Denison Journal of Religion


Henricks shows Sartre's concept of "bad faith" as a considerable influence several theologians' criticism of empire. In order to explain "bad faith," Henricks first elucidates Sartre's concepts of "being-in-itself" and "being-for-itself." While "being-in-itself" implies on object that simply is what it is and cannot become more than its current identity, "being-for-itself" has the capacity to change and transcend its current identity. Humans, Henricks points out, are "beings-for-themselves" but they also contain qualities associated with "beings-in-themselves." This duality of humanity is of the utmost importance to respect. "Bad faith" is a lie to oneself that has destabilizing results. "Bad Faith" can also occur outside of oneself towards others in the form of objectification or by shirking responsibility for actions. This links the theory of "bad faith" to imperialism"a social reality for which many try to avoid responsibility. The theologian Kelly Brown Douglas sees "bad faith" occurring when people are not treated as though they have "being-for-itself" status. Henricks also uses the work of Cynthia Moe-Lobeda to condemn imperialism using "bad faith." Moe-Lobeda says "bad faith" is tied to transnational companies gaining so much power and money that they can make it impossible for Christians to act in accordance with the Gospel. No matter their action, Christians will always play into the hands of the more powerful. Mark Lewis Taylor uses the concept of "bad faith" in his explanation of the way that liberalism champions liberty and justice, but only for a select number of people. Henricks shows that theologians and Christian social ethicists frequently make use of Sartre's theory of "bad faith." She demonstrates that his lens can be revealing when looking at the problem of empire and that his writings have greatly influenced some great Christian writings on the subject.