Archive for the ‘Liberation Theology’ Category

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 3 (Part I)


A couple of thoughts:

1) Boff and the Kingdom – Pessimistic Pannenberg chides Boff and liberation theology for believing that “church-incited revolutionary action can actualize the righteousness of God’s kingdom even in social practice” (55). Pannenberg believes that we must be mindful of the perversion of human nature, and the fact that God brings about God’s Kingdom. Of course, he declares that the church has no space to be silent in the face of injustice, but we can never “establish the full and final righteousness of the reign of God” (55). This strikes me as bizarre and naïve. Do liberation theologians really believe that they are somehow working independently of God to achieve their hope for justice and emancipation? Haven’t liberation theologians been much more “sober” in realizing just how sinful humans can be, especially systems of structural injustice?

2) Personal Jesus – Pannenberg criticizes, “individualistic Jesus-piety [that] passes too lightly and quickly over the fact that the work of Jesus including the forming of a band of disciples, the symbolical relating of the Twelve to the people of God and of common meals to the future fellowship of God’s Kingdom” (125). This pious Christianity fails to take seriously the importance of the church and the body of Christ, which demands a sharing and solidarity with fellow believers

3) Faith – Faith is historical knowledge plus trust (or perhaps what the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson termed ‘basic trust’). Faith can never be a content-less knowledge. To some extent, it is always based on our understanding of the history of Jesus of Nazareth (145). Our knowledge of God and Christ is always provisional (154). He believes that it is cowardly and pathetic for us to declare that, “the historical knowledge presupposed in Christian trust to be itself a matter of faith and in this way evading all criticism. If we do that, faith falls victim to the perversion of being its own basis and is robbed of any sense of having a ground in history preceding itself” (154). This is Pannenberg at his best, and something I appreciated throughout his dogmatics. Christian theology cannot immunize itself from external critique, lest it sequesters itself into the safe halls of the seminary burying its hand in the sand avoiding all conversations with other disciplines. Christian theology has to risk itself otherwise it quickly becomes meaningless ideology.


Cone on Liberals


“The liberal is one who sees “both sides” of the issue and shies away from “extremism” in any form. He wants to change the heart of the racist without ceasing to be his friend; he wants progress without conflict…Black people know who the enemy is, and they are forcing the liberal to take sides. But the liberal wants to be a friend, that is, enjoy the rights and and privileges pertaining to whiteness and also work for the “Negro”. He wants change without risk, victory without blood…His favorite question when backed against the wall is “What can I do?” One is tempted to reply, as Malcolm X did to the white girl who asked the same question, “Nothing.” What the liberal really means is, “What can I do and still receive the same privileges as other whites and – this is the key – be liked by the Negroes?” Indeed the only answer is “Nothing.” However, there are places in the Black Power picture for “radicals,” that is, for men, white or black, who are prepared to risk their life for freedom. There are places for the John Browns, men who hate evil and refuse to tolerate it anywhere” (James Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, P 27-28)

Gutiérrez Lecture – Archbishop Romero: A Witness of Faith


This is a really good lecture you can watch here. He has a nice discussion on happiness and the problem of suffering including this quote, “Jesus did not come to suffer, he came to preach the gospel.”

Bohache – Christology from the Margins


Bohache’s Christology from the Margins is an impressive work. It is divided into three parts: Traditional Christologies, Contextual Christologies, and Queering Christ. The first section is composed of three chapters, which focus on pre-Nicene Christology, the development of orthodox Christology (from Nicaea to 20th century modern theology) with a final section on historical Jesus studies. The first part will mostly be a review for students of theology. There is nothing especially new in Part I, although it serves as a nice introduction to orthodox Christology. Although the second part was simply a literature review of Christology from the perspective of liberation theology, I found this to be the most compelling section. Bohahce does fine job of summarizing the various contextual Christologies and presented them in a coherent manner. Chapter 4 focuses on Christology from the perspective of race and culture, with a primary emphasis on the discussion of black liberation theology (James Cone) and Asian liberation theology (CS Song). Next, he presents a discussion of Christology from Latin America (Segundo, Sobrino, Boff, etc). The sixth chapter presents Christology from the feminist perspective including a historical discussion about the rise of feminist theology. Again, the coverage is quite comprehensive, discussing everyone from Daly to Brock to Johnson. The final chapter of Part II focuses on Christology from women of color. He discusses the various Christological proposals from womanist theology along with a brief review of Christology from a mujerista perspective.

