Cynthia D. MOE-LOBEDA. Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013. pp. xix + 309. $22.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-4514-6267-8. Reviewed by James T. CROSS, Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL 33574
Cynthia Moe-Lobeda’s Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation is grounded in what she calls “critical mystical vision” (xviii). The three “lenses” of this vision are what is, what could be, and the ubiquitous empowering divine presence. Each of her 10 chapters alternates between illustrative narratives about contemporary evil social structures—centered upon victims and perpetrators—and theological-ethical analyses and proposals. Her passionate concern and hope begin in the book’s opening words, and pervade the remainder. Accompanying her concern and hope is a humility that admits, “Moral agency…is not the power to move to, but rather the power to move toward a more just, sustainable, and compassionate world” (230).
In the first quarter of the book, advanced global capitalism is identified as the primary cause of structural evil, a cause, Moe-Lobeda asserts, that cannot and will not be indefinitely sustained (41). One of her most vivid specific examples of an evil structure is “petroleum addiction”: she shows how oil and the industry processing it enable myriad everyday actions while simultaneously victimizing distant neighbors, ecosystems, and ourselves (e.g. 50-54). Chapters Four through Six then highlight and explain skills that comprise the “critical vision” needed in order to see and, eventually, to resist local and global evil structures. The final four chapters apply a Christian perspective on love so that particular practices can fulfill a universal vocation to serve the well-being of humanity and the rest of creation. This theology of love includes feminist tenets such as the inseparability of self-love and other-love (171). The climactic Chapter Ten champions the key goal of “increased citizen control over large global business corporations” (270).
Moe-Lobeda’s understanding of her “third lens” (i.e. the divine presence) is very inclusive, even poetic, although some of her appellations of God—e.g. “that power is known as YHWH, God, or Allah” (xviii)—beg for elaborations that are not provided. At one point, her thoughts on divine presence (“God’s will for all of creation…ultimately will be fulfilled” xviii) connote the apokatastasis of Origen so that the book’s urgent tone becomes slightly muffled. Also, she accuses white Americans of being the demographic most responsible for structural evil, but some of these accusations (e.g. 90, 97) would be more persuasive if accompanied by supportive sources and if balanced by criticism of how non-white Americans and peoples beyond the United States contribute as much to violent and oppressive structures throughout the world. Other lacunae include no references to the principle of cooperation in evil and to Christian writings on private property. Nevertheless, Resisting Structural Evil promises to be a very eye-opening and informative catalyst for discussions and other assignments in ethics/moral theology classes, as well as in social concerns groups situated in various academic and ecclesial contexts. Moreover, Moe-Lobeda’s emphasis upon the interdependence of love and justice builds upon and adds to the work of contemporary theologians like Thomas L. Schubeck, and it provides a frame of reference familiar to readers no matter what tradition or philosophy they might espouse.