The Pastor as Theologian

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Praxis is the mixture of reflection and action; it is the activity of theorizing and practice (Freire 2000). The pastor is a practical theologian and their job incorporates thinking in community about God and moving that community toward seeking the character of God in both systemic and individual lived realities of daily life.   Good pastoral theologians possess the ability to speak meaningfully and truthfully about broad topics of ultimate social concern rooted in a deep understanding of the nature and character of God. A true pastoral voice attempts to speak well of God, and to live a reflection of God in world. The role of the pastor theologian is, however understood in whatever tradition we embrace, is in some shape or form about bringing people face to face with the reality of God, responding to God’s invitation in their lives, and shaping their existence by the eternal truths revealed in sacred text (Strachan 2015). The pastor theologian understands their role not only as leading the worship life of a community, but shaping the thought life of a community with an eye toward active engagement in the world.

Church is a countercultural enterprise which models an alternative set of values and practices to those of the larger world (Allen 2008). Christian communities should not seek to leave their home cultures; rather they remain in them subverting and subduing anything that deters human flourishing in order to bring the realm of God into manifestation within that culture (Volf 2011). Theology is that discipline which has the responsibility of continually examining the proclamation of the church in light of Christ. The task of theology, then is to critique and revise the langue of the church (Cone 1997).  Pastoral theologians focus the community on transforming themselves and the world in light of Gospel narrative. Churches need the preachers who proclaim the Gospel to be theologians who are skilled at interpreting it. Reflecting theologically keeps preachers present to attend to the realities the Gospel is meant to impact, enabling them to take an ancient text and make it applicable to contemporary circumstances (Cone, Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody 2018).  This is the only way the church reveals a community bound together by their willingness to journey into the meaning and mystery of God. The place where disparate parts of our humanity can be bound together and then kept from being separated again (Spong 2001). 

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As a practical theologian, the pastor must engage the community in making connections between their life experiences and their current worldviews.  The pastor challenges everyone to think critically about the roles their family histories, ecclesial formations, and social contexts have played in the way they engage the world (Francis 2015). This is done in light of a clear understanding of the person and work of Jesus and the intent of the Gospel.  Insomuch as theology seeks to understand, to interpret, and to impart the Word of God and its meanings in various historical, cultural, and social context, the task of the preacher is to preach a new world into existence (Bond 2013).  A text cannot be understood apart from the world it creates in the imagination of the hearer. Its effects- social, emotional, psychological, and otherwise – are vital to any extraction of meaning, since that meaning has no productive existence outside the mind of the hearer (Townes 1997). The pastoral theologian acts as a co-creator of the work by supplying the portion of the text that is not written but implied. This is a powerful task in that it sets the frequency of understanding and action in any given community. 

It is of the utmost importance that we have pastoral theologians who have been steeped in a theological education that looks beyond the walls of the academy, historically truncated faith genealogies, contemporary institutional communities of believers, all of which have been guilty of centering the self as adjudicators of reality (Hopkins 2007).  We need pastoral theologians who see themselves not just as CEO’s or life coaches but fundamentally as prophetic voices holding up the folly of the culture and pointing that culture toward a preferable future that is rooted in the realm of God – a future that centers the love of the Divine for any and all equally and without dissemination. We need a generation of pastoral theologian who are on fire with passion for human flourishing who are committed to the whole council of God.

Non schola, sed vitae,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited


Allen, Ronald J. 2008. Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian. Minneapolis: Frotress Press.

Bond, Adam L. 2013. The Imposing Preacher: Samual DeWitt Proctor & Black Public Faith . Minneapolis: Frotress Press .

Cone, James H. 1997. Black Theology and Black power. MaryKnoll: Orbis.

—. 2018. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Francis, Leah Gunning. 2015. Ferguson & Faith Sparking Leadership & Awakening Community. St Louis: Chalice Press.

Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury.

Hopkins, Dwight N., ed. 2007. Black Faith and Public Talk. Waco : Baylor University Press .

