In Defense of a ‘Radical’ Christology


This is a response to Christian Piatt’s Patheos blog from Thursday, part of an ongoing dialogue about Subverting the Norm 2.

I wrote a blog about Diversity in STN2 but never posted it.  I’m still struggling with that issue.  Let me share two thoughts however.

1) Diversity is a product of capitalism, a way to promote community ideologies in order to comfort the privileged and to hide the material disparities that continue to exist. For me, ending material disparities is the goal, not mingling races and cultures.  (I’m in an interracial marriage, so I realize that’s a little easier for me to say).

2) Subsequently, I don’t believe in “having” diversity.  If encountering the other is truly important to you, go where you are the minority.  Be the diversity.  Suspend your own space in other spaces.

That being said, I have no problem with the Radical Theology movement being primarily white male movement; although I think there is growing heterogeneity with females and LGBTQ in this realm.  It provides an important space for self-critique, and structural critique for the church.  On the other hand, I, like Piatt, have been asking around about possible Liberation/Radical hybrids, to borrow a phrase from @postmodernegro : “a hyrbridity of critical postures.”

Personally, I would love to sit with a handful of thinkers and practitioners in the field of liberation theology and talk about how – if at all – these radical theology concepts dovetail with what they’re doing on a daily basis.

I’m a little confused, however with Piatt, whether or not he sees a connection between the Latino Reformation and Liberation Theology.  I’m sure there must be some places of overlap, but politically, I can only imagine that they go in opposite directions.   Still, I believe his basic assertion is a fair statement of the problem.  Let me frame it in my perspective:

Radical tradition doesn’t “do” anything (to embody Christ, necessarily).  And Liberation theology (and those from the non-white traditions) fail to adequately deal with its metaphysics (see this article from the Other Journal), which in my opinion replicate and perpetuate oppressive powers within their racial and ethnic spaces (i.e. strong patriarchy).

In the future, I’m not sure if there’ll ever be a theological friendship between Liberation and Radical, the way that was found between Process and Radical at Subverting the Norm 2.  Perhaps (intended), there can be one formed over Christology, a direction I believe and hope the Radical tradition is heading.

Founded upon early forms of historical materialism, a foundational Materialist Christology, similar to Fernando Belo’s commentary on Mark and Ted Jennings Insurrection of the Crucified, can form the basis for a Radical Liberationist Christology, one that could challenge all colors of the church into challenging the problems of capitalism and institutionalized power, perhaps even through alternative forms of labor within the church.

I couldn’t bring myself to title this post, “In Defense of Radical Theology,” in part because, I believe the metaphysical divide with Liberation theology is too large.  Also, I am not a fan of the theological endeavor.  And yet, like @JesKastKeat from this podcast, I think ‘Radical’ is a also a bad name.  Perhaps Radical Theology is in need of rebranding, but certainly, as a white movement, it is doing its job challenging white privilege by challenging its metaphysics, and pointing our gaze, not at our navels, but at our material practices (albeit, they are still just gazes).  Material Christology, anyone?

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3 thoughts on “In Defense of a ‘Radical’ Christology

  1. If you really do your homework you will discover two things.
    1. Jesus was never ever in any sense a Christian, he was always and only a Jew. Nor did he create/invent one smidgen of an iota of the religion about him. He certainly could not have created any of the “resurrection from the dead” nor “ascension to heaven” mythologies (of course neither of these “events” actually happened). Corpses or “dead human beings” are incapable of creating anything, havent you noticed!
    2. Jesus was also an outsider who appeared and taught on the margins of the tradition of Judaism as it was in his time and place. He was scathingly critical of the ecclesiastical establishment of his time and place, and of their small-minded nit-picking legalisms. As such he was completely unacceptable to them and thus thus conspired with the Roman state to have him executed.
    Following on from the second point do you really think that if (as if out of nowhere) Jesus happened to appear that he would be welcome or even recognized at the Vatican, your theology college, your local church, or a “subverting the norm” gabfest
    By comparison the collectice world-wide Christian ecclesiastical establishments are far more powerful by a mega degree than the ecclesiastical establishment that Jesus confronted. They have much much much much more public face and worldly power & privilege to lose. For instance, by some estimates the “Catholic” church is collectively the world’s third largest property owner, and the fifth largest business corporation. It also runs some very wealthy and influential banks- some of which have been involved in extensive money-laundering for all kinds of low-lifes including Nazi war criminals. Jesus was of course famous for throwing the money-lenders out of the temple.

  2. For whatever it’s worth, at the New Materialism event at Union, Cornel West called Jeff and Clayton’s book a “new form of liberation theology” and James Cone, when he heard their presentation, actually wanted a copy of the book and expressed a lot of interest… which wasn’t expected. Not that they are the sole authorities of anything (and it’s a stretch to call West himself a liberationist) the two, in principle, should generally compliment one another, especially if radical thinkers are doing it right. I don’t have the time at the moment to go into detail, but I am always quite frustrated when these conversations stop before they start.

  3. Pingback: Radical Theology + Liberation Theology = ???

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