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Walking in the Sacred Way: Ojibway Prayer

In a prayer offered by an Ojibway elder, themes of brokenness, restoration, and balance with all of creation are present. From a North American First-Nations/Native American perspective, we can begin to see these themes in a new light within our own communities.

Grandfather,
Look at our brokenness.
We Know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

(more…)

World Cup of Theologians: Germany – Johann Metz

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

metzJohann Baptist Metz (1928- )is a unique German theologian who learned first-hand both the devastation of human suffering and the furtherance of suffering caused by the silence of Christians. After World War II, in which he was an American prisoner of war, he returned to Germany and studied at the University of Innsbruck under Karl Rahner. He was a primary voice in the development of Political Theology, working to find meaningful theology after the collapse of humanism ideals seen in the Holocaust.

Metz is best known for his concept of the dangerous memory of suffering, an element of the Theology of Hope that stresses the role of Christian’s creating spaces for stories of suffering. Dangerous memory is also an essential part of our Christian experience because the memory of Christ’s suffering is one of our key catalysts for our salvation and the justice for all peoples that comes with that salvation. His ideas have been used to argue for an increased Christian presence alongside those with mental illness, survivors of abuse and genocide, and alcoholism.

Metz writes of the way memory is destroyed, in this instance for the survivors of the El Mezote Massacre in En Salvador in 1981:

The destruction of memory [in situations of injustice and violence] turns out systematically to hinder identity, to prevent people from becoming subjects or continuing to be subjects in their social-historical contexts. Uprooting slaves and deporting them always tends to destroy their memories, and precisely in this way serves as a powerful reinforcement of their state of being as slaves, their systemic disempowerment in the interest of effecting their complete subjugation. On the other hand, the formation of identity always begins with the awakening of memory.

Metz’s classic work, Faith in History and Society. Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, expands on his understanding of political theology, with special attention to the implications of living out this distinctive expression of faith.

Zane Ridings is a Masters of Divinity student at Brite Divinity School. As an undergraduate at Eureka College, he completed an honors research thesis titled: Walking Alongside the Least of These: Liberation Hermeneutics and Praxis-based Missions in Guatemala. This work has been part of Zane’s theological exploration of questions concerning justice, politics, and Christian fellowship and ethics.

World Cup of Theologians: Netherlands – Henri Nouwen

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

NouwenHenri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch priest whose extensive written works and participation in the L’Arche communities contributed to a profound influence upon both Catholics and Protestants. Writing from a background of both psychology and theology, Nouwen’s insight upon Christian spirituality repeatedly drew on themes such as inner rejuvenation and the contemplative life of faith. His most popular work, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming explores the spirituality of plumbing the depths of the Jesus’ parable (Luke 15), borne from a captivating encounter with Rembrandt’s painting of the same.

…But the father couldn’t compel his son to stay home. He couldn’t force his love on the Beloved. He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself. It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost. It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it.
Here the mystery of my life is unveiled. I am loved so much that I am left free to leave home. The blessing is there from the beginning. I have left it and keep on leaving it. But the Father is always looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper again in my ear, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” (44)

The parable of the prodigal son is a story that speaks about a love that existed before any rejection was possible and that will still be there after all rejections have taken place. It is the first and everlasting love of a God who is Father as well as Mother. It is the fountain of all true human love, even the most limited. Jesus’ whole life and preaching had only one aim: to reveal this inexhaustible, unlimited motherly and fatherly love of his God and to show the way to let that love guide every part of our daily lives. In his painting of the father, Rembrandt offers me a glimpse of that love. It is the love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate. (108)

As inspiring as his books have been, his participation in the L’Arche communities to restore the dignity of people living with intellectual disabilities brought awareness to how differently-abled people are excluded from society and the church. Though the dedicated work in communities around the world, a new way of life is imagined and lived based on mutual respect, recovering a valued identity, and each person discovering their giftedness and intrinsic worth.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Brazil – Paulo Freire

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Like many contributors outside of the West, Paulo Freire (1921-1997) entered the theological conversation through alternative means. His original research was in education- specifically, how to teach adults who were illiterate and without a basis for traditional, institutional education.

Painel Paulo Freire by Luiz Carlos Cappellano via Wikimedia Commons

Painel Paulo Freire by Luiz Carlos Cappellano via Wikimedia Commons

In this context, he became critical of the “banking” philosophy of education, in which the learner was an empty vessel to have knowledge “deposited” by an expert and then “withdrawn” by the student to apply to a given situation. Chief among his criticism is that this approach reduced the person to the value of their deposits from an outside institution and did not take into account their contextual education—traditional knowledge and experience – that did not fit the categories of formal academics. His primary work on this topic was Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968).

“One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.”

The application of these theories to theology have been revolutionary. In contrast to the formal topics of theology proper (which is largely insulated by the power and privilege of Western institutions), Freire’s theories opened up the study of the Bible and theological reflection to communities long considered outside the scope of meaningful contribution. The value of community-based knowledge to theological reflection gave voice to disenfranchised groups whose experience with the sacred speaks into a void in the academic setting.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

Revelation in Creation – Seeking the Harmony Way

Photo Credit: Prism Magazine

Photo Credit: Prism Magazine

One of the strengths of many theological perspectives outside of the Western tradition is attentiveness to the revelation the comes from creation. This is especially evident in the viewpoint of North American indigenous peoples (also called, generally, First Nation or Native American; or by their specific lineage association) who are Christian.