Spong, John Shelby. 2001. A New Christianity For A New World. New York: Harper Collins.

Strachan, Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen. 2015. The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision. Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic.

Townes, Emilie M., ed. 1997. Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope Salvation & Transformation. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Volf, Miroslav. 2011. A Public Faith. Grand Rapids: BrazosPress.

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Dangerous Times

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Our human siblings of the dominant culture far too often insist upon continuously descending to their lowest estate by committing acts of terror in houses of worship. These terrorist acts seek to dehumanize minoritized people and separate them from any notion of Imago Dei. In  the Christian and Jewish traditions, Imago Dei is the theological concept (based on Genesis 1:26-34) that God made the first people in a way that very much resembles God’s own self. The doctrine purports that humanity is made in God’s image and, therefore, the individual is of sacred worth (Lightsey 2015).  Further, the doctrine of Imago Dei postulates that humanity in its authenticity is united with God in character and nature—even if brokenness and sin, in some theologies, has transgressed this original nature (Ruether 1993). This same concept is found in some form in every major religious tradition. In light of this, our task—as people made in the image and likeness of God—is to overcome the temptation not to love and appreciate all those whom God has called good (Lightsey 2015). Supremacist terrorist choose to carry out their egregious acts of mayhem and murder in places of worship precisely to eradicate any hope that marginalized people will see themselves as anything other than objects subject to the control of their will. 

Black Churches, Synagogues, Temples and Mosques provide marginalized people the space to give voice to their deepest feelings and expression of their theological prophetic imagination. These minoritized spaces with their own forms of religious worship is a world uninvaded and unmolested by the gaze and governance of the dominant culture (Frazier 1974). Religion poses the biggest threat to systems of domination because it emboldens the adherents to see themselves as powerful subjects rather than oppressed objects.  The Black church was held as the exemplar institution in the Black Community to resist the opportunity-hoarding of the dominant culture in ways that further disinherit Black people.   Opportunity-hoarding, a practice of the dominant group, keeps good things like

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education, jobs, and capital within their social network (which is most often predominantly white). This habitual way of acting reproduces racial disadvantage (Glaude 2016).  In this way, most religious spaces that serve the marginalized function in ways that promote this life empowerment to the community. The solidarity fostered within these religious communities threatens the dominant power structure to the degree that they are willing to turn these Holy sites into sites of terror.

Arrogant elitism and shameless privilege have come together in the most traumatizing way in our culture and the blatant manifestation of it has come to bare in shootings, bombings, and burnings of houses of worship. Much of the current horror that has been inflicted upon religious sites is connected to a sense of entitlement that has grown among the privileged. When you have been in power and privilege for an extended period of time, anything that seeks to decenter your extreme advantage feels to you like persecution. The response to this rage is manifesting in murder. This is not a new phenomenon, particularly here in the United States of America, where the foundational economy was built on a structure that depended on cheap, exploitable, rightless labor and required the subordination of a whole race of people.  

The mere suggestion that those people be given basic human rights was called an attack on the southern way of life (Anderson 2016). The cowardly burning and bombing of churches has long been the path of weak minded people steeped in a culture of dominance and supported by theologians who are complicit in the worse form of spiritual abuse.

So, I write to remind the church of our primary task in this hour as we face the reality of a culture of hate. The purpose of our religious spaces must be to assist people in plumbing the depths of their own humanity, where transcendence, mystery, being, and even love are discovered, and to bring those qualities found in the center of life into the world (Spong 1998).  Our communal gatherings must formulate patterns and rituals that bear hope for the liberation of all people.  We must not shy away from being the moral voice of the nation and the world, calling all people to carve out a culture of resistance, that speaks truth to power and disallows the principles of justice and holiness to be hijacked, abused, and overlooked. We must have the courage to find the truth in our traditions and then have the courage to be true to the truth. 

Non schola, sed vitae,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited
Anderson, Carol. 2016. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. New York: Bloomsbury.

Frazier, E. Franklin. 1974. The Negro Church in America . New York: Schocken Books.

