sallie mcfague, in Life Abundant asks a question that has haunted my mind over the last year or so… who has the right to ‘do’ theology?
she asks whether north american theology (and let me quickly add australian theology in there too!) is too bound by the perspective from which it writes – by its universal statements which are born from an assumption that the normal human being is white, western, middle class, able-bodied, straight and male – that anything beyond this is a deviation. when we, unquestioningly, do our theology from the perspective of the ‘norm’ – or even from just one or two steps beyond it – we are lulled into a sense of security that does not question the damage that theology does to anyone outside the norm.
the reason this matters is because western theology runs the risk of being, at best, paternalistic, and at worst, oppressive.
the further we are from the norm (through ‘accident’ of birth, or through life situation – e.g. mental illness, the death of a loved one), the more ‘wild space’ we have. mcfague says that this wild space is the window through which we can see God’s interaction with humanity from a different perspective. It’s the wild space that we can use to encounter the God who finds company with the oppressed.
i’m spending some time with a group of women, developing a new little faith community. There are 10 of us – some of whom have never been to church, some of whom have left. some are gay, some are straight. all are employed outside the home, and work in positions of considerable influence in the community. we’re united by a commitment to social justice.
last week we had a conversation about how we would shape the ‘content’ of our time together each month. there was clear consensus that we didn’t want this group to be a reaction against the ‘traditional theology’, where our worship and conversation would simply validate our experience. We wanted to be confronted by where the gospel needs to shape us – by the wild space just beyond us, that questions our actions, beliefs and assumptions.
As part of that committment, we’re going to start the conversation by reading Struggle to be the sun together.