Return to a Theology of Normalcy or the Same Old Homogenous Imperialism? By Randy S. Woodley

Return to a Theology of Normalcy or the Same Old Homogenous Imperialism? By Randy S. Woodley January 23, 2013

It is coming….the signs of restored racism in our society are beginning to show… Increased hate crimes, record gun sales, White Male Supremacy is definitely on the rebound! It was precipitated by the organized resistance to the first Black President, (think Tea Party and the hijacking of the Republican led House). The Tea Party and their corporate donors have mastered the redistricting game and are now working on gerrymandering on a state level. They intend to win again and “they” mostly represent the interest of White male, conservative Christians. What would edgy, alternative thinking White male progressives have in common here with these folks? The next move towards theological retrenchment.

Seems like we can’t get away from it. The church always follows culture. That’s a shame since part of our worth to society is about being on the prophetic and pastoral edges. So now there is a sudden rise in “Radical Orthodoxy,” surprised? No. I knew it was coming. This so called orthodoxy is based in the theological development of the Enlightenment and the Reformation. (Hey didn’t Francis Schaeffer attempt this in the 1980s?) Okay, before I lose you, let me get to the punch line:

Without an enriched theology of diversity you will end up on the wrong side of history, politics and theology. Without healthy debate and dialogue with people very different than you, you won’t discover the theological gems God has waiting. If you continue looking only (or even mostly) to White, European based theologians all the things you may hate about American conservatism will eventually show up at your own doorstep. Think about what you will be missing if you continue to ignore AND dis-empower women and other ethnic, racial, global, indigenous folks…The alternative is a world of ideas, poems, stories, theologies, pedagogies, histories, and other real wealth from “the other” that awaits you. The new normal you are seeking was never normal. It was simply normal to you and those who appear to be most like you. But it’s not just theology or worldview at stake here, this is also about power, and especially about giving up power.

Western hegemony being what it is, demands categories that give a sense of false power. Western worldviews create all sorts of dualisms which create false binaries and the power differential always favors the status quo. Western thinking requires orthodoxy to trump orthopraxis almost every time. Oh yeah, it always claims to deliver both but it never does. History shows us time and again that right beliefs rarely lead to right actions (especially from Western Christians, and please don’t make me sight the voluminous anecdotes from history here). So, you think, therefore you are? No, a better way is the way Jesus taught of the Good Samaritan. Realize thinking cannot be separated from the everyday reality of your life (the orthodox characters in the story), then do the right thing (breaking with “orthodoxy” to help or even learn from “the other”). It took a Samaritan to show orthodox folks the right way to act. Their orthodoxy caused them to think correctly and do nothing.

The new normal of radical orthodoxy is simply the same old homogenous imperialism. So, please don’t go there. Come back, and let’s move forward together in humility… please?

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  • mike h

    The question, and the problem, lie in the “how?’. It takes a small amount of effort to make the intellectual hop to an inclusive worldview; an ‘other’ oriented theology. But, the “how do I do it” remains elusive. I’m a 57 yr. old white, middle-class male who doesn’t fit your mold. I’ve found great comfort in your writing, in Womanist writings, in Justin Lee and Jennifer Crumpton. I’m more than disillusioned by the status quo, but as I reflect and read and pray I am dwarfed by my own seeming insignificant ability to say and do the things that could possibly make any impact. How do we fight Wall St. and Park Ave.? How do we take on the giant religious corporate complexes that have made patriarchy synonymous with christian piety? I appreciate all that you and others have to say and write, but am confounded when I try to re-imagine an inclusive and mutually respected approach to life. Sorry if this sounds like a whiny vent. It’s just my frustration hanging out.

  • Mike h. Not whinny in the least. I could make some suggestions but it would be coming from one who is living outside your reality. I wonder if some of the folks who can relate to what you are saying would be willing to talk about these liberative processes? I think of a person like Peter Heltzel, for example, who has taken this mantle on in full measure. Others who are asking the right questions and discovering important process like Steve Knight. Certainly Brian McLaren has something to say here. I should stop naming names so no one gets offended I left them out…ooops! Your questions are honorable and worthy of great discussion. Stay tuned Mike, I hope we can have a long conversation. Thanks for your open heart….

  • Mike-Now I’m thinking of a bunch more White guys who are on this journey, many more than I can mention here but I have to name two very close personal friends, Bo Sanders and Bruce Crawford. Bo is one of the hosts on Homebrewed Christianity.

  • mike h

    Thanx for replying. Actually, McClaren was the first person to give voice to much of what I had been thinking and feeling for, well, ever. It’s funny because I had a professor at seminary who assigned his ‘A New Kind of Christianity’ as a text in order to show us what we needed to watch out for. I was the only one in the class screaming, ‘YES!’ I’ve heard of some of the others and will check them all out. Again, thanx from someone else following God Who Walked Among Us.

  • Again – thank you Randy for the challenge. It will be such a shame if the current searching – with all of our foibles – becomes stifled again. I am a white male who grew up in the church and is 70 years old and a pastor. And, I am thrilled that we are looking afresh at what it means to follow Jesus in the “Jesus Way.” Blessings.

  • Barbara

    Return to a Theology of Normalcy or the Same Old Homogenous Imperialism? Good question. I also enjoy and am challenged by your writing.

    I’m a 73 year old white woman, a Lutheran in the Episcopal Church whose feeling the creaking of the institutions that I have relied upon life-long (. . . in the beginning I thought it was just my knees!)

    Somehow they’ve missed – or they’re scared of: “The Spirit breathes where he will, and you hear his voice, but you do not know from where he comes and where he goes; thus is everyone who is born from The Spirit.”

    I am a seeker, of course, and I come to the Emergent Village to learn new ways.
    But what I find here is piecemeal. A thought, a story suggests but is not complete.

    Would you consider posting a reading list where the gaps could be filled in?

  • Nick Gotts

    History shows us time and again that right beliefs rarely lead to right actions (especially from Western Christians, and please don’t make me sight the voluminous anecdotes from history here).

    Maybe what look like “right beliefs” to you are, in fact, wrong – those of Christianity in particular.