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Miguel De La Torre on Embracing Hopelessness


While at the American Academy of Religion meetings a few weeks ago, I attended an event honoring Miguel De La Torre with the AAR’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. De La Torre is Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at the Iliff School of Theology. He has served as president of the Society of Christian Ethics and has authored several hundred articles and over thirty-two books, including the national award-winning Reading the Bible from the Margins (2002) and the recent Decolonizing Christianity: Becoming Badass Believers (2021).

In the following talk given at the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, De La Torre explores how hope can be used to maintain oppression. He writes in introduction:

For marginalized communities, the struggle for justice can be hopeless. To offer illusionary hope as the means of growing stronger through the struggle all too often maintains oppressive structures. The presentation struggles with a God who at times seems mute, demanding solidarity in the midst of adversity. The presentation also attempts to explore faith-based responses to unending injustices by embracing the reality of hopelessness; rejecting the pontifications of some salvation history which move the faithful toward an eschatological promise which, when looking back at history, makes sense of all Christian-led brutalities, mayhem, and carnage. The paper concludes with a term I have coined in other books: an ethics "para joder"—an ethics that “screws with.” When all is hopeless, when neoliberalism has won, when there exists no chance of establishing justice, the only choice left for the oppressed is to “screw” with the structure, turning over the bankers’ tables at the temple. We struggle regardless of hopelessness because the struggle defines our humanity.


Alexander Carpenter is executive editor elect of Spectrum

Image credit: Alexander Carpenter


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