TOWARDS A POSTCOLONIAL ORTHOPRAXIS OF RECONCILIATION
Around a few theo-blogs, there has a conversation about the nature of ecumenism. It started kinda with Halden & Ry, subsequently with responses by Adam Kotsko; Steve Harmon; Lee McCracken; and Rainer Braendlein.
My apologies for coming to the party late, but I did have a deadline I needed to meet for a separate project.
I also wanted to include into this discussion a response to T.C. Robinson’s post on Eugene Peterson identifying himself as both Pentecostal and Presbyterian. I want to do this for the purpose of asking the question, can Christians really identify with a variety of denominations, and if so, what does this mean for the work of church unity in the United States?
While I agree with Halden and Ry that Christianity is best served working for unity by first recognizing the Lordship of Christ, one of my critiques would be the lack of concrete historical examples given. Also, I think that one must remember Christ’s Servitude along with his sovereignty over history (Death and Resurrection); the Resurrected Jewish male body of Yeshua of Nazareth of Galilee is the same one that was taken down from Golgotha. If Christ’s tortured carcass was lifted up by God the Parent and God the Spirit (as goes the Pauline theological tradition), and if by his wounds we are healed, then certainly the many fractures among the various Christian traditions exist as part of the scares on the enthroned body of the Risen Savior. The King that the author of the Apocalypse sees in his vision, much like the apostles, is the wounded yet victorious Priest-King. Christ has healed all wounds, but the scars remain in his flesh still.
I share a concern with Halden and other bloggers that the Communion table has become THE central sacrament in discussing Christian unity. It is not the Lord’s Table that makes the church, but rather Christ the Lord who does. I would say that the beginning of ecumenism may be best served by a discussion on the baptismal formulas found in the cannon (1st Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11, etc) and their relationship to the eschatological vision found in Revelation 14:6.
If I have learned anything from post-colonial theory, it is that one, as Frantz Fanon argues, that our constructs of race and culture are fluid and ever changing, and that two, from Gayatri Spivak, that our identities are located in multiple places simultaneously. What this means for passages that claim “there is no longer Greek or Jew, slave or free, male or female” is not the complete eradication of difference, but the affirmation of these differences in the flesh of Christ Yeshua. Our unity in Christ is not the denial of bodily existence, but about the participation in the life of God Incarnate. When Jesus the Messiah prays for unity in John 17, it is not, as some understand it, a reference to future divisions within his own community, but as I understand it, pertaining to the Christian life, residing in the glory of God’s presence.
Christ’s inter-humanity, as J. Kameron Carter refers to it, means that as believers, our multiple identities are not in conflict, but rather they are reconciled, for being re-made in the image of God (the Messiah) and therefore because we are involved in the glory of God, we are more than our race, our age, our gender, our height, and our nationality, but at the same time, we remain these all the same.
What this means for ecumenism is that by participating in divine transcendence through the power of our Reconciler & Liberator is that Christians are empowered to work in inter-human solidarity within the Church (interdenominational cooperation) as well as within the World. Two concrete examples of this would be the ministries of the Confessing Church in Germany during the Third Reich (for the Barmen Declaration starts with the admonition of Christ’s Lordship) as well as the 1950s & 1960s Civil Rights movement (particularly the Southern Christian Leadership Council), where a distinct theology of the cross was articulated as it had emerged out of the Negro Church (Black Christianity post-Civil War/pre-late 1960s). Working across denominational lines through the confession of Jesus the Messiah as both Priest & Monarch, as well as cooperating (in the instance of the SCLC) with “secular” organizations, each of these churches witnessed to the power of God’s reconciling almightyness.
What I think this means for our of identity: in Christ, our notions of race, class, and gender become de-centered. Likewise, Christ’s transcendent & suffering love invites us to respect doctrinal differences, to be patient with each other, as God is patient with all of us. Christians are granted freedom to participate in various Christian traditions, whether it is the ever dreaded Anglo-Catholic, or the Bapti-costal, because of Christ, who is the Son of the ONE true God (YHWH) and the One Humanity (Adam) dwelling in our midsts. There is no such thing as a “pure” Anabaptist or Lutheran or Presbyterian, or for that matter, Christian.
In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche:
In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.