Thursday, September 18, 2008

don't trust the living

I re-installed windows, so I was looking for some snazzy picture to replace the pre-installed generic desktop. My last desktop wallpaper (ah, the mixed metaphors of GUI) was the ancient Orthodox Trinity icon, but I was ready for something new. While looking for pictures of Jesus, I came across this:

Now, I think this is actually excellent advice, in addition to being pretty hilarious. I think it's particularly useful to see everyday as I start my Constructive Theology paper. At my seminary, we finish off the MDiv program by writing a big paper that's supposed to lay out much of our theology: a status report of what we actually believe.

My temptation in doing theology is to only trust the living. My ideas are better than the church fathers, and the ideas of liberation theologians are better than, say, the Lateran Council. Or Martin Luther. Or Kant. And, you know, I stand by that, to a certain extent. But if I'm really trying to listen to the voices of the disenfranchised and marginalized in my theological work, then I must also pay particular attention to the dead.
And one way that I can do that is by listening to what the tradition says about God, Christ, Sin/Suffering, and Ministry. (These being four of the required "loci" for the constructive paper.) I think that too often the temptation among liberal theologians is to privilege contemporary lived experience, without trying to understand the ways that written and oral tradition can represent the lived experience of dead believers.
The corollary to this, lest you think I be taking a turn to the Ultramontanist, or that I am suddenly advocating apostolic succession, is that I must also look for the places where dissenters have been erased. I must watch for times when the forces of domination have sought to wipe out their opponents, and this is also rife in the Christian tradition.
Perhaps I don't fully agree with the zombie, but I should at least not just trust the living. The disappeared, the martyred, and the plain old dead must have a say in my theology, if it is to be holy.

Zombies are on their own.

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