The Eschaton is Now: José Porfirio Miranda Against the Catholic Right’s Anti-Woke Christianity

A Response to Christopher Rufo and his Prating Pontificators


The work of Jesuit theologian José Porfirio Miranda poses a provocative question: What if, in the dominant Western narrative, it was Christianity that ignited the oxidising flame of communism? Picture a timeline from the first century to the nineteenth, where resilient groups of Christians, despite facing opposition from established powers and the church, passionately championed communism with the Bible in hand as their guide. The conservatives and far-right would be apoplectic: What peculiar madness has descended upon the Western world, treating the quintessential Christian project as its archenemy?

As documented on the Terre Nouvelle website, a repository of elusive materials about social Catholicism, liberal Catholicism, Catholic republicanism, Christian democracy, and the theology of liberation, José Porfirio Miranda emerged as a notable figure – a Mexican Christian communist militant and theologian. Born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, in 1924, Miranda pursued his advanced studies in Europe, obtaining a licentiate in theology from the University of Frankfurt am Main and a licentiate in biblical sciences from the Biblical Institute in Rome in 1967, as detailed in Profiles in Liberation: 36 Portraits of Third World Theologians.

During their school years, Miranda and his brothers gained renown for staunchly defending their religious convictions with their fists, a response necessitated by the prevalent anti-Catholic sentiment of the 1930s. Among Miranda’s literary contributions are notable works such as Marx and the Bible: A Critique of the Philosophy of Oppression, Hegel was Right: The Myth of the Empirical Sciences, Communism in the Bible, Being and the Messiah and Marx Against the Marxists: The Christian Humanism of Karl Marx.

María Adela Oliveros de Miranda describes Porfirio Miranda’s education. She is worth quoting at length:

In 1955, he began his studies for a degree in Theology at Hoschule Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt. There he astonishes his companions with his command of Latin and scandalises the Superior, a soldier from World War II, when he tells him that they must improve the food and change the cook: the man does not believe what this carefree Mexican recommends.

On July 31, 1956 he was ordained as a priest at Loyola. He returned to Mexico in July 1958…. [H]e returned to Europe the following year to study economics at the Münster University in Munich, Germany. Thanks to his preparation in this field, he dedicated himself to advising Catholic businessmen in Mexico. His training and analytical skills led him into serious problems with businessmen, as he questions their lack of interest in their workers, so he decides to organise the latter. This situation leads to an expulsion from the Mexican Jesuit world, which is responsible for closing all doors due to his questions, his enthusiasm and his passion for those most in need; At this time, the Church of the Poor did not officially exist, an issue that wasn’t resolved until 1968. Finally, it found accommodation in Chihuahua, where its passage left a lasting mark, as it organised the students that moved the entire city. in support of the strike by the Pepsi-Cola soft drink company. Years later, when visiting Luis Álvarez on a hunger strike, he would tell him: ‘You started all this mobilisation in Chihuahua, Porfirio.’

Oliveros de Miranda recounts that the truce with the Jesuits proved ephemeral. The diocese of Chihuahua issued an ultimatum, granting Porfirio a mere 24 hours to vacate the city. ‘Twelve hours suffice for me,’ asserted Porfirio. With the assistance of his companions, including friends, students, and colleagues, he gathered his most cherished references – his books – and sought refuge in Torreón with his mother. Oliveros de Miranda writes that despite her allegiance to the Jesuits, Porfirio’s mother consistently supported him, a sentiment echoed by her sister Dolores. Even though both sisters worked with the congregation, they unequivocally rejected any disparaging remarks about Porfirio’s convictions.

To find solace amid these circumstances, Oliveros de Miranda reports that Porfirio resolved to return to Europe, embarking on a journey to pursue a Doctorate in Biblical Sciences at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1967. Belonging to this institution demanded proficiency in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, English, French, and Spanish – a linguistic challenge that posed no obstacle for Porfirio, fluent also in Portuguese and Russian, and displaying an extraordinary aptitude for language acquisition. His doctoral thesis, titled Marx and the Bible, sparked considerable controversy and faced disapproval from his superiors. However, in subsequent years, it would emerge as a foundational text at the Bible Institute.

Oliveros de Miranda notes that throughout his sojourn in Rome, Porfirio remained socially active. His influence within the Society of Jesus manifested notably in the ‘Letter to Father Arrupe,’ addressing the social question of 1967. Porfirio’s presence in this document is evident in its inquiries about social commitment in Latin America. Following a meeting with Latin American authorities in Lima, Peru, from July 25 to 29, 1967, the Center for Research and Social Action of Latin America (CIAS) was established.

Upon his return to Mexico, Porfirio found support from Provincial Father Gutiérrez, facilitating the publication of Marx and the Bible, which gained widespread recognition in Mexico and beyond. The restoration of his relationship with Father Gutiérrez led Porfirio to recognise that his conflict was not with individuals but with institutional structures. Consequently, he decided to part ways with the Society of Jesus, saying, ‘I cannot continue collaborating with a structure that supports Capitalism.’

Oliveros de Miranda writes that Porfirio accepted an offer to teach reading and writing in Zihuatanejo. The disparity between his work, teaching adults and his scholarly pursuits, delving into the thoughts of Ernst Bloch, Aristotle, Georg W. F. Hegel, and other philosophers, became evident. In 1974, Porfirio founded the Metropolitan Autonomous University and collaborated as a philosophy professor at the invitation of Dr. Luis Villoro. The UAM became a hub for debate, research, and dissemination, leading to his recognition as a Distinguished Professor in 1995. His focus shifted from biblical research to purely philosophical studies with the presentation of his book Communism in the Bible on June 4, 1981.

Porfirio Miranda carved out a formidable niche in Catholic theology. Throughout his life, he was a notable teacher. He served as Professor of Mathematics at the Instituto de Ciencias and Professor of Economic Theory at the Instituto Tecnologico in Guadalajara, Professor of Philosophy at the Instituto Regional (Chihuahua), Professor of the Philosophy of Law at the National University and Professor of Exegesis at the Instituto Libre de Filosofia, both in Mexico City. Porfirio Miranda’s multifaceted expertise left a lasting imprint. For his final inscription, he penned the poignant words, ‘Expectat Resurrectionem Mortuorum’ (He awaits the resurrection of the dead). This encapsulates his profound belief in life beyond death.

In the broader context of aggiornamento, the movement advocating the opening of the church to new ideas and contemporary trends, Porfirio stood in contrast to the traditional resistance of religious institutions to progressive thinking, particularly within their educational institutions. Porfirio’s impact on Christian groups was transformative. He motivated them to pursue social justice, standing alongside them as they expressed discontent with established structures. His influence extended to the advocacy for democracy and the inspiration for the creation of alternative, independent organisations in society.

Miranda’s discontent regarding the Greco-Roman West’s inheritance of a theology of providence, a static, non-specific theology where instants are conceived as isolated points, and where God cares for our welfare in a generalised sense, led him to embrace a theology of history, where it is understood that God has a particular plan, that justice is to be realised through the intervention of Yahweh, the God of the Bible. He adopts a salvation history, a theology of history that embraces the whole sweep of time in order to discover how it comports with what God has divinely revealed. In and within history there is an eschaton, an ultimum, a novum, towards which all the partial realisations of social justice are directed. Concrete, particularistic and determined circumstances reach beyond themselves to the realisation of justice in the entire world. The intransigent ‘presentness’ of judgment has an obligatoriness about it and can be correlated with the certainty of a future parousia.

The mispat (Hebrew, ‘justice, judgment’) is the elimination of oppression and the realisation of justice throughout the earth – and it is a message carried throughout the Bible. God is revealed in the moral imperative of justice in a mispat that is the only theophany of Yahweh that appears and reappears afresh in the face of the neighbour who pleads for justice, who utters a cry for help. According to Miranda, ‘what God’s intervention does is precisely to set in motion the immanent and horizontal causality of human history itself. What the biblical authors want to highlight is precisely the immanence of this mechanism, the causal link intrinsic to history, by which a certain type of event brings certain other types with it…. The certainty that God directs history and intervenes in it in no way causes the biblical authors to overlook the dialectic that is inherent to history…. As the sin of one man unleased a history of death, so the justice of another man (cf. Rom. 5:18b) unleashed the dialectics that resulted in the definitive realisation of justice and the abolition of death (Rom 5: 12-21).’ Miranda maintains that ‘[w]hen Marx avoids the problem of death and therefore does not even glimpse the possibility of resurrection it is not precisely his lack of faith in God but insufficient dialectics for which we must reproach him.’

Contemplative knowing is not pertinent to answering questions about the future. According to Miranda, it is the contemplation of finished things and thus does not know reality. The Bible is compatible with authentic dialectical thought. Miranda writes that ‘both the Bible and authentic dialectical thought reject the imposition of an alleged, unchangeable “nature of things.”’ Simply because all men up until now have died does not mean that death will not be conquered. Without this demand for help, the cry of the Other imprisoned in a life of injustice, the Gospel is radically unintelligible. The demand of the mispat is tantamount to the injunction of Christ who comes again as definitive justice – and who brings with him the defeat of death. Miranda writes: ‘The negation of the resurrection of the dead is an ideology defensive of the status quo; it is the silencing of the sense of justice that history objectively stirs up; it is to kill the nerve of the real hope of changing this world. The authentically dialectical Marxist and the Christian who remains faithful to the Bible are the last who will be able to renounce the resurrection of the dead.’

Christ comes to free humankind from death, and from the whole of civilisation that institutionalises injustice. Pauline faith and the faith of the entire New Testament rests on the conviction that the definitive kingdom of justice and life has arrived; the kingdom or reign of God wasn’t a future event after Jesus’s ministry but was actualised during Jesus’s time. Miranda asserts that Jesus declared the eschaton, the divine climax of history, during his ministry, as evident in his many parables and explicit statements in the Gospels. Miranda explores the perspectives of scholars like Dodd and Rudolf Bultmann, delves into the challenges of biblical interpretation, and examines the interconnected themes of justice, divine intervention, and socio-historical context. Paul believed that the resurrection was just as much eschaton and ultimum, and that God’s justice that was revealed in the law and the prophets has now been revealed without the law. Without the law! The presentness of which Paul speaks – of the reality of Christ as an unrepeatable now – is not mere presentness but the authentic historical present. The eschaton which is always in the future – think here of Protestant evangelicals – projecting the coming of Christ at some unknown point in the future, is not an eschaton. I repeat: it is not an eschaton.

Miranda argues that Heidegger and Bultmann turn presentness into Aristotelian existential categories (which are just as eternal as Platonic ones), conceived as essences that are indefinitely repeatable, and therefore signify nothing new, keeping the eschaton perpetually in the future and preventing the Messiah from becoming a real person. For Paul, eschatological justice is achieved by means of faith. Miranda takes on the hermeneutical challenge of selecting normative passages for biblical interpretation. Miranda’s exploration of Sedakah and its New Testament equivalents raises questions about the connection between biblical teachings on justice and socio-economic issues, drawing parallels with Marx’s critiques of private ownership.

The narrative of Cain and Abel in Genesis becomes a focal point, emphasising Yahweh’s intervention on behalf of the oppressed and establishing the foundation for God’s imperative of justice. The narrative of Cain and Abel, marking the genesis of human history, illustrates Yahweh’s intervention for social justice. Miranda links Yahweh’s name to justice and relates Psalm 37 to God’s justice purposes. Moses and Abraham, exemplifying righteousness and justice, highlight the aim of God’s mispat to humanity save from oppression. The Pauline Gospel asserts justice through Christ without the Law, raising questions about the Christian Church’s role in challenging capitalism. Miranda argues that justice is God’s spoken imperative, embodied in the Debarim. To know God is to struggle for social justice, aligning with God’s compassionate justice. The God of creation intervenes in history with justice as the goal, with Genesis serving as the preface to the Exodus.

Miranda interprets Romans to emphasise collective faith over individual salvation. The crucifixion portrays Jesus as the incarnation of all injustice inflicted upon humanity, urging believers to work for a realised kingdom on earth. Recognising the manifestation of justice as divine intervention, the Deutero-Isaiah passages underscore a global realisation of justice. Redaktionsgeschichte, despite scepticism, unveils insights into the Gospels’ composition and socio-historical context. The fundamental challenge with Biblical interpretation is a hermeneutical one: Which passages of Scripture should be selected as normative for the assessment of the totality? And by what principles does one conduct one’s exegesis? The passages in Deutero-Isaiah emphasise the global realisation of justice, as spoken in Isaiah 49:6, where Yahweh’s salvation extends to the ends of the world. This justice, rooted in the well-being of the poor and needy, is highlighted in Genesis 4:10 with the words, ‘Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood crying out to me from the earth,’ uttered by Yahweh before the establishment of commandments, covenants, and promises.

