Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010
The Mistaken Structures of Christianity

Yesterday Brian McLaren offered the following in a post.

"Call me cynical, but here’s my suspicion: adjectives in front of theology are deceptive. Yes, they’re needed; no, I’m not against them, but still, they’re deceptive. Here’s how.

By distinguishing some theology with a modifier – feminist, black, Latin American, eco-, post-colonial, or indigenous, we are playing into the idea that these theologies are special, different – boutique theologies if you will.

Meanwhile, unmodified theology – theology without adjectives – thus retains its privileged position as normative. Unmodified theology is accepted as Christian theology, or orthodox theology, or important, normal, basic, real, historic theology.

But what if we tried to subvert this deception? What if we started calling standard, unmodified theology..............chauvinist theology, or white theology, or consumerist or colonial or Greco-Roman theology?

The covert assumption behind the modifier thus becomes overt, although it is generally more obliquely and politely stated than this:

Standard, normative, historic, so-called orthodox Christian theology has been a theology of empire, a theology of colonialism, a theology that powerful people used as a tool to achieve and defend land theft, exploitation, domination, superiority, and privilege.

If standard Christian Greco-Roman theology has indeed been colonial, then we would expect it to have certain characteristics, perhaps including these:

A. It would explain – historically or theologically – why the colonizers
     deserve to be in power – sustained in the position of hegemony.
B. It would similarly explain why the colonized deserve to be dominated
     – maintained in the subaltern or subservient position.
C. It would provide ethical justification for the phases and functions
      of colonization – from exploration to settlements to land
      acquisition to minority marginalization to segregation to
      hegemony-maintenance, even to ethnic cleansing.
D. It would bolster the sense of entitlement and motivation
     among the colonizers.
E. It would embed the sense of submission and docility
     among the colonized.
F. It would facilitate alliances with political and economic 
    systems that were supportive of or inherent to colonialism.
G. It would camouflage or cosmetically enhance its ugly aspects
    and preempt attempts to expose them.

If standard Christian Greco Roman theology were determined to be essentially colonial by these and other standards, a natural question would arise: must the Christianity of the future forever maintain this colonial bias? Is an imperial or dominating mindset inherent to Christian faith, for better or worse – or can there be a newer and different kind of Christianity?

In answering that question, other questions would arise. Is a new Liberating Theology mindset resonant with or in conflict with the life and teaching of Jesus? Is it resonant with or in conflict with the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures? Is it resonant with or in conflict with the life and teachings of the apostles and early church?" (above edited)

The truth is that Greco-Roman Theology, traditional theology can not only be enchaining of the poor and disadvantaged it can also subvert and twist Christ's teaching until that teaching is virtually missing.

In addition to its enchaining effects, Greco-Roman Theology also engenders the paradigms of stultified conservancy as opposed to Christ's liberating theology:

                             Greco-Roman Paradigm    Liberating paradigm of Jesus
The Bible's Origin- Divine Product with               Human response to God
                              Divine Authority

Interpretation-        Literal-Factual-Infallible         Historical and Metaphorical

Bible's Function-    Revelation of Doctrine            Sacramental/Metaphorical/
                               and Morals                                Spiritual

Christian Life
Emphasis-             Afterlife-the Salvation Train     Transformation in this
                                                                                   life through close
                                                                                   relationship with God.....

with all of the attendant and resultant emphasis on Belief Structures rather than Action Structures.

Christ's message to love one another becomes buried in a quagmire of Power Bases, entitlements, and the Gospel of Sin Management. The message from the Male ONLY, all white non-gay pulpit becomes a good Ol' boys club of gaining reward methodology chiefly through:

The Six Line Narrative.

1. We were born into Perfect Eden but the devil coupled with
       Woman's basic perfidy made us
2. Fall from grace
3. So Today we live and have two choices
4. We either get born again or do not.
5. If we do we go to Heaven.
6. If we don't we go to Hell.

This ubiquitous six line narrative becomes....................

The Greco Roman Gospel of Sin Management

Information on How to Go to Heaven after you die
    (if you are Christian)
    a. With a large footnote about increasing your personal
       happiness and success through God.
    b. With a small footnote about Character development
    c. With a smaller footnote about spiritual experience.
    d. With an even smaller footnote about social-global transformation.

Yet Christ's most prominent preaching was about dwelling in the Kingdom of God. And that can only be characterized as loving one another to effect social/global transformation. There were no boundaries. No one was excluded. No one could be disenfranchised, dominated, specially rewarded or entitled to a better seat at the table.

It was the second half of His greatest commandment. It was loaded with social transformation messages. stories of rendering to Caesar, Good Samaritans, Identity of my brother, necessity of forgiveness, spirituality, seeking God, mustard seeds and camels through the eyes of needles.

It was about personal transformation, peace through Love, about the Baptism of the Heart; about the change from mine to thine and about the peace of God which comes with our commitment to that kingdom. It is not about Mosques or Temples or the man made trappings of religion. It is not about Pharisees and Elders and the privileged and unprivileged.

It is a peace which surpasses this life and the next. A peace that knows not boundaries of sexuality nor gender, nor riches, nor hate, nor entitlement, nor judgment, nor time and space. A peace which simply Loves. It is about unlimited compassion.

That, my friends is heaven, here, now and tomorrow no matter which life we are in.

John Middleton
September 2010

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