Okay, I’m an attorney and we love definitions! Have you ever heard the adage, “Wherever 2 or 3 attorneys are gathered, there will be 4 or 5 opinions?! It’s true, so let’s avoid that. Hence the title of this blog,

 

Defining our Times to Usher in the Reign of God
Good to have you here again! Thanks for returning because I know you are busy. Earlier in the week, I introduced myself and the first blog for www.politicaltheologymatters.com, why I am called to write it, and why we need it. We considered a way to define political theology because if we don’t have a working definition together, it is a lot harder to understand each other.

Political Theology can be defined as speaking faithfully in the public square about justice to as broad an audience as possible. Political theology is one example of practical theology—where theory/learning are combined with real-world action to cause genuine change in society, for the better, of course. So, I am a practical theologian working with a foot in academia and a foot in the real world to work for justice.

Then I alluded to “progressive Christianity” and promised to grapple with its meaning in the next blog. First, I want to be clear that this is my understanding of progressive Christianity. And secondly, like most progressives, we have vastly varied opinions on everything from soup to nuts. So, in order for us to understand each other better, or in church-speak, to sing off similar song sheets, it is important to be clear on my perspective, and to be clear on your perspective.

Five inter-related areas contribute to my definition of “progressive Christianity.” These are not exhaustive by any means, but together, they form a cohesive underpinning for future theological discussions. The bottom line is that progressive Christianity uses past and present context to accomplish compassion and inclusion. Pretty simple, really.

1) Biblical Context- We believe the Holy Bible is our sacred text, and we can best live a Holy life by understanding the context within which it was written, and then by describing our current context. The Bible is as relevant now as ever and has much wisdom to impart. However, to insist on a word for word adherence to ONE interpretation as all-powerful, is to lose the richness of the text and its ability to speak to us in various times and places. Words change. Metaphors expand or harden into meaninglessness. Cultural norms from the past do not usually jibe with present reality. For example, if I said to you that I was taking my notebook to class, it would mean different things in different times. The three-ring binder was invented in Germany in 1886. 

 

 

 

The Blue Book Exam notebook, bound more like a book, was introduced by Butler University in the 1920’s. Blue is a school color, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

 

 

The spiral notebook showed up around 1934.

 

 

 

But then in the 1990s, look out, things get tricky. Laptops or portable personal computers, were labelled as “Notebooks,” “Notepads,” and “Thinkpads.” We even have mini-notebooks in the form of Post-It Notes, or tiny sticky notes.

 

 

 

Now, there is a reusable notebook, like a Rocketbook. You can write in it with erasable markers, scan the page with your phone using Rocketbook’s app, and send it to pre-designated destinations like your cloud drive, email, Evernote, etc. Then, you erase the page to write for another day. I use one, and it is very cool. Plus, it’s spiral-bound on the side or the top, making it kinda retro! In the relatively short span of 133 years, our concept of a notebook changed significantly 5 times. Just think about how much and how frequently that words and phrases have changed across the 2000 years since the New Testament was written—and even longer for the Old Testament.

 

 

 

“Notebook” is just one example of a specific word whose contextual meaning changes or expands within a certain range of years. Context is broad, too. It includes vocabulary and developing new or different meanings of words, as well as behaviors, laws, morality, social communication, and on and on. Contextual understanding rests on many sources like the disciplines of liturgy, anthropology, sociology, and psychology, as well as from other literature from the same time. Historians, Christian and non-Christian alike, provided vital information to expand our understanding about the early church.

 

 

 

Without studying context and incorporating it into our interpretations of sacred text, we do a disservice to those who came before us, and to ourselves. There is real danger in destroying meaning when we allow warping or twisting words by swapping texts across historical periods. as if they are like apples to other apples; such texts are not interchangeable. They are like apples and oranges.

 

 

 

It’s true that apples and oranges are round fruits. But they have very different colors and textures. Apples do not have segments, and they are enveloped with a thin edible skin. Oranges are segmented and have thick rinds that are peeled before eating. And most obviously, they taste completely different. While they share some basic traits, they are still different.

 

 

 

Consequently, jamming one dated meaning into another historical period will cause inaccurate, if not dangerous interpretations, and these interpretations end up hurting people, often badly.

 

 

 

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said it best, “A text, without a context, is a pretext.”

 

 

 

2) Racism pervades all aspects of American society, especially as directed towards people of brown and black skin color. The US has an ugly and essentially unaddressed legacy of slavery. Through the slavery of African peoples, our earlier society developed a taste for and became very skilled at inflicting socioeconomic exploitation, and discriminatory systems onto nonwhite peoples: Africans, Latinx Americans, Native Americans, and Asians. Dehumanizing people became a self-perpetuating bad behavior. These groups suffered systematic exploitation and deprivation or civil rights for decades, if not centuries, and while we have made progress, those gains are in danger of being lost.

