I will respond to Adam Meyer’s response to me that he posted this week. Adam begins by stating that one way his perspective diverges from mine is in “the way that Jesus’ establishes his authority.” He goes on to comment that, “Jesus’ authority was heaven sent” which I think is what I said: “Jesus does not gain his authority from his associations with the powerful in society, but with his intimacy with Christ” (or God).  From what I understand, the primary difference between Adam’s view and mine (which is probably fairly minimal) is that he would say that “Jesus’s views may have been somewhat counter-cultural” where I would say that Jesus’ way of being and living was definitely counter-cultural.

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I have not thought so much before about the way in which I read and listen to others and in doing so either experience the privilege of being understood or alienation. “You cannot make sense of anything written or spoken unless without implicitly assuming that it was destined for you, that you are its implied reader” (55). I can identify with this when I think about what I experience when I hear others tell stories that leave me without the ability to identify with their experience of power, luxury or privilege. I do not want to infer that this places me entirely in the same position as the subaltern or colonized– since in these situations there are multiple layers of alienation that are experienced that I am not familiar with. However, this chapter was eye opening in terms of the assumptions that people have as they communicate, listen and read.

Said reveals himself as a leading thinker in postcolonial studies in this article as he communicates foundational concepts such as the importance of moving beyond binary thinking and appreciating “discrepant experiences” and the spectrum of difference and uniqueness found across cultures. He seeks to address the problem of allowing these discrepant experiences to be used “to construct artificial barriers to understanding and to political and cultural understanding” (25). I appreciated Said’s emphasis on a comparative approach which encourages dialogue and found it to be a helpful concept as one begins to understand the primary values undergirding postcolonial discourse.

In discussing as others have the impact of colonialism on Irish historical identity, Gibbons states, “Irish history did not have to await modernity to undergo the effects of fragmentation—the cult of the fragmentation was the stuff from which history was made” (494). This was an interesting connection to the way in which imperial power breaks apart attempts at continuity, and as such, has similar characteristics of modernity.

Though there are undertones of empire within the picture Jesus depicts of his own authority, such as exclusive boundaries, and absolute power, I would suggest that Jesus also reveals a counter-cultural approach to power in that God not humankind is the basis of his authority. This obedience leads Christ downward to the marginalized in society who have little access to influence and power. Thus, Jesus does not gain his authority from his associations with the powerful in society, but with His intimacy with Christ.

It is fascinating to look at the undertones of resistance to empire suggested by those who seek a postcolonial reading of the gospel of Mark. I have heard a number of interpretations of the Mark 5, Gerasene Demoniac, but this was the first time I had made the connection between how the demonic possession of an individual could be an allegory for those living in land possessed by foreign powers. I also appreciated the recognition of the difficulty of simplifying Mark’s ethical emphasis: “Mark’s gospel refuses to relinquish its dreams of empire, even while deftly deconstructing the models of economic exchange that enable empires…to function” (204).  

This article highlighted conversation going on within the Roman Catholic Church about shifting paradigms of church ecclesiology, and reminds me in certain ways of the Emerging church discussion and cell church movement. I find have been strongly drawn to some of the attributes of the Emerging church movement, for example, the emphasis placed (similarly to BECs) on “the urgent need to inculturate the gospel message more deeply into the culture of the local people” (168). On the other hand, I agree with the authors insights regarding the limitations that arise when churches are widely spread into small local communities causing them to lose their strength to influence society, particularly on a political level, when they lack the “visible, well-defined leadership, and clear doctrine” common in institutional churches (173). I appreciated the suggestions made that the institutional model and the Basic Ecclesial Communities model need not viewed as mutually exclusive of one another, but rather complementary. There is much more I could add to my reflections, this was  a great article to read, but I will leave it that for the sake of the word count. : )

I appreciated Ryan’s sharing today on how he has been teaching his children to integrate principles of inclusion, sharing, etc. into their peer experiences at school. What would happen if all North American Christian parents emphasized these valuesto their children? Undoubtably, it would be a significant step forward in the process of reshaping the image of Christianity in our context. Further, I think Ryan’s daughter has much to teach the Christian community as a whole. Often Christian adults still adhere to a social pecking order, similar in some ways to what is found in a highschool lunchroom. Sadly, we will go out of our way to include those who are cool, influencial, and well-connected out of self-interest, while we can easily overlook the call to include those who don’t fit in as easily on a regular basis.

Today’s class discussion about how suburban affluent churches relate to urban congregations serving in lower socio-economic communities reminded me again of marred identity concepts that we are learning in Poverty and Development. One of the students in class noted that the expectation placed upon suburban churches to be partner churches who provide financial resources to urban churches can lead to a limited and potentially unhealthy relationship between the congregations. She suggested the need to invest in long term relationship development. I was reminded that not only do the poor experience marred identity issues, but the wealthy also can have their identity “marred” when they understand themselves primarily as pocketbooks to the poor, and nothing more.

The comments Terry made reminded me of thoughts that went through my mind while reading the Fuellenbach chapter on Models of the Church. Coming from an Anabaptist background I also connected well with the disciples of Jesus model (along with a number of others) and the importance of voluntary faith commitment to be vital to the Christian formation process. I struggle also with appreciating or validating the practice of infant baptism, though I am a supporter of infant dedication. In some ways, it seems like these particulars could be overlooked, but for me there are significant theological principles underlying infant baptism that can influence how believers understand themselves and Christian faith that should not be taken too lightly. For me if there is any value in infant baptism, it is in whatever value it has as a positive Christian tradition that assist in maintaining faith communities in a world of change and absence of meaning. But this alone is not reason enough for me to support the practice.