Blog? Welcome…

School is over.  Yet I find myself more theologically troubled than when I began.  Like most students–at least most MTS students–I entered Divinity School with strong theological convictions and high goals for further theological work.  Yet, as I think back on my theological education these past four years–one year of classes, two year break, one year of classes–I find myself more confused than when I began.  Theology itself has become a problem.  How can I–or anyone–be a theologian, proclaim the Christian faith, and convincingly point to Jesus given the way the Church and Christians gave birth to the imperialist organization of the world?  

I am currently reading Frantz Fanon’s book, __The Wretched of the Earth__ (first published 1961; English translation by Philcox, 2004).  Fanon says, “The Church in the colonies is a white man’s Church, a foreigners’ Church.  It does not call the colonized to the ways of God, but to the ways of the white man, to the ways of the master, the ways of the oppressor.  And as we know, in this story, many are called but few are chosen” (p. 7).  To become a Christian, in the colonies (and hence in the metropole as well), meant becoming a white man.  To preach Jesus was, and in many ways still is, a proclamation of white, western, masculine values.  “Now it so happens,” says Fanon, “that when the colonized hear a speech on Western culture they draw their machetes or at least check to see they are close to hand.  The supremacy of white values is stated with such violence…[and] aggressiveness, that as a counter measure the colonized rightly make a mockery of them whenever they are mentioned” (8).  How can theologians respond to this pain and outrage, especially when so much of what Fanon says about the Church is true?  Is there an alternative to pulling out the machetes and can the Church effectively speak about this alternative without resuming its typical arrogant and condescending attitude?  The only way to say ‘yes’ to these question is to dig deeper into the Church’s involvement in creating the problem.  One cannot pretend that the Church was co-opted by “modernity” or “the secular state” or “the project of western civilization.”  One can only move forward by seeing the way the Church itself helped create these problems.  Without this work, Christianity will not be able to distance itself from being the mouthpiece of the latest modulation of Western cultural supremacy (now in the form of multiculturism:  all human differences are acceptable and praiseworthy as along as nobody takes them too seriously).
As I read more about the genocide in Rwanda, I learn the way missionaries worked merrily alongside colonial administrators to divide the Rwandan people between “native” Hutus and a racially superior settler group, the Tutsis.  The Rwandan genocide only makes sense within this colonial setting and the Christian vision that sustained it.  As I picture myself in Rwanda, teaching theology, I become more and more aware of how my theological education has not prepared me for this work.  Pointing to “the tradition” isn’t going to help–the tradition itself was caught up in producing the colonial world.  Declaring that we need to take our baptismal identity more seriously misses the point that the colonial order was sustained by the people who took their Christianity very seriously:  missionaries and priests!  
Two theologians at Duke, J. Kameron Carter and Willie Jennings, worked very hard and patiently to alert me to the problem and point me to a path forward.  But now I am, so to speak, thrown out into the world and forced to stand on my own feet.  My hope is that this blog will force me to write–and hence force me to think more deeply–about this possible Christian way forward.  I’m currently reading Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer for help:  these two theologians clearly identified the “imperialist” problem in German Protestantism (as it morphed into German National Socialism).  I’m also reading books on postcolonial studies (e.g., Fanon), the Rwandan genocide (e.g., Mamdani), and African-American Christianity (e.g., Harriet Jacobs).  Finally, I will be reading a variety of books on being Anglican and becoming a priest, books that I will need to bring into this conversation (as such, you can expect updates on the ordination process as well).  
I can’t promise that the ramblings and thoughts will be coherent, cogent, persuasive, or even interesting.  I do hope that anyone who reads these posts will start to see the depth of the problem.  The work, though daunting, is nevertheless joyful, for beyond my capacity or incapacity for theological thought stands one central fact:  in Jesus, “I find myself confronted by the wondrous reality of the living God” (Barth, Evangelical Theology, 72).  Jesus is gracious enough to let himself be glimpsed, even in our theological labors.  
TLM
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