This blog explores and examines the intersections of rhetoric, race, and religion.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Institutions need to be Born Again (a theology of institutional inclusion)
I suppose it’s easier to focus on the “goodness” and “preservation” of institutions when they have historically been built for people who look a lot like you. For various reasons, my questions about institutions have mostly revolved around issues of inclusion and incorporation. How do I inhabit institutions that were never constructed with people like me in mind? What does it mean to honor a tradition and simultaneously work to extend it beyond itself?
There are times when I’m surprised by what I find inside of a theology book. Such was the case with Brian Bantum’s Redeeming Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity. Bantum’s work is a creative, interdisciplinary take on Christianity and questions of identity, drawing on literature, history, sociology, church history, and systematic theology. Ultimately, this book is about Christology and identity. Yet, tucked within the book’s chapter on baptism are claims that—in my opinion—have very direct and practical implications for Christian institutions.
“…in this baptismal moment there also lies the profound transformation of the community, for with every new member comes the possibility of transformation, change, and adaptation in its inclusion not only for the one welcomed, but for those who welcome. The body of Christ shifts and moves and learns new languages as it adds new members. Its body becomes new as the person becomes new. This transformation is not without shape or purpose. It is a body that recognizes it exists within that in which all difference is found. The church is that transgression of God’s mercy against humanity’s refusal and disobedience. It is God’s presence in the midst of humanity’s unfaithfulness. The church thus witnesses to the possibility of creation’s transformation in its own transformation and its own incorporation of difference within itself.” (159)