Q: I still cling to a belief that justice and an afterlife are connected. I cannot believe that evil people are not called to account somehow, somewhere if they die without being called to account here on earth.
A: The concept of judgment and punishment after death has a long history in religious thought, especially within Christianity, doubtless because we all want to see evil people brought to justice. A basic flaw in this concept, though, is that it stresses the 'next life' and puts the task on a personal God to bring people to justice. That simply sidesteps the fundamental issue: justice is a human responsibility. Jesus, along with other great religious leaders, would remind us that it is our task to create peaceful and just societies and to incorporate systems of accountability into our achievements. If this is not happening, then we need to examine what we, collectively, are doing wrong, rather than pinning our hopes on the next life. In particular we need to shift our focus in the Western world from individual sin - while not overlooking that - onto the systemic evil rampant in corrupt political wheeling and dealing with profit-hungry powerbrokers, in corporate greed, in military spending, in the abuse of natural resources, and in the obsession with wealth and comfort while more than half the world lives below the poverty line, to name just a few areas of concern. We should also examine the extent to which institutionalized religion causes distrust, fear, divisions, wars, and persecutions before we look to an elsewhere God to redress the harm we do to one another.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I have mentioned in a comment this week that one of my theological influences is Michael Morwood. Michael is an Australian with a background as a Catholic priest who now spends most of his time between here and the US working with adults who are trying to grasp the form of a 21st century faith. Here is an excerpt from his book "From Sand to Solid Ground" which collects questions and answers from his seminars.