Posts Tagged ‘ liberation theology ’

Counterperspective for a Counternarrative

Most of my life, from somewhere around birth then amplified a thousand times 30 years ago, I’ve faced exclusion, misrepresentation, demonization. Whether deserved or not, and I’ll admit I did start to bring a lot on myself there for a while, is really besides the point, which is: shifting perspective away from the perspective of the dominant narrative. We’ll skip over my Freudian beginnings (although a change of life baby, I was no accident, I was kind of a “Fuck you!” to my early adolescent brother, so I was the thief who stole his mother) as all families are fucked up. I think Floki is right, “Families shouldn’t be happy.” I digress, which I am prone to do. Ever read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? I love the perspective of Chief, the psychotic narrator who hallucinates and when he goes, you go (brilliant writing). Is that digression squared, digression about digression? Or just doubled? But it’s not so much the digression as it may appear since this is a post about perspective, alternative perspective, but I’m not there yet (kinda like Alice’s Restaurant, you have to wait for it to come around, and hope I don’t miss it.)

Oh yeah, dominant narratives.

Somewhere in mid-childhood a narrative began to appear about me, or so it seemed. I’d have people I’d never met tell me that other people I’d never met had said something or another, always bad, negative. Not a lot until I was about 14 when i was introduced to the Juvenile Injustice System. I had become something of a wild kid, might have something to do with being abandoned (virtual) and left to raise myself at somewhere between 12-13. Not sure I can really blame them. I was a weird and hard to love child. My mom indulged me and I think my dad was afraid of me from birth, so they fled. Again I digress and am doing what I said I wouldn’t and that’s talk about family, because All families are fucked up, nothing special or interesting in that (mine). So, I had friends in my own neighbourhood, I had friends in neighbouring towns. My neighbour friend decided he wanted to go rob the kid up the street of his awesome record collection. Sure, Ed, let’s go. they knew who did it and the police were called, I fled. I went to hang with my friends a couple towns over. I’d stolen, I used to say took, but let’s be real, I stole my mom’s car to get there. Well we partied that night and in the morning I noticed the police rolling up and got everybody up and into the basement and quiet. They went voluntarily, I didn’t make anyone do anything they did not want to do. When the cops walked away, we all went up, out and into my car. We left. A high speed chase did ensue, but after a mile or two I’d lost them, dropped everyone off and headed off.

I was not on the run long. Within the day I was in the police station, being questioned. I was the last in. Everyone else, both from my neighbourhood and the other towns had been in. A narrative has been set. The court paperwork from my juvenile proceedings had me listed as though I were Socrates, a corrupter of youth. I was separated from my peer group by court order. There were lists of people needing protection from my corrupting influence. Off I go, to a series of mental institutions. I never returned to school, to my peer group. I tried, but it just didn’t work. I’d built up fears of them and they a narrative about me (one day hanging out at the arcade by the high school someone came up to me and said they’d heard I killed people for money NEVER!). During adolescence the Jesus People decided I was a Satanist and started in on their bullshit. I have no idea what it is about me that attracts this but it must be something.

Now, you’d think that someone with experiences such as mine would be the first to recognize that the dominant narratives about people is oft false. Yeah, didn’t connect the dots for a long, long time. But it kind of does help explain my desire to defend Judas. My attraction to characters like Jean Valjean, The Man with No Name from the spaghetti westerns, Samara Morgan, Abbie/Eli, Niamh–antiheroes. First I had to learn about dominant narrative and counternarrative. I did this in training for grass roots organizing and activism, where re-casting the narrative is the goal, because change the narrative, change the world. So, I spend a lot of time considering narrative.

I spent some time as a Christian. I can’t call myself that anymore, I have many reasons, but the biggest is the damage to people coming from those who utilize that label. When most non-christians hear christian they hear hater and that is well deserved. People using that label do the most horrific things to people and feel self-righteous in so doing. Vile creatures, so many are. I’ve felt their wrath, way back in my adolescence and more recently. You see, I let myself soften towards their religion since the daze of my youth and gave them a chance. Even as I was going into the ordination process I had to wonder if we got it all wrong. Never really seriously, well I tried to be dismissive of those thoughts. this week I wrote a short post for facebook in which I switch perspective. It is a short post in which the serpent in Genesis 3 is not a devil aimed at hurting humanity, but a liberator come to free us from the tyranny of privilege. Is this a counter narrative? Is it derivable? You can’t even explore it from the dominant perspective, all you can to is reject it. But, what if you switch perspective. Kingdoms tend to tyranny, monarchs by their very nature are tyrants that oppress. Anything short of self-determination and self-rule is oppression and, therefore, tyranny. What if the people that created the bible had an ulterior motive? What if they wanted to create sacred texts supporting monarchy, divine rule, and by extension divine right to rule? What if we considered that the texts were written by privilege?

My friend suggested I work the post into something a bit longer. I’m no writer, as you know, but I have started outlining a structure. It is a fun adventure. I like tossing ideas out on the table, like rolling bombs, just to see what happens when they go off. What new ideas will come?

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Biblical Witness & Christian Life in Relational Perspective

The third part of what is a four part review of Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. Part one is here and part two here.

The section, Biblical Witness in Relational Perspective, is quite short containing four essays, all of which are excellent and well written.

I am going to tell you a little bit about and quote from Dennis Bratcher’s The Revelation and Inspiration of Scripture.  Dr. Bratcher starts the essay off telling us, “Christianity is a response to God’s self-disclosure.” A God the reveals Godself, self-discloses, is a relational God and this is reinforced in the biblical texts.

Scripture is the witness that the community of faith has borne to or about revelation…. God is the content of the revelation. Scripture tells us about and points us toward that revelation.

