Today we celebrate the retirement of Dr. Bruce Rogers-Vaughn from Vanderbilt Divinity School with an excerpt from his book Caring For Souls in a Neoliberal Age (2016), a vital resource for pastors, parents, social workers, therapists and community organizers.
A corollary of the claim that neoliberalism is now globally hegemonic is that pastoral care, as well as other forms of the care of souls, must undergo revision in order to have some hope adequate for both healing and protest. In this book, I will argue that the theories corresponding to this care, including pastoral theology, are generally constrained within postmodern cognitive models, as well as dwelling largely within the fabric of neoliberal versions of identity politics. Any substantial innovation in the fields of pastoral theology and the care of souls today, therefore, will require us to reaffirm our commitment to a common ground that unifies us as diverse people, and to the public good. It will also demand that we extend our analyses and critiques of oppression due to difference (identity) to include the problems of domination intrinsic to capitalism. Indeed, it will mean that subjugations rooted in difference will now be understood, and appreciated more profoundly, in light of capitalism’s current global hegemony. The time has arrived, then, to work toward a post-capitalist pastoral theology, by which I mean a pastoral theology that does not assume the normativity of capitalism.