According to Miranda, this narrative delves into the prehistory of the Exodus, explaining the origin of sin and emphasising the necessity for Yahweh’s intervention. The story of Cain and Abel, set outside of Paradise, marks the beginning of human history (Genesis 4:1-11), with Cain representing the first concrete man – not Adam but Cain. Justice for the oppressed becomes the purpose of Yahweh’s involvement in human affairs, specifically addressing social justice under the term ‘justice and right.’ The theme of justice is not to be known through idolatrous images, but in the Debarim (the 44th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the first in the Book of Deuteronomy) which Miranda defines as God’s spoken imperative of justice. To know God, therefore, means to struggle for social justice that comprises a oneness with God’s compassionate and chased Justice. The God of creation is the God who intervenes in history with justice as his goal (Is. 42:5–7) and Genesis is the preface to the great liberation event of Exodus.

Yahweh’s salvific reach, extending to the ends of the world, intertwines justice with the well-being of the poor and needy. The prehistory of the exodus, as depicted in the narrative of Cain and Abel, underscores the necessity for Yahweh’s intervention in human affairs, with justice and right becoming central themes. What then of the role of the Christian Church in realising justice? Miranda’s exploration of Psalm 37 and the teachings of Moses and Abraham as examples of just men and illuminates the connection between faith and collective action for justice. Should the Christian Church challenge societal structures, such as capitalism, in its pursuit of justice? Miranda’s position is a resounding ‘yes’! Miranda makes use of the Redaktionsgeschichte, examining how evangelists shaped the Gospel narratives to convey specific messages. Scholars like Günther Bornkamm and William L. Lane offer insights into the composition of the Gospels, emphasising discipleship and individual impetus in shaping narratives. This approach enriches the understanding of the Gospels within their socio-historical context. Miranda takes on a realised eschatology, the challenges of biblical interpretation, and the interconnected themes of justice, divine intervention, and socio-historical context. He underscores the importance of recognising Yahweh’s role in global justice and acknowledges the potential insights of Redaktionsgeschichte in understanding the nuanced composition of the Gospels, calling for a holistic embrace of the biblical narrative’s call for justice and collective faith.

It is important, Miranda contends, to fully embrace the resounding cry for justice in the biblical narrative, acknowledging Yahweh’s crucial role in the intervention and recognising the nuanced insights of Redaktionsgeschichte in unravelling the profound meanings behind the composition of the Gospels and their socio-historical context. Miranda rigorously establishes ‘that the meaning of mispat as the elimination of oppression and the realisation of justice is not only maintained but is even accentuated in the definitive mispat affirmed by the whole Bible.’ He further contends that ‘[t]here is an ultimum in human history, and this ultimum is defined and characterised, as in Marx, by the complete realisation of justice on earth. Mispat is the defence of the weak, the liberation of the oppressed, and doing justice to the poor. The fact that the laws were originally called mispatim (for example, in Exod. 21:1; Exod. 15:25b; cf. also Exod. 18:13-27, to cite only strata of the most widely acknowledged antiquity) is a datum of incalculable importance, for it indicates the intention and the original meaning of the legislation.’

Mark for the first time shows us what faith in the eschaton is about. Miranda writes: ‘Mark 1:14-15 shows us that faith, as in John and Paul, consists in believing that with Christ, the kingdom of God has come, God’s definitive intervention in our history.’ This is the first time, recounts Miranda, that Mark speaks to us of faith. An eschaton that is always future-oriented is not really an eschaton, even existentially speaking. History, in this case, does not come to completion. As Miranda recounts, ‘To keep the eschaton perpetually in the future was the obstinate recourse of this world in its rejection of Jesus Christ.’ He continues: ‘Only authentic biblical faith can free us: believing that with Christ the kingdom has come.’ Those who regard the eschaton as infinitely postponable, are precisely those who cast aside God’s injunction to love our neighbour and place it sometime in future when it is more convenient.

Miranda seeks an unadulterated gospel, rejecting the opportunistic notion that Christianity should perpetually conform to ever-changing contexts and circumstances. Why must Christianity morph into a Roman entity during imperial times, a feudal force in the Middle Ages, an absolutist influence in monarchy, or a liberal stance during the French Revolution Dismissing the notion that communists prioritise the material over the spiritual, Miranda’s fundamental criterion, as established by Jesus, is crystal clear: ‘I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was stripped naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to see me’ (Matt. 25:35-36). If focusing on the material is deemed neglectful of the spiritual, then the accusers should aim their objections at Jesus himself. Miranda is not one for mincing his words.

Miranda makes the following unequivocal: what Christian revolutionaries ardently advocate and defend is the worship of the true God, rejecting the idol worship ingrained by a theology ignorant of the Bible. This is not a mere item on a litany of objections; it is the sole motivation behind Miranda’s rebellion and the core of his theology. Miranda’s purpose is theological, strictly and literally.

The God of the Bible remains elusive, unlike the idols within reach, such as capitalism. Mental idols, more potent than material ones, are paramount in the lives of those who worship God. Some believe that invoking the word ‘God’ in their minds suffices to connect with the true God, but the Bible vehemently opposes this. The God of the Bible is only knowable in God’s irreducible otherness in responding to the cry uttered by the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. Miranda’s revolutionary message is singular: to make everyone know the one true God, leading to salvation. Accusations against Miranda of prioritising the human over the divine are not just baseless; they demonstrate a profound ignorance of the Bible.

Direct knowledge of God remains elusive, achievable only through the distinctiveness (i.e., the otherness) of one’s neighbour. For God to authentically reveal Himself and embody true divinity, an inherent separation is essential. Without this irreducible otherness, this separation from humanity, God risks assimilation into our worldview, devolving into an idol and forfeiting His divine essence. Genuine understanding of God is indirect, manifesting through the observance of the command to love one another. The love we extend to our neighbours becomes the conduit, the aperture through which God is present within us. Acts of goodness are a testament to having witnessed the divine in the irreducible otherness that beckons all of humanity.

Religions aspire to establish a direct connection with divinity, yet this Endeavor remains incomplete without acknowledging the otherness inherent in our neighbours, for instance, in immigrants, in refugees, in the homeless, in those who live next door. Miranda underscores that those seeking direct communion with God often seek to evade the ‘irremediable immanence of solitude,’ entwining themselves in a web of perpetual solipsism. He posits that true Christianity rejects this evasion, branding it as a protracted ideology.

The absence of knowledge about God is fundamentally attributed to a failure to recognise the essence of God – a moral imperative rooted in justice and love for one’s neighbour. This innate knowledge of God, embodied in the moral imperative, has persisted since time immemorial. In Jesus, this moral imperative – the word – took on flesh. Abiding in Jesus’ love translates into adhering to his commandments, which ultimately converge into the act of loving one another.

Miranda expounds on the eschaton, presenting it not as a distant future but as the culmination of history already unfolding. He could be placed in the category of ‘realised eschatology’ that asserts that the kingdom or reign of God was realised in or through the ministry of Jesus itself. For Miranda, the eschaton is already unfolding. Conventional pneumatology aside, Christ’s Last Judgement began when he sent the Paraclete or Holy Spirit to his disciples. Miranda calls for a final departure from Plato’s eternal universe, urging an acceptance that the eschaton – the Last Judgement and the consummation of history, as a historical event with an objective chronology entailing the advent of the Messiah and the salvation of the entire world – has arrived. The prophecies of the Old Testament, once projections into the future, now resonate in the present. The eschaton, for Miranda, is an integral part of human history, demanding the creation of conditions for universal justice.

And it is happening now. Jesus’ goal in the Gospel is to establish a divine-human community marked by the dynamics of a familial structure. The essence of Johannine ethics – which is the framework for Miranda’s discussion of the eschaton – revolves around active involvement in this community, emphasising cruciform mutual love by tending to each other’s needs within a familial framework. Within this community, everyone, regardless of social status, enjoys equal access to resources, including material possessions, as they are recognised as children of God. According to C. H. Dodd (cited in Burley), ‘[The] declaration that the Kingdom of God has already come necessarily dislocates the whole eschatological scheme in which its expected coming closes the long vista of the future. The eschaton has moved from the future to the present, from the sphere of expectation into that of realised experience.’ Mikel Burley writes that ‘[r]ealised eschatology is not a denial of divine realities; it is a dislocation – or rather, relocation – of those divine realities ‘from the future to the present.’ For Dodd, that present begins with the ministry of Jesus; for Bultmann, it seems, it is the ever-present moment of the believer’s decisive commitment. In both cases, the call to decision is not a call to await some impending catastrophe at an unspecified point in the future: it is precisely the call to change one’s life. It is in that moment of change, which must be constantly renewed, that the eschaton arrives.’

Miranda emphasises that the eschaton is a collective, supra-individual reality, a definitive age encompassing all of humanity in which it is stipulated that we shall bring about life and justice. The eschaton is not about the end of the world but the end of the age. We – as co-creators with God – are called to create a divine household within a social universe where the social sin of differentiating wealth is overcome along with other sins while forfeiting our personal autonomy and submitting ourselves to God’s authority. Mathew Nantlais Williams, citing Miranda, sounds an ominous note to this arrangement when he writes:

Because this divine household includes the element of friendship, it involves laying aside one’s individual claim to honour, which is always honour over others and thus competitively hierarchical. This is especially the case when such action is demanded in relation to enemies in one’s midst. As such, this community ethos is unworldly and, in its outward-facing posture to encompass everyone, dangerously subversive. As Miranda puts it, we are being confronted with ‘the terrifying revolutionary thesis that this world of contempt and oppression can be changed into a world of complete selflessness and unrestricted mutual assistance.’

The prospect of changing the world has decidedly political ramifications for those who wish to protect their achieved status in the world, especially given the ubiquity and perpetuity of precarity both in Jesus’ time and now. Using Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand as an example, Williams writes that ‘[e]stablishing the divine household is already a political action insofar as the statuses by which people would have understood themselves are nullified by the relationship into which Jesus draws them. Neither the marginalised people whom he feeds nor the disciples are treated according to their conventional social categories. Instead, Jesus treats them as children of God and invites them to belong, taking on a new identity. Taking this radical new identity constitutes a death to the world, whose life is ordered by a different force.’

In Miranda’s reading of the Gospel of John, the messianic kingdom, once a future prospect, has become a tangible reality, intertwined with justice and life. The defeat of death and the attainment of eternal life hinge on faith and our co-creation with God of justice on earth. The community of this new kingdom incarnates the ‘spirit of justice, the spirit of love of the needy and afflicted.’

The Parousia, symbolising the full realisation of the eschaton, necessitates human action. In Paulo Freire’s terms, this translates into a form of revolutionary praxis – that is, fostering dialogue regarding oppressive conditions affecting people and taking action to resolve those conditions in the spirit of Jesus’ injunction to love one another. Miranda contends that the Last Judgement occurred in the time of Jesus, debunking the notion of a future event. The Last Judgement coincides historically with the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, and this also reflects the simultaneity of Pentecost and the Last Judgement. Miranda points out that the Last Judgement and eternal life are simultaneous, and the Parousia is simultaneous with the Last Judgement and Eternal Life. Miranda’s interpretation of the Gospel of John is that Jesus is not preparing dwelling places for us in some otherworldly dimension but here on earth. Jesus assures his disciples in verse 12 that believers will do greater works than his, while ‘the presence of the Paraclete, which synthesises the presence of the Father and the return of Jesus, will consist precisely in these works that challenge the world.’ By going away, Jesus returns to us – ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ The day of the final intervention of Jahweh.

There are those who find this notion frightening because they are waiting for God to transport them to another celestial realm. Or if they see the perils of an overly transcendent judgement and focus on changing the world, here and now, they are sceptical that humankind is up to the task. But the task at hand is part of a co-creation with God. The New Testament’s core is comprised of intentional decision-making designed to usher in justice and life for all. Postponing the eschaton, according to Miranda, reflects a refusal to acknowledge its present reality, insisting on an unreal truth. There is, of course, a danger in utopia-seekers who fail to heed the divine injunction to love one’s neighbour. There are always those opposing camps who will fight for sovereignty over this final state of affairs – the oppressed and those doing the oppressing. And there are those who understand the implications surrounding the eschaton from a Christian perspective but choose to root for the other side. That said, Miranda critiques religious conservatives who seek to delay and regress the eschaton, enveloping humanity in a messy web of narcissistic self-absorption, while they remain in charge of the government offices and the banks. The eschaton, Miranda argues, opens avenues for love of neighbour and global justice, challenging those resistant to change. Those opposing social justice, in their pursuit of an eternal return, detach themselves from the transformative potential embedded in the eschaton. Recognising and embracing the eschaton becomes imperative for genuine worship and understanding of God.

John Michael Greer, former Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and currently head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, does an excellent job describing the evolution of eschatology. His outline traces the origins of the term eschaton to an ancient Greek term denoting the ‘end’ or ‘border.’ In the realm of Christian theological discourse, it has come to signify the anticipated transformation of the current world into the eternal blessedness of the Kingdom of God at some future point. Over the past two millennia, a branch of theology known as eschatology, or the study of last things, has emerged, endeavouring to construct a cohesive vision of the future from the clues and visions found in scripture and tradition. This dynamic field is marked by spirited debates, with no single rendition of the End Times securing consensus among a significant portion of Christian theologians or believers.