Glaude, Eddie S. 2016. Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. New York: Crown Publishers.

Lightsey, Pamela R. 2015. Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology . Eugene, Or: Pickwick Publications.

Ruether, Rosemary. 1993. Sexism and God Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston: Beacon Press.

Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: Harper Collins.

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Lessons from Jesus

After a week of examining the ministry of Jesus, which culminates with the triumph of love over death, I have been reminded of some notable insights. The work of Jesus reminds us that the prophetic instinct always discomforts the comfortable and comforts the discomforted. Idolatry in its most basic form is a human attempt to evade or deny the contingency or fragility of any human construct (including government and religion). Just as in the time of Jesus, modern attempts to ossify, petrify, or freeze human creations of method, technique, rationality, sexuality, nationality, race, or empire are suspect. The prophetic work of Jesus was not about predicting outcomes but rather to identify concrete evils (West 2002). Much of what passes for prophetic ministry in today’s vernacular is missing the complete picture of the prophetic ministry of Jesus.

The social teachings of Jesus: respect for the person; service as “summum bonum”; overcoming evil with good; and the equality of humanity situate him as a radical revolutionary prophet  (Rustin 2012). 

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These teachings are diametrically opposed to contemporary popular culture. If culture comprises a people’s total social heritage including language, ideas, habits, beliefs, customs, social organizations, and traditions etc., then we are in need of the message of Jesus in every cultural outlet known to humanity (Douglas 1999).  The prison industrial complex, the military industrial complex, imperialist white supremacist heteropatriarchy, all in service to laissez faire market capitalism which neglects the poor, undermines the dignity of labor, threatens the environment, and glorifies greed; makes the prophetic message of Jesus completely countercultural. This countercultural message is as relevant and necessary today as it was over two thousand years ago.   The gospel of Jesus accents decision, commitment, engagement, and action which transforms what is in the light of that which should be. It does so because Jesus recognizes the dignity of persons is their ability to contradict what is, to change and be changed, and to act in light of that which is not –yet. This also recognizes the depravity of persons is their proclivity to cling to the moment, to refuse to transform or be transformed. This situates the proper loci of Christianity in the center of this worldly liberation and other worldly salvation (West 2002).

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The teaching of Jesus can best be described as a seamless garment, a consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death (McCoy 2015).  The ethics that emerge in the teaching of Jesus show God’s defense and vindication of the oppressed, a critique of the dominant systems of power and their powerholders, the vision of a new age to come in which injustice is overcome by the reign of peace and justice for all. They are ethics that denounce religious ideologies and social systems that function to justify and sanctify the dominant unjust social order (Ruether 1993). We can no longer pretend be followers of Jesus without wearing the seamless garment of these ethics with courage. The real work of following Jesus retaining our prophetic critique in order to speak truth to power knowing we cannot assimilate or incorporate because we dare not render unintelligible the radical mess

age of progress that happens when you point to the ethic of Jesus.

From Jesus’ personal mission statement taken from the book of Isaiah to His last moments intimate moments with His disciples, his ministry was focused on service. He was consistently serving the needs of individuals and the community. The work he did to maintain his ministry was minimal in comparison to the work he did to benefit the individual and redirect power in the social space.  It is easy for those in power and those with privilege to ignore the emphasis of Jesus on social service and redirect the attention to

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otherworldly attributes because they can escape the call to service that central to following Jesus. For those on the margins this is not so easy because the conditions of tyranny that they suffer on a daily basis and the attacks on their very embodiment are most in need of the attention of Jesus and His modern followers. I am grateful to be reminded of the person and work of Jesus. I am personally called to lean into the invitation to take up my own cross and follow Jesus in this way of being in the world. The road is rough, and the going is tough, and the hills are hard to climb, but I have decided to make the way of Jesus my choice.

Feel Free to Comment Below!

Non schola, sed vitae,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin |Director of Liturgy and Worship| Assistant Clinical Professor

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1999. Sexuality and the Black Church:A Womanist Perspective . Maryknoll: Orbis .

