"On Earth as in Heaven" Pt. 2

The Second section, Vision, begins with an appropriately title chapter called “people without vision perish” (p.31). She is trying to develop a vision and a sense of need for vision. Vision, she says, is “action oriented” and not just a heady conceptual exercise (p.32). It is a vision that sees future change and works toward it. Essential to this type of vision is memory. To “name the beast” in our situation we cannot avoid looking back (p.x from the introduction). Soelle spends some time discussing the socio-political situation in Ancient Rome and Germany in the 1940’s. It is with the memory of these circumstances that she continues. Vision comes in response to memory and context. It comes from “shame and pride” in the past (p.40). Shame is not usually seen in positive light but according to Soelle it is what breeds attitude of “never again” in the face of shameful memories of the past. We must embrace ourselves along with our past and the past of our country (p.40). We look at our past and embrace so as not to hide it and allow it to repeat itself. Vison which is legitimized by historical consiousness cannot deny, for example that “war follows armament” (p.46). Any sort of revival for which we seek is historical, “out of sleep of dependence, people rise up for peace” (p.46).

Soelle spends some time in this section discussing an important concept—Bonum Cummune, the “common well-being of all people in the community, which exists for all and to which all have a right, without regard to performance” (p.41). We cannot forget, in forming a vision, that we have responsibility to our neighbor—neighbor cannot be neglected. The sort of soteriology of our visions must be communal. If we forget this dimension, out soteriological vision will suffer indifference which comes along with individualistic mentality.

Soelle is convinced that out of memory, shame and pride, vision will be achieved; a vision that says, “never again.” We will look back and say, “how could they have done that?” and thus we will resist doing the same. Soelle suggests, “The experiences of history become the brilliant weapon displays of beautiful tactical aircraft and nuclear plants juxtaposed with photos of Dresden and Hiroshima” (p.47). Soteriology must be rooted in memory and through memory a vision for freedom. The most free people are those who resist “the idols of technological progress and military omnipotence” (p.49). Soelle says it so eloquently, “renouncing power” for the sake of neighbor, “opens up more freedom than the use of power” (p.49). Soteriology in this sense is recognition of mutual dependence. Vision is resistance and resistance is freedom. We must point out what is preventing this sort of salvation. Where is the beast? What is causing indifference, neglect of neighbor, and destruction of dignity?

Soelle identifies the beast, the problem, primarily as western capitalism. She spends significant amount of time critiquing capitalism. She suggests that capitalism is the wrong vision. Capitalism does not take scarcity into account, and thus lies when it promises all a chance, nor does it have any sense of beauty beyond commercialism (p.59). For her, the right vision is socialism, in some form. Not the oppressive communism of “state socialism” (p.61), but the type of socialism that solves specific problems through the sacrifice of the rich (see the example of L.A. on p.60).