A common thread in nearly all Christian depictions of the Eschaton is its complete detachment from the familiar realms of history. In these scenarios, when the trumpet resounds, the heavens part, and an entirely distinct reality emerges. Theological discourse characterises this quality of ‘otherness’ as transcendence, juxtaposed with its opposite, immanence. Theological debates often revolve around whether the divine, be it God or gods, is transcendent – existing beyond nature and liberated from its constraints – or immanent, an integral part of nature subject to its laws. While various nuanced perspectives exist within this binary framework, the fundamental distinction remains relevant.

Greer reports that religions that delve into eschatology usually harbour a transcendent concept of the divine. In these belief systems, the eschaton represents the dissolution of ordinary reality into something entirely otherworldly. Conversely, religions embracing an immanent concept of the divine either lack eschatological frameworks or incorporate the end of the world as a recurring event in an endlessly repeated temporal cycle. For instance, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with their transcendent God and detailed eschatologies, fall into the former category. On the other hand, Hinduism, with its cyclical universes, Shinto with no eschatology, and Druidry, which perceives divinity infused throughout nature, align with the latter perspective.

Occasionally, Greer points out, these two paradigms intersect and influence each other, giving rise to belief systems that position the eschaton as a potential realisation within historical timelines or as an inevitable outcome dictated by historical patterns. Marxism serves as a familiar example, viewing history as a sequence of predetermined stages culminating in the proletarian revolution and the everlasting communist utopia.

Greer says this about Marxism:

Every element of Marxist theory has an exact equivalent in Christian eschatology. Primitive communism is Eden, the invention of private property is the Fall, the stages of slavery, feudalism and capitalism are the various dispensations of sacred history, and so on, right up to the Second Coming of the proletariat, the millennial state of socialism and the final arrival of communism as the New Jerusalem descending from the heavens. Point for point, it’s a rephrasing of Christian myth that replaces the transcendent dimension with forces immanent in ordinary history. Marx and his followers, in other words, immanentised the Eschaton.

Greer treats Marxism as some sort of monolithic body of work. This is decidedly not the case (post-Marx Marxism, Marxist humanism, Marxist Leninism, scientific Marxism, libertarian Marxism, Stalinism, Maoism and Trotskyism are just a few examples). It is crucial here to emphasise that there are many Marxisms, just as there are many iterations of Christianity, and Miranda does not ascribe to the scientific Marxism described by Greer. His work draws from the Marxist humanist tradition and could be called Christian Marxism in the manner adopted by liberation theology.

It is important to describe the above assertions by Miranda in more detail. He puts them all together in his masterwork, Being and the Messiah. Again, to repeat: The first premise is that God cannot be known directly, only through the otherness of one’s neighbour. To reveal himself and be truly God, God requires the distance of otherness. Without this irreducible otherness, God can be assimilated into our own worldview or system of intelligibility and be converted into an idol, such as money, in which case he would cease to be God. There is no direct knowledge of the true God. The visibility of God is always already indirect. We cannot know God except through the fulfilment of the command to love one another. Then, we can know God, even if only partially. If we love one another, God is already in us. Whoever does good has seen God, who, as irreducible otherness, summons humanity to heed the call of God. A key point emphasised by Miranda is that religions seek a direct relationship with divinity, and yet we cannot burst through the confines of the self and be engaged in some transcendental divine unity without the otherness of our neighbour. If we want a relationship with God, it is through our relationship with others that we attain it. As Miranda recounts, those who desire a direct relationship with God wish to prescind from the other in their search for ‘the irremediable immanence of solitude,’ which only ends up wrapping them in an unending solipsism, detached from their neighbour.

This is precisely why religion is incompatible with real Christianity and has fallen into a ‘protracted ideology’ according to Miranda. We don’t know God because we fail to perceive that of which God consists. This is precisely the problem with the Republican right and their attack on history. They see social justice as a brutal assault on their values and way of life precisely because they are called to love those whom they detest: the liberals, the gays, the Blacks, the Jews, the Muslims, the woke, you know, the usual suspects (this also helps to explain their admiration for Trump and Putin). They have turned God into an idol, which is more often than not the God of the American Way of Life. The God of white people who live in a settler colonial land where the First Nations peoples have been mostly slaughtered and where immigrants and people of colour know their place in the hierarchy, one in which ‘legacy’ Americans are in forceful command at the top.

The word that is God is the moral imperative of justice and love of neighbour. All people have this knowledge of God and this word. In fact, this moral imperative has existed from the very beginning of time. But not everyone accepts it. In Jesus, the word is made flesh. To abide in the love of Jesus is to keep his commandments, and all of those ‘good works’ can be reduced to loving one another. Ignorance of God is thus always already a wilful ignorance, a motivated amnesia, and this lack of knowledge is culpable, resulting in a failure to acknowledge the moral imperative, that mighty summons that calls us to love and justice. Ignoring this summons, this divine injunction, ends tragically in a voluntary separation from the word. We cannot be evasive when it comes to Jesus’ reproof, his ‘fierce censure’ of those who do not wish to bear fruit in which the bearing of fruit means to love one’s neighbour.

To repeat: The eschaton, according to Miranda, refers to the last moment of history. It must not be postponed. In fact, it is already here. The second coming of Christ is the Pentecost, which coincides with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. At this moment, it is important that we decamp from the seamless eternality of Plato’s universe, which separates material and spiritual orders and accept the eschaton – the coming of the Messiah, the salvation of the whole world – as a historical event that has already happened and is happening. It is an event that the far right assumes is far off into the future. That way, they don’t need to pay attention to the well-being of the other because they resist the idea that history has arrived at its endpoint and is already here. They cannot afford to notice that the fields are already white for harvest. The prophecies and promises of the Old Testament, which were projected into the future, have become present. We cannot de-temporalise this event, as it is implacably contemporaneous with the enfleshed historical Jesus and the Christ-of-faith. It is a historical and contingent fact. It is part of human history now that the imperative to love one another is coextensive with knowledge of God. The Christ-of-faith is different from the idea of a celestial, eternal Christ, which is part of a theology that does not accept the eschaton as having arrived and ‘is a tool deliberately used to prevent the realisation of the messianic kingdom on earth.’ In Being and the Messiah, Miranda writes that ‘John wants to tell us that the hour of justice and life for all humankind has already arrived. But the vested interests of the masters of this world have been passed off as Christian theology to drown out his message, silence it, and prevent it from revolutionising the world.’

Our task is to act as instruments of God to transform the world. God does not ask us to wait for him to do it. We need to avoid demythologising the eschaton since that only reduces the biblical message to interior experiences or to never-ending postponable futures. Let’s remember that for Miranda, the eschaton or the arrival of the kingdom ‘is a collective, supra-individual reality; it is a definite age for all of humankind.’ The messianic kingdom has become real history. The kingdom of justice must be achieved, and God demands this unpostponably. God’s unmistakable essence lies in the creation of justice and life. This also includes the defeat of death. Eternal life and resurrection will be caused by faith. The ‘good news’ of the scriptures, according to Miranda, signifies action, not information. It is an authoritative call, an imperative, an injunction to abide in the word. It is a directive that spans an insuperable distance. It is not a notification but a summons to action. It is the causal efficacy of this action that Miranda deems crucial. The Parousia, or the full realisation of the word, does not occur independently of human action – it is transactional and transformative. Miranda is not referring here to some type of auto-suggestion or to subjective awareness but wishes to emphasise the praxiological and, indeed, pedagogical dimension of justice – it is about co-creating universal interpersonal justice. We co-create with God when we heed his invitation to love one another. That is how we know he exists.

Admittedly, it is controversial to claim that the Parousia occurred in the same generation as Jesus, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, but, in this, I agree with Miranda. For this justice to be realised, we must demolish sin through the conversion of humanity. The Parousia is the total realisation of the eschaton, and it demands a decision on our part in order to be made manifest. The New Testament is all about intentionality and decision-making to bring about justice and life for all, and this means we need to participate in making Christ the Messiah. Those who oppose this are, in Miranda’s view, antichrists. The Gospel is not wrapped in the indicative but explodes in the imperative. It is a summons to the possibility of a world reconciled in justice. This is a world that cannot be accepted by far-right anti-woke activists since it portends inclusivity and equality. As Miranda writes: ‘God is revealed only in the implacable ‘now’ in the moral imperative of justice and love for all.’ To postpone the eschaton is the belief that Jesus has not yet come, a wilful refusal to believe that he who is to come is already here. We cannot hold the eschaton hostage as a permanently unreal truth by relegating the Messiah to be always the future Messiah. We want the Messiah to be present. The eschaton is present-ness, not an awaited imminent future. It is now. Jesus is chronologically present. This contradicts traditional apologetics and modern demythologisation, whose tergiversations deny that the eschaton, along with the Last Judgement and the resurrection of the dead, is chronologically present. But the Last Judgement occurred in the time of Jesus. It is not a future event. If the eschaton had not arrived, then Jesus could not, Miranda asserts, have risen. Jesus is constituted as Messiah by virtue of a collective dimension that includes the arrival of the eschaton in human history, the coming of the definitive age, the ultimum, which includes the resurrection of the dead. Eternal life, in this sense, is ‘not life after death but rather life that knows no death.’ The eschaton emerges from praxis, from the establishment of the essence of God on earth – which is justice and life in the here and now, the creation of conditions of possibility of total justice, where human beings form the medium and the end point of such justice, which ‘includes the transformation of nature and the defeat of death.’ Miranda is referring here to material being, to earthly pains, privations and injustices within the reaches of the eschaton. Miranda writes:

For sentimental recollection does not do justice to the worker-martyrs who were gunned down in Haymarket Square. Nor is it justice that people should be born crippled. The tortures we voluntarily or involuntarily inflict on one another, the sufferings we mutually cause, will cease only when humanity’s age-old egoistic instinct and mistrust are eliminated. A materialist should be the last to deny the possibility of a miracle: If justice is attainable, surely the defeat of death is not in a compartment distinct from that realisation. Human beings could not carry out reforms and revolutions if material being itself were not compelling them. Their basis for action, their impulse toward revolution, is the very being which of itself tends towards an eschaton and of which people form the medium.

The Parousia is the total realisation of the eschaton that is brought about by evangelisation and the conversion of human beings to love and justice. Miranda notes that Christians are deluded that justice and life could be achieved without faith and without human participation. True being demands decision – to bring about the eschaton by following the injunction of Jesus the Messiah that we love one another and follow the moral imperative of justice.

Christopher Rufo, Bishop Barron and the Woke Bugaboos of Critical Pedagogy

Many religious conservatives propose to postpone the eschaton. Not only to postpone it but to push it backwards, to fall back into the realm of the eternal return, to capital’s swindle of fulfilment, to a grand deception that encloses them in their own space of immanence and ‘self-absorbed self-sufficiency.’ This suits the masters of war, the oligarchs and the political elite just fine. Their theology cannot contain the meaning of the arrival of the eschaton. The historical, contingent appearance of Jesus Christ is a piece of human history without which there would be no knowledge of the true God. There is no transcendence without the eschaton, and, without the eschaton, there is no God. We have adapted to the world, not conquered the world for justice. The eschaton provides us with the possibility for love of neighbour and justice for the world, and yet the far-right conservatives are holding us back with their support for a fascist leader who claims to be God’s chosen one, who is prepared to revise the Constitution, who is a self-absorbed misogynist and racist, and who has vowed to seek revenge on his opponents. He arrogated to himself the title candidate of vengeance when he proclaimed: ‘In 2016, I declared, ‘I am your voice.’ Today, I add, I am your warrior, I am your justice, and for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution!’ The conservatives’ attack on wokeness is really a ploy to avoid getting called out for their racism, sexism, homophobia and Christian nationalism, among other things. They want to live guilt-free in a world of asymmetrical relations of power and privilege that disproportionally exploits the working class while not immediately affecting themselves.

Miranda responds to his critics who claim that communism’s fatal flaw is its overweening attention to the material aspect of life, as distinct from the transcendent aspects. He writes:

[I]s unrestricted fidelity to Jesus Christ to be reproached as preoccupation with the material? How are we going to give food to all who are hungry if we leave the means of production in private hands, which necessarily destine these means to the augmentation of capital and not to the satisfaction of the needs of the population? Do the official theologians really think they can maintain that there is more spirituality in the escapist selfishness of people who tranquillise themselves by saying, ‘There have always been people who starved to death; we are not divine providence,’ than in the decision of the people who want to be faithful to Jesus by undertaking all possible means to give food to the hungry, knowing that they are exposing themselves to repression, prison, and torture? Is there less spirituality in ruining one’s future and social prestige by taking Jesus seriously than in adapting to the sweet enchantment of a bourgeoisie singing ‘I am dedicated to spiritual things’?

