Missional theology in North America has a rich and complex history of addressing both historical and contextual ecclesiological issues in a globalized world. The present essay contends that elements within postcolonial theory and theology contribute to the working definitions of the “historical” and “contextual,” that function within missional theology. These needed voices from the margins illuminate challenging alternative considerations of Christology, Pneumatology, and Ecclesiology from below. This ultimately enables a fuller understanding of identity and relationship as churches around the globe share seats around the Eucharist table.
The conversation in missional theology, particularly over the last twenty-five years, has elicited exciting developments in the broader field of protestant theology.2 Few other movements have been as engaged in ecclesiological studies devoted to faithful biblical witness, Trinitarian commitments, and the centrality of Christological convictions. The works and disagreements produced by such scholars as David Bosch, Darrell Guder, Patrick Keifert, and Mark Love expound on the missional nature of theology and the theological nature of mission. Their belief that the church can and (at its best) does pronounce the reign of God on earth offers challenging possibilities for churches that might realize a “missional” identity.3
In the introductory chapter of Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Darrell Guder defines features of a missional church4 as biblical, historical, contextual, eschatological, and practicable.5 This paper contends that elements within postcolonial theory and theology could contribute to the working definitions of the “historical” and “contextual,” which could in turn illuminate alternatives for a theology from below and expand conceptions of identity in North American churches within the current phase of free-market global capitalism, referred to from this point as globalization.6 This paper is written from and for the “missional church” in North America.
Recovering the Broader History
In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman identifies globalization as the “new system” which has replaced the system dominated by the cold war. He defines it as “the inexorable integration of markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before—in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.”7 He notes the homogenizing tendency of this culture, which is rooted in free-market capitalism. However, many postcolonial theorists have contested the system of globalization as a neocolonial8 manifestation of power and control through primarily economic means.9 Twelve years after the publication of The Lexus and the Olive Tree one can attest to the ever-increasing speed of information, integration, and homogenization that has dominated politics, economics, and even our conceptions of church and mission. Postcolonial theory and theology may be the mirror that reflects most clearly how the ideology of globalization has influenced American missiology and ecclesiology.
Globalization, the missional-theology conversation notes, has emerged from the philosophical and scientific developments of the West.10 Critical accounts examining the transition from the modern to the postmodern11 have illuminated some of the cracks and fissures within the system itself. As the postmodern turn has emphasized the impact of contextual influences on knowledge, it has enabled12 many to hear the voices suffering from poverty and oppression. For instance, Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925 under French colonial rule. French imperialism was “justified by the invention of the [civilizing mission], whose task was to bring the benefits of the French culture, religion, and language to the unenlightened races of the earth.”13 Fanon worked within the French colonial system to gain an education in medicine, psychiatry, and philosophy. He then offered a critique of the system through the voice of the colonized. In 1953 he took a job as head of the psychiatry department at a hospital in Algeria and witnessed the method and impact of late colonialism, which had decimated the indigenous people without recompense for over a century. In The Wretched of the Earth, he issues a vituperative invective against colonial violence and systems of oppression that muted the voices of natives, as French colonial powers extracted labor and resources from the people and the land and killed dissidents for the sake of progress and the expansion of France.
Fanon was one of several postcolonial theorists committed to recovering the voices of those who have been silenced. Edward Said, for example, articulates the manner in which knowledge of the Orient and Orientals was utilized for the purpose of control, manipulation, and exploitation. A definition of Orientalism as “a distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philological texts” facilitated the justification of exploitation and dominance.14 These theorists note the objectification of the “other” that has silenced voices speaking against the oppressive trauma and injustice typical of systemic colonial relationships. A necessary practice of any alternative to the colonial tendencies involves listening to the voices of the oppressed and acknowledging their humanity and agency within a system that has offered them few viable options.
Postcolonial theory claims that listening to these voices involves a recovery of histories from the perspective of the colonized. In his monumental work, Postcolonialism, Robert Young devotes a great deal of attention to locating voices of the colonized in the historical imperialistic progression from colonialism to neocolonialism. Liberation theorists such as Enrique Dussel15 provide historical accounts of the development of the Enlightenment and the dominating influence of what constitutes knowledge and right ways of thinking by those with political and economic power. Both Young and Dussell claim that the economic colonial structures are intimately connected to the development of knowledge, philosophy, and political economies of countries, such as the United States, that dominate the present day markets in the globalized system.
