Life 103

Thursday, February 09, 2006

theological conversation 2 - i am both

While reading Miroslav Volf’s thoughts on justice, oppression, truth and deceit, I was pointedly reminded that in this world there is oppressor and victim, deception and truth, violence and peace, the powerful and powerless – and I am both. I am both oppressor and victim, I am honest and deceitful, peaceful and violent, and I am both powerful and powerless. As a Quaker woman in America, I have every advantage to live and breathe Christ’s ministry on earth in my time and I have not always realized my full potential. I give more than many, less that most. I am committed to truth while hiding the ugly watermarks on my own spirit from even close friends. I am both stingy and generous. I have the power to give others voice (their own power) and I have failed. I am both helpful and selfish. Ambitious and lazy. And I have no excuse.

I am entrenched in a culture that cannot answer this basic question: How does Christ call Christians to be different from the world?

I asked that question in Sunday school about 8 years ago and no one could speak to it. Someone said something lame about pornography. Not my struggle, sorry. Someone said we should protest full-time working mothers and, being one at the time, was pretty deeply offended. No one could tell me how to evaluate the cultural pool I was standing waist deep in because they were standing waist deep in it too. How does a fish know it’s wet, in other words?

Volf wrote, quoting Marjorie Suchocki in The Fall to Violence, “To break the world cleanly into victims and violators ignores the depths of each person’s participation in cultural sin. There simply are no innocents.”

Volf brings into sharp focus the need to recognize that my images of God are shaped by the culture I live in and, as such, my actions and reactions will be based more on my images of God than on God himself. Volf calls us to have “double vision” that seeks to view things from the another’s perspective and enlarge both our world and view of God.

In the conversation this week, he said, “we can’t ignore the way we’ve been socialized.” Western, colonial, white, Pacific Northwest rural, middleclass, college educated with good marketable job skills in case my husband dies and we find ourselves on our own, married with two kids, cars, cats, and dogs – these are the mental models I use to view the world. They are my lenses for interpreting God and interpreting you. You can suddenly see that my world is too small. Even though there is no way to be completely removed from the culture we’re living in, we can be aware of what we’re doing when we think about the world.

On Tuesday Volf said, “I don’t want individuals to feel excluded but I want them to understand they are part of a social system that is a problem in some way.” I am coming face to face with my own corruption based simply on the fact that I have been raised in a corrupted world.


  • Hmmm...your account of the Sunday School class is really, REALLY depressing.

    While we are always colored by our perspective, there are ways to see it and get outside of it a little bit...or at the very least, see the edges of our boundaries and realize that there is something else out there.

    You're doing that. Experiences like we just did are one way. Reading is another. Cultivating relationships with "the other". Novels.

    I love hearing how you're processing.

    By Blogger Gregg Koskela, at 2:21 PM, February 09, 2006  

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