Part III is the heart of the work. Bohache spends the first chapter discussing not only the homophobia of Christians, but also the Christophobia of homosexuals. He remarks that many homosexuals have given up on Jesus Christ considering that he has been a source of terror in their lives. Chapter 9 focuses on “queer” as a social location along with a review of the gay and liberation theology. Although Bohache appreciates the work of Comstock and Clark, he criticizes them their anti-Christology. These gay theologians have discouraged an engagement with the person of Christ because of the damage Christ has had on queer communities. He is more receptive of the work of Robert Goss who famously published his queer theology in his famous Jesus ACTED UP. Bohache is encouraged by Goss’s work with his more positive focus on Jesus, especially his focus on the Reign of God. However, Bohache believes he does not properly develop a comprehensive Christology since his primary interest is to create a political queer liberation theology.

In the final two chapters Bohache develops his own queer Christology. He is unconcerned with question about Jesus’ own sexual activity and more interested in developing a queer Christ who “stir[s] things up and even perhaps spoils them, in order not to settle for the easy answers of the status quo. The queer Christ articulates a solidarity with the ‘fags’, ‘bitches’, and ‘niggers’ of his day and our day” (213). This chapter reviews four types of queer Christologies: 1) an anti-Christology, 2) a Christology of queer embodiment, 3) a radical Christology, and 4) a mystical Christology. I’ve already discussed the first type of queer Christology, and next he focuses on the body theology of Isherwood as representative of a queer incarnation Christology. He next reviews the radical Christology of Goss and Althaus-Reid. Bohache is quite critical of Althaus-Reid believing her Christology remains quite vague and cryptic. It appears that Bohache does not see the value of Althaus-Reid’s project of perverting and ‘indecenting’ theology “unless something constructive results” (223). Bohache claims that his discomfort with Althaus-Reid’s Bi/Christology does not result from being prudish but rather a desire to say something constructive for queer Christians in the church. Althaus-Reid is post-Christian in many respects, and unlike Bohache, does not give a damn about the institutional church. Hence, it is no surprise given Bohache has spent the majority of his career pasturing a queer-affirming church in New Jersey. Ultimately, Bohache charges Althaus-Reid for displaying the Christophobia and anti-Christology he finds to be common in early gay and lesbian theologies from the 80s.

In the final chapter Bohache develops his own Christology grounded in his reading of the Gospel of Matthew. Although he recognizes many liberation theologians (especially from Latin America) have used Luke to argue for God’s preferential option for the poor, Bohache prefers to focus on the notion of inclusion and welcoming of queer individuals in the Matthew’s Gospel. Bohache believes that “this Christ presence dwells in all people, that is innate to our being and our consciousness” (235). From his perspective, we are all on a journey to cosmic Christness. Bohache’s Christology is a queer appropriation of Schleiermacher’s idea of Christ’s perfect God-consciousness. Unlike Althaus-Reid who criticizes the annunciation (as rape of the Virgin Mary), Bohache elevates it to great significance for queer Christology. Bohache wants to emphasize the central affirmation he finds in the annunciation, namely, that God calls us to do great things. He then takes the reader through a queer journey through the Gospel of Matthew. He argues that baptism can signal the coming out process for queer individuals. Perhaps the most interesting move is to read the passion, death, and resurrection through the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who “was beaten, tied to a fence and abandoned to die alone in the wilderness” (254). Bohache writes “I believe that Matthew Shepard is the most famous example of the crucifixions of gays and lesbians that have occurred for generations. His humiliation and suffering were meant, like the scarecrow, as a warning for queers and to ‘keep away’ from ‘decent’ people, and, like ancient crucifixions, as an example to queers of what might happen if they ‘flaunt’ themselves on heteropatriarchal territory” (254). Resurrection is queer because God stirred the pot by raising from the dead a political criminal. A queer resurrection would be God’s absolute NO to homophobia and heterosexism.