McCoy, John A. 2015. A Still and Queit Conscience: The Archbishop WHo Challenged a Pope, a President, and a Church . Maryknoll: Orbis.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford. 1993. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston : Beacon Press .

Rustin, Bayard. 2012. I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters. Edited by Micheal G Long. San Francisco: City Light Books.

West, Cornel. 2002. Prophsey Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity . Louiseville: John Knox Press.

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The Death of the Cross

An honest analysis of Holy Week invites us to take seriously the death of Jesus. It is easy to rush to the glorious resurrection and the triumph of life over death, but if we are ever to take seriously the power of the resurrection, we must be radically acquainted with death. For those of us living in the contemporary moment the paradox of a crucified Jesus at the heart of the Christian story is amplified when we look at the reality of modern government sanctioned executions of innocent persons. This paradox is particularly evident as we consider crucifixion was a particular form of torture reserved by the Roman Empire for insurrectionists and rebels, and our own nation has often used capital punishment in much the same

way (Cone 2011). The cross of Jesus, a paradoxical religious symbol, inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  Maybe this year as we engage Holy Week we should really look at the Jesus of the crucifixion.

The poor Jewish Jesus with his non-normative body shows up in Palestine with an anti-imperialist message over against the religious tradition of his time.  It is Jesus who unhinges the relationship between the underprivileged and the privileged: born in a manger and becoming King of the Jews without amassing either wealth or military might. By meeting needs of the poor, hungry, those without healthcare, and the mentally ill, Jesus becomes popular with the masses. It is not from the center of power and privilege he moves the crowds but by serving the needs of the people.  The narrative of the life of Jesus highlights his lived reality as a practicing Jew living in a territory controlled by Roman political, military, and economic forces. Jesus through preaching and practice, in living and behavior performed masculinity in ways that opposed patriarchal expressions of maleness (Copeland 2010). Any nonnormative behavior from those who will engage the act of leadership leads to the death of a cross.

The cross of Jesus is moored to his engagement as a political operative and revolutionary.  The message he proclaimed not only called for change in individual hearts but also demanded sweeping and comprehensive change in the political, social, and economic structures in his setting in life: colonized Israel. If Jesus had his way, neither the Roman Empire and the ruling elites among his own people would have held their positions of power (Hendricks 2006). The cross follows a call for a radical redistribution of authority and power, goods, and resources in favor of those on the margins of society.

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Jesus’ awareness of his ministry charge, noted in Luke 4:18, was in the prophetic tradition of Isaiah; therefore, if leaders are to be faithful to the work of Jesus they will engage prophetic praxis. This engagement will always cause them to risk popularity and possibly even safety.   Sallie McFague, a prolific feminist theologian, taught that if one understands the life and death of Jesus as a parable of God’s relation to the world, then being a Christian means to be willing to look “God-wards” through the Jesus story. Further, one is constrained to ask how that story is significant now (1987). This is of great import in that what makes theology distinctively Christian is its analysis in light of the person and work of Jesus. The cross is the destination on the way to resurrection that the leader must prepare for. Such vulnerability for leaders includes the task of critical theological reflection; this should result in leaders who think critically about the role of family formation in their own history, their ecclesial formation, and their social context.  All this is needed to be faithful to Gospel values as seen in the person and work of Jesus (Francis 2015).  May we become radically acquainted with the cross in this Holy Week.

Non schola, sed vitae,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin |Director of Liturgy and Worship| Assistant Clinical Professor

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 2011. The Cross and The Lynching Tree. MaryKnoll: Orbis.

Copeland, M. Shawn. 2010. Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Francis, Leah Gunnning. 2015. Fergusen & Faith: Sparking Leadership & Awakening Community. St. Louis : Chalice Press.

Hendricks, Obrey. 2006. The Politics of Jesus. New York: Three Leaves Press.

