Monday, November 20, 2006

Black theology's gauntlet

Today's column continues my series on black theology. I will be winding it up next week, I believe. I have another blog post to publish about women and being heard so I'll do that after this one has been up for a little bit. The column didn't get published until tonight.

This week has been an odyssey of seeing how difficult it is to listen. It's also been an exercise in frustration at times in not feeling heard. Clearly those experiences influenced today's column.


Anonymous said...

Somehow I just always end up uncomfortable with the idea of listening to groups.

I really dislike it when someone presumes to speak for me because they assume we are part of the same group and this, correspondingly, gives me a strong reluctance to assume anyone else can speak for 'their' group.

Is it ok if I listen to individuals instead? ;-)

Good columns Julie. Good food for thought.


julieunplugged said...

Great corrective! I like it. :)


julieunplugged said...

Just thinking one step further...

Listening to individuals- I like that a lot. I also like what you say about not presuming someone speaks for you. Otoh, does it happen that on occasion someone describes a condition that is commonly experienced by a group? What do you think about that?

I do like the import of what you say though - not to presume you've heard all because you've heard one who speaks "on behalf of" another.

Trying to think this through.


Anonymous said...

All kinds of ramifications and complexities here, aren't there? You've got me thinking more deeply now too.

Of course sometimes one person can speak to experiences that others shared. And sometimes those others belong to something we recognize as a group. As much as I dislike identifying myself by group I have more than once read something by another woman, or another child of the middle 50's or whatever and recognized my own experience in their statements. Not all of my own experiences, but some.

But I still think we need to listen one-by-one if only because that is the kind of grace that Jesus showed. I really don't think Jesus thought things like, "I need to do something for Samaritans." or even, "I'll listen to the Samaritans."

He saw a person. He dealt with that person. If we are serious about emulating him then should we not try to do the same?

I have to go pick up my daughter. If I can crystalize more thoughts I'll try to get back.


Dave said...

It occurs to me that all these interrelated questions you raise (which theology is "right," whose side is God on, what do we have to do to fix the problem) are the kinds of things that those who are accustomed to and thereby feel entitled to being in power, in control, would ask. Christianity as we've known it and as it's postured itself in white America especially is the religion of those in charge (or if they are not sufficiently in charge, they really "ought" to be. And because they're not, God is really going to deliver a dreadful and awesome payback someday!)

Letting go of that sense of entitlement is the challenge that many Christians are struggling with. It's the updated version of Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler.

Your professor's comment was probably the third such statement I've heard in the past week about being willing to change based on what another person has to say, i.e. can we remain genuinely persuadable? That is such a tough thing to do as we settle into our adult roles, build our defenses and learn to recognize the strategems employed by those we identify as adversaries. Remaining persuadable puts us at a perceived disadvantage. What's in it for us? is the natural question and fuels reluctance to be so open.

And think about how many churches whose very mission is to lock people in to rigid beliefs, reinforce dogma and turn them into relentless pitbulls for God, so to speak...

julieunplugged said...

Rebecca, I like the further thought you gave this and the example of the Samaritans. What about Jesus's references to "the poor" or "the Pharisees"?

I like Dave's comment about the sense of entitlement that goes with power. Perhaps that is more the axis here-the old MLK jr. "Speaking truth to power" idea.

Perhaps where your comment helps me most is in not presuming that I/we can "save" a group. That may be the biggest mistake of those in power... eradication of poverty, the end of hunger, saving hidden peoples, solving of the AIDS crisis... rather than being truly available to who is in front of me.

I hoped in this column would expand who we see in front of us... individual or group.


Anonymous said...


Read the piece. Very thoughtful. I, for one, will listen more intently going forward. Amen.