 

 

 

I will spend a lot more time on this topic because it is the basis for our current treatment of people from Central and Latin America. As long as Americans turn a blind eye to what our society does to people of color, we will not heal as a nation. For when one group or people suffers discrimination, we are all thus diminished.

 

 

 

3) Hetersosexim says Women and LGBTQ People are NOT Children of God. Progressive Christians Outrightly Reject this Ideology. We believe that each person is made in the image of God and that women, LBGTQ peoples are full members of the Body of Christ through Baptism, and are also imbued with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and are entitled to dignity, respect and full inclusion in the Body of Christ. In the tradition of the Torah of the Old Testament, foreigners, marginalized people, and the poor are all created equally in God’s eyes.

 

 

 

Logically, it flows that LGBTQ people are eligible for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony as determined by the diocesan pre-marital counseling requirements for all couples seeking marriage in the church.

 

 

 

4) Because Women and LGBTQ People are Children of God, We Ordination Them. Episcopalians/Anglicans believe that women and LGBTQ people are eligible for ordination in the diaconal, priestly and episcopal orders and to carry out the requirements of their respective order.
The Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford celebrating Easter Sunday Mass in Southwest Detroit.

 

 

 

5) Access to Safe Abortion. The Episcopal Church teaches that every abortion has an inherently tragic dimension, and I agree. However, the church has also unequivocally stated that women must have safe, medical procedures available to them as are necessary to ensure their health and safety.

 

 

 

6) Jesus was a Political Theologian, thus we are called to advocate for the marginalized in the public square. Moses got up in Pharaoh’s grill to free his people from the bonds of slavery at God’s behest and direction. Our call to work for justice is crystal clear in the Bible, and we will explore the call, how to determine necessary action, and then strategize about how to do it. We are the hands and feet of Christ, our great high priest and public theologian.

 

 

 

These beliefs and definitions help us to form a more just society. By operation of practicing greater compassion and offering radical hospitality, we include all of the human family as the beloved community. This is not easy work, especially if we take it on alone, but together, imbued with the Holy Spirit we will see justice prevail.

 

 

 

What would you like to discuss in the next blog?

 

 

 

Faithfully speaking, and until next time, Peace and blessings, Marcia+

 

 

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Okay, I’m an attorney and we love definitions! Have you ever heard the adage, “Wherever 2 or 3 attorneys are gathered, there will be 4 or 5 opinions?! It’s true, so let’s avoid that. Hence the title of this blog,

 

Defining our Times to Usher in the Reign of God
Good to have you here again! Thanks for returning because I know you are busy. Earlier in the week, I introduced myself and the first blog for www.politicaltheologymatters.com, why I am called to write it, and why we need it. We considered a way to define political theology because if we don’t have a working definition together, it is a lot harder to understand each other.

Political Theology can be defined as speaking faithfully in the public square about justice to as broad an audience as possible. Political theology is one example of practical theology—where theory/learning are combined with real-world action to cause genuine change in society, for the better, of course. So, I am a practical theologian working with a foot in academia and a foot in the real world to work for justice.

Then I alluded to “progressive Christianity” and promised to grapple with its meaning in the next blog. First, I want to be clear that this is my understanding of progressive Christianity. And secondly, like most progressives, we have vastly varied opinions on everything from soup to nuts. So, in order for us to understand each other better, or in church-speak, to sing off similar song sheets, it is important to be clear on my perspective, and to be clear on your perspective.

Five inter-related areas contribute to my definition of “progressive Christianity.” These are not exhaustive by any means, but together, they form a cohesive underpinning for future theological discussions. The bottom line is that progressive Christianity uses past and present context to accomplish compassion and inclusion. Pretty simple, really.

1) Biblical Context- We believe the Holy Bible is our sacred text, and we can best live a Holy life by understanding the context within which it was written, and then by describing our current context. The Bible is as relevant now as ever and has much wisdom to impart. However, to insist on a word for word adherence to ONE interpretation as all-powerful, is to lose the richness of the text and its ability to speak to us in various times and places. Words change. Metaphors expand or harden into meaninglessness. Cultural norms from the past do not usually jibe with present reality. For example, if I said to you that I was taking my notebook to class, it would mean different things in different times. The three-ring binder was invented in Germany in 1886. 

 

 

 

The Blue Book Exam notebook, bound more like a book, was introduced by Butler University in the 1920’s. Blue is a school color, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

 

 

The spiral notebook showed up around 1934.

 

 

 

But then in the 1990s, look out, things get tricky. Laptops or portable personal computers, were labelled as “Notebooks,” “Notepads,” and “Thinkpads.” We even have mini-notebooks in the form of Post-It Notes, or tiny sticky notes.