So, how does this relate to missional theology? Churches in the United States function within a system that has emerged from colonial history. This history is as much a part of the heritage of the North American church as that of modernist philosophy. While America was indeed a colony, the question remains as to how North American churches now appropriate the histories of colonization and the current position of economic and political power, particularly within the United Sates. Are these churches functioning in a postcolonial manner, or have they realized a neocolonial posture that permeates the political economy and sense of mission for North American churches? Whose voices and which histories dominate the missional conversation in these churches today? Postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha notes the consistencies of imperial methods both inside and outside the nationalist boundaries. Empire starts at home.16 Thus, the challenge for missional theology to resist temptations of imperial triumphalism demands consistent attention to realities of brokenness on local and global levels. The intention here is not to demonize Western society or Western missions, but to acknowledge that churches operating from positions of power have historically aligned themselves with the prevailing economic systems. How might the church be “missional” without committing the fatal errors that characterized so much of the mission that accompanied the colonial project?
Brief Notes on Marx, Marxism, and the Relationship of Postcolonial and Liberation Theologies
In both liberation and postcolonial theology, Marxism provides much of the framework for socio-economic criticism, and yet, both are also critical of Marx and his ilk.17 To generalize, prior to the Second World War, Marxism was addressing issues surrounding industrialization, and afterwards the focus shifted to issues surrounding Cold War politics, particularly as colonized nations were gaining independence. The difference between liberation and postcolonial approaches can be traced back largely to the inception of each.
Whereas Latin American liberation theology18 was born out of critical responses to the Vatican’s alignment with dominant economic powers, postcolonial theory arose as a response in large part to the issues surrounding nationalist politics in the wake of colonialism. As colonies gained independence, people within the nascent countries around the globe were now forced to make political decisions that involved many competing tribes and clans, arbitrarily grouped together within boundaries that the colonizers had drawn. Thus, postcolonial theory contains a nationalist bent that is largely absent from liberation theology. Postcolonial theology represents people groups with complex identity reformations that involve religion, nation, and tradition, since under colonial rule these peoples were largely excluded from the decision processes that determined the practices in each realm. Throughout the movement from the colonial period to the neocolonial period, Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America have seen missionaries come with a biblical message that supports imperial political and economic causes of colonization, but they have seen other missionaries come with messages of hope that counter the narratives of “salvation” offered by a Christianity complicit with the colonizer.
While the critiques offered by Marx concerning capitalist ideology are valuable for the methods of liberation and postcolonial theology, many churches within the liberation and postcolonial traditions have rejected the fundamental assumption of class violence. The call for revolution in many of these churches does not necessitate a responsive violence against colonial and neocolonial oppression, but it does necessitate acknowledgement of the violence of colonial and neocolonial systems against the peoples of Algeria, Brazil, South Africa, Korea, India, Kenya, Congo, and countless other places around the globe. The system that has mass-produced Nike shoes, Nestle baby formula, and custom framed housing has often done so at the expense of the lives of people whose stories remain unheard. Engaging those whose bodies bear the scars of these unheard stories opens the door to acknowledgement of broader and previously under-appreciated contextual relationships.19 The relational connection will no doubt better equip the missional church, whether established among the colonized or the colonizing, in its journey.
Recovering the Broader Context
While the relationships that comprise the neocolonial system of globalization in which the North American church participates are extremely complex, perhaps they provide access to a theology that listens through those whose voice has not been heard in traditional theology.20 The commitments to the Bible and Trinitarian theology remain central, though they are informed by this broader context. The gains and benefits of the Modern Project in medicine, technology, and social structures should not be dismissed; however, as missional theology acknowledges alternative perspectives of history it also asks, “who is benefitting and why?” As missional churches identify their own social location and history in relation to the underdeveloped sites within our own cities and abroad, missional theology enters into a self-critical discourse analysis.21 How are “missional churches” involved in the systemic injustices that contribute to a growing inequality both at home and abroad, and how has the dominant capitalist framework come to permeate the narratives of salvation history that shape relationships in missions? Postcolonial voices provide a perspective from the underside of economic and political systems controlled by Western markets. Churches involved in missions find themselves at the interstices of these relationships, with access to the voices of those who endure cycles of poverty, oppression, and exploitation.
