As a continuation of the discussion about normative gaze I want to interject something I think can be a powerful transformative practice in a conversation that is seeking greater ethnic/economic diversity…that is the practice of Pentecost. The practice of Pentecost are intentional practices, that will have sets of subpractices, that will transform us into faithful participants in the very life of God through the Holy Spirit. Assuming the Spirit shows up. As we faithfully participate in the very life of God together we will reflect the sociality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Practicing Pentecost is not a coercive ethic of diversity that is foisted upon the dominant culture. It becomes a joyous occasion where we break bread and worship together. A party where we begin to see our place at the table as a “gift” from a Holy God…and not necessarily a “right” that is more abstract and non-relational. A placing at the table that is more commensurate with the peaceableness of the gospel and not the coercion and violence that is part of the narrative of race and diversity of our culture.
But here are some more thoughts on this practice:
On the issue of diversity. Part of the problem is the language and practices we use in the church to discuss these issues.
Diversity, as it is often talked about in the church, is no different than the language and practices that constitute the liberal capitalist social order we call America. Diversity becomes an end in and of itself. Diversity becomes a coercive ethic that gets foisted upon the dominant culture. Diversity and inclusion is often seen as a “right” of those that have been “excluded” from the table in the past and present. Diversity cannot be a coerced ethic. Our stiving to be a diverse conversation has to be commensurate with the gospel of peace. This doesn’t exclude intentionality of creating such a space I just hope that all those involved be aware of the narratives that inform our notions and practices of diversity.
I often find the language of “diversity” problematic. For one it is often grounded in a theology and political philosophy, I believe, that can be at odds with the gospel. As Christians I do not think that “diversity” or “difference” should be the telos of our desire to be an embracing church. I believe the telos should be participation in the very life of God. Which means that we participate in God’s triunity which becomes reflected in our worship and practice of the Faith. I believe the telos is to reflect the sociality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And as we worship together the potential idols that oftentimes hold the church in bondage (e.g. race and class) become seen for what they are. In participating in the very life of God together we gain the ability and tools to “name” and properly “engage” the “powers” of “race” and “class”. We also can begin to create spaces, such as this one where we can redeem them and bring them under submission to the gospel. We will be able to “name” the way race and class have become our idols. But also in this participation in the life of God together we begin to see how our particular creatureliness (my Africaness…your Europeaness) can be and are good gifts from our Creator.
So I am concerned about the telos or goal of such a conversation. I hope and pray that we don’t succumb to the temptation of having diversity for its own sake. That diversity will be the product of our friendships as we worship and break bread together. I think that the specific practices involved will be centered around the breaking of bread and of doing life together. Until we all meetup in the Upper Room together in Worship and in the breaking of bread in the very presence of God we may be more determined by language and practices that are foreign to the story of God.