Nature Bats Last: Notes on Revolution and Resistance, Revelation and Redemption

From Common Dreams:

by Robert Jensen
Published on Monday, August 8, 2011 by

My title is ambitious and ambiguous: revolution and resistance (which tend to be associated with left politics), revelation and redemption (typically associated with right-wing religion), all framed by a warning about ecological collapse. My goal is to connect these concepts to support an argument for a radical political theology — let me add to the ambiguity here — that can help us claim our power at the moment when we are more powerless than ever, and identify the sources of hope when there is no hope.

First, I realize that the term “radical political theology” may be annoying. Some people will dislike “radical” and prefer a more pragmatic approach. Others will argue that theology shouldn’t be political. Still others will want nothing to do with theology of any kind. At various times in my life, I would have offered all of those objections. Today, I think a politics without a theology is dangerous, a theology without a politics is irrelevant, and radical is realistic.

By politics, I don’t mean we need to pretend to have worked out a traditional political program that will lead us to the land of milk and honey; instead, I’m merely suggesting that we always foreground the basic struggle for power in whatever work we do at whatever level. By theology, I don’t mean that we need to believe in supernatural forces that will lead us to a land of milk and honey; instead, I’m merely pointing out that we all construct a worldview that is not reducible to evidence and logic. In politics and theology, it’s important to be clear about what we know, and even more important to recognize what we don’t know, what we can’t know, what is instinct and emotion.

And all this needs to be radical — not in the self-indulgent “more radical than thou” style that crops up now and then on the left — but rather in the sense of an unflinching honesty about that unjust and unsustainable nature of the systems in which we live. Whatever pragmatic steps we may decide to take in the world, they should be based on radical analysis if they are to be realistic.


I’m not interested in speculating about future revolutions, I don’t take seriously anyone who predicts a coming revolution in the United States, and I doubt that the traditional concept of a revolution is even relevant today — the dramatic changes that lie ahead likely won’t arrive that way. Rather than dream of revolutions to come, it’s more productive to think about the revolutions that brought us to this moment.

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