation, therefore, is not about capitalistic ownership but covenant faithfulness. God seeks to partner with us in the work of salvation, as we renounce power and share together as God shares with us. This is where redistribution becomes a larger part of soteriology. We share with each other all our goods and give generously because we share life. We do this because God is not imperialistic, God does not curse the earth and exploit it. Since God is not consumerist in dealing with the world neither do we curse the world or our neighbor for our capitalistic benefit (p.73). Salvation is restoration of such dignity that says you are a person not raw material.

Soelle then enters a discussion of the Christmas story as a way to teach us to read the Bible with all its coexnt, not trying to strip it of its human element. Political oppression was a reality that helped shape the narrative of the gospel message and was essential to Jesus’ teachings (p.75). “The sociohistorical interpretation of biblical texts does not arise out of the abstraction of researchers believing themselves to be neutral. It arises among people capable of suffering and compassion, who search for the causes of misery”`(p.76). When scripture is read from a hermeneutic of poverty, salvation from misery and into dignity cannot be ignored as essential to its soteriology.

The final section, Transformations, looks to change the way we talk and the way we see. Soelle wants a change in language from strictly scientific language to more poetic language (p.81-82). She wants to revive three forms of religious language, “Telling a story, making a confession, and building an idea” (p.83). These three forms can also be called myth, religion, and theology (p.83). Soelle seems to focus mostly on the narrative, the myth. This is important for her argument toward dignity and sanctity of life. Language is important because it can either combat or perpetuate the sanctity of life (p.87). “The sanctity of life, for which I have tried to plead here, is consistently and mercilessly destroyed by the rituals of consumerism” and thus its language (p. 87). “The ancient myth,” which Soelle wants to revive, “is the narration of the fact that life is holy… life if a gift, not a possession” (p.87-88). This is directly related to soteriology if salvation is seen as a restoration of dignity. How can we talk of a God who saves without poetry? Such a conversation is essentially poetic.

Finally, Soelle wants to transform the way we see ourselves. She wants us to break away from a conception of autonomy where I will be alright, I will be “saved” when I am alright. She wants us to begin to see true salvation, true freedom as a cry for liberation for all (p.95). Freedom is not “pure sunshine” but it is solidarity with the poorest of the poor—the Christ on a cross (p. 95). She quotes the great American socialist Eugene Debs, “As long as there is a working class, I am a member. As long as there is one soul in prison I am not free” (p.97). Freedom is for everyone, corporately, not for individuals. All our praxis and vision and meditation should lead us to solidarity with suffering peoples which leads us to true freedom and to true salvation. It is the kind of thirst for liberation that Soelle demonstrates on page 97:

“I would like to life differently from the way I now live. I would like not to cheat people in other countries when I buy bananas by defrauding them of their wages. I would like not to steal when I drink coffee. I do not want to belong to this band of murderers and thieves that our economy represents. I do not want hunger to continue forever. I do not want to live in a system that has proven itself unable to alter hunger in the last thirty years, a system that has not really worked on its problem anywhere in the world, but instead makes weapons, weapons, weapons. I am not free as long as I live in these conditions” (p. 97).

The Soteriology Soelle is looking for is about praying and acting, hoping and transforming. It is restoration of dignity of all people with the understanding that I will not be saved until you are saved. The dignity of the poor and the dignity of the rich are made of the same fabric and therefore they must be restored together. “On Earth as in Heaven” is not a prayer for individuals but for the whole Earth and all people... together.