McFague, Sallie. 1987. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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The Palm Sunday Crowd

Palm Sunday has historically focused on the Triumphant Entry of Jesus. It has centered the narrative of Jesus’ prophetic critique of the Roman government delivered through an act of political satire that mocked imperialism and its pageantry. Prophetic critique can be defined as a principled public criticism of and opposition to systematic injustice and Jesus ride through the center of town on a lowly donkey surely qualifies this scene (Hendricks 2011). What we rarely talk about is what this moment may have been for those bore witness to the scene. Why would they cheer and celebrate this liberative movement, and yet a week later those same crowds cried out for Jesus to receive the death penalty? What was it about these people that caused them to respond in vastly different ways to the same voice of liberation?

I submit, that the crowds of oppressed people born under Roman occupation, suffered from self-hate and oppression sickness.  Oppression sickness is internalized oppression that causes the oppressed to be infected by the sickness of the oppressor (Flunder 2005). It happens when people who are oppressed begin to see themselves in the same way the oppressor sees them and causes the oppressed who long for freedom to reject those who speak of freedom.  There is often immense struggle for oppressed or exploited groups to have or maintain a standpoint on which to critique dominant structures because in their own minds the experience of the oppressor confers special jurisdiction over the right to speak about oppression (hooks 1994).  That is to say the experience of having no voice teaches people to remain voiceless, and one exceptional voice of liberation is often not enough to sustain a movement toward liberation.

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One definition of a prophet is a person who threatens a culture’s power structure by holding up a mirror to its folly and showing where such folly leads. Jesus observed that societies kill those prophets and when the threat of their prophetic voice is gone, they build monuments to the prophets and to watered down, sanitized versions of the teaching of those prophets. They are no longer then cultural critics, rather they become tools of the dominant power structures of those cultures. Jesus obviously intuited this would be his own fate and yet engaged his role in the epoch fiercely (Pearce 2002). Oppressed people struggle to identify the voice of the prophet until they are handed a sanitized version of the prophet, at which time they begin to question the narrative and move toward the potency of the true message. We see this very scenario played out in the lives of Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Creaser Chavez, and Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J.  

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What the crowd failed to realize is the same thing that oppressed people everywhere must learn. It is only through rejection of oppression – which is always defined as rebellion – that liberation comes. Truly the message of Jesus was love, and the only way to demonstrate true love of self and of the oppressor alike is to rebel against the tyranny of domination. Paradoxical though it may seem love may only be found in the wholesale rejection of the violence of oppression (Freire 2000).  Jesus’ act of political resistance was seen by Rome as a threat in that oppressors conditioned by the experience of oppressing others will always see anything other than dominating as a violation of their sovereign rights. The crowd had not moved far enough toward internal freedom and decolonization to recognize the messenger of hope in the moment as signal that true liberation had come.

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Jesus engages a pedagogy of the oppressed in this moment as prophetic praxis. The crowd fails to engage this learning movement because the threat of freedom was far greater than they had been conditioned to process and yet the moment is not lost on us as we look back through the privileged lens of history.   I wonder how far we have really come as we engage our celebration of Palm Sunday? Do we see this as an opportunity to speak truth to power and call the attention of our congregation to the dominating forces of evil? Are we in danger of repeating the mistake of the crowd in not recognizing how imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy violently marginalizes the masses while the wealthiest one percent have become a ruling class? Will we cry hosanna while doing nothing to support those voices who bear witness to our freedom? Who will we be in this moment?

Non schola, sed vitae,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin |Director of Liturgy and Worship| Assistant Clinical Professor

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Flunder, Yvette A. 2005. Where The Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion. Cleveland: The Pilgram Press.

Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury.

Hendricks, Obery. 2011. The Universe Bends Toward Justice . Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

hooks, bell. 1994. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. 2002. The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit. Rochester: Park Street Press.

