Joerg Rieger

Joerg Michael Rieger is a German professor of Christian theology whose work emphasizes economic justice and political movements. Rieger is also an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church.

Life and career

Born on August 3, 1963, Rieger is Cal Turner Chancellor's Chair in Wesleyan Studies and Distinguished Professor of Theology at the Divinity School and the Graduate Program of Religion at Vanderbilt University. Previously he was the Wendland-Cook Endowed Professor of Constructive Theology at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He received a Master of Divinity degree from the, Germany, a Master of Theology degree from Duke Divinity School, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in religion and ethics from Duke University.
Rieger is the author and editor of more than 20 books and over 135 academic articles, which have been translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German, Korean, and Chinese.
Rieger is editor of the academic book series New Approaches to Religion and Power with Palgrave Macmillan Publishers and, together with Kwok Pui-lan, he edits the academic book series Religion in the Modern World.
Rieger has lectured throughout the United States as well as internationally, including presentations in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Russia, Thailand, and China.


Rieger is an activist constructive theologian in the tradition of liberation theology. Robert Wafawanaka has referred to Reiger as an "Occupy theologian" because he endorses the views of the Occupy movement and shares its ethos. Rieger understands theology as functioning to support or transform reality, especially historical and contemporary economic systems. His work focuses on economic class and empire. In politics, Rieger argues against the separation of religion and politics.
Rieger describes his work as an effort to bring theology and contemporary liberation movements together. His work addresses the relation of theology and public life, reflecting on the misuse of power in religion, politics, and economics. His main interest is in developments and movements that bring about change and in the positive contributions of religion and theology. His work in theology draws on a wide range of historical and contemporary traditions, with a concern for manifestations of the divine in the pressures of everyday life.
Rieger advocates for a materialistic spirituality centered on working to improve the material conditions of the marginalized. He believes current economic systems are incompatible with the biblical conception of God. Rieger has described economic ideologies as religions, and asserts that people typically assent to them as a matter of blind faith, not empirical evidence. He renounces the perceived hegemony of free market ideology offering Christian theology as an alternative.
Rieger's criticizes the currently dominant economic system especially for increasing global economic inequality, and also for poverty, distorting of the way people and their work are valued, and limiting control people have over their lives. As a response to economic injustice, Rieger promotes solidarity with those negatively impacted by current economic processes and encourages Christians to modify economic systems to promote the wellbeing of everyone.
Rieger and Kwok Pui-lan coined the notion of deep solidarity, which is a recognition that the community as a whole is harmed by the unjust system, not just a particular group to be paternalistically supported from a place of superiority or distance. Within this framework, the presence of college-educated individuals participating in the Occupy movement is not lack of authenticity in their appeal for economic justice, but rather an achievement in helping a broader portion of the public identify themselves as oppressed and able to see inequality as a threat to society as whole.

Published works

Books authored