"To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways." Richard Rohr
Throughout history, Christians have too often developed theology to support and sustain the oppression of people and to stand on the side of the powerful. I confess that I sometimes really struggle with embarrassment at Christianity because so many of us, including me, allow our twisted "theology" to put us on the wrong side of the issues of our day. Even if theologically we disagree with the dominant theological position, we sometimes are too fearful to speak out for fear of exclusion, more concerned with our belonging than with the transformation of the world. Slavery, colonialism, women's suffrage, the holocaust, apartheid... are all issues which have been upheld and sustained (and later dismantled) by Christian theology. I fear currently there are several issues in which the church stands on the side of the oppressor and even participates in oppression. The Israel/ Palestine conflict is in my view one of these issues. We have allowed one eschatological view of Israel to excuse their brutal, violent and illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Yet there is hope!
As I look at Jesus, I find hope. Jesus is always on the side of the oppressed and marginalized and even in the face of tradition and law, he sides with them.
As I look at church history, I too find hope there. Within the church there seem to be voices on the inside edge as Richard Rohr says (above). These prophetic voices begin to dream of a different world and then begin to imagine what it could be like. It captivates their thoughts and soon their lives and they begin to pull the vision towards them by demonstrating that this new world is not only preferable, but also possible.
I want to be a person living on the inside edge of the church pulling the new world I dream of towards me.
An evaluation of our work - The Ethics of Whiteness: Race, Religion, and Social Transformation in South Africa
It is not every day that you have a person come and do their doctoral research scrutinizing your work and in particular your attitudes, beliefs and practices about race and racial transformation. Rachel Schneider did just that in chapter 4 of her dissertation entitles "Embracing the Struggle: Urban Relocation, Solidarity, and Truth-Telling". The chapter looks in particular at our own efforts to tackle racism in South Africa and provides a glimpse of us on that journey in 2014. We have learned a lot since then and are still learning. This piece of work is critical at times and encouraging at others.