I started this blog to encourage people to think, hopefully in dialogue with me and others in their circles of encounter, about what’s happening in the world as it pertains to justice, nonviolent resistance to injustice, and ethical reflection “outside the box.” I go out on a limb to provide space for all of us to “grapple for meaning.” Most definitely, I have theological beliefs and ethical convictions, but I am not writing to impose those as “the” best way to think and be and do as persons of faith, moral agents and social activists.
Last week I posed a series of questions for me and readers to use in reflecting upon the election results. The three questions with their biblical reference points were these: (1) Which time is it? (Eccl. 3); (2) Isn’t God still creating? (Gen. 2: 1-4); (3) How shall I lean into today’s trouble? (Matt. 6: 25-34)
I posted the blog last week as part of a search for perspectives from which to engage with the myriad of post-election feelings and analyses. In the meantime, as a member of an editorial board for an online theological journal, I engaged with board members about doing a special election issue. Hoping for a quicker than usual turn-around, I proposed that we invite blog-like entries from a variety of voices in our campus community with an editorial introduction about listening for and hearing diverse interpretations in response to the election. Additionally, I proposed that the usual educational resource at the end of each journal be comprised of links to select non-theological voices who are at the center of much of the current public discourse. I admitted to the others that I knew that I was asking us to do this issue outside the box, suspending the usual format and rules for the journal.
When an invitation was finally sent to the faculty only, they were invited to write a 1000-word essay that (1) set the issue in a larger sociocultural or politico-ecclesial frame and (2) offers a theological vision for our time. The general editor admonished the faculty to offer “distinguishable” voices from the best writers of, for example, The Atlantic. The additional caveats to reinforce this admonition were that our audience is laity of the church and they need more than to hear us cathartically releasing or mimicking voices from other settings.
Well, I suppose this blog post is out on the limb of cathartic release. As I engaged as the only person of color on the editorial board, I realized how often I push down that which needs to be released as I participate in the historically, predominantly white theological institution where I have been answering my call to educational ministry for the last 25 years. Yes, I am outspoken about what I see as injustice on the campus—among students, faculty, and administration. Yet, what they hear from me emerges through a prayerful, measured intonation of my voice that I hope that they will be able to hear. Yet, still . . .
So, after hearing no direct response to my suggestions for the issue but receiving along with the rest of the faculty the general editor’s invitation, I decided that I would not contribute an essay to the journal’s issue on the election. I have even decided to resign from the editorial board.
Why? Not because my idea had to be implemented, but because I needed to be at least heard and acknowledged through dialogue about the idea. The churches and theological educational institutions of the churches are far too often microcosms of the larger society’s exclusivism in all of its various guises. Progressive white liberals inside and outside of the church still seem to be functioning as gate-keepers whose function it is to ensure that the “right” ideas get out. When will progressive white liberals affirm and engage in authentic democratic dialogue?
So, I invite you to offer comments of cathartic release here out on this limb.
What time is it? A simple question when asked during the day. A not so simple question when asked at this moment following this election.
What time is it? At this moment, do I turn to Ecclesiastes 3? Or, might I turn to Genesis 1? Or, what about Matthew 6?
When I turn to Ecclesiastes 3, I am not sure what I want to make of the opening line: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” That opening line introduces a parallelism of times: “a time to break down, a time to build up;” “a time to seek, a time to lose;” “a time to keep silence, a time to speak;” “a time to love, a time to hate;” and “a time for war, a time for peace.” These are a few of the times that are poignant for me right now. Which time is it?
When I turn to Genesis 1, I am reassured by the activity of God to create a universe that includes human beings as one aspect of God’s Creation that is declared good. Thus, I hold this present moment in time in the moments of God’s creating, and I take the seventh day Sabbath pause of Genesis 2:1-4, suspended in the divine moment of God’s rest from the labor of Creation. Isn’t God still creating?
When I turn to Matthew 6, I am drawn to verses 7-14 where the Lord’s prayer is offered as the section concludes with the admonition to forgive others their trespasses. Likewise, verses 25-34 remind me to release anxiety about what is and is to come: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” How shall I lean into today’s trouble?
As a person of faith, as a preacher of the Gospel, as a theological educator, as an African American, as a Womanist ethicist, I want to offer some Word, some thought, some ethical insight that can help us to live into this present moment with moral courage. But, I offer only this: We need one another to live into this moment with moral courage. With whom are you in solidarity for answering the call to choose a time that is most likely to engender a just peace? Who are your creative partners for doing the difficult work of re-creating of racial/ethnic, sexual/gender, and economic justice that lies ahead? Are you ready to acknowledge today’s trouble daily and work to transform that trouble from sun up to sun down?
What time is it?
Womanist ethicist grappling with questions about religion, justice and peace in our time.