At end of the work Bohache writes “I have intentionally sought not to shock, although I may have inadvertently done so, for it has been my intent in creating this Christology to appeal to the so-called ‘middle-of-the-road’ gays and lesbians as well as the ‘cutting-edge’ queers” (261). In Elizabeth Stuart’s work Gay & Lesbian Theologies she notes that queer theology has tended to either borrow heavily from the methodology of liberal theology or liberation theology. I think here we see the tension in Bohache’s work. There’s a sense in which his queer theology is apologetic hoping to not offend liberal Christians. However, by trying to walk the fine line, I worry Bohache’s work ultimately suffers by trying so hard not to offend. His constructive chapter on Christology does not offer anything particularly new, and I suspect most liberal theologians would find nothing offensive or queer, despite his best intentions. I’d recommend Bohache’s work for the great literature review on the liberation theology’s Christology, but I worry his desire to appeal to his less radical queer Christians ultimately removed the offense of the gospel.

Three Book Reviews of Liberation Theology


Last week I continued my project of reading works of liberation and feminist theology. I began by reading Mercy Amba Oduyoye’s Introducing African Women’s Theology. It is a short work of African feminist theology that goes through major doctrines: Christology, anthropology, ecclesiology, hospitality/spirituality, and eschatology. I was especially interested in the chapters on Christology and hospitality. Oduoyoye discusses the preferred Christology of African feminist theology: the Victorious Christ. She argues that African feminist theologians prefer to focus on a Christology from below as opposed to the high metaphysical Christological debates on the nature of Christ. She insists, much like St. Clair (whose book I will be reviewing later), that African women can endorse a Christ who suffers, but only a Christ who suffers voluntarily (55). Another interesting aspect of this book was her discussion of hospitality. She discusses the importance of the ethics of hospitality in African culture and the perils that lie within. Oduyoye notes that hospitality makes one vulnerable. Also welcoming the other is a theological responsibility since “all guests are sacred” (98). Moreover she writes, “the great hospitality that moves from charity to justice and solidarity and results in a just development and a world inhabitable by all” (98).

I also read Ogbonnaya’s On Communiatrian Divinity: An African Interpretation of the Trinity. In my opinion, this book was a bit disjointed. Also, it suffered from an inordinate amount of grammatical and spelling errors. The basic argument is that African religion offers us a different view of God as community. In fact he suggests that African theology is best captured by the idea of communotheism, where the different God all shares in the same divine substance. In the final two chapters he discusses Tertullian’s doctrine of God, which Ogbonnaya believes needs to be grounded in his African context. He argues that Tertullian’s subordinationsim is not ontological, but rather temporal and functional. I did not really buy this argument, as he seemed to go to great lengths to clear Tertullian’s name of any hint of subordinationsim. I found the beginning part of the book more interesting, especially his rejection of African religion being described by monotheistic or polytheistic.

My favorite work was Racquel A. St. Clair’s Call and Consequence: A Womanist Reading of Mark. St. Clair’s work includes an excellent and detailed exegesis of the gospel of Mark. She is attempting to bridge the gap between womanist theology and womanist biblical studies. Although she in agreement with other womanist theologians that African American women have too many crosses to bear, she rejects the view of Jesus as a co-sufferer. However, she does not want to abandon the cross like Delores Williams who believes that the cross has been used to a symbol of abuse that encourages African American women to accept “shame, suffering, and surrogacy”. She spends the majority of the book exegeting Mark 8:31-38. Specifically, she wants to argue against any notion that God willed Jesus’ suffering must be rejected. She argues that we ought to read Mark 8:31: “the Son of Man must suffer many things” not as divinely willed, but rather as an inevitability given his ministry is one that conflicts with political and religious leaders of the time. The scholarship can be dense, but ultimately I believe her interpretation is correct and well argued. Disciples of Jesus will experience pain because of the difficulties that arises when one opposes oppression. I’ll let St. Clair have the last word: “domestic violence and domestic jobs; dropouts and drive-bys; the corporate glass ceiling and election vote stealing; high incarceration but low graduation rates; inadequate healthcare and inferior housing; stereotypes that depict us as caricatures rather than complete persons. These are not crosses for us to bear. They are challenges that we must overcome. And the call, the challenge, is not suffering with Jesus; it is ministering like Jesus” (167).