Critical educators serve as a convenient bugaboo for far-right conservatives such as Christopher Rufo, who enjoy employing crude counter-offensive attacks on a select swath of educators fighting for social justice. His reason for doing so is that they are ‘reengineering the human soul.’ He reaches for his Cliff Notes to help him design cheap eschatological tricks for creating moral panics among parents, using ‘red scare’ tactics not unlike those adopted by J. Edgar Hoover during his obsession with destroying the life of Martin Luther King and other protesters against Jim Crow racism and the Vietnam War. Rufo writes: ‘And just as it was for the revolutionaries in the Third World, the goal for Giroux, McLaren, and the second-generation critical pedagogists is always the same: dismantling the criminal justice system, disrupting the nuclear family, overthrowing the system of capitalism, and, in the words of Freire, turning the schools into ‘an extraordinary instrument to help build a new society and a new man.’

What exactly did Third World revolutionaries achieve that sends such shivers down Rufo’s spine? Toppling fascist regimes? Fighting dictators such as US-backed Augusto Pinochet, whose regime instituted 17 secret detention and torture sites to conduct political repression where thousands of detainees were also killed and ‘disappeared’? Or fighting against Fulgencio Batista, whose regime has been accused of murdering over 20 thousand Cubans? Just in the past hundred years of anti-imperialist struggles, the number of sovereign countries has more than quadrupled as a result of the efforts of Third World revolutionaries. Rufo lumps all revolutionaries together in one piece: to him, they are all evil Stalinists. I suppose he would make an exception for George Washington’s actions during the American War of Independence since Washington certainly had some major beefs with the way King George III was running things in the colony. Wasn’t the King regarded as a tyrant by American revolutionaries? And aren’t Americans happy that they won their independence from such a tyrannical ruler? I certainly am. And are we to condemn the revolutionaries who brought about the French Revolution?

I suppose Rufo believes that the sans-culottes of the fourth estate in 1789 France were wrong in their struggle to abolish seigneurial dues and feudal privileges established by Louis XVI. Does Rufo cringe in fear when he hears the guttural cries of ‘Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!’ from his office in the intellectual swamplands of New College? And what about the socialists we have to thank in the US for the creation of highways, roads, the postal service, public parks, food stamps, student loans, bridges, garbage collection, farm subsidies, social security, public schools, veterans’ health care? Some of these were revolutionaries. In what Rufo sees as some demonic plot, others might find merit in the accomplishments of revolutionaries, such as improving the criminal justice system, supporting women in the workplace, searching for socialist alternatives to the current system of predatory capitalism, and transforming schools from factories of indoctrination and Procrustean rule to spaces of creativity in which students learn to problem-pose, to think outside the box, to learn to dialogue critically with teachers and other students in order to make well-informed independent decisions. Students learning how to think and not what to think seems like worthwhile progress to me.

Rufo’s attack on Paulo Freire is profoundly puerile and exhibits a woeful misunderstanding of Freire’s work. In fact, Rufo’s criticism of Freire reminds me of the nonsense expounded by Brazil’s former authoritarian leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who has famously discriminated against women, Black people, LGBTQQIP2SAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit [2S], androgynous and asexual) people, Native people and quilombolas (an ancient community of escaped slaves) and immigrants and who has persecuted leftist unions and social movements. Bolsonaro proposed that Saint Joseph of Anchieta, a Spanish-born missionary of the 16th century, replace Paulo Freire as Brazil’s official patron of education. He has described Freire’s work as ‘Marxist rubbish,’ and proposed to ‘enter the Education Ministry with a flamethrower to remove Paulo Freire.’

Freire’s humanist philosophy was, for Bolsonaro, one that must be driven back into oblivion. However, the Jesuit rector and vice rector of the National Sanctuary of Saint Joseph of Anchieta in Brazil’s southeastern state of Espirito Santo opposed this idea on the grounds that Joseph of Anchieta was being politically manipulated by the Partido Social Liberal, and they made clear that they supported both Freire and Joseph of Anchieta who chose to fight on the side of marginalised and oppressed peoples. I admire the courage and integrity of these two Jesuits for clearly incurring the wrath of Brazil’s president. It seems as though Brazilians made the right choice when they named Freire as their official patron of education as far back as 2012. I suggest Rufo get a good Jesuit education before he runs his foul mouth against Paulo Freire. If he did, he would recognise himself in Bolsonaro’s ideological war against the Brazilian left, whose attacks were also blamed on ‘cultural Marxism’ and became notorious for both their naivete and their viciousness. Also included as targets of the Brazilian right were the esteemed sociocultural theorist Lev Vygotsky and genetic epistemologist Jean Piaget.

In the Jesuit magazine, America, Eduardo Campos Lima reports on a statement released by Nilson Marostica, SJ, and Bruno Franguelli, SJ, rector and vice-rector of the National Sanctuary of Saint Joseph of Anchieta in Brazil’s southeastern state of Espirito Santo.

The rectors released a statement to parishioners, which went viral in Brazil. In it, the Jesuits stress that they recognise the ‘great importance of Paulo Freire’s legacy’ and that both he and Saint Joseph chose the side of marginalised people. ‘Anchieta, using the language and the methods of his time, also was a ‘pedagogue of the oppressed’ when he made the option of being with the indigenous peoples, educating them, defending them and protecting them from the ambition of the powerful ones,’ the statement says. Saint Joseph of Anchieta, a Jesuit missionary, continuously denounced the violence of the Portuguese colonisers against the indigenous peoples in Brazil and opposed their enslavement. He and his fellow missionaries founded a school for the indigenous peoples in 1554, which was the origin of the city of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous.

One of the supporters [of Freire] was Paulo Roberto Padilha, director of the Instituto Paulo Freire, a nongovernmental organisation that promotes Freire’s legacy and advocates for the ‘emancipated’ education system he proposed. ‘We were positively surprised when we first knew about their statement. Someone wanted to oppose the church to Freire’s cause, but the Sanctuary of Anchieta acted in a wise way and pointed not to their differences but to their similarities,’ said Mr Padilha. ‘This bill is one of the tools the government is using to distract the people from what really matters: the dismantling of public services, including the public school [system], in Brazil.’

According to Mr. Padilha, attacks on Paulo Freire’s ideas have been frequent since the military coup of 1964, when he had to flee the country for 16 years. ‘When they attack him, they are really attacking education and democracy, the two things that he always stood for,’ said Mr Padilha. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Freire developed a revolutionary method to teach people to read, based on valuing the students’ experiences and existing knowledge so that students become agents in their own learning process. After the coup, he continued to work with poor people in Latin America, Africa and Europe and published several books on his experiences and reflections, proposing an original philosophy of education….’He stood for the critical consciousness of students and was never for indoctrination. Someone who accuses Freire of being a communist not only doesn’t know anything of his works but also doesn’t know anything about communism,’ said Mr Padilha.

After helping to depose Harvard’s African-American president, Rufo wrote the following on X: ‘Attacking me as an outsider, a plebe, a mafia-stained ethnic, makes my scalping of Harvard’s president even more delicious. Americans love the underdog, the Will Hunting archetype, the kid who exposes the sneering frauds.’ Someone who relishes attacking the left this much by all reasonable measure betrays a petulance and insecurity, a lack of confidence, an inferiority complex that he turns inside out in order to transform himself into what he is not He holds a Master’s Degree from Harvard Extension School, was appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to sit on the board of a small Sarasota liberal arts college, New College, and is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He is hardly the plebe, or mafia-stained ethnic that he claims to be. And certainly not a working-class hero. A betrayer of the working class is more like it, from what I have read. While he relishes the Will Hunting archetype, there is nothing in his history to assume he is a mathematical genius – or a genius of any kind. Charlatan, yes; genius, no. That he is a right-wing fanatic who writes vitriolic articles that accuse diversity activists of being racists is more in keeping with these times that allow slovenly thinkers to undertake punitive irruptions into human decency by appearing on the nightly news and pandering to the far-right in whose yoke straps he is most decidedly and unpleasantly trapped. Someone so celebratory over bringing down a female scholar of colour from such an elite leadership position can only be hiding from a part of himself that knows better.

Conservatives often act as if they wish to postpone the eschaton. And those who are nonbelievers may prefer to work for the ill or for the betterment of society, comfortable in their self-assurance that God is simply some mental idea pitched into their brainpan by imperfect AI instruments at their disposal. Conservatives of the far-right are fine at keeping things as they are. The apocalypse for them is far off in the distance. There is no pressure on them to heed God’s call to repristinate the earthy commons because eternal life will be lived in some far-away celestial mansion reminiscent of Mar-a-Lago. And they hold in contempt those on the left who believe that the eschaton has arrived, and so are motivated by the imperative of Christ to love thy neighbour and to eventuate justice for those trammelled by poverty and sickness, the victims of societal neglect. They are waiting for instructions from God when he returns and don’t want socialists to mess things up in the meantime. But God has already returned. Still, they cling to a notion of contingency that forecloses contingency. The concept of the ‘now’ of justice is reassimilated by the far-right subject into an ‘experiential existential apparatus of the self’ that reduces reality to what we call in critical ethnography, the ‘lived experiences’ of the self. But here we are talking about transforming and transcending our lived experiences in relation to the historical now of Christ. The eschaton is not convenient for those anti-social justice proponents who do not wish to realise the messianic kingdom on earth, for should they attempt to do so, they would need to acknowledge the injustices of structural racism and predatory capitalism. They wish to spend their time on earth guilt-free. Again, conservative Catholics such as Bishop Robert Barron and Christopher Rufo believe that pointing out such structural sin leads to ‘collective guilt,’ which to them is worse than the sin that is being called out by their leftist opponents (if, in fact, they believe that differentiating wealth constitutes a sin at all). Rufo refers to social justice teaching as ‘cultural conquest.’

Bishop Barron decries critical race theory as an ‘invasion of these other points of view.’ He offers the following condemnation of woke culture and ideology as follows:

The advocates of the so-called ‘woke’ ideology today have not been shy about articulating the philosophical underpinnings of their perspective. They do indeed find inspiration in Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, Derrida and Foucault, among others.

From these modern and postmodern thinkers, they derive a number of principles.

First, they advocate a deeply antagonistic social theory, whereby the world is divided sharply into the two classes of oppressors and oppressed.

Second, they relativise moral value and see classical morality as an attempt by the ruling class to maintain itself in power.

Third, they focus not so much on the individual as on racial and ethnic categories, and, hence, they endorse the idea of collective guilt and recommend a sort of reverse discrimination to address the injustices of the past.

Fourth, they tend to demonise the market economy and the institutions of democracy as part of a superstructure defending the privileged.

Fifth, they push toward equity of outcome throughout the society rather than equality of opportunity.

And, finally, ‘wokeism’ employs divisive and aggressive strategies of accusation that are contrary to the Gospel demand to love our enemies.

Suffice it to say that Catholic Social Teaching stands athwart all of this. It wants social justice, of course, but not on ‘woke’ terms. Its heroes are not Marx, Nietzsche, and Foucault, but rather Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, Jesus the Lord, Ambrose, Aquinas and Teresa of Calcutta.

On the list of philosophers unscrolled by Bishop Barron that belong to his rogue’s gallery of cultural criminals, I have studied with only one (Foucault). And, as far as I could tell from attending his classes and reading his books, his project was far from cultivating a program of collective guilt. He was advocating, instead, for change in numerous aspects of contemporary carceral society, including mental institutions. (See his The Birth of the Clinic.). He was able to identify changes in the intellectual structures that produced new ways of perceiving the human body, illness and disease. The key term used by Bishop Barron here is ‘guilt’, and it is the prime giveaway. Anti-woke proponents are terrified of critical theory and the hermeneutics of suspicion directed at contemporary social structures since it forces them to confront the suffering of peoples under the fist of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, to borrow a term from the late bell hooks. The guilt that some of them might feel as a result of being confronted with the history of, say, settler colonialism or racism, could become a cause of great discomfort to many of them. They certainly don’t want their children to experience the discomfort of knowing that Black people really didn’t benefit from slavery, that it wasn’t a way of providing African slaves with everyday skills of survival that could be useful for them, as stated in Florida’s 2023 Social Studies curriculum, but was a brutal system of violence and exploitation.

Paulo Freire, a friend who wrote one of the most cited books in the social sciences, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, loved people and the world deeply and passionately, as did many of Bishop Barron’s select group of heroes, which is why Freire set out to help peasants read both the word and the world simultaneously. Anti-woke activists are terrified of being confronted with the failings of society, such as poverty, illiteracy and white privilege. I suppose Rufo is angry at Harvard for inviting Freire as a visiting scholar in 1969 and at the dozens of institutions of higher education in the US and around the world that saw fit to award Freire with honorary doctorates. I wonder what he thinks of the Cuban Literacy Campaign, which raised the literacy rate from 77% to 96,1% by 1962, one of the highest in the world. Cuba’s literacy rate for 1981 was 97.85%, and for 2002 was 99.80%. I have called it one of the greatest educational achievements of the twentieth century. In 1987, I visited Cuba at the invitation of Freire, who was meeting with some of the organisers of Cuba’s literacy campaign. Rufo contends that ‘Freire and his disciples believed that the critical pedagogies could re-engineer the human soul and inspire a revolution from the bottom up. But, in contradiction to their counterparts in the East, the dividing line between oppressor and oppressed in the West was not social class, but racial identity.’

