Thursday, May 5, 2011

Common Jesus

 

The deeper I get into reading for my course on leading diverse communities, the more I'm filled with a sense of despair.  Much of the thinking behind the books I've been reading is fine, albeit a tich on the leftist side.  Well, more than a tich.  It's full throttle liberal academe in it's most stereotypically inaccessible glory.   For the past few days,  I've heaved my protesting mind through page after page  filled with phrases like:
"...the binary finds its place, is protected from its dichotomizing and territorializing ways, and so flowers within that teeming, polymorphic milieu where Word and Spirit are enlivened in ever-new combinations."
and
"Latino(a) theology should also be willing to traverse the boundaries of group knowledge and interest in order to envision and articulate a social ontology that can more tangibly enable relationships across personal and group difference."
Being of a lib'ral smartypants persuasion myself, I know what these things mean.  I understand why they are written.  I even agree with them, more or less.   But I find them nearly as mindbendingly frustrating as the writings of Joel Osteen, for completely opposite reasons.

It doesn't matter that the various theologies of liberation and the particularist theologies of academic feminism think that they're oriented to and addressing the needs of the oppressed and downtrodden.  If you want to empower someone with knowledge, they first have to have some clue what you're talking about. 

As Paul showed all us Jesus people when he taught on the Areopagus, common language is the foundation of relevance.  And to be blunt as a bludgeon, the oppressed and the downtrodden are more likely to find relevant insights in the gibbering ecstasy of glossolalia than they are in the self-indulgent semiotics of academic theology.  That seminarians and Ph.D. candidates can make ten thousand compound sentences dance multivalent on the head of a freakin' pin means jack-squat to the souls who cry out from the depths of the world's oppression.

I don't mind reading this [stuff], honestly.  But what I don't want to do is write it.   Because if I get in the pattern of writing that way, then I'll get in the pattern of thinking that way.  And if I start thinking that way, I'll render myself useless.

Alrighty.  Calm down.  Deep breath.  I've got more reading to do.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect there is another reason that the liberation folk don't get listened to. Most of them are not really oppressed. They are middle class people with good educations who work in colleges and seminaries. They don't know how to talk to the oppressed because they aren't part of the oppressed.

    Pentecostals reach the people because they are part of the people. That isn't to say that what the people get from the Pentecostals is all wonderful. The name it and claim it people offer false hope.

    I suggest a careful comparison between Martin Luther Kind and the Black Liberation theologians. They are saying some of the same things. But King talks from the heart of the Christian tradition to people steeped in that tradition. The Liberation theologians are writing for those in academia. Thus King was able to communicate with the oppressed.

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