A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Friday, June 24, 2005


I've been reading some Carter Heyward recently, finding inspiration and challenging words which speak to a number of issues the church and our society have been struggling with. I'm headed off to St.Louis Pride this weekend and thinking of the recent ACC decision. Heyward, an Episcopalian priest and theologian, in her book Our Passion for Justice: Images of Power, Sexuality and Liberation, has this to say for those working for a more just world.

"God needs us. Our committment. Our hearts. Our touching and our pleasures. Our bodies, including our common sense, our intelligence, our friendships, our love. God is our liberator, the wellspring of all that we do on behalf of humans and of the earth. And just as surely, we ourselves are liberators of God. Not somebody else, older, wiser, sharper, more astute; we are those upon whom our God depends in the ongoing creation, liberation and blessing of the world."

And of the christological litmus test the right wants to place on the UCC she writes: "Faith is believing not in Jesus, but rather in the power that goes forth from him: the power of God, which is, by it's nature shared never a possession of Jesus, you, me, the US, or the church. The power of God and the power of all persons with faith in this power, is a shared power-moving, giving, received, passed on, celebrated, held in common as ours, not mine alone or his alone or hers alone. God's power does not belong to Jesus.

It belongs to us, to the extent that we pass it on." And for some encouraging news, the UCC is considering a resolution at this up and coming convention to re-create an office dedicated to helping campus ministry work, an area too long neglected by the mainline. USA Today has a piece on the increasing work and books coming out representing progressive Muslim voices. With a number of pride festivities around the country, the role progressive churches typically play in this gets covered in the Boston Globe.

4 Comments:

At 2:01 AM , Anonymous Dwayne said...

After reading the above quote from Carter Heyward and listening to you read several pages from her book Our Passion for Justice: Images of Power, Sexuality and Liberation the other day, I meditated on what her words might mean. As you could gauge from my initial response to her descriptions of the "divine" when I heard you read from her book, I found her words to be challenging, but hardly inspiring.

Don't get me wrong. I applaud when
she writes such things as "God is our liberator, the wellspring of all that we do on behalf of humans and of the earth." Yet, I get very, very suspicious when any theologian who identifies herself as being within the Christian tradition writes, "And just as surely, we ourselves are liberators of God. Not somebody else, older, wiser, sharper, more astute; we are those upon whom our God depends in the ongoing creation, liberation and blessing of the world."

I don't quite know what Heyward means when she writes that we are liberators of the divine. If what she means to say is that we are co-creators with the divine only in so far as we conduct ourselves in ways that conforms with the Father's divine activities in the world -- as manifested in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, and (re)interpreted generationally by Christians communing with one another in the Body of Christ -- then I agree with her.

Said in a more inclusive way, I would agree with her if one could translate her words to mean roughly that we co-create with God only in so far as our acts are inspired by and produce "the fruit of the Spirit" -- namely, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." (Galatians 5:22-23, RSV).

Yet, something doesn't seem right to say that God "needs" us to liberate Godself. I don't have the hubris to say that God needs us, at least not in the capacity of god-liberators -- especially given that we as "liberators" are utterly dependent on the one who we are "liberating" to do anything at all. That doesn't sound like much of a "liberator" to me. But maybe I'm mistakenly reading her poetic utterances as being normative theological statements.

To prevent my "rant" from continuing any longer than it needs to, I won't even comment on my reservations and disagreement with Heyward's apparently anemic (dare I say it, almost nonexistent) christology, as articulated in her comments concerning the relation between Faith and Jesus. Maybe Dwight will let me express my reservations and disagreement with Heyward's apparently anemic christology in a guest posting someday :)

P.S.
I apologize to any reader who happens to be offended by my use of the phrase "Father" to refer to "God the Creator." I recognize that many persons regard such a phrase as a visible symbol of the patriarchical attitudes still dominant within the vast majority of Christian institutions and practices. I am also aware that there are some biblical passages that describes God the Creator in more feminine terms. Nevertheless, I have not yet discovered any satisfactory way of refering to "God the Creator" in any language without accepting either impersonal language or neopagan goddess language; both of which are antithetical to authoritative Christian dogma, I believe.

 
At 2:04 AM , Anonymous dwayne said...

My last sentence should read:

Nevertheless, I have not yet discovered any satisfactory way of refering to "God the Creator" in any language other than masculine without accepting either impersonal language or neopagan goddess language; both of which are antithetical to authoritative Christian dogma, I believe.

 
At 10:09 PM , Anonymous rh+ said...

I had the great fortune to study with Carter when I was in div school in Cambridge, Mass. Challenging and inspiring do not even begin to express her persona and the depth of her faith and vocation. Her classes were so popular that it was sometimes impossible to register for them.

 
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