This is not true. In my own work, I have always emphasised the class struggle and have criticised those who ignore class and place their emphasis solely on identity politics. I have written about and supported critical multiculturalism or interculturalism. Today, in the US, we are witnessing the expansion and intensification of identitarian ideology, ethno-nationalism grounded in ideas of racial purity, white supremacist ideology, and support for the racial state (but where the term race is now camouflaged under the banner of ‘cultural differences’). We are also witnessing multiple instantiations of White supremacy and anti-Semitism that are igniting the vitriolic energies of Donald Trump’s base, provoking violence against People of Colour. Witness the infamous attack on the Capitol Building on January 6. We are also being challenged by White victimhood, misology, and hatred by Whites of non-White immigrants and People of Colour in general. Critical multiculturalists are foot-weary from battling the truth-obliterating anti-rationalism spewing from the mouths of Trump’s MAGA (Make America Great Again) base. So, of course, the issue of racial identity is crucial in our struggle. But we ignore class exploitation at our peril.

Bishop Robert Barron naively attacks woke theorists for demonising the market economy. Seriously, has he ever really read Marx? Or countless other economists highly critical of the way capitalism works? Has he engaged the work of one of the leading interpreters of Marx, Richard Wolff? Pope Francis has also criticised the market economy. Should we, as good Catholics, cease to read his missives? Bishop Barron only needs to take a walk through the homeless encampments in Los Angeles to get the point. Bishop Barron has every right to criticise Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, Derrida and Foucault and promote the teachings of Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, Jesus the Lord, Ambrose, Aquinas, Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day and saints like Teresa of Calcutta and Oscar Romero. I highly recommend everyone on his list. But to dismiss outright those he deems ‘woke’ for the reasons he suggests is just pure anti-intellectualism.

Saint Oscar Romero happens to be my favourite saint, along with Saint Maximillian Kolbe. Prior to his being gunned down during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Romero was highly critical of the US sending arms to El Salvador to be used against oppressed campesino communities. He was very critical of the capitalist system, which kept campesino communities so poor while the ruling class was being defended by the Catholic Church. When I was in Venezuela, working for Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, Romero was an inspiration to me and many of my fellow revolutionaries. Marx’s work on communism was, after all, inspired by Christianity.

My advice to Bishop Barron is to try to embrace any guilt you might feel about the shortcomings of our neoliberal, free-market capitalist system and try to find answers to those shortcomings, even if it means reading Marx. And pray that the conservative right-wing anti-woke activists will do the same. Use that guilt to create change. Perhaps even consider socialism as closer to the Christian ideal that is at the centre of the Gospels. The eschaton is here – now is the time to respond to the injunction of Jesus Christ, who commands us to love one another.

Rufo’s attack on Paulo Freire, who was a devout Catholic and who worked with theologian Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru in the development of liberation theology, is specious in the extreme and a prime example of intellectual and moral cowardice. Freire understood better than Rufo that faithfully following Jesus means choosing between two masters. A quotation from Hollis Phelps on the disjunction between God and mammon (wealth) is instructive:

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus proclaims in his Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5 – 7): ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth [Mammon].’ In the Gospel of Luke, which has more direct bearing on Acts as part of the Luke-Acts narrative, it is the denouement to the Parable of the Dishonest Manager (16:1-13): ‘No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth [Mammon]’ (16:13). Although the context differs, both utterances mean essentially the same thing at a basic level in the broader scope of Jesus’ teachings. Specifically, Jesus states clearly that the relationship between God and Mammon should obey the logic of ‘either/or’ rather than that of ‘both/and.’ One can serve either God or mammon, but not both simultaneously. This is because, in Jesus’s teachings, as found in the gospels, God and Mammon compete with each other as loci of value. Both, that is, claim to be the value of values, the principle by and through which all other aspects of existence maintain themselves.

Another quotation, this time by Maeshiro, reinforces this meaning:

If for Jesus the ethical ideal of the Kingdom of God is the realisation of the love of God in the social life of human beings, then there are further ethical principles which are the enabling conditions of this Kingdom. In the first place, the Kingdom of God is will of God realised in the world, from which follows its radical monotheism, which Jesus makes exceedingly clear: ‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money’ (Matthew 6:24). In the Kingdom of God, the worship of false gods, especially money, is prohibited, and it is worth pointing out that in the single instance in which Jesus talks about false gods, he singles out money for special mention. Part of the reason for this is that these idols are graven images of the one true God, whose only legitimate image (imago dei) is human beings, as the scriptures make plain: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him’ (Genesis 1:27). In this assertion, the entire scriptural tradition remains unremittingly and radically anthropocentric, as the theologian Karl Barth recognised when he suggested that ‘Man is the measure of all things, since God became man.’ It was on this basis that Jesus defended breaking the sacred Sabbath law: ‘The Sabbath was made for man,’ he said, ‘not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). And it is on this basis that we may understand the rest of the ethical principles which animate Jesus’ ministry.

Realising that the eschaton now obliges far-right conservatives to recognise that differentiating wealth, that is, wealth constituted in asymmetrical relationships between and among individuals and larger groups, is sinful, and this relationship must be transformed in the interest of justice. Hence, the need to challenge the value augmentation of capitalism, which exploits the labour-power of the worker. And, hence, the need to transform the world in the interests of those who toil and suffer under the asymmetrical relationships of power and privilege related to racism, sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and capitalist injustice. Bishop Barron, Rufo and others who attack Marxists would do well to understand some of Marx’s basic principles: that capital grounds all social mediation as a form of value and that the substance of labour itself must be interrogated because doing so brings us closer to understanding the nature of capital’s social universe out of which our subjectivities are created. Because the logic of capitalist work has invaded all forms of human sociability, society can be considered to be a totality of different types of labour.

We have a political responsibility to our fellow human beings to ensure they are not exploited by the process of surplus value extraction; that they are not exploited insofar as they are forced to sell their labor power to capitalists for less than the full value of the commodities they produce with their labour. This is our responsibility as part of the Kingdom of God and we cannot escape our duty to obey the will of Jesus. Maeshiro puts it this way:

Wherever the obvious message of the Gospel confronts us with social and political responsibility, we, like cowards, hide behind the tenuous arguments of our middle-class critics; we duck behind the specious, illusory moral stature of our suburban critics. For those who insist on their selfish, ineffectual pieties, the Son of Man is of little comfort. As he says very explicitly, ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 7:21), for the Kingdom of God, as St. Paul suggests, ‘does not consist in talk but in power’ (1 Cor 4:20). As C.S. Lewis once proclaimed without the slightest sense of irony, ‘If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.’

What is important here is to examine the forms that labour takes within capitalism. In other words, we need to examine value as a social relation, not as some kind of accounting device to measure rates of exploitation or domination. Consequently, labour should not be taken simply as a ‘given’ category but interrogated as an object of critique and examined as an abstract social structure. Marx’s value theory of labour does not attempt to reduce labour to an economic category alone but is illustrative of how labour as value form constitutes our very social universe, one that has been underwritten by the logic of capital. Value is not some hollow formality, neutral precinct, or barren hinterland emptied of power and politics but the ‘very matter and anti-matter of Marx’s social universe.’ The production of value is not the same as the production of wealth. The production of value is historically specific and emerges whenever labour assumes its dual character.

This is most clearly explicated in Marx’s discussion of the contradictory nature of the commodity form and the expansive capacity of the commodity known as labour-power. In this sense, labour-power becomes the supreme commodity, the source of all value. For Marx, the commodity is highly unstable and non-identical. Its concrete particularity (use value) is subsumed by its existence as value-in-motion or by what we have come to know as ‘capital’ (value is always in motion because of the increase in capital’s productivity that is required to maintain expansion). Raya Dunayevskaya has famously noted that ‘the commodity in embryo contains all the contradictions of capitalism precisely because of the contradictory nature of labour.’ What kind of labour creates value? Abstract universal labour is linked to a certain organisation of society under capitalism. The dual aspect of labour within the commodity (use value and exchange value) enables one single commodity – money – to act as the value measure of the commodity. Money becomes the representative of labour in its abstract form. Thus, the commodity must not be considered a thing but a social relationship. Rufo claims critical pedagogues are engineering the soul of children. What about the soul of capitalism? Dunayevskaya identified the ‘soul’ of capitalist production as the extraction from living labour of all the unpaid hours of labour that amounts to surplus value or profit.

Sin always has to be related to justice. Some oppress others, wittingly or unwittingly, and some are oppressed. To make this claim to anti-woke conservatives is to evoke a response that this is simply a form of guilt-tripping on the part of the left, playing out their liberal identity politics that reduce the complexity of the social world into haves and have-nots, into the oppressed and the oppressor, and so on. And, so, they reintegrate into their historical world that which has been projected into a transcendental, celestial otherworld, and the result is: God will fix everything when He returns. In the meantime, don’t turn our cities into ghost towns. But the hour of justice has come to history, and, sooner or later, these Catholic demagogues will have to recognise it. As Phelps puts it, the kenotic Christ shows that capitalism cannot offer redemption and that love is solidarity in the struggle against human selfishness and everything that divides persons and allows that some people are rich and some are poor, that some are possessors and some are dispossessed, and that some are oppressors and some are oppressed, must be irrevocably transformed.

Rufo describes the culture wars as ‘a contest between the permanent bureaucracy and, let’s say, elite institutions that are seeking to impose these ideologies from the top down and then the broad middle class that opposes them.’ And what do critics such as Rufo want to do? They want to send students to charter schools or have them home-schooled. And, of course, this will make way for conservative Catholic ideology to ‘engineer the souls’ of our youth (to coin a phrase used by Rufo in one of his polemical attacks on critical pedagogy) while further postponing the eschaton. This, of course, has been the dream of conservatives since the days of Phyllis Schlafly’s disastrous Eagle Forum. It was the dream of Schlafly and Trump’s education secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos, to destroy public schooling by funnelling students into private schools through ‘school choice’ schemes. A clever way of pillaging funds earmarked for improving inner-city public schools. And an equally clever way to prevent students from thinking dialectically and critically about the world and their place in it, and how they can participate in that world productively.

Conservative critics of Rufo’s stripe fail to perceive how their attempts to shut down what they consider leftist overreach are far more ideologically Stalinist than the efforts of those who wish to point out the reality of structural racism in our country.

Don’t Immanentise the Eschaton!

John Grondelski, a conservative Catholic theologian, has recycled the conservative war cry, ‘Don’t Immanentise the Eschaton,’ made popular by the unctuous late conservative writer and editor of the National Review, William F. Buckley. I remember Buckley from his television show, Firing Line, his Yale-educated tongue wagging jauntily in its mid-Atlantic, upper-class accent, trying to shut down his guest Noam Chomsky, who destroyed him almost as completely as James Baldwin did during his famous Harvard debate.

The eschaton, conventionally understood as unfolding in the aftermath of Armageddon, marks the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Philosopher Eric Voegelin, credited with coining the term, asserts that only God possesses the authority to bring about this Kingdom. Termed disparagingly by conservatives like William F. Buckley, ‘immanentising the eschaton’ reflects Voegelin’s disapproval of utopians assuming a god-like role in ushering in this ultimate phase. Buckley’s critique focuses on the argument to which these (sometimes well-meaning) individuals often rely, in enforcing their vision of an ideal society, neglecting the natural order and traditions that organically shape the development of societies (the ‘natural order’ here referring to the established racial and economic hierarchy in place in the United States).

Buckley used the term with a decidedly negative connotation, driven by a deep and consistently misguided anti-communism. Today, the term can also allude to expediting the arrival of the apocalypse. Defining the eschaton as the coming of God and goodness, Grondelski asserts that ‘Jesus, in His Incarnation, underscores the immanent: God is here and now, in and part of this world.’ And Grondelski rightly acknowledges God is utterly Other. Grondelski notes that if you ‘overemphasise transcendence and you wind up with an abstraction disconnected from me; overemphasise immanence, and you never break out of this world.’ Clearly, we do not wish to be subject to the confines and measure of space and time, but it’s a difficult balancing act between immanence and transcendence that Grondelski is calling for.

He professes that

[t]he Christian affirmation of the end of history is the restoration of all things in God and goodness, the triumph of God and goodness. But notice what we say: the end of the world is the end of history. It is an entrance into eternity, which is not just a ‘long time’ of ‘now’ but the end of time, of history. It is a qualitatively new and different moment that introduces a qualitatively new universe (see Romans 8) – not the broken world of sin we know, nor even the natural paradise given at the origin of the species, but a universe groaning to give birth to the ‘sons of God’ and reflect his greater glory.’ That’s what we mean by not ‘immanentising the eschaton.’

