Miguel De La Torre’s ethic of hopelessness

De La Torre has little use for hope in a God who only seems to show up for Christians, never for their victims.

In churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary, the scriptures read on the first Sunday of the Christian year preemptively proclaim the failure of Jesus’ mission. The readings are drawn from the “little apocalypse” texts in the Gospels, which make it clear that the disciples can expect rejection, oppression, and war to worsen. When God’s completely unpredictable intervention does bring history to an end, it will not be the result of the disciples’ efforts or some inexorable divine plan finally come to fruition. Jesus’ message is to be faithful to the gospel anyway.

Social ethicist Miguel De La Torre understands this dimension of faith. He argues that most of what is presented as hope in our culture has little to do with Jesus Christ. It derives instead from Eurocentric ideologies that present the victims of history as necessary (or at least acceptable) casualties in the world’s inevitable progress toward the kingdom of God, a myth that mainly justifies the power structures that currently exist. He describes hope as “a middle-class privilege” that “soothes the conscience of those complicit with oppressive structures, lulling them to do nothing except look forward to a salvific future where every wrong will be righted.”

He finds little hope among the world’s outcasts. Their praxis of seeking justice is based on the lack of any alternative rather than any belief that they will be successful. Hopelessness, which De La Torre carefully distinguishes from despair, is necessary for survival. Knowing that they have nothing to lose allows the wretched of the earth, and those in solidarity with them, to engage in an “ethics para joder,” an ethics that—to translate precisely—“fucks” with oppressive power structures. Importantly, such jodiendo is done out of love for the people trapped in those structures, oppressors as well as oppressed.