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Musings on Theological Education

The traditional model for theological education in the West has for years featured a banking method of instruction. The banking model featured a sage on the stage dumping information into the assumedly empty heads of students who were expected to regurgitate the thoughts and ideas of learned professors. Somehow our institutions of higher learning have come to see knowledge as a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those they consider to know little or nothing (Freire 2000).  Theological scholarship of a Western Anglo-Teutonic nature upholds a hegemonic view of sacred text and disinherits voices from the margins in the quest of faith seeking understanding. Much of the difficulty in moving our theological thoughts in a progressive direction is rooted in teaching methodology that upholds bias toward the supremacy of the dominant culture. Theologies are about power…. These discourses and seminary pedagogies are about the hegemony of power- the distribution and the economy of this power (Cone 2018). 

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A full eighty percent of the faculty teaching in ATS (Association of Theological Schools) accredited institutions in 2017 where white (Young 2018). Given the abundant weight of dominant voices and the overwhelming preference for the western banking model of education, seminaries and schools of theology have often been repositories for colonization. In the banking system of education, the assumptive narrative is that memorizing information and regurgitating it represents gaining knowledge that has been properly deposited, leaving little room for resistance discourse or counter-cultural critique (hooks 1994).  Perhaps one of the reasons there is a steady decline in the enrollment of most seminaries and schools of theology is that they are woefully tone deaf to the voices of those on the margins. The faculty fails to embody and reflect the reality of the communities who most engage organized religion and there is little education for critical consciousness.  While I have heard countless arguments regarding the reasons for the decline in enrollment, few are taking seriously that the pedagogy of our religious institutions is out of sync with the needs of our society.

It might serve us well to reconsider a new pedagogical framework entirely for theological education. I suggest that our programs begin to feature voices from the margins who traffic in education for critical consciousness. This pedagogy makes oppression and its causes objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation (Freire 2000).  Forty-two percent of students enrolled in ATS accredited institutions self-identify as being other than the dominant culture and yet their stories are still not centered in the academic enterprise and the majority of their instruction is not by people who share their narrative (Young 2018).  How revolutionary would it be if these voices, along with women and other minoritized communities, were centered in institutions that make the classroom a democratic setting where everyone feels a responsibility to contribute to the central goal of expanding the conversation? It would be interesting to see religious education where the experience and the voice of the students was centered on par with the academic training of the professor?

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Accepting the decentering of the West globally, embracing multiculturalism, compels educators to focus attention on the issue of voice. A focus on who is speaking and who is listening rather than seeing students as passive consumers in the educative process would be transformational for many seminaries. This is the revival that is needed in the halls of religious education. Religion does change and religions do change and often that change is superficial before it is structural and systemic, but if religious education as we know it is to survive in the contemporary moment, our systems of religious education must catch up to the changes already in the making (Frazier 1974).  

Heretofore much religious education in the West has lacked integrity. While holding forth lofty aims such as freedom, equality, and justice to be central to the message of the Gospel, there has been an absolute failure to create learning environments and outcomes which reflect these very virtues. Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs, and behaviors. When our behavior is congruent with our professed values, when ideals and practice match, we have integrity (hooks, Rock My Soul 2003). The current sociopolitical landscape is inviting religious education to a new integrity where its own praxis and pedagogy become the sight of liberating education.

Feel free to comment below!

Non schola, sed vitae,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin |Director of Liturgy and Worship| Assistant Clinical ProfessorSCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 2018. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Frazier, E. Franklin. 1974. The Negro Church in America . New York: Schocken Books.

Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury.

hooks, bell. 2003. Rock My Soul. New York: Atria Books.

—. 1994. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Young, Mary H. 2018. Committee on Race and Ethnicity: Cultivating Educational Capacity Conference . Pittsburgh : The Association of Theological Schools.

