Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Week Ten

Reading Reflections:
Hispanic/Latino Theology pp. 351-374
            Chapter 19, “Confessing Our Faith in Spanish” by Jose David Rodriguez, explores the significance of the confession of faith “in Spanish,” meaning both in the Spanish language and from the perspective of the Hispanic people (359). Rodriguez argues that “the affirmation of faith from a Hispanic perspective” enables the church to both recover the “sociohistorical reality” of the Hispanic people and affirm the “basic dimensions of the church’s faith that have made possible a continuous renewal of our understanding and confession of the gospel” (352). Rodriguez demonstrates these points by exploring historical and cultural elements that contribute to a confession of faith not only in Spanish and from the Hispanic perspective. First, he acknowledges the “cultural, historical, and racial” diversity of the Hispanic people, saying that the Hispanic race is a “cosmic” one (355). This diversity influences the task and proclamation of Hispanic theologians if the theology is to be authentically Hispanic. Next, he discusses Hispanic religious history, contrasting the faith of the Hispanic people with the “religion of faith imposed by the conquistadores” (357). From here, Rodriguez explores the centrality of confession in Christianity throughout history (356), emphasizing the political power of confession (357) and highlighting the political practice of confession during the conquest (362). Rodriquez acknowledges the “theological grounding” of the conquest, which he rightly calls “shocking” (363). Ultimately, Rodriguez points to the “challenge and promise” of a confession of faith in the Spanish language and from the Hispanic perspective (365), saying that it has been and will be “instrumental for challenging the church to remain faithful to God’s word in the context of our social reality” (366). The thing I most appreciated about this chapter was its emphasis on Scripture— the key element of the confession of faith—being available and engaged in the Spanish language and from the Hispanic context. This quote especially resonated with my belief in the potential for Scripture to be used as a tool for liberation: “When the Bible becomes a resource accessible to the people and the people discover in the Bible their own particular perspective, then the Bible becomes the people’s book, that is, a subversive book no longer under the control of the dominant groups in society” (359).
            Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz concludes the book with “Strangers No Longer,” which brings together this collection of Hispanic theology by highlighting three features of the field: maturity, ecumenism, and community (367). According to Isasi-Diaz, the maturity of the field is demonstrated by its distinct identity, diversity, openness to dialogue, unique contributions to theology, and recognition of limitations and need for development (368-69). Creating space for this development to take place, she provides some questions for further reflection, such as, “what do we clearly understand liberation to be?” (370) Next, she highlights the ecumenical nature of the field of Hispanic theology, noting the ecumenical reality of Hispanic culture as one that often encompasses many denominations at once (371). Thus, true Hispanic theology is also ecumenical, which holds both challenge and promise; Isasi-Diaz notes that one task of Hispanic theologians is to “continue to insist on the possibility of diversity without divisions” (371). Finally, she highlights the role of community and praxis in Hispanic theology, saying that “we do not write theology; we do theology” (371). Hispanic theology for Isasi-Diaz, as evidenced by the theological reflections in this book, “is not only for the people but also by the people” (372).While Hispanic theology is mature, ecumenical, and community-driven, most of all, it is invitational— calling for engagement and dialogue that transcends the walls of the Hispanic church and academy. It is “a theology from which others can learn much” (373), which has certainly been the case in my own experience.

Journal Article Reflections:
            The first article, “La Primera Impresion” in El Interprete, discusses the issue of hospitality to visitors in local churches. It stresses the importance of the first impressions of visitors, and the general argument is that it is better for visitors to feel valued in our churches rather than impressed by them. Since “radical hospitality” is one of the UMC’s “five practices of fruitful congregations,” it is often emphasized (as it should be) at Annual Conference and other denominational events. On the whole, hospitality is not a strength of the UMC, which is why it is stressed in denominational materials. This article was helpful in distinguishing between valuing visitors and impressing them, and ultimately valuing visitors is a more sustainable and positive form of hospitality.
            The second article, “Border Patrol Program Raises Due Process Concerns” on NPR, is the first of a series of three articles that a friend suggested to me. Though the series is from the fall, it is still a relevant issue in general but especially for me as someone who is interested in border justice issues. This article exposes Operation Streamline, a government initiative on the border that began in 2005 and enables mass convictions in the U.S. court system each day. The article tells of courts convicting 70 individuals on any given day, with little to no individual legal counsel; they simply line up and plead “guilty” in unison, while lawyers are often paid by the case. This is a disturbing and alarming violation of human rights as well as the Constitution, and serves as a reminder that the borderlands are the margins of our nation in a very real sense, both geographically and politically. It is shocking that these kinds of programs exist on the margins of society without any type of national awareness or outcry. Over the next few weeks I plan to read the other articles in this series, educating myself on the realities of the criminal justice system in the borderlands.

Vocational Discernment:
            I believe that discernment is a task to be done in community, and I believe that God’s voice is often echoed most clearly in the voices of the people who God has placed in our lives. Last week, I had a strange experience in which two different people expressed the exact same vision and call for my life. The first person was my mentor, Diane, who after our visit to AMBS told me that she sees God leading me to pursue Peace Studies beyond Bluffton and eventually teaching peace in the UMC, which she said would be my “contribution to the denomination.” Later that same day, during our visit to MTSO, we met with the admissions director there, who I have known through the conference for a while now. While she is not part of my daily journey, she knows me fairly well, especially since we both share a call to ministry as deacons in the UMC. During the conversation, she said something I had heard just a couple hours before— that getting a masters degree in Peace Studies and teaching peace would be my “contribution to the denomination.” This “contribution,” this call, though, comes with its risks— risks that the admissions director clearly expressed to me during that conversation, the kind of risks that come with acting outside of the norms and expectations of the powerful majority. The greatest risk, however, is silence.

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