Alright. Some great comments from my last post on this topic. Which has led to some interesting discussion in other places. The lead off question:
Will the emerging church be able to resist the historic “normative gaze” of a particular Christian culture that assumes the normativity of European culture and theology?
Notice. I haven’t said that the emerging church has not resisted normative gaze. For me, that remains to be seen. We’ll see. But where were we?
I take my cue from the apostle Paul again:
3The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way–never have and never will. 4The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. 5We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. 6Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. – 2 Corinthians 10 (Message)
Paul teaches us that there are philosophies, warped philosophies, and barriers erected against the truth of God. I would venture to say that there are practices along with these barriers that do indeed stand in the way of Truth. One of the practices that we are engaged in here is the practice of the normative gaze. Although referred to as an ideal by Cornel West I consider it a practice as well. For gazing requires movement and intentionality. To quote Cornel West again:
“This ideal was drawn primarily from classical aesthetic values of beauty, proportion, and human form and classical cultural standards of moderation, self-control, and harmony. The role of the classical aesthetic and cultural norms in the emergence of the idea of white supremacy as an object of modern discourse cannot be underestimated.” (West,Prophesy Deliverance, p.54)
Basically the classical aesthetic becomes the “norm” for beauty and truth. For a richer genealogy of modern racism check out West’s Reader. I am sure there are other places where this can be found. But what comes out of this is this: the tyranny of a perceived universal over a particular. Thus particularity becomes a scandal. One attempting to speak authentically from their particularity becomes a scandal. This could be do to perceived power. But as a Christian I can only see this as some kind of idolatry. In effect raising one’s ethnicity above others and holding it as the norm for others to follow suit I believe to be a form of idolatry. Jesus once told us that it was a sin to love one’s own family more than Him. Which is startling thing for Jesus to say in our culture charged with jingoism and nationalistic pride.
I wanted to write more but this is where my main thoughts have left me thus far. I have been thinking about some things Stanley Hauerwas has said on the attachments of the old age or aeon and how that is connected to violence and idolatry. For it seems that race-ism is deeply connected to an over-love for family and ethnic heritage than it is of pure hatred of another family or race. We’ll see as this journey unfolds.