I continue to get some feedback from my piece on mission at Anabaptist Witness. I would like to continue to clarify some things to the extent that it may be helpful for further conversation or understanding.
- The main point, and the only way my piece can make any sense, is that we live in the midst of forces or what I called logics that influence us regardless of personal intentions or even personal actions. This does not negate the role of actions and intentions it only reminds us that there is more going on than our personal and particular lives. I tried to illustrate this using biblical examples. The prophets could denounce Babylon and even Israel without qualifying that yes, ok, there are some good people doing some good things. The same is true for Jesus and Rome (or again his own religion) as well as Paul when he was trying to address the powers and principalities.In contemporary terms, as I mentioned in the original post, the logic of expressions like Indian Residential Schools in Canada or slavery in the United States are unjustifiable and to be denounced despite the fact that people have defended them or qualified them in terms of some good examples or expressions within those times.
This should really not be too hard to grasp and it leads to my second point . . .
- The issue of supremacy is not isolated to missions but is a deeper theological problem that I think the church has still yet to fully come to terms with. I am not against mission and for the church. In the last couple of years I have tried to draw attention to this element at work in Mennonite Church Canada’s Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process. While I support much of the work done there I am concerned that it expresses a level of supremacy that believes the church’s process can discern the faithfulness of others without giving them a formal voice to share their testimony. So I have come to see the specter of supremacy cast broadly over the theology and work of the church.
This leads to my third point . . .
- It can be hard to accept that our lives can be understood as supporting or at least complicit in an expression that has been and is harmful to others. We will likely take it personally and react defensively. This was the case when I had to come to terms with what I came to see as harmful elements in Christianity. This was hard for me to take when I recognized the harmful elements of sexism that I was formed by from my home community. Does this mean that every action by every person is somehow bad in these contexts? No. It does mean we need to nurture a commitment to persistent vigilance and attentiveness to how this logic still informs our thinking and action. I don’t know that we ever full arrive from this posture and here I agree with the BFC process when it states that discernment is always ongoing.
I understand that many of my recent public statement regarding the church have been critical. This comes largely as a result of feeling that I simply do not hear people drawing these things to public attention within the church. I am committed to my work in the church. These are not potshots taken by someone on the outside. These expressions come from a desire to form a message of good news but they are, hopefully, also informed by a desire to not be offended by the one who teaches me good news, the one who dismantles our logic and discards our superiority so that we could gain eyes to see and ears to hear salvation wherever it might be made known.