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Islamophobia and the Christian Voice

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Christian fueled Islamophobia is an arrogant disremembering of history and sacred text. Islamophobia is the irrational fear of people who adhere to the spiritual practices of Islam, more commonly known as Muslims. Islam together with Judaism and Christianity are a connected family of religious practices who trace their collective origin to Abraham. As Abrahamic faiths, these three religions have a common history of sacred text that contain violence. For Christians to read Islam as violent because the sacred text, known as the Quran, affirms violence is disingenuous and the height of religious hypocrisy.  The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is replete with violence committed, commanded, and condoned by God. When Christian people characterize Islam as violent, it serves as an indictment against the God of Abraham. The story of Abraham and Hagar shared between the religious traditions involves slavery, poverty, exploitation, rape, and domestic violence; this is a joint story, and a shared tradition (Williams 1993). Violence is not the property of Islam it is our collective religious failure. The lessor minds of our traditions have led us into sinful acts of violence in the name of our religions because our human need for dominance has overtaken our better selves.

All of our words about God whether Christian or Muslim are wrestling with concepts too large to be contained in mere linguistic constructs.  Theology is, at its best, an uneasy truce between the radical mystery of God and the limitations and idolatries of human language (Farley 1990). True spirituality traffics in humility, and is always void of blaming and shaming. Christians must remember with deep humility and sorrow the history of violence perpetrated by religious zealots who hijacked the Bible to validate their own atrocities. The Inquisitions, The Crusades, The Salem Witch Hunts, Chattel Slavery were all acts of terrorism enacted in the name of the Christian God.  Violence is a part of spiritualities whenever and wherever extreme fundamentalism is present. The history of religious violence is not particular to Islam or the Quran, it rears its head when authoritarianism is allowed to have platform in religious space.  Religious rituals become irrational when extreme consequences are attached to any lapse in performance of said ritual. In fact, one can always recognize the irrationality of ritual in a religious space by the degree of fear produced by its violation (Fromm 1950).   

The fear of the religious other must stop at once. Fear and fear mongers breed the violence we are witnessing in New Zealand and across the globe. Christians are responsible to our Muslim siblings to be as responsible in our rhetoric about Islam as we are careful in our interpretation of Jesus. Religious traditions fall into crisis when the received interpretations of the redemptive paradigms contradict lived experience(Ruether 1993). When our reckless interpretations lead to acts of violence we have lost the ethical center of our religiosity.   Text in our own Bible justifying slavery and hostility to religious and radical outsiders fall below ethical sensibilities and therefore we must seek to read them with fresh eyes in order to understand their usefulness in a just and humane world ordered in keeping with the realm of God.

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There is a temptation for Christians to allow the Bible to be co-opted by small minded despots in service of nationalism, power, and greed. This temptation is a compromise of the message of Jesus in a well-meaning attempt to legislate morality and at the expense of true transformation. These autocrats are morally bankrupt and yet cling to the Bible as though it is the foundation of their enterprise for more wealth and power, need for Muslims to be demonized because they need the energy of hate to finance imperialist capitalist supremacy. People who peddle in Islamophobia traffic in fear and forget that for any social or political endeavor to claim to be consistent with the Biblical tradition, it must have at its center justice for all people regardless of national origin. Even in the Old Testament all the Law Codes promote and legislate social justice and economic parity, and all are particularly concerned with the rights of the most vulnerable members of society which in includes the stranger (Hendricks 2006).    

Every Christian leader must call on our Christian siblings to stand with those of the Muslim faith in these most violent times. Contact the nearest mosque and find out how you can show support. I encourage you to cease propagating the false notion that Islam is a violent religion. Remember the ways in which the Christian faith has been used to support violence and terrorism throughout history and until the present moment. As many cast dispersions on Islamic militants there are yet American Christians burning down and blowing up abortion clinics. We are Abraham’s children so we must solve the issue of violence together and not in isolation.  

Peace Is Possible,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin |Director of Liturgy and Worship| Assistant Clinical Professor

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Farley, Wendy. 1990. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion A Contemporary Theodicy. Louisville : Westminster John Knox Press.

Fromm, Erich. 1950. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Hendricks, Obrey. 2006. The Politics of jesus. New York: Three Leaves Press.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford. 1993. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston : Beacon Press .

Williams, Delores S. 1993. Sisters in the Wilderness . Maryknoll: Orbis.

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