Where Grondelski goes wrong is in his somewhat predictable attack on communist revolution, without displaying any understanding of the roots of communism in the Bible. He claims that being trapped in a world of immanence without the transcendent capture of God leads to a world where we put our faith into revolution as a way of eliminating injustice. Of course, nobody wants to create a world full of gulags, executions, forced famines and purges, but Grondelski fails to clarify his terms – is he referring to a social revolution through education or a violent Jan 6-type coup? Grondelski also condemns identity politics, the conservative theologian’s most recent bête noire, when he decries ‘the elimination of injustice by faith in holding the ‘right’ views about race, class, sex, gender, identity, economics, politics, social relations, etc.’ So, let’s be clear about what he is saying: It is wrong to believe your views are entitled to be enforced because you believe they are right. Individuals who believe that the wrong views are being pushed on them by woke educators and politicians are entitled to reject those views, i.e., reject diversity training, reject LGBTQQIP2SAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit [2S], androgynous and asexual) pronouns. Apparently, nobody is allowed to claim that their views of history are the ‘right’ ones either, and, therefore, teachers are not permitted to teach about the daily lives endured by African slaves in American slave states. Or, for instance, the genocidal treatment of First Nations peoples. Teachers must be prohibited from discussing racism in ways that might make white students uncomfortable, such as sharing slave narratives from antebellum archives. The key for Grondelski in escaping the immanence of our own history is by doing the following:

(a) recognising the Kingdom is God’s work; (b) you’re not God; (c) the here and now is too cramped a place for the glorious revelation of a ‘kingdom of justice, love, and peace’; and (d) trying nevertheless to force that Kingdom into the narrow confines of this world is less likely to make ‘heaven a place on earth’ as rather into that other place.

Not immanentising the eschaton means recognising that, while we are commanded to do good and avoid evil, we are not going to build the Kingdom in this world, and certainly not by human power. ‘The poor you will have always’ – as well as sinners and the selfish, and those who do are unjust, unloving, and unpeaceful. Since their conversion is beyond human capacity, many of those who aspired to create heaven on earth turn conversion into cancellation. Take your pick who to ‘cancel’: the ‘enemies’ who did not salute la République; the 100,000,000+ ‘counterrevolutionaries’ who did not salute a red rag on a stick; or the unwoke who have yet to atone for their ‘privilege’ or ‘wrong-think.’ When man aspires, beyond his abilities, to change things in his fellow man, things can get bloody.

Grondelski appears to be saying that the world right now is too out of order – he uses the word ‘cramped’ – to make significant changes in order to redress oppressive conditions faced by those who are suffering and in dire need because ‘their conversion is beyond human capacity.’ He affirms that building God’s Kingdom in this world should not be placed in the hands of woke revolutionaries. They had better not try because they might fail. This is, if nothing else, moral cowardness. Reagan’s ‘city on a hill’ might become a Chinatown; Beverly Hills might turn into a Brazilian favela. Grondelski warns that ‘[t]he failure to keep these boundaries in place, to think the eschaton can be siphoned off into human history, leads to an unrealistic politics that is tempted to all sorts of excesses because it is trapped in its own immanent world, a Caesar who will not give to a God he does not know.

We certainly will not know God by failing to try to make the world a better place. Because that is how we know God – by participating in the world with God. We know God indirectly, through loving our neighbour. Knowing God requires the otherness of our neighbour. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has some news for Grondelski’s obsession with boundary maintenance: the boundaries that you want to erect – the walls that you want to build – are no longer in place; the eschaton is already part of human history. The eschaton has arrived, and God is crying out for our participation in spreading the good news and converting others to love and to justice. Miranda’s revolution, which he put forward in his book Communism in the Bible, aims to establish the essential means for this transformation: a new, equitable social structure that resembles more of a worker’s cooperative than Mr. Rufo’s New College in Florida. It is evident that an existing social system profoundly influences education or miseducation. How can the Sermon on the Mount’s central idea, not placing one’s heart in money and material things, thrive when the prevailing social structure enforces the opposite under threat of punishment? Structural change is not an end but a crucial means for personal change. Those who sideline it reveal that their purported desire to transform individuals is mere rhetoric without substance.

There exists, Miranda argues, five establishment pretexts for an unscrupulous crusade against communism launched by conservatives such as Rufo that resemble intricate dances of smoke and mirrors: equating communism with materialism and atheism, accusing communists of chasing fleeting trends and fashions, insinuating a lack of spiritual depth, asserting communists’ prioritisation of human beings over God, and suggesting a greater concern for structures than individuals. Miranda argues that it’s time to cast aside these diversionary masquerades and focus on the fundamental truth: the Bible, in its essence, espouses communism. Miranda writes: ‘Never have we thought that communism can be realised except by free decision of the workers, rural people, and unemployed, who together form most of the population. And Marx thought the same.’

Delving into the core message of the ‘good news’ proclaimed by Jesus, the Gospel’s essence lies in the declaration, ‘the kingdom has come’ (Mark 1:15 and parallels). Where could this kingdom have arrived if not on the very soil of Earth? Moreover, Jesus explicitly states, ‘the kingdom of God has come to you’ (Luke 11:20, Matt. 12:28), implying its earthly manifestation. To argue that the kingdom resides in another realm is tantamount to rejecting the Gospel’s intrinsic message. Any claim that the kingdom exists ‘partly in this world and partly in the other’ is an unsupported thesis, divorced from the teachings of Jesus.

The crux of my argument in Pedagogy of Insurrection is that, in the warp and woof of Jesus’s divine teachings, wealth is not unequivocally condemned, much like the praise bestowed upon the collective prosperity of the people in Deuteronomy 28:1–14. However, when Jesus proclaims, ‘Happy are the poor’ and issues a warning to the wealthy with a resounding ‘Woe,’ he is not targeting absolute wealth but rather the stark disparities between the affluent and the impoverished. According to Miranda (2004), the terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are intertwined, forming a symbiotic relationship. Remember Luke’s words, ‘Happy the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God’ (Luke 6:20) and adds, ‘Woe to you the rich because you have received your comfort’ (Luke 6:24). Here Luke is repeating Mark 10:25 when Jesus warns that the rich cannot enter the kingdom.

Jesus’s unyielding censure towards wealth is not directed at its absolute existence but rather its divisive nature – its ability to create class distinctions. Miranda emphasises that Jesus addresses this issue with an unwavering and resolute disapproval, leaving no room for exceptions or compromises. Miranda wisely cautions against overlooking this message, asserting that exegesis struggles to bear the weight of such a proclamation. The challenge lies in reconciling one’s adherence to Christ as a personal saviour with support for a system that perpetuates inequality and injustice. This transcends political affiliations, delving into the core of the human struggle. It’s not merely about choosing between Democrats and Republicans; it’s about grappling with the essence of our humanity.

Economic justice, though just one facet of justice, holds a pivotal role in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. While praying for the salvation of our souls is essential, acknowledging the immediacy of the Kingdom of God and recognising that only love and justice in the present can usher it in becomes imperative, facilitated by the grace of God. The notion that disparate wealth is an inevitable facet of life is a fallacy perpetuated by the media and ideological state apparatuses camouflaged as common sense. Contemporary Christianity often stumbles by starting with this false premise. Miranda argues that the idea of a ‘preferential option for the poor’ is not a mere choice but an obligation, a duty that Christians cannot evade without facing culpability (Miranda, 1974).

Even liberation theology, in its assertion of a preferential option for the poor, falls short, according to Miranda. He argues that it’s not a matter of choice but an inherent obligation. To shirk from this obligation implies culpability, and true Christianity demands active participation in the struggle for justice, especially for the poor (Miranda, 1974). Miranda contends that Jesus, through his teachings and actions, can be viewed as a communist, particularly evident in passages like John 12:6, 13:29, and Luke 8:1–3. Jesus’s call for the renunciation of property as a prerequisite for entering the kingdom of God underscores the radical nature of his message. The kingdom, as portrayed in the Bible, is not a distant afterlife; it is a present reality on earth. According to Miranda, the kingdom is inherently classless, challenging conservative notions.

Maeshiro put the message of Jesus thus:

The biblical scholar and theologian Jose Porfirio Miranda comments: ‘Here we have the explicit definition of what it is to know Yahweh. To know Yahweh is to achieve justice for the poor. Nothing authorises us to introduce a cause-effect relationship between “to know yahweh” and “to practice justice.” Nor are we authorised to introduce categories like “sign” or “manifestation of.” The Bible is well acquainted with these categories, and when it means them, it says so.’ And he continues, ‘The God of the Bible does not “be” first and later reveal himself. He is only in the word which commands.’

But Christians perpetually miss this point entirely, insisting on and practicing nearly the exact opposite of what the prophets demanded. Rather than practice justice, they insist on ritual piety. As Rauschenbusch writes, ‘The Christian ceremonial system does not differ essentially from that against which the prophets protested; with a few verbal changes their invectives would still apply.’ As would Jesus’ invectives, especially when he says, ‘We to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness’ (Matt 23:23). It is nevertheless revealing to understand why Christians exchange the weightier matters of the law for the relatively inconsequential ones, to understand what conception underlies their recalcitrant resistance to the voice of the prophets. It is, to put it simply, because modern Christians have wholeheartedly swallowed the individualistic conceit of modern liberalism, while they vehemently protest against both modernity and liberalism.

Acts exemplifies the notion of practising justice and achieving it for the poor in the idea of a classless society among early Christians, where believers shared everything in common, selling possessions and distributing proceeds according to each one’s needs (Acts 2:44–45, Acts 4:32, 34–35). This sense of communal living emphasises the profound bonds formed among early Christians in their pursuit of a shared faith. It is important to remember that early Christians forged deep communal bonds. As I have written in Pedagogy of Insurrection,

In addition to exploring their faith in a relational way, they also put undiluted community into practice by rejecting the concept of individual ownership in lieu of an ‘according to need, according to ability’ redistribution of wealth system – a practice that enabled them to eradicate poverty in their community. ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!’ was a famous phrase used by Marx in a letter he wrote in 1875 to the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany, which came to be part of his Critique of the Gotha Program. If you refer to Acts 4:34–35, you will see that Marx simply paraphrased what is written in the New Testament. Does that mean that the early Christians were communists? Perhaps it is better to say that communism proper is a Christian principle (that was perverted and distorted in the totalitarian communist regimes of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries). The first part of the principle – from each according to their ability – can be understood to mean that all members of society will have the right to use their creative abilities to produce that which benefits the entire society. The second part of the principle – to each according to their needs – explains that citizens will receive from society a fair return for their labour, that is, what is necessary to fulfil their needs. Needs here does not simply refer to material needs, although material needs must be met in order for other needs to be satisfied.

Miranda argues that the official teachings of the church distort the Gospels, contending that Jesus unequivocally condemns the disparity between the rich and the poor rather than wealth in absolute terms. He emphasises that economic justice is fundamental to the earthly manifestation of the Kingdom of God. He criticises the prevailing notion that economic inequality is an inherent aspect of life and asserts that it is a historical contingency that can be overcome through the pursuit of a socialist alternative. Miranda also challenges liberation theology’s concept of a ‘preferential option for the poor,’ asserting that it is not an option but an obligation. Miranda claims that failure to engage in the struggle against economic injustice is incompatible with remaining a true Christian.

Kelly Maeshiro expresses the above idea brilliantly, and is worth quoting at length:

While there is, as with many questions of biblical scholarship, a good deal of debate as to the precise meaning of the Kingdom of God, some more or less general determinations can be made from the plain meaning of the text. From this, we can distill the principal categories ethical principles which shall form the premise of our judgement and action. The more technical questions aside, the general premise of the Kingdom of God is relatively simple, if only because Jesus very clearly describes what the Kingdom of God consists in. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says: ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say: ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in heaven.’ The Kingdom of God is something to be realised on earth. He does not say: ‘Thy Kingdom come, they will be contemplated on earth, as it is in heaven.’

The Kingdom of God is not something passively contemplated, but active done. It is the realisation of the will of God in the life of the ethical individual and the life of the individual in the ethical life of the community. And if the will of God is but the expression of his identity, then the Kingdom of God is the expression of love, because ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8) according to the author of this passage, who also explicitly defines what this ‘love’ consists in and how it is expressed: ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?’ (1 John 3:17). Inasmuch as the Kingdom of God is but the outward expression of God’s identity, then, we might say it consists in compassion for those in need.

In this sense, the basic ethical principle of the Kingdom of God was expressed by the author of the Book of Acts when he writes that ‘the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea’ (Acts 11:29), which is eerily similar to the ethical ideal of a philosopher named Karl Marx, whose ideal, ‘From each according to his ability to each according to his needs,’ many Americans, quite understandably, attribute to the bible anyway. The ethical ideal of the Kingdom of God was also expressed by that incorrigible radical John the Baptist, who long before Marx enunciated the principle of a just and equitable allocation of resources: ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise’ (Luke 3:11). We know that John expresses the ideals of the Kingdom of God because Jesus explicitly says so: ‘The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it’ (Luke 16:16).

