"Hope Requires Participants" Dorothee Sölle’s Warning and Task for Political Theology in the Trump Era

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Dannis M. Matteson

Abstract

The current rising trend towards populism occurring around the world has been arguably epitomized by the 2016 election of television celebrity Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. President Trump’s recent withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate accord in order to bolster big business suggests a politic that favors the free market over both human and non-human life itself. His campaign to “make America great again” garnered the support of white supremacists, ringing of nationalism tinged with racist ideology. The fact that vast numbers of white Christians continue to support Trump’s extreme policies and racist rhetoric calls for a robust political theology that addresses the conflation of Christian doctrine with capitalist, nationalist ideology.  German political theologian Dorothee Sölle (1929-2003), with her warning against what she terms as “Christofascism,” or Christianity’s tendency to perpetuate extreme capitalism, provides an apt analysis useful for contending with the current American political climate which also may be useful for addressing the rise in populism globally. Sölle’s task for political theology to become practical by way of her concept of “Phantasie” provides Christians with a concrete and constructive way forward. This article hopes to portray Sölle’s criticism and task as a crucial framework for understanding and responding to the political issues we face as Christians, especially in the United States context today.

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