Isasi-Diaz’s Mujerista Thelogy


I just finished Isasi-Diaz’s work of liberation theology from a Latina perspective. I found the text to be fairly solid, and I wanted to highlight some important ideas I learned from her work.

First, in her work she refers to the Kingdom of God as the Kin-dom of God. She makes this move for two reasons:

A) Kin-dom doesn’t imply the patriarchy inherent in kingdoms
B) She doesn’t believe that emphasizing the reign of God gets us out of the problem because it still implies an order that is hierarchical and elitist.

She believes an emphasis on the Kin-dom obviates these issues by stressing the daily reality of us as equal brothers and sisters in Christ. This certainly aligns with Jesus’ pronouncement in John’s Gospel that his disciples are now his friends.

Second, I really appreciated her usage of the term la lucha (the struggle) for a constructive mujerista anthropology. This emphasis on la lucha resits the temptation to “encourage a certain masochism” (132). She writes that she found Latinas ability to “deal with suffering without being determined by it” (129), encourages Latinas to resist the church’s abusive and harmful glorification of suffering. Finally, she argues that she cannot worship a God who condemns Jesus of Nazareth to suffer.

Finally, regarding mujerista hermeneutics Isasi-Diaz writes:

“For Hispanic women the palabra de Dios is not necessarily what is written in the Bible, but refers to the unflinching belief that God is with us in our daily struggles” (158).

Also, she argues that “Hispanic women’s experience and struggle for survival, not the Bible, are the source of our theology and the starting point for how we should interpret, appropriate, and use the Bible” (149).

Both of these points remind me of Cone’s argument in his early works that a God who is not completely in solidarity with the needs of the black community ought to be killed. Many white Christians often find this to be very selective and convenient approach to the Bible. We white Christians read the Bible for what it is without misconstruing it for our own ideological needs. But doesn’t the fact that so many Christians live in the world without being challenged by the demands of Christian discipleship, in fact, suggest that we too want a God that is absolutely identified with the needs of white middle-class Americans. At this point, some might say: both communities use religion for ideological purposes so how can we say which group’s hermeneutical approach is right. The obvious problem with this idea is that the God of covenant with Israel and Jesus of Nazareth was unequivocally on the side of the disempowered, the despised. So African American and mujerista theologians are completely in the right to argue that they ought to ignore or even slay a God who has not given herself to be in absolute solidarity with these respective communities.

Reflections on CD IV/2


In $64, The Exaltation of the Son of Man, Barth writes:

“Throughout the New Testament the kingdom of God, the Gospel and the man Jesus have a remarkable affinity, which is no mere egalitarianism, to all those who are in the shadows as afar as concerns what men estimate to be fortune and possessions and success and even fellowship with God. Why is this the case?…But one reason is the distinctive solidarity of the man Jesus with the God who in the eyes of the world – and not merely the ordinary world, but the moral and spiritual as well – is also poor in this way, existing not only in fact and practice but even in theory, somewhere on the margins in its scales of values, at an unimportant level, as the mere content of a limiting concept. In fellowship and conformity with this God who is poor in the world the royal man Jesus is also poor, and fulfils the transvaluation of all values, acknowledging those who (without necessarily being better) are in different ways poor men as this world counts poverty” (CD IV/2, 169).

