Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brekke Rants: Theology, Post-modernism, and Irony

Well blog-readers, this is a treat! Brekke updates twice in under a week! Don’t get used to it – there are still sermons to write, jobs to find (oh yes, more on that later) and Bible studies to plan.  But every woman needs to take a moment to rant. And Y’all, if you didn’t know it, I love to rant!

So here’s the beef this week (moment?). I’m reading this great post over at HomebrewedChristianity which is a discussion about the terms “Liberal” and “Progressive” as used in Christian (mainly Evangelical) circles. It’s a defense against the pejorative nature of those labels. And I say my two cents and am rather enjoying the discussion, when I notice something: I am the only woman commenting. And there are not people of color. It’s a bunch of white dudes in plaid talking about “progressive” and post-modern Christianity. And there are no voices coming from the margins. None. 

Wait, what?

And – to preface the forthcoming rant – I want to say I like these guys over at Homebrewed Christianity. I disagree with them sometimes. I get a little wrinkled when Evangelical languages crops up. But generally I appreciate what they’re doing. Rather a lot.

So, what’s the problem?

That these folks who are talking about a post-modern, reshaping of theology which doesn’t give pride-of-place to white men, and which intentionally does theology in un-Orthodoxy ways, is completely dominated by white men!

For example, in a discussion with one such gentleman – with whom I was disagreeing politely on a point – he says:

“I'm a pastor-in training in a mainline church as well and really value feminist epistemology! :)”

I suspect the sentiment was to say “I’ve read your people and I appreciate their contribution to the academy and its effect on my own perspective.” But how it comes off is “oh hey I’ve read some women’s lit and I this it’s just precious how y’all try to talk about God!”

In a conversation last month with a prolific post-modernist author, I was told rather curtly that the time for “identity politics” was over. Now, on one level I don’t disagree. If we are ONLY advocating from our context we are not lobbing a thorough critique of ideologies. BUT, when we strip away the space to advocate from the margins/context many people lose a platform for their voice to be heard. It was frustrating that a Ph.D-holding white European male (who, I will grant him, grew up in a situation where he experienced serious violence and oppression because of his religious tradition) could say without any hint of irony that his position was not informed by his privilege. As a Ph.D-holding white male in America he represents the highest form of privilege imaginable (sans being a billionaire). And there is no need for contectual politics/theologies? Because you’re clearly the expert on what folk who can ONLY speak and be heard from those contextual spaces need or want. Ugh.

This kind of selective blindness – the idea that one is open to marginalized voices, but really only when one wants to hear them, rather than allowing them equal exchange – has been driving me absolutely up the walls. One Womanist theologian does not equate to an equal exchange of ideas. One queer author is not a conversation, it’s a token.

Mostly, this rant boils down to: we have a hell of a long way to go. We have a hell of a lot of privilege to unpack (I include myself among those who still struggle with unpacking it!). And is post-mods think they’ve got an edge on traditionalists, today has made clear to me that they are deluded.

I suppose I should look at the mirror and say this: we need more brave voices to be writing, and speaking, and challenging the all-white male forums. But really, me? You have to be joking. Right?

Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord. If you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.

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