Friday, March 11, 2011

Week Nine (Spring Break)

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 325-350
            In chapter 17, “Un Poquito de Justicia,” Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz shares a mujerista vision of justice that emerges from Latin American women’s experience of oppression. First, she points out five ways in which Latin American women are oppressed (327). Then, she goes on to present the eight elements that come together to form “a mujerista account of justice” (332).  The five forms of oppression include exploitation (328), marginalization (329), powerlessness (330), cultural imperialism (330), and systemic violence (331). These elements all contribute to the oppression of Latin American women, and it is from this experience that mujerista theology and specifically a mujerista theology of justice emerges. The mujerista vision of justice is marked by eight elements: a goal of establishing justice (332), contextualization (333), discontinuity of the past and present oppressive reality (333), engaging differences (334), an understanding of the positive and negative potential of power (335), a “belief that justice cannot be achieved at the expense of justice for others” (336), an insistence on both socioeconomic and political rights (337), and effectiveness (338). The mujerista vision of justice is driven by the practical task of doing justice; Isasi-Diaz makes this clear by saying, “the reason for articulation a mujerista understanding of justice is to bring about justice” (332). Ultimately, a vision of justice that is not useful is no vision of justice at all. As a whole, this chapter provided a good way to measure not only the mujerista vision of justice, but all visions of justice. I also especially appreciated Isasi-Diaz’s ideas about the transformative potential of learning in the context of a give-and-take relationship (335). This resonated with my own experiences and confirmed my belief in the power of learning in community.
             Chapter 18, “Metamodern Aliens in Postmodern Jerusalem” by Justo L. Gonzalez, explores the effect of postmodernism on Hispanic theology. Gonzalez makes the connection between modernism and colonialism, drawing from Ashis Nandy who calls colonialism “the armed version of modernism” (344). Thus, Gonzalez holds modernism responsible for much of the oppression of the Hispanic people. From this viewpoint, he is grateful for the postmodern perspective which dismantles modern principles, but he also voices concerns about the postmodern belief that “there is no metanarrative”; if no metanarratives have the “power to demand allegiance,” then “no new metanarrative [has] the power to change the status quo” (346). Though the postmodern metanarrative is more positive than the oppressive modern metanarrative, it does not provide a framework in which the existing oppressive power structures can be transformed. Therefore, Gonzalez introduces the concept of “metamodernity,” or a framework that is beyond modernity (347). While postmodern thinking is completely separate from modern thinking, metamodern thinking acknowledges that the Hispanic perspective both emerges from the oppression of modernism and seeks to transform the oppressive modern power structures (347). Metamodern Hispanic theology seeks both to affirm the authority of liberating texts and to read Scripture with an openness to God’s mystery and activity (348); this stands in contrast to a postmodern reading, which “[discounts] the authority of all texts and all metanarratives” (348). Ultimately, these theological differences between postmodernism and metamodernism illustrate the ways in which Hispanic theology has been impacted by and has responded to the oppression of colonialism, fueled by modernism.
Journal Article Reflections:
            The first article, “Que es una comunidad de fe?” in El Interprete, defines “faith communities” and describes their role in the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry of the UMC. The National Plan articulates the UMC’s unique approach to Hispanic ministry, which is fueled by “faith communities” rather than churches. While many denominations seek to establish Hispanic churches, the UMC seeks to establish an active network of “faith communities.” This article describes the life of these faith communities; essentially, the vision is that each faith community will be like a small house church. This was a helpful and interesting article as someone who is technically certified as a “lay missioner,” which is the National Plan’s terminology for the leader of a “faith community.”
            The second article, “Latino Groups to Oppose Union Attacks” in The Latino Journal, describes the role of unions in ensuring fair pay for Latino workers and highlights the efforts of nineteen Latino organizations working to protect the right to collective bargaining in several states, including Ohio. Most notable is the statistic that “unionized Latinos earn approximately 51 percent more than their nonunion counterparts.” While I have mostly heard about the changes these laws would make for teachers, this article reminded me that the issue of collective bargaining also has a great impact on the Hispanic community. So, while it may not be my issue, it is an issue of great importance to the Hispanic community and many others with whom I live in community and solidarity.

Vocational Discernment:
            So, I spent my spring break visiting two seminaries—AMBS and MTSO. I had two good, but very different, experiences. I was very impressed by everything about AMBS, especially the combination of community and academic challenge. The interactions in class and on campus were engaging, and it felt like a balanced place where I would be pushed academically but also supported personally. In many ways, AMBS seems to be everything I am looking for in a seminary. I also had a good visit at MTSO, but I have trouble seeing myself as a student there for several reasons. While this is disappointing since MTSO was my #1 United Methodist seminary, I am glad that I am coming to this realization now, with two years left until I have to make a decision. I hope that AMBS will gain United Methodist University Senate approval in the next two years! However, even if it does not, I have the option of going to an approved seminary for a Bible degree and then going to AMBS to study Peace Studies once my ordination requirements are met. Overall, this week resulted in two things: a more complicated seminary search, and a clearer vision of the kind of seminary I am looking for— a seminary where I can engage in serious academic study and the life of the church, a seminary shaped by community and challenge and the creating Spirit of God.

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