This quote confused me. Barth appears to be suggesting that the reason Christ cares for the “least of these” is because God is dead. Basically, God has been divested of his importance and now exists on the limits of society as a “God of the gaps”, as an afterthought. God now longer occupies the center of our imagination, and now God is simply a poor forgotten sap. This has to be the fourth or fifth time I’ve been reading Barth discussing Jesus’ ministry to the oppressed (which as he points out is central to Luke and James in the Greek Bible), but the conclusions he draws from this fact are always odd. Before he’s said this Jesus takes care of the poor to remind us how depraved and lowly we are in the sight of God. Now, he appears to be suggesting that since God is neglected (in thought and deed) She has many things in common with the poor (namely society’s indifference to the poor’s plight). While this is somewhat interesting, would it be too much to ask of Barth go ahead and affirm God’s obvious preferential option for the poor that is manifest in both the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Bible?

“What we have said finds its true climax and glory in the fact that – however hard this may sounds – He finally hung on the gallows as a criminal between two other criminals, and died there, with that last despairing question on His lips, as One who was condemned and maltreated and scorned by men and abandoned by God…And in the passion He exists exclusively as the One He is – the Son of God who is also the Son of Man. In the deepest darkness of Golgotha He enters supremely into the glory of the unity of the Son with the Father. In that abandonment by God He is the One who is directly loved by God. This is the secret that we have to see and understand. And it is not a new and specific secret. It is the secret of the whole. Nor is it a closed secret. It is a secret which has been revealed in the resurrection of Jesus” (CD IV/2, 252).

This really captures the entirety of CD IV/1 and CD IV/2. The despised One was condemned and abandoned. The Son of God was humiliated and condescended so that we might be free. What I found most striking was Barth’s suggestion that the resurrection suggests that Jesus’ abandonment on the cross is actually a time of supreme unity with the Father.

“What we have called the way of the Son of God into a far country and the homecoming of the Son of Man, and what older dogmatics called the exinatio and exaltatio of Jesus Christ, are one and the same event at the cross. The humility and obedience of the Son of God, and the corresponding majesty of the Son of Man, coincide as they are represented in the event of Gethsemane and Golgotha. The Word was really made flesh. It was really God who really reconciled the world to Himself – in the One who was the true God, omnipotent in the depth of His mercy, and also (in His death and passion) true man, allowing free rein to this omnipotent mercy of God. There is involved both the depth to which God gave Himself for us in His own Son, and the majesty to which He exalted us in the same Son who also became man as we are” (CD IV/2, 292-3).

Here again the dialectic between the humility and obedience of the Son of God with the simultaneous exaltation of the Son of Man are held tightly together. The power of this formulation is the way in which Barth is able to allow reprobation to be wholly located in the condescension of the Son of God. The good news is that the exaltation of this Jesus of Nazareth is also our own glorification as we participate in his life.

Two Books Reviews of Queer Theology


Stuart’s Gay and Lesbian Theologies does a nice of job of mapping out the field of gay, lesbian, and queer theology. Using the schematization of Rieger she breaks up 20th century theology into four separate movements: liberal theology, neo-orthodoxy, liberation theology, and postmodern theology. While the layout is somewhat helpful, I can’t help but thinking that grouping post-liberal theology, radical orthodoxy, and deconstructive theology (e.g. Mark C Taylor’s a/theology) all under the rubric of postmodern theology is a tad forced and clumsy. Those three separate theological movements hardly share anything in common. Stuart argues that gay and lesbian theologies have either relied on the methodology of liberal theology or liberation theology. She critiques certain gay theologians who have relied on liberal theology for failing to embrace the critiques of gender essentialism and identity by Foucault and Butler. Halfway through the book she declares that gay and lesbian theologies have failed because they did not have the adequate theological means to respond the question of theodicy, a question raised in those communities by the AIDS crisis. In turn, she offers reflections on recent works of queer theology including the indecent theology of Althaus-Reid along with the queer theology of Goss. Ultimately, I’d recommend Stuart’s work for clearly laying out the history of queer theology, although I didn’t find her proposals (e.g. emphasizing the importance of baptism for queer identity) to be all that compelling.