I want to add to Miranda and Mashiro’s position by sharing my interpretation of the Parable of the Talents. To do this, I will use an extensive quotation from my debate at Chapman University with Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith:

Clearly, in both the Lucan version (Luke 19:11-27) and the version found in Matthew (Matt. 25:14-30), the Parable of the Talents is a condemnation of the exploitation of the peasants by the master and an attack on profit-making in general (although the differences between the two versions do have theological implications but let’s not focus on that). Let me make my case. I believe that it is an error to identify the ‘Master’ with God.

First of all, let’s look at several contexts: the Old Testament and the agrarian economy during the time of Jesus. First, throughout the Old Testament, profit-making is inexorably condemned, and the evidence is overwhelming. The Torah condemns profit-making through commerce, loans at interest, and the process of production itself. But there is another context: the way business was done in an agrarian economy in Jesus’ time and how the hearer of Jesus’ words would have reacted to the Parable of the Talents. Jesus was teaching communism, and it’s crystal clear, even in the Parable of the Talents. The early Christian communities were communist and shared everything. See Acts 2:44-45: ‘All the believers together had everything in common; they sold their possessions and their goods and distributed them among all in accordance with each one’s needs.’ Let’s not confuse this with Soviet communism or the communism of the Eastern Bloc during the 20th century, which were state capitalist and totalitarian dictatorships.

But let’s get back to the Parable of the Talents. My interpretation that follows is based on a Freirean reading of The Parable of the Talents by William R. Herzog and is paraphrased from his work, Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed (and the subtitle reflects the famous work of my mentor, Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed). Herzog attempts to show Jesus as a critical pedagogue. First, we need to see the parable in the context of peasant values in early Mediterranean societies, which contained the notion of ‘limited good’ and the preference for ‘use value’ over ‘exchange value.’ The agrarian economy in Jesus’s time was undergoing changes caused by commercialisation. There was an antipathy among the peasants towards the growing exchange economy in Jesus’s time. In addition, during Jesus’s preaching in Galilee and Judea, the rural population was being subjected to the Roman and the Temple forms of tribute. The servants or retainers in the Parable of the Talents are not state officials, but their wealth depended on the same population that was being exploited by Jerusalem and Rome, and the peasants understood what was happening and how they were being additionally exploited by the master and his household servants (these servants were more like the master’s own trusted inner circle). The third servant’s characterisation of the master is key to the Parable of the Talents – he speaks the truth to the master and exposes his true function in society, and is punished for doing so. After all, the master is akin to an absentee landlord, bent on increasing his wealth through his absence in the household by dividing it among his trusted household staff and charging them to invest it to return a yield. Peasants during the war with the US-backed Contras in Nicaragua, when asked to interpret The Parable of the Talents, saw the master in this light – as an exploitative capitalist.

But I want to take this interpretation much further. In Jesus’s time, the basic social, economic, cultural and political unit was not the peasant household but the oikos, the great household of the elite, aristocratic families, which were basically trading houses, export-import businesses, where wealth was concentrated, often obscenely concentrated. The elites used their wealth to make loans to peasant farmers. This enabled the farmers to plant the crops. Interest rates were, researchers conclude, from 60 per cent up to 200 per cent. The masters of the great households were not so much interested in profit but wanted to acquire land as collateral. The elites would foreclose on their loans during hard times when the crops were failing due to drought or disease and could not cover their incurred indebtedness. The elites, like the master in the parable, and their servants were adapting to the growing effects of commercialisation on the agrarian economy and were more interested in the control of land, not just the control of the peasants who lived on them. There were efforts in Jesus’ time to displace peasants from their patrimonial lands and to reduce their status to dependent labourers. Children were forced to become day labourers. The sick and those with injuries or disabilities were left to die.

The dynamics of debt that impacted peasant households in Jesus’s time were horrific. Who set the policies for controlling peasant holdings and labour? The answer: the servants, who served as retainers for the master. In Jesus’s time, the servants, or the retainers, were viewed with suspicion and caution, and dread. At the same time, there were small manufacturing operations specialising in luxury goods, and the only markets were the urban elites. The three servants could have partnered with these operations. Again, according to Herzog, they could have also combined trade with the normal export and import of goods produced in the household. The servants (retainers) certainly had the means to increase their wealth.

This was not a test by the master for the servants as the servants had already passed many tests, and if the master wanted to test them, it would make more sense to test them while the master was around to curtail any disaster. Even one talent was a considerable sum in those days. The gold talent-measure reportedly weighed roughly the same as a person. Besides, there was too much riding on the accumulation of wealth for this to be a test.

In Jesus’s agrarian society, the ruling class controlled roughly 2 per cent of the wealth. When the rulers managed to acquire the peasant lands through default of loans given to the peasants, the elites could shift the types of crops being produced to maximise the crop yields. Or it was possible to monetise land usage by converting the land to vineyards or orchards. Often, the traditional use of the land by the peasants prevented the land from maximum exploitation by the rulers. The phrase ‘reaping where he had not sown and gathering where he had not spread seed’ suggests that the master was participating in extortion to enhance his wealth.

The distribution of talents was a means to consolidate wealth, to make the powerful become more powerful. The servants are ranked ‘each according to his ability’ in Matthew, but the translation could also mean, ‘each according to his rank or power.’ A profit of 100 per cent was the minimum according to the laws of Hammurabi, and if it were less, it would have been considered a default. Two of the servants doubled their entrusted wealth, so this means that they met their minimum profit or perhaps even exceeded it, given the master’s commendations. So, the game of ‘honest graft’ being played here is this: After the servants secure their master’s initial investment, they double it, and this guarantees that the servants will make a profit. The servants are doing the dirty work for the master – and the peasants in Jesus’ time knew how the game was played. In fact, the servants took much of the heat from the peasants in lieu of the master.

The third servant represents the view of the peasant who opposes the master. The praise heaped on the first two servants mystifies the ugly value augmentation role of the economy. They are praised for being good exploiters of the peasants. But, at the same time, they become even more dependent upon the master, as they are treated as clients and put in charge of greater aspects of the household, and constantly reminded who constitutes the source of their patronage. To ‘enter into the joy of your master’ is a mystification of the cycle of oppression, as well as a call to celebrate differentiating wealth (inequality), their abundance amid the deprivation of others. This is a mockery of the Old Testament, which stipulated that the wealthy make interest-free loans to the poor. What follows the Parable of the Talents is the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. Jesus, as our shepherd who looks after us, is shown separating the nations of the earth like a shepherd who, in his daily life, separates the sheep from the goats. The goats are placed on the left hand of Jesus, while the sheep are on his right.

In Matthew 25:34-36, Jesus says to the sheep, ‘Come you, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Now, how should masters – or anyone for that matter – treat others? We find this in Ezekiel 18:7-9: ‘But if a man be just and do that which is lawful and right …. and hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; he that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God.’ Do we not detect a condemnation of what today we could call monopoly capitalism but in biblical times would refer to larger enterprises (houses joining with other houses) to acquire the smaller and more vulnerable businesses, in the words of Isaiah 5:8: ‘Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth’? Capitalism is a system that takes what should be shared, natural resources, or the wealth of nations, and redistributes them to the wealthy, increasing their power and their ability to exploit further. And this could also lead to practices of imperialism since, in the time of Jesus, the wealthy houses (the paterfamilias or the oikodespotes) reflected the city, actually, according to Herzog, a microcosm of the city. The households governed the cities, in fact. The servants in the household were not slaves but, at the same time, were completely dependent on their patron-master. The kingdom was the most powerful level of society in Jesus’s time and was a collection of cities. If the kingdom operated as did the master in The Parable of Talents, this could indeed lead to imperialist conquests of other kingdoms – and, in fact, this is what happened, and what happens, even up to the present day. The parables of Jesus have this transhistorical sense about them.

The third servant is punished, the result of telling the truth, of speaking truth to power. Jesus spoke truth to power and was crucified. As Herzog notes, correctly, in my view, by burying the talent, the servant took it out of economic circulation. By being buried, it could not be used to dispossess more peasants from their lands through the form of usurious loans. He is the hero of The Parable of the Talents who cuts through all the phony praise by the master, and the peasants listening to Jesus tell The Parable of the Talents would have understood this. The third servant was a whistle-blower – an early Daniel Ellsberg or Edward Snowden. The third servant denied the self he was becoming – an exploiter, part of the system of economic exploitation. He spoke truth to power and was forced to bear the cross of exile into the world of poverty.

The Parable of Talents reinforces Jesus’s message of condemning differentiating wealth. Does not James 5:1-6 condemn the acquisition of wealth by the agricultural entrepreneurs? The rich are condemned in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:24) ‘Because you have received you comfort.’ As Miranda notes, James uncovers the origin of wealth when he says (James 5:4): ‘See, what you have whittled away from the pay of the workers who reap your fields cries out, and the anguish of the harvesters has come to the ears of the Lord of Armies.’ This ‘whittling away’ is not an illegal act on the part of the masters – these vile masters of mankind. It is systematic exploitation, or what theologians would call structural sin. It is the expropriation of the produce of the workers’ labour. Read in light of today’s unfettered, unregulated capitalism, The Parable of the Talents is an implicit call for an alternative to social relations of exploitation, not an affirmation of capitalism. At least, that’s my take on it, thanks to research done by Miranda and Herzog.


It is clear that Jesus was a communist since there exist copious biblical passages to support the idea that Jesus advocated for a classless society and communal living. Luke’s writing in Acts, in the New Testament, describes early Christians sharing their possessions and establishing a system of redistribution based on need and ability. Parallels between this early Christian communal model and Marxist principles align with Christian principles of communal living and fair distribution based on needs.

Jesus did not assert that poverty is an enduring, inevitable aspect of society. Contrary to common belief, he conveyed that the presence of the poor is a constant reality. Miranda argues for an alternate translation, stating that Jesus meant, ‘The poor you have with you at all moments [or continuously]. And you can do them good when you wish; on the other hand, you do not have me at all moments [Mark 14:7].’ Miranda contends that Jesus did not say, ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ but rather, ‘My kingdom does not come forth from this world’ or ‘My kingdom is not from this world.’ This nuanced interpretation emphasises the origin or provenance implied by the preposition ‘ek’ in the original Greek.

Regarding Jesus’s endorsement of paying taxes, Miranda posits that Jesus’s statement about giving to Caesar what is due is ironic, challenging Roman authority. Economic transactions in the Bible are scrutinised, condemning profit-driven actions, as seen in the quotation emphasising the sinful nature of pursuing wealth. Miranda highlights the Bible’s condemnation of the term ‘interest’ and critiques profit-making through commerce, loans at interest, and productive activity. James, in particular, condemns the acquisition of wealth by agricultural entrepreneurs (James 5:1–6) and criticises the oppression by the rich.

Miranda extrapolates that in a system without differentiating wealth, where economic activity is solely for needs satisfaction, government becomes unnecessary. The Bible not only condemns acquired wealth but also critiques the means of accumulation, considering it a form of systemic exploitation or robbery. Miranda’s theological argument asserts that the eschaton of justice and life has already arrived with Jesus Christ. Delaying the commandment to love one’s neighbour in the distant future makes God an unassimilable otherness. Eternal life, according to Miranda, is the defeat of suffering and injustice in the present.

In conclusion, the Gospel accounts underscore that the world is captivated by the monetary god and achieving the true Kingdom of God requires a commitment to social justice. Both Jesus and John the Baptist advocate for sharing resources and emphasise the incompatibility of serving both God and money, challenging the implications of capitalism as a dominating force in history. As I have written, in earlier accounts,

What is clear from a reading of the Gospel accounts of Jesus is that the world is in the thrall of the monetary god and that the true Kingdom of God requires a commitment to social justice. Did not the very person who baptised Jesus and who was a major figure inaugurating the Kingdom of God – John the Baptist – proclaim: ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise’ (Luke 3:11)? Did not Jesus Himself declare, ‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’ (Matthew 6:24)? What does this say about capitalism, the greatest colonising force in history, sweeping across the parched plains of the planet like a dust storm from hell and arriving as temples of usury called banks and investment firms?

Of course, to point out that Jesus did not support politico-ethical neutrality in the face of injustice is not a popular message, especially for those who use God-talk as a politically pacifying force.

I would like to shift gears to convey a serious concern over the kind of politics to which the anti-woke insurrections could aspire.