 

 

 

Now, there is a reusable notebook, like a Rocketbook. You can write in it with erasable markers, scan the page with your phone using Rocketbook’s app, and send it to pre-designated destinations like your cloud drive, email, Evernote, etc. Then, you erase the page to write for another day. I use one, and it is very cool. Plus, it’s spiral-bound on the side or the top, making it kinda retro! In the relatively short span of 133 years, our concept of a notebook changed significantly 5 times. Just think about how much and how frequently that words and phrases have changed across the 2000 years since the New Testament was written—and even longer for the Old Testament.

 

 

 

“Notebook” is just one example of a specific word whose contextual meaning changes or expands within a certain range of years. Context is broad, too. It includes vocabulary and developing new or different meanings of words, as well as behaviors, laws, morality, social communication, and on and on. Contextual understanding rests on many sources like the disciplines of liturgy, anthropology, sociology, and psychology, as well as from other literature from the same time. Historians, Christian and non-Christian alike, provided vital information to expand our understanding about the early church.

 

 

 

Without studying context and incorporating it into our interpretations of sacred text, we do a disservice to those who came before us, and to ourselves. There is real danger in destroying meaning when we allow warping or twisting words by swapping texts across historical periods. as if they are like apples to other apples; such texts are not interchangeable. They are like apples and oranges.

 

 

 

It’s true that apples and oranges are round fruits. But they have very different colors and textures. Apples do not have segments, and they are enveloped with a thin edible skin. Oranges are segmented and have thick rinds that are peeled before eating. And most obviously, they taste completely different. While they share some basic traits, they are still different.

 

 

 

Consequently, jamming one dated meaning into another historical period will cause inaccurate, if not dangerous interpretations, and these interpretations end up hurting people, often badly.

 

 

 

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said it best, “A text, without a context, is a pretext.”

 

 

 

2) Racism pervades all aspects of American society, especially as directed towards people of brown and black skin color. The US has an ugly and essentially unaddressed legacy of slavery. Through the slavery of African peoples, our earlier society developed a taste for and became very skilled at inflicting socioeconomic exploitation, and discriminatory systems onto nonwhite peoples: Africans, Latinx Americans, Native Americans, and Asians. Dehumanizing people became a self-perpetuating bad behavior. These groups suffered systematic exploitation and deprivation or civil rights for decades, if not centuries, and while we have made progress, those gains are in danger of being lost.

 

 

 

I will spend a lot more time on this topic because it is the basis for our current treatment of people from Central and Latin America. As long as Americans turn a blind eye to what our society does to people of color, we will not heal as a nation. For when one group or people suffers discrimination, we are all thus diminished.

 

 

 

3) Hetersosexim says Women and LGBTQ People are NOT Children of God. Progressive Christians Outrightly Reject this Ideology. We believe that each person is made in the image of God and that women, LBGTQ peoples are full members of the Body of Christ through Baptism, and are also imbued with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and are entitled to dignity, respect and full inclusion in the Body of Christ. In the tradition of the Torah of the Old Testament, foreigners, marginalized people, and the poor are all created equally in God’s eyes.

 

 

 

Logically, it flows that LGBTQ people are eligible for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony as determined by the diocesan pre-marital counseling requirements for all couples seeking marriage in the church.

 

 

 

4) Because Women and LGBTQ People are Children of God, We Ordination Them. Episcopalians/Anglicans believe that women and LGBTQ people are eligible for ordination in the diaconal, priestly and episcopal orders and to carry out the requirements of their respective order.
The Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford celebrating Easter Sunday Mass in Southwest Detroit.

 

 

 

5) Access to Safe Abortion. The Episcopal Church teaches that every abortion has an inherently tragic dimension, and I agree. However, the church has also unequivocally stated that women must have safe, medical procedures available to them as are necessary to ensure their health and safety.

 

 

 

6) Jesus was a Political Theologian, thus we are called to advocate for the marginalized in the public square. Moses got up in Pharaoh’s grill to free his people from the bonds of slavery at God’s behest and direction. Our call to work for justice is crystal clear in the Bible, and we will explore the call, how to determine necessary action, and then strategize about how to do it. We are the hands and feet of Christ, our great high priest and public theologian.

 

 

 

These beliefs and definitions help us to form a more just society. By operation of practicing greater compassion and offering radical hospitality, we include all of the human family as the beloved community. This is not easy work, especially if we take it on alone, but together, imbued with the Holy Spirit we will see justice prevail.

 

 

 

What would you like to discuss in the next blog?

 

 

 

Faithfully speaking, and until next time, Peace and blessings, Marcia+