This leads me the offer some reflections on Goss’s seminal work Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto. First off, the book is written in a sprit of prophetic anger. Goss opens up his book using Foucault’s work in the History of Sexuality Vol I to discuss the emergency of the category of the ‘homosexual’ in public discourse along with the medicalization of homosexuality in psychiatry. Next he discusses the history of gay and lesbian rights along with the homophobia of American politics and churches. Goss focuses especially on the AIDS crisis and the willful neglect of the government to adequately address the pandemic. Religiously he takes aim at the Religious Right and the Catholic Church for the vitriol and lies they have propagated about homosexuals. In chapter 3 Goss explores the possibility of the queer Christ as liberator. He critiques typical Christology for de-politicizing Jesus’ ministry along with Christian theology for importing Hellenic metaphysics into Christian theology. The active God of justice and love in the Bible was soon distorted into the apathetic and unchanging God of Greek metaphysics according to Goss. Perhaps my favorite part of this book was his discussion of Jesus’ basileia practice. He does a superb job of situating Jesus’ ministry as one wholly focused on the liberation of the oppressed in accordance with God’s imminent reign. At the end of the chapter he re-thinks the possibility of seeing Christ as queer-bashed.

“The cross has terrorized gay men and lesbians. It has become a symbol of lethal sexual oppression, but Jesus’ death shapes the cross into a symbol of struggle for queer liberation” (Goss, Jesus Acted Up, 83).

“Jesus the Christ is “queer-based”…Jesus the queer Christ is crucified repeatedly by homophobic violence. The aim of God’s practice of solidarity and justice-doing and our own queer Christian practice is to bring and end to the crucifixions in this world” (85).

The next two chapters discuss hermeneutics and the queer base communities and its relation to ecclesiology. In the last major chapter on sexual justice Goss makes use of Jesus’ clearing of the Temple as a model for queer Christians to emulate in their political actions towards American churches. Here the reader experiences the urgency and sincerity of Goss’s call for a liberating queer political praxis. Goss calls for gays and lesbians to rid American churches of the homophobia that have poisoned and corrupted the gospel. One of the major strengths of this work is Goss’s critique of gay and lesbian communities. He criticizes the misogyny of many gay men and the separatism of lesbians. He also implores gays and lesbians to become more aware of the other struggles for racial equality, economic distribution, and ecological issues. While some critique liberation theologians for failing to acknowledge the sin of the oppressed, Goss takes dead aim at the problems inherent to the gay and lesbian community.

There are two major weaknesses of this work. First, I felt that his unilateral rejection of the tradition for being too enslaved to Greek philosophy is a bit simplistic. Certainly there are queer elements to be found there along with a reading of the atonement theory that might in fact be of political use to Goss’s queer theology. Secondly, his section on queer hermeneutics was weak. He challenges the supposed ‘texts of terror’ that supposedly condemn homosexuality. He bulldozes over these facile interpretations, but then he fails to search for homoerotic affirming material in the Bible.

Reflecting back on Goss’s Jesus Acted Up (which I’d strongly recommend), I began thinking about how it differed from Althaus-Reid’s indecent theology. Whereas Goss’s queer theology primarily criticizes the American church and homophobic theology at large, Althaus-Reid explicitly critiques the heterosexist theology of liberation theology. Goss remains confident that Jesus’ basileia practice is an inspiring political paradigm, but Althaus-Reid is more suspect. Goss was content to contexualize the queer Christ whereas Althaus-Reid wanted to genderfuck the Godhead.

Finally, after reading Goss’s book I can’t help but wondering how people sympathetic to liberation theology are often reticent to discuss the importance of incorporating gays and lesbians in the fight against oppression. They somehow find comfort talking about Jesus’ siding with the oppressed and prostitutes but God forbid that include gays or lesbians.

With regards to queer theology I wish there was more coming out (no pun intended) these days. Althaus-Reid’s untimely, premature death was certainly a tragedy for the field. I think there’s a lot of interesting work being done in queer Biblical studies. Next year I’m going to be doing some readings in Christology including one book by Bohache called Christology from the Margins, which is supposed to be a solid work on queer Christology. Anyway now I return to Barth’s Dogmatics which I’ve been neglecting for quite some time.