Consider one of Trump’s supporters who, in 2022, had dinner with Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence, Nick Fuentes. Fuentes is a white supremacist and Christian nationalist who is a major supporter of Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine. Consider what he is advocating. In his livestream show on Sunday titled, ‘The Great Replacement is about White GENOCIDE,’ Fuentes called for the ‘death penalty’ for non-Christians, according to Right Wing Watch. Here are some excerpts from his toxic screed:

There is an occult element at the high levels of society, and specifically among the Jews, and you know, whenever I see that stuff, that just makes me want to proclaim louder and more firmly and more rigidly that it is nothing other than Jesus Christ. No, no pagan stuff, no false gods, no deities, no demons. It is Jesus Christ, and we need to start saying that name…. It’s the name Jesus, talk about it, say it. Pray to Him, talk about the sacrifice on the cross; that’s the answer. Because so many of the people that are perpetrating the lies and the destruction on the country, they are evil-doers. They are people that worship false gods; they are people that practice magic or rituals or whatever, and, more than anything, those people need to be, when we take power, they need to be given the death penalty. Straight up. And, I’m far more concerned about that than I am about even non-white people or mass migration…. These people that are communing with demons and engaging in this sort of witchcraft and stuff, and these people that are suppressing the name Christ and suppressing Christianity, they must be absolutely annihilated when we take power. I’m not calling for political violence, but that cannot have any quarter in our society….We need to put up we need to put up a crucifix in every home, in every room, in every school and every government office to signal Christ’s reign over our country…. Not that God needs it, but, it must be outwardly expressed from the interior, that this is God’s country. This is Jesus’s country. This is not the domain of atheists or devil worshippers or perfidious Jews. This is Christ’s country … you must be a Christian. And you must submit to Christianity.

Fuentes is a Holocaust denier who praises Hitler and an outspoken admirer of fascists such as Mussolini. As a very influential internet figure with a national reach, he helped Donald Trump’s now-infamous ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, which falsely claimed that Donald Trump had won the 2020 election and sought to overturn the results of it. He wants the US government to be placed under authoritarian, ‘Catholic Taliban rule.’ Obviously, this man is a disturbed and vicious extremist. However, the fact that Trump shared his company with this dinner guest and refused to denounce his views, suggests that religious genocide is not something we should shrug off. Ben Lorber warns,

Fuentes – who recently referred to Hitler as ​‘really fucking cool’ and announced, ​‘we need to eradicate the Jewish stranglehold over The United States of America’ – leads the America First/‘Groyper’ movement, a network of disaffected, terminally online Gen Z men animated by a toxic brew of misogyny, antisemitism and white rage. (Groyper is a variation of the Pepe meme in far-right online spaces.)

Most of the once-fringe positions Fuentes championed for years – such as the ​‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory, Christian nationalism and hard-line homophobia – are now standard conservative fare. And that’s by design.

While Fuentes’ unabashed Hitlerism has rendered him untouchable for most conservative leaders, he can hardly be called fringe. Within the past two years, Fuentes has featured leading MAGA politicians Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) at his Groyper conferences and intimately dined with former President Donald Trump as a surprise guest at Mar-a-Lago. Most of the once-fringe positions Fuentes championed for years – such as the ​‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory, Christian nationalism and hard-line homophobia – are now standard conservative fare. And all that’s by design.

On high school and college campuses across the country, many young right-wingers are outflanking their MAGA elders in enthusiastic embrace of radically anti-democratic, exclusionary and bigoted politics…. Across the ecosystem of Young Republican Clubs, GOP precinct committees and MAGA advocacy organisations, it’s also easy to find acolytes of the fascist influencer Bronze Age Pervert (BAP) and self-proclaimed ​‘neoreactionary’ thinkers like Curtis Yarvin – ideologues committed to the liquidation of democracy and its replacement by neo-feudal monarchism, authoritarianism or fascism.

‘We want total war,’ exclaimed Gavin Wax, leader of the New York Young Republican Club at the group’s 2022 gala, epitomising this gloves-off approach. ​’This is the only language the Left understands. The language of pure and unadulterated power.’

Across the ecosystem of Young Republican Clubs, GOP precinct committees and MAGA advocacy organisations, it’s easy to find acolytes of fascist or ​‘neoreactionary’ influencers committed to the liquidation of democracy.

From campuses to communities, for every Gen Z conservative activist revealed as a devoted Groyper or BAPist, there are many others whose ideological affiliations and anonymous accounts never see the light of day. An August poll by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found that 69% of 13-to-17-year-olds with a high degree of social media use agreed with four or more conspiracy statements, with over 50% agreeing with antisemitic and great replacement conspiracy theories, in particular. A 2022 study published by Political Research Quarterly, based on a survey of 3,500 US adults, found ​‘the epicentre of antisemitic attitudes is young adults on the far Right.’

Influencers such as Fuentes are not immune to the fear tactics orchestrated by critics such as Rufo. I am not saying Rufo would approve of Fuentes – he probably would not – but his lazy attacks on the left, where lack of insight is too often replaced by sheer vitriol, is the perfect fuel for Fuentes-loving Gen Z teens. Paul Matzko, in Reason Magazine, comprehends the extent of the danger that demagogues such as Christopher Rufo pose to the country when he writes:

Christopher Rufo wants you to be afraid. A sinister woke ideology, promoted by a shadowy cabal, is infiltrating America’s treasured institutions, from your children’s classrooms to the corporate boardroom. Far-left activists have weaponised anti-racism to capture the commanding heights of politics and culture, thus ‘effectuating a wholesale moral reversal’ under the banner of ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion.’

It is a testament to Rufo’s marketing talent that his complaints feel entirely mundane at this point in the culture war. Prior to Rufo, critical race theory, or CRT, had been an obscure school of legal thought relegated to a few radical law school departments. The proposition that CRT would become a lynchpin of American political discourse in the early 2020s would once have been laughable, but it became deadly serious when Rufo went on Tucker Carlson’s cable news show in the summer of 2020.

There, Rufo blamed critical race theory for the post-George Floyd eruption of civil rights protests. That caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who promptly penned an executive order prohibiting CRT from being used in the federal government’s training seminars and materials. Rufo has since been appointed by Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Ron DeSantis to the board of trustees at New College of Florida, where Rufo has spearheaded a purge of left-wing professors.

If teachers are prevented from adopting Freirean and other critical approaches to the teaching of the history of racism and antisemitism and the genocide of First Nations peoples, then we are likely to see more incidents of hate and violence linked to far-right propaganda. Currently, a 13-year-old boy in Ohio is facing criminal charges after crafting ‘a detailed plan’ for a mass shooting at synagogue: Temple Israel in Canton. And this occurred prior to the current Israel-Hamas war.

If Christ’s presence consists in the Paraclete, and the presence of the Paraclete signals the return of Christ and Christ’s injunction to love one’s neighbour and to work towards social justice, then this poses a dilemma for those who wait for God to arrive at some distant time in the future. They fear those abiding by God’s injunction to bring about social justice in the here and now since it just might interfere with their accumulation of wealth and power. After all, they might create a Medicare-for-all system. They might lower or eliminate tuition at public universities. They might create greater accommodations for disabled students and professors. It suits their material interests to refuse to see that the Parousia coincides with Pentecost. They cannot reconcile the fact that the Parousia and the Last Judgement occurred in the same generation as Jesus of Nazareth. They dismiss out of hand that the appearance of the risen Christ to the apostles signalled the eschaton, when Christ breathed upon his beloved followers (John 20:22). Christ demands that we bring about the eschaton by refusing to fall into the grand deception of the self, the swindle of immanence, of self-absorbed self-sufficiency. Beware those who reassimilate the eschaton, ceaselessly archiving one’s own solitude and immanence, dissolving anodyne time and with it, fostering the dissolution of otherness that brings about the disappearance of God, and eternal life, keeping in mind that ‘[e]ternal life is not life after death, but, rather, life that does not know death.’ Those who postpone the Other escape from God’s injunction to build the Kingdom of God now, on earth, through the divine exercise of social justice. By responding to the cry of the Other, we summon the infinite in all others, ‘all those who were or are broken by history.’ And ‘these others demand the totality called the messianic eschaton.’ Essential to the imperative of loving one’s neighbour is believing the truth that Jesus is Messiah. And God is God only in the imperative of love of neighbour. The historical now of Christ, if detemporalised and reassimilated by the existential self, will diminish that irreducible Otherness of Christ necessary to love one’s neighbour and revolutionise the world.

Henry Karlson explores the paradox within the Christian faith concerning its eschatology. Despite the presence and immanence of the eschaton, the world appears unaffected by Christ. Karlson acknowledges the theological explanation that the eschaton is both ‘already and not yet,’ representing God’s kingdom today yet not fully realised. He highlights Christ’s proclamation of the eschaton’s arrival in the Gospels, juxtaposed with the world seemingly engulfed in sin. This raises the question of how believers can perceive the presence of God’s Kingdom in the face of such challenges. Karlson argues that the eschaton is indeed present because believers, as the embodiment of the Kingdom, actively contribute to transforming the world. The Church, as the body of Christ, plays a crucial role in this mission. Through baptism, believers unite with Christ, and the Holy Spirit residing in them continues Christ’s work. The Church, as a sacrament, immanentises God’s grace, reflecting the eschaton’s immanence. Denying the immanentised eschaton is equivalent to rejecting sacraments, hindering participation in divine mysteries facilitated by the incarnation. The Church’s mission aligns with Christ’s, aiming to reveal love and positively influence the world. Vatican II emphasises the real call to transform the world through justice, urging believers not to evade earthly responsibilities while awaiting heaven. Each individual receives a unique call and mission, emphasising the diverse functions within the body of Christ. The Church, as the Body of Christ, actualises the immanentised eschaton by seeking to transfigure the world guided by the Spirit of Christ.

Neil Hinnem highlights the ‘radical transcendence’ of God, requiring an immanent revelation in concrete history through openness to the Other. This revelation occurs through the command-to-do-justice, related to the voice of the oppressed. Miranda emphasises that knowing God in this way cannot be controlled by the self and always resides in relation to the Other. The transcendence of God becomes a radical openness to the reality of the Other, challenging Marx’s horizontal transcendence of a God outside reality. While Miranda’s negative theology aligns with Marx in recognising the importance of revolutionary events in history and rejecting reification, there are significant differences. Miranda views God as immanent in the certainty that God directs and intervenes in history, while Marx’s determinist view of history is at odds with this idea. Despite some convergences, Miranda’s theology is not wholly compatible with Marx’s scientific socialism. Marx’s dialectics as a science and determinist materialism differ significantly from Miranda’s perspective.

Acknowledging these differences, it is important to recognise Miranda’s theology as ‘religious socialism, not scientific socialism.’ Miranda’s emphasis on seeking justice within a dialectical-historical framework and the biblical prerogative of praxis encourages Christians to look beyond dogmatic prejudices and recognise allies among those who identify as Marxists, as long as their aim is to change the world for the sake of justice. Far-right Christians ignore or interpret away the imperative of social justice that guides Christ’s injunction to create God’s Kingdom here on earth. They carry provisional hermeneutical principles based on their comprehension of Christianity that mediates between their own preunderstandings and the question of meaning. For instance, Rufo’s attacks on Critical Race Theory ignore its interconnection with serious questions of racial justice, preferring to engage it on the level of how its findings disturb some of its white readers who feel they are personally being called out as racists. Rufo and his ilk then engage in a call to arms against communists, socialists and anarchists. The same reaction no doubt will follow arguments put forward by theologians such as Jose Porfirio Miranda. In attempting to free students from left-wing indoctrination, Rufo calls for the elimination of arguments in favour of opinions, and the death of critical analysis in favour of already distributed knowledge, tweaked and tempered by ideological consensus that those who reside in the MAGAverse – or in Russia or Hungary for that matter – would find congenial.

I do not wish divine retribution on those who prefer to save their good works for an afterlife in the celestial firmament that they believe will occur when Jesus returns to earth, unexpectedly, like a thief in the night – not even those intellectual punks who relish ‘scalping’ women of colour and dragging them into the dust. This is not building the Kingdom of God but rather destroying its foundations. The punishment to be inflicted upon Christ’s enemies is totalising, catastrophic, and involves unending destruction. In no way do I wish them to turn into pillars of salt; I wish only to point out the hypocrisy and theological challenges embedded in their position. If Rufo wants Americans to know about the Marxist roots of critical race theory, I want him to learn first about the Christian roots of Marxism. I am not calling for their cancellation. I am urging them to utilise what critical discernment they are capable of exercising and reflect deeply on their positions. Their attack on ‘woke ideology,’ making identity the focus of the upcoming election to distract the American people from the issue of class exploitation, is harming the American people. Republicans long ago knew that the answer to winning the White House was to distract the American people from issues of class by ramping up the culture wars. Too often, this distraction is embedded in a hermeneutics of hate. Christopher Rufo is a case in point. His criticisms have pivoted his moral crusade dangerously close to fascism.

Share this article on Social Media

Peter McLaren

Peter McLaren is Emeritus Professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. From 2013-2023 he served as Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, Co-Director and International Ambassador for Global Ethics and Social Justice, The Paulo Freire Democratic Project, Attallah College of Educational Studies, Chapman University, USA.