God revealed Himself in history (events), and the community of faith interpreted those events…. The Scriptures reflect this dynamic of the “story of God woven into the life of the community of faith through the centuries.

In this way the Scriptures, the Bible, becomes relational. Relational in the way in which it was initially received. Relational in the way it is interpreted and applied within faith communities.

The three other essays are also excellent. Of note is Dwight Swanson’s The Authority of the Bible. Swanson packs so much into his short essay that I would have to quote the whole thing, so I’ll just say that it is well worth the read.

Section III, The Christian Life in Relational Perspective, has seven essays in living out the Christian life relationally, the way it is intended.

In Prayer and our Relationship with God Libby Tedder tells us, “Prayer is to relational theology as communication is to relationship. You cannot have one without the other.”  She acknowledges that for some the idea of prayer brings up feelings of guilt, we know we are supposed to pray, but aren’t clear on how, so we neglect it.

Relational theology affirms that prayer affects us. But there is a sense in which it also affects God.

God affected by our prayers. Let that dwell a moment. God affected by our prayers.

Prayer literally changes the world. The way we pray relate to Godin prayer changes the way we live and move and have our being. By transforming us, prayer transforms the way God is present to the world by opening up new ways for love to abound…. Praying is the waking up to the presence of God.

Tedder goes on to talk about different ways to pray, some components of prayer.

Prayer can engage all the senses. Prayer can be turning to the inner world of reflections and the outer wolrd electric with clues that God is on the move.

Prayer is relational, it is interaction with God.

There is one more section, Ethics and Justice in Relational Perspective which I will get in another post very soon.

Again the book is Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction,  (2012), Eds. Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow, Point Loma Press, San Diego. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective

Earlier in the week I posted the first part of a review of Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. In that post I talked about the introduction by editor Tom Oord. I also promised to talk about the four sections of relational perspective that divide the book.

Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective is the first and largest section of the book, comprised of 12 essays. As I read through them I found that I like all of them and underlined most of each for quotes to use here. If I were to do that this review would be longer than the book and I would violate some copyright law by quoting almost the entire section. So, what I have decided to do is to select a couple of the fine essays, ones that stand out, to me. I hope that you will find them as interesting as I did.

Relational theologies don’t tell you how to think about God, but open doors of possibility for thinking about God, opening the doors of exploration. Well, at least that’s how I see them.

In his essay Relational Theology and the Holy Spirit, Amos Yong tells us that, “The Holy Spirit lies at the very heart of relational theology.” I think that he has something here, God in Trinity is by nature a relational being, the Holy Spirit brings us into that relationship.

If the Spirit is at the center of the relational life of God, the Spirit is also central to God’s relationship with the world….Ireneus held that the Father created the world with his “two hands”–the Word and the Spirit. If the Word of God structures the world and its creatures, the Spirit of God is the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.

I love that last line, “the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.” It is packed full of possibility.

Human beings find meaning, fulfillment, and significance precisely in relationship one to another, bonded together by the common creator Spirit.

In a fallen world, the bonds of human communion have been broken and people alienated from themselves, others, and their natural environments. But God’s redeeming work consists of healing the estrangement of our hearts, reconciling human beings with one another, and restoring harmony between humanity and the cosmos.

This is a brilliant little essay, so full of possibility based in the redemptive power of God.

The Image of God by Samuel M. Powell talks about how our Imago Dei  relational.

Because we are created in the image of God, our existence is marked by relationships. To be the creaturely image of God is to be essentially and unavoidably related to God, to fellow humans, and to the rest of creation.

Because we are created in God’s image we are afforded certain rights and responsibilities of relationship.

Because we are created in God’s image, each of us is due the highest moral consideration in every respect.

To be created in God’s image is to be a member of a human community in which everyone should receive respect, dignity, and consideration.

Everyone, not just a chosen elite, everyone, isn’t that how Jesus treats people?

I am going to quote from one more essay in this section.

Faith in Relations by Wm. Curtis Holtzen.

Relationship, like “faith”, is a multifaceted notion and not easily defined. When we explore relationship through the notions of love and trust, however, we see that faith and relationship become inseparable.

If faith is a relationship or communal bond, shouldn’t we think of God as someone of faith? … “Yes!” Faith is relational and relationships are reciprocal, two-sided. Because God is relational, God has faith. God’s relationship with us is not only loving but also trusting.

There are nine other essays in this section. They talk about love in relational terms, sin, and salvation in relational terms. They all open up the possibility of thinking about God and ourselves, theology in new ways, relational ways.

The  third part in this series, Biblical Witness & Christian Living in Relational Perspective is up.

Again the book is Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction,  (2012), Eds. Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow, Point Loma Press, San Diego. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction is a collection of short essays on relational theologies. There are 31, each about three pages long. Short, concise very good for those of us with short attention spans. Short, concise yet packed full of information.

In the introduction, What is Relational Theology?,  Thomas Jay Oord tells a little about what relational theologies are and the need for them in the Christian theological landscape. Dr. Oord tells us that in the biblical descriptions of God, by His very nature He is relational.

God instructs, expects, and responds to creatures–all of which are relational activities.

Dr. Oord goes on to explain, and even show graphically, how several other theologies fall under the umbrella of relational theology. Theologies such as process, liberation, feminist, and missional all are relational theologies.

The essays are then broken down into four sections of relational perspective: Doctrines of Theology, Biblical Witness, The Christian Life, and Ethics and Justice. In future posts we will explore each of these sections.

If you don’t want to wait Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction is available from Amazon. It is a very good book, well worth the read.

The first section Doctrines of theology in Relational Perspective and the second & third sections, Biblical Witness & Christian Life in Relational Perspective are now up.