What is theology if not the study of the interaction between God (of some sort) and creation (however one defines that)? So why does the word “theology” seem so intimidating? Why do I tend to think of white male professors with scarves around their necks and glasses and stubbish beards… Wait. That’s me! Okay, but why do I – and probably most of us – have this unending feeling that theology is best left to tenured professors at Divinity Schools and that it’s this abstract, conceptual thing?
God, according to the popular notion of theology within Evangelical circles, is above and beyond us. Thus, according to the Barthians and much evangelicalism as preached, theology largely refines this idea. Y’know, cuz God doesn’t change and since God is removed from time, so is our need to reevaluate theology. Besides, most Christians only need to know a few things about God – and they start with the letters T.U.L.I. and P.
But I don’t follow that as a believer in an incarnational God who enfleshed as an oppressed man and died a rebel’s death. I believe that Jesus was murdered for trying to institute an alternative-Empire within an evil empire (Rome’s) and how that was upsetting to the Powers that Be, whether they be governors or religious/social leaders of his town.
So I don’t see God as static. No, that would mean that God is okay with oppression. And that is not how Jesus appears in the Gospels.
Now, I’m not doing anything new here. I’m not saying things that James Cone, Gustavo Gutierrez and a host of other Liberation Theologians haven’t already said better and more in-depth than I am. Yet, I also see myself as a theologian. And I think that anyone who tries to live as a person of faith should see themselves as one as well.
Because theology isn’t separate from the body. It’s not separate from the person or from our experiences. It’s not separate from our world or our policies or our politics (though it SHOULD constantly critique the political structures. Yet for many, it’s almost entirely used to buffer a particular political party). It’s not any of these things because our scriptures and holy texts never were separate from their historical settings and we – as people of faith – cannot neither be.
And while I think there is (or just may be) a necessary place for theology to be at a disconnect from everyday reality and struggle, I believe the best theology is met out in the fields, in the workplaces, in the crossbows of the Empire. I believe the best theology is revealed in praxis – where we practice and dwell and consider and practice and get feedback and dwell and consider and analyze and implement.
And I believe the best theologians are those who theologize in the praxis. For Christians, the best theologians do not ignore but face the suffering. We stand in solidarity with a world full of suffering due to empire-building, capitalism, colonialism, racism, misogyny, tribalism – much of this inspired and codified by our very own religions.
The best theologians learn how to practice their theology in and for creation and stand with a God who stands on the side of the oppressed.