Kenosis in Althaus-Reid’s Queer God


“It is worth thinking that the act of kenosis of God in Jesus (that self-emptiness of God’s power, amongst other divine attributes, in order to become human) needs to go beyond the God-Father in Jesus in order to become a vulnerable, unpowerful God figure. The feminist discourse on the positive theology which may surge from the vulnerability of God in Jesus needs not to be denied but transgressed…Let us consider that somehow in Jesus God loses Godself, and perhaps some elements of patriarchy go into a process of abasement giving space to a different, out-of-this (patriarchal)-order new God/man…In Liberation Theologies, it has been accepted that little can be known of God, except in what is perceived as the revelation of God in history. However, the point that has been missed is that such revelations of God in history is also a revelation made through the history of human relationships, and intimate relations” (37-8).

One of the primary moves of Queer theology is that of transgression (unsurprisingly Bataille exerts a great influence in this work). From her queering of God qua kenosis to the queer hermeneutics employed through the latter part of the book, Althaus-Reid remains resolute in her challenging the foundations of a heterosexual T-Theology (as she refers to orthodox theology throughout the book). There’s a strong focus to think an absolute transfiguration of the patriarchal Godhead into a Queer Godhead. This queer assault on the Godhead should remind my readers of Altizer’s apocalyptic theology that traces the absolute transformation of the Godhead from a No-saying Alien God to a fully incarnate, immanent Yes-saying God (recall Joyce’s Here Comes Everybody). At the end of this passage we begin to understand a major emphasis of this book, namely that knowledge of God’s revelation also arises through the queerness and messiness of human bodily interactions.

“Some gender-based theologies fall especially into that trap: they end reconciling themselves with androcentrism by getting reabsorbed into the system via heterosexual ideas of equality…It is not enough to open, for instance, a theological reflection on masturbation, using masturbation as the motive of an ecclesiastical or eschatological concern (are masturbators going to be amongst the elect?), but rather to think that Christian eschatology from an epistemology derived from masturbation. That would be part of the project of reflecting on the production of God, not just God’s edibility as in the case of a theology done only for consumption purposes” (51).

Again one can see Althaus-Reid’s emphasis on transgression in this passage. A queer theology is not simply a call for recognition ‘there is no gay or straight in Christ Jesus’ but rather an attempt to question the very method through which traditional theology is done. Another example of this method is evident in her queering of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many liberal theologians like to point out that the sin of the Sodomites was the lack of hospitality they extended to Lot’s angelic visitors. Althaus-Reid doesn’t believe this goes far enough for a proper queering of the text. Althaus-Reid accuses the messengers of God of being inhospitable for policing sexuality of the Other and accuses Lot’s God of being inhospitable and intolerant of the Other’s sexual ethic.

“What is as the stake here is not just God devolving itself in Christ but in the Trinity, and in the Trinity understood as an orgy, that is, a festival of the encounter of the intemperate in two key elements. The first is the theological presupposition of God as an immoderate, polyamorous God, whose self is composed in relation to multiple embraces and sexual indefinitions beyond oneness, and beyond dual models of loving relationships. The second is the commitment of an omnisexual kenosis to destabilise sexual constructions of heterosexual readings of heterosexuality itself, bisexuality, gay and lesbian sexual identities and transvestite identities. The kenosis of omnisexuality in god is a truly genderfucking process worth of being explored” (57).

The kenosis and queering of God are necessary from Althaus-Reid’s perspective if theology is to escape the narrow confines of a sexist theology. God thought outside of the restrictions of a mono-loving economy can truly open up a Godhead that can open itself to a good old-fashioned genderfucking process.

“That is to say, the Trinitarian formula expresses the material reality of the intimate reunion where God is not expected to coincide with Godself. In a time when theology has become preoccupied with issues of diversity and plurality in its discourse, as opposed to the more essentialist assumptions about the so called ‘nature’ of humanity…One can briefly mention here the Feminist theological project in its original enquiry into Christ’s masculinity, the quest for the Black Christ, the Gay Christ and more recently the reflections done by theologians seeking the face of a post-colonial Christ. However, although the theological subject has been and still is queried and rightly destabilised from a prefixed Christian horizon, there have been few if any theological attempts to destabilise God, that is the other partner of the theological dialogical process” (54).

