A Theology Of The Margins
Last night there was a conversation going on on our Twitter feed about various marginalised groups such as the disabled, LGBT, BAME and others working together to produce a book on the theology of marginalisation.
Radical Hospitality demands that the implications of our theology be played out in wider society as well as within the church. It implies that God the Householder, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit call us to distributive justice not only of resources, but also of respect, leadership, healing and dignity. The need then is to create a diverse movement in the church who demand justice, reject privilege, and seek what is fair for all people regardless of ability, wealth, status, IQ or social standing.
Implied in this call for Theological Consequentiality is the presumption that the way in which we usually respond to the message of Jesus Christ is somehow lacking or disingenuous. This presumption is made not as a judgment on the church but as recognition of how easy it is to be apathetic.
So far much of what has been written on the marginal theologies has been written from an observational view point, not from someone living within life on the margins, struggling with the day to day of all that that can bring. We need to give people living on the margins licence to tell their stories, no matter how shitty, no matter how difficult we may find them to listen to and we need to be prepared to actually listen, no matter how uncomfortable or challenged we may feel, to withhold judgement until we are fully conversant with these stories. Let me also say here and now if you are so offended by the word “shitty”, simply step away now. We will never get to grips with the heart of the matter if we are not prepared to get real.
In this time when “mutual flourishing” is the phrase of the moment within the church, we must begin to realise that for any group to be left feeling they don’t belong can not indeed be called “mutual flourishing”.
These communities are not just of disabled people but are made up of many who feel themselves to be on the margins of the church, the poor, the homeless, the LGBT community, refugees, the traveling community and others. In days when there is so much talk in the west of declining church numbers we are beginning to see that it is within such communities that the Holy Spirit is working and it is these communities that are on the rise, breaking new ground, exploring new theologies. We see these groups as having the power, drive, openness and creativity to revive the broader church if only the church will let them in.
What is evident is that God is working within these communities and if the church does not let them in we should not be surprised when it seems as if God has moved out of our churches to be with them.
We find it sad that the church spends so much time trying to restock the pews when there is such an obvious movement of the Holy Spirit on the margins. Just as Jesus did, if we gravitate to the margins then church growth will begin from the outside in.
Our re-evaluation to embrace life on the margins should begin with our theology, as theology provides the framework by which the church bases her engagement. Therefore, we must ask, is it possible to revive theologia gloria for a postmodern society or must the Church be seeking an alternative theology.
Two crucial questions are answered in Matthew 16: 13-28. First, who is Jesus? And second, who are we before God? To be a follower of Jesus we must daily encounter God through the cross, that means both his and our own, a journey which will inevitably take us down that road to the margins yet still many churches are preaching a prosperity gospel, offering the Disney Jesus.
My most fundamental thoughts are that we have many in our society who feel themselves to be on the outside, shut outs, noses pressed to the glass, looking in on a society that does not seem to let them in.
Disability and Jesus have a book almost ready for publication on the theology of disability and it is during the writing of that that I have begun to realise that disabled people share this feeling of being on the outside with so many other groups in our society.
Then in the last few weeks of terror attacks and the London fire I have begun to see that the pain of many marginal groups is very similar and shares much in common with my own.
I feel a need to try and respond to this, at this stage I am thinking of a book, a book collaboratively written by people living within the margins, maybe we need academics to help in the process but the actual voices of marginalised people need to be heard.
So where do we go from here?
Well I'm thinking that first of all I need to organise a meeting of like minded parties. So what I'm looking for at this stage are expressions of interest from like minded parties with a view to setting up an initial meeting sometime in the very near future, I do not think this is something to be kicked in to the long grass, I feel it is an issue that would very much resound with many in our society in the here and now.
So if these vague thoughts are something you'd like to explore further, could you please declare your interest by email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave( and Jarvis the guide dog of course)