AnonymousDeleted UserDecember 3, 2020 at 11:52 am
Thanks so much for this reflection, Sarah. It’s great to see how you are thinking about listening as a worthy act on its own, without the need for qualification or improvement by some kind of greater follow-up action.
At the same time, I personally am not content with simply leaving it at “not my/your turn”! There’s a certain sadness I felt during our cohort call yesterday, as we discussed this matter in general and @katemarshall ‘s great question in particular. Because I think if we are for the liberation of all people, it would also behoove us to imagine the different ways we all can participate in that work. To stretch the “turn” metaphor, there are many other rides in the park!
To expound on this, it may help to go back to Cone’s text, where I’d point out he is pushing back against a specific kind of theological hubris. He is calling out white theologians for their “tendency to speak as if they and they alone can set the rules for thinking about God” (xiv) and their persistence in “teaching blacks to be passive and nonviolent” (xv). In my own experience, the culture of Christian theology in North America, across denominational lines, is one that prizes unity above acrimony, too often to the detriment of marginalized peoples. As a POC, I know the applause and success that await me when I talk about reconciliation, peacemaking, the power of the gospel to cover over wrongs. Too often in the past, however, when I approached my work in that way, striving for unity over acrimony in service of a false peace, I have been complicit in (or worse, contributed to) the project of whiteness. Cone doesn’t want white people to stop doing theology altogether, he wants them (and I’d add BIPOCs steeped in whiteness) to stop the kind of toxic, paternalistic, chauvinistic theological work to which they seem to have a fatal attraction.
I want to be careful not to moderate or over-nuance Cone here, but I think there is actually a lot (okay, maybe a bit) of room in Cone’s imagination for white people doing all kinds of incisive, humble, reparative theological work! And we need voices like yours to take part!
There are many differences between race and gender, so please forgive the imperfect analogy, but in the same way that womanist theologians don’t need me telling them how to do their work, Cone doesn’t want white theologians telling the world what a theology of hope ought to look like. It’s a call to reimagine the work of theology, one that we all need to do each in our own way. And for those with eyes to see, there is an astonishingly open, wide field of play and work to which we are all invited. The problem is that our theological imaginations are so skewed and limited (or to use Willie Jennings’ term, “diseased”), and we think there is only one way to do theology, which happens to be racist, rapacious, colonizing, hopelessly condescending, etc. Cone says white theologians have been singularly egregious in this regard. For too long, they have propounded a theology that is supposedly universal, definitive, orthodox, and not concerned with liberal preoccupations like identity politics or social location or critical theory. It presents itself as big-t Theology, when it happens to be merely western and white theology.
To play with the metaphor once more, it may indeed be true that it’s no longer your “turn” at “the ride.” It’s probably also true that we need to shut down the whole ride once and for all. This is hard, though, because for too long, it has been the main attraction in the park. And many fret that if we shut down this one ride, the whole park will go bankrupt.