I think this quote captures the boldness of Althaus-Reid’s theological project. While other liberation theologies have contented themselves with contextualizing Christ, none have had the courage to try and rethink the queering of God the Father. Unfortunately, I believe this text suffers from some particular problems. First off, the arguments themselves are often obscure and difficult to follow. She’ll mention Deleuze or Bataille in passing without properly explaining her appropriation of their thought. Even though I’ve studied a good amount of Deleuze I still found myself lost in this dense book. Secondly, unlike her earlier book Indecent Theology which was full of life and humor, this text seemed strangely divorced from life and at times clumsy. The theological vision of this book is to be commended, but the execution was at some points poor.

Althaus-Reid’s Indecent Theology Part II


On Mary

“For me, if the Virgin Mary had paws instead of hands and her vagina was in her ear, thus making it easier for the Word of God, the Logos, to ‘say its Word’ and penetrate her, it would not make any theological difference. Mary is in the realm of the fantastic and phantasmagorical. Used to rape and incest in their poor overcrowded conditions of living, Latin American women are not necessarily the ones to question why a young woman needs to fulfil a vocation of accommodating God’s desire when God pleases” (39).

“Their bodies can tell stories of what happened to them as children, in their one-roomed, tin-covered huts or under the bridge of the city, stories of having been sexually molested by fathers or brothers or occasional visitors, episodes which happened in the same room where the statue of the Virgin Mary stood, beside the TV and some plastic flowers…Indecenting Mary: her virginity is the first thing that must go because poor women are seldom virgins. Theological virginity must go because it encourages hegemonic memories, false memories to be shared in the false environment of heterosexuality, while the real skeletons in the cupboard are excluded from our sharing and learning as mature people in the community” (75).

I was reminded of the tragically comic idea of converts becoming re-virginized after coming to Christianity. Of course this is usually an idea imposed on women not men. We never stop to consider how abusive this idea is especially since it is a blatant attempt to suppress the actuality of the sexual act. The amount of men and women who are sexually abused is staggering, and the church needs to seriously re-consider the appropriateness of extolling such a damaging and dangerous ideal.

On Christ the Prostitute and the Coming-Out Process as Resurrection

“I have said elsewhere that I can see Christ as a poor prostitute…People who cannot see Jesus as a prostitute refuse to consider seriously the web of sex and oppression which exists in our societies. Technically, there is no difference between seeing Christ as say, a poor miner covered in sweat and broken down by tiredness…and a young girl kept against her will in a sauna…Yet Christ embraces sexual oppression but also intimacy and good love. This Christ gives us food for thought if we consider resurrection as a coming out experience. Christ comes back to life because he loved life. A person comes out as a human being, because that person loves life so much that she has decided to come from structures of death and oppression…Christ’s resurrected presence can only be seen then as a craving, an enthusiastic passion for life and justice, in the diversity and unfenced identity which is searching for that land called Basileia by European theologians and ‘the project of liberation of the Kingdom’ by Latin Americans, in which we are called to be co-workers. We join then Christ’s resurrection with our own coming out for the obscene Christ in a per/verted Christology which reminds us of the ethical need for resurrection” (122-3).

It was Segundo who reflected on people as the crucified people. This has always been such a compelling image, but I never stopped to consider the sexual assumptions of such a theological notion. It is so much more difficult for theology to think of Christ as a prostitute. Also the idea of coming-out process as resurrection is quite powerful. For one the coming-out process is on going. People often have this quaint idea that a person comes out in the middle of town square, announcing it to everyone all at once. This is far from realistic – then again perhaps Twitter could serve such a function – as the closeted person is constantly coming out multiple times to different people. Of course the resurrection can never be separated from the crucifixion, which would analogously be the sexual oppression of queer identities. Many were complicit in the death of Christ, and many likewise refused to acknowledge the resurrected Christ. Analogously, many are responsible for the sexual oppression of marginalized sexual identities, and many likewise refuse to acknowledge and embrace the life and love of the queer person who refuses to remain dead and says Yes to life.