Any number of meanings are attached to “the Kingdom of God” as an essential element of Jesus’ teaching for Christian praxis. Used as just another slogan for political activism, in which the shade of meaning is usually reconstructing Heaven on Earth along collectivist lines, has me tossing the theological yellow flag. Another way to put this futile and often dangerous exercise is immanentizing the eschaton. This business has raised many skeptics. From St. Thomas More we received the word “utopia,” which derives from the Greek for no-place. Samuel Butler reminds us in his Darwinian fantasy novel Erewhon that the title is really “nowhere” spelled backwards.

Apparently unfamiliar with the above concepts, writer Gabriela Romeri in Maryknoll Magazine describes shareholder activist priest Father Joseph La Mar as one of the “dedicated builders” committed to “constructing the Kingdom of God here on earth.” Your writer must confess he rubbed his eyes until they squeaked after reading the lead paragraph:

Constructing the Kingdom of God here on earth takes dedicated builders. “Most people are afraid to do this kind of work,” says Maryknoll Father Joseph La Mar of his ministry, promoting corporate social responsibility. “You just have to sit at the table and say what you have to say.” His work takes him to high-level board meetings of multinational corporations where he invokes the Gospel to voice ethical concerns in commerce.

Readers will note the utopian error in the penultimate paragraph: “Like Pope Francis, Father La Mar counts on the next generation to continue building God’s Kingdom on earth by being the voice of the voiceless.” Of course, Father La Mar can’t be held responsible for Romeri’s breathless prose, but he should be held accountable for such activities mentioned in the article as this:

As assistant chief financial officer for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, for 23 years Father La Mar has represented the shared values of the Maryknoll Society and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). The ICCR is an alliance of 300 religious and institutional investors with stock ownership in major corporations. This gives them an investment portfolio worth over $100 billion and a collective voice in the boardrooms of major corporations….

In 2015 the ICCR introduced 227 resolutions—almost one-third dealing with mitigating the effects of climate change. Chevron and Exxon both received the most proxy resolutions, including calling for disclosure of their hydraulic fracturing practices, or “fracking.” Bank of America, Boeing, Capital One, Comcast, Google, Lockheed Martin and Monsanto were among the companies receiving ICCR resolutions calling for disclosure of how much they spent on lobbying U.S. legislators.

Since the title of Romeri’s article is “Constructing the Kingdom,” one wonders exactly how the above ICCR and Maryknoll proxy resolutions nudge targeted companies toward anything close to a utopia much less a worldly Kingdom of God. Both realms, it seems to this writer, require an appeal beyond progressive and leftist ideologies.

Poor people, always held in the highest esteem by our Creator, recognize tremendous health and comfort benefits from
inexpensive and plentiful fuels. Lobbying on behalf of companies is a perfectly legal and necessary activity in an era of ever-growing government regulatory encroachments into every business area, and violates no Christian principle known to this writer. In fact, as a Roman Catholic priest, Father La Mar may wish to familiarize himself with the concepts of subsidiarity and solidarity enumerated in Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum and Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens.

However, progressive shareholders target only businesses with which such groups as ICCR disagree ideologically. Nowhere is there mention of the millions of dollars spent on lobbying and campaigning performed by unions. And why is that? Could it be because ICCR Affiliate Members include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; the American Federation of Teachers; and the United Auto Workers? Just asking: Does ICCR, Maryknoll and Father La Mar really believe God’s Kingdom on Earth begins with organized labor without a voice for the businesses for which they work?

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  • Anthony McGinn

    None of the 115 instances of “kingdom” (referring to kingdom of God) in the New Testament involves human persons bringing about the kingdom. Humans “enter the kingdom,” “proclaim the kingdom,” “inherit the kingdom.” The coming of the kingdom is exclusively the work of God in the New Testament. Not even Jesus builds the kingdom.

  • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com Roger McKinney

    Liberation Theology, the merger of Marxism and liberal theology (Jesus was not God) tells people they can build the kingdom on earth. Universalism (everyone goes to heaven, except maybe Hitler) encourages the same thing because there is no evangelism to do.

    But socialism has always since its founding by St Simon in the early 1800s insisted that it could perfect humanity and create an idyllic society if given full power. It was always an anti-Christ salvation message.

  • BBeebe

    I agree with your assessment but your argument is not only flawed but counter productive. They are making a theological argument which must be disproved theologically. You are using a political ideal to criticize a theological argument. It’s the same mistake LaMar and the progressives make. You cannot appropriate a theological doctrine to win a political argument without first making a full theological argument about the fundamental errors. Then you may apply the theological truth to the domain in question.

    This kind of scholarship will simply cede the terminology (kingdom of God/heaven) to its misuse rather than informing your readers to a deeper theological appreciation for the fallacy of the argument you seek to criticize. Unfortunately, the scholarship in this article is not only subpar but also counter productive.

    • BruceEdwardWalker

      I was speaking, very narrowly, against a theological misuse for political purposes by the writer in question. For those willing to delve deeper into the matter, I provided a link to a theological source.

  • gromeri

    Forgive my ignorance but I’m rather sure the Kingdom of God was to be instituted first in the hearts of men, here on earth as it is in heaven. It was this that I referred to, and in our neoliberal world this act of expanding one’s heart to care about the plight of their fellow man is self evident in Fr LaMars work, of bringing conscience to bear in capitalism, which historically places profits (or mammon) over people. It is the same philosophy, of compassion & standing up for the persecuted, that Jesus, Pope Francis, Fr Gutierrez & Pope Leo (as was mentioned) have tried to do, including Monsgr Romero who died as a result. I’m not sure why you would attempt to make a moral let alone theological case against this. Don’t you think the people have been trampled enough?