Prism Magazine, an online publication of Evangelicals for Social Action, published an article with Randy Woodley, founder of Eagle’s Wings Ministry, Inc., a largely Native American community in Newberg, OR, USA, in which he expands on how he finds the value in the revelation of creation. (more…)

Biblical Maternal Images for God

Farid De La Ossa Arrieta: God, the Mother (2002)

Farid De La Ossa Arrieta: God, the Mother (2002)

Mother’s Day makes me think about God’s maternal side. Christianity has been guilty of a patriarchal history that has been oppressive of women. Our conception of God as masculine, e.g. God as Father or King, certainly contributes to our slide into patriarchy. Although written in patriarchal contexts, the Bible itself does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors. There are, albeit few, feminine metaphors used to describe God in the Bible. In this post, I want to highlight the maternal or motherly metaphors used.

God as Mother Bird & Mother Bear

One of the common images is God as a mother bird sheltering her children under her wings. We see this in Ruth 2:12 – “May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (All references are from Today’s New International Version.) The Psalms used this imagery a number of times:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psa. 17:8)

“… I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psa. 57:1)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge …” (Psa. 91:4)

Jesus picks up these images when he laments over Jerusalem: (more…)

A (Post)Modern Proposal

I once had a professor refer to modernity as a “300-year cul-de-sac”. He was speaking glibly about the ways in which post-modern theory in application resembles cultures that never experienced the contextual forces of the West, which produced modernity.

Modernity, at the risk of over-simplification, is the philosophical context produced and sustained by the European Enlightenment era. The prioritized assumptions of this era became normative for Europeans and North Americans. Within the last century, these assumptions have come under greater scrutiny and alternative realities have been posited. The collection of these perspectives fall under the nebulous category of “post-modernity”.

By consequence of the attention given to post-modernity, non-Western perspectives have also risen to examination. As one explores these views, there is a tentative label of “pre-modernity”. I believe this designation to be ineffective however, as it implies a linear, evolutionary path for cultures. From a primitive existence, through enlightenment (by which we mean the prioritization of Western methods and assumptions), to eventually settle where the post-modern’s have pioneered.

But this process is not necessarily the path all cultures must follow. Some will never experience modernity, others will experience their own unique changes through the influence of globalization and migration patterns.

I propose a different term, amodernity. Although still referencing its antithesis, there is no evolutionary bias (pre-/post-) or negation (non-). The neologism can serve as a more inclusive term when referring to perspectives or cultural contexts. The philosophies represented within amodernity are diverse and can represent a community of thought ranging from ancients to avant-garde and bring a source of commonality to a myriad of “post-philosophies”: post-colonial, post-structural, post-Christendom, post-foundational, post-empirical, etc.

Within this shared pool of philosophies, meaningful dialogue can take place to further develop the impact of these unique perspectives. By alignment, the currently disparate philosophies can borrow from one another’s strengths and benefit from communal critique. These values are familiar to the disparate contextual communities now falling under the categories of pre/post-modern.

This essay is still preliminary and welcome to critique.

If you identify with a particular philosophical context, how would definition under “amodernity” affect your current self-understanding?

How do you effectively balance an attention to the unique perspective of a group yet also bridge to commonality? (In theory? In practice?)

This site is primarily interested in the influence of culture upon theology and Biblical interpretation (as well as the reverse). The application of amodernity, however, would also have implication for other fields of study. I am especially intrigued at the potential of the worldwide church to be a laboratory of sorts for amodernal thinking and action, as it is a diverse organization (“body”, some might say) cutting across cultures, languages, contextual realities, social class, and time.

Michael Shepherd is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Intercultural Studies and Hope International University. His research into the cultural influences upon theological identity led him to create the collaborative blog GlobalTheology.org. He currently works for a local non-profit agency and serves as an adjunct professor.

The Pastor and the Jedi-Master

Today’s guest post comes from Brainerd Prince. The comparative essay examines the leadership style of the Jedi–and its emphasis upon masterhood–and draws implications for Christian pastoral ministry leadership. For disciples to become more like Christ, a pastor must become more like a Jedi-Master. (Click to Tweet)

A Jedi Master Trains His Padawans

Jesus, after he was gone, wanted his disciples to be masters like himself rather than contemporary pastors! This is neither to be provocative for the sake of it nor purely an attention-grabber.  I am deliberately positing the image of a master in opposition to that of a pastor with a view to get behind these images and seek an ultimate reconciliation. I will begin with the master-image. Jesus was a master and in his becoming the ‘servant’ and ‘friend’ he was equally elevating his ‘servants’ and ‘friends’ to masterhood. That is why he was able to say to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and great works than these he will do; because I go to the Father’ (John 14:12).

Being a master is a bit like being a Jedi-Master in the world of Star Wars, the highest rank of the Jedi order (more…)

La Familia

How do you experience love, acceptance, and belonging? We may not express ourselves as well as these men, but our need for community is the same.

This is a poignant and intimate look into the lives of men in Central America who have found identity among each other.

Is your church community honest and inclusive enough to respond to the human need for intimacy and belonging? (Click to Tweet)

What associations exist in your community, besides the church, that respond to the need for identity and belonging?

Global Theology Countdown: Open Theism Theology

Open Theism theology views God as entering a guided partnership with humanity to actualize our history. God desires to work out our future with us rather than dictate it to us and, to that degree, created a world with a largely unknown future (i.e. “open”). By being responsive to human activity and prayers, God engages with us daily through Christ and the Holy Spirit in achieving the Kingdom’s reality here on earth. The doctrine is also referred to as Openness Theology or Free Will Theism, and is a distinct departure from Classical/Reformed traditions.

The Global Theology Countdown  breaks down a large topic into more easily accessible parts, linking to other sites for those who would want to go deeper.

  • 4 Keys to Understanding
  • 3 People to Know
  • 2 Blogs Worth Reading
  • 1 Book to Read Immediately

This post covers Open Theism theology and we welcome contributors to share on a different perspective or more information regarding Open Theism theology. Enjoy! (more…)

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