There are two explicit ways in which the church in America is complicit in these relationships with the dominant economic forces of free-market capitalism and the global effects. The first is participation within the broader consumer society. What voice does the church have regarding exploitation of people, labor, and resources? How does the church consume? How does the church participate in marketing and in the process of creating desire? How can the church practice an alternative economic life that values the personhood and relationships of all involved? The second means of participation is the adoption of capitalist structures and logic into its own orders. How do conceptions of leadership, faith, and mission in American churches reflect the dominant economic and political systems of power? Is Jesus CEO? Are American churches merely buying stock in an investment portfolio that provides the greatest eternal retirement? Is the church in the United States selling and creating a need for a product that God intends to be broken, blessed, and shared?
The voices from the margins harbor revelatory possibility, able to illuminate relational connections and inconsistencies that North American missional churches may not see from their perspective from above. This possibility occurs not because gospel is reduced to social action, but because gospel is relational and forever social as it reflects the very life of God. This self-critical analysis challenges hierarchical formulations of christology, pneumatology, and ecclesiology with questions of faithfulness to the embodiment of the life of Christ applied to societal structures. Theology is thus re-imagined as a relationship with the poor and excluded in the system of globalization who are included as an integral part of the ecclesial bodies that shape mission and theology.
Thus, the missional church recognizes the need for those who have been on the underside of oppressive structures in order to understand its own identity, as members of the global church, within the global structure. Perhaps God is “sending” the church of the powerful in North America out into the world in order to discover an identity as the faithful community of saints that provides an alternative option to the system of globalization. The church comes face to face with the inadequacies of all economic ideologies and thus comes face to face with the fact that the gospel has forever functioned within economic and political realities and the histories that they produce, not apart from them. The North American church comes face to face with the other, and in this encounter, comes face to face with Christ.
This concept of “sending” emerges from deep within Christian history, confessional convictions, and involvement in the reality of systemic brokenness in our local and global communities. Perhaps in this mission, the powerful churches receive identity when they relinquish patronizing positions that are more akin to the hierarchies of domination within globalization than to the person of Jesus Christ.22 This intimate look at the postcolonial perspectives seeks to carry forth the trajectory set by Mark Love in the first issue of Missio Dei, where he issues the challenge: “Instead of asking only the question, ‘How can we get these people to belong to us?’ missional congregations learn also to ask, ‘How in the name of the Triune God do we belong to these people?’”23 The next section will consider what such a theology might look like as voices from below shape christology, pneumatology, and ecclesiology.
Considering Theology from Below: Christology
A christology from below resists the identification of Jesus as Lord atop economic and monarchical power structures and reconsiders his lordship in light of relationships he had with those structures during his life, which were ultimately the cause of his death. To claim that Jesus is Lord is thus to claim that Caesar is not. Joerg Rieger poses the provocative question, “What if Jesus as Lord did not represent abstract religious notions of transcendence but had to do with ‘transcending,’ and thus challenging, the politico-religious claim that Caesar is lord?”24 To claim that Jesus is Lord in the present moment could very well entail resistance of the dominant principles of self-interest driving the free-market economy. This lordship opens one’s eyes to the places of conflict, violence, and hatred, where human beings are devalued in accordance to their productive capacity within the system.
Jesus provides an example of resistance to oppressive and imperial regimes by loving those whom society deems “without value.” Claiming Christ as Lord leads one into a theological journey of naming, engaging, and unmasking the “powers that be” that are forever connected to the social realities at hand.25 If missional Western churches take these realities into account as they engage the world, then a re-evaluation of participation in consumption, marketing, development, and labor is inevitable. By living out the confessions that Jesus is the true incarnation and revelation of the divine, churches are drawn into a participatory relationship to exemplify who is Lord and what is not.26
Postcolonial theology offers profound critiques of interpretations regarding the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit has often been conflated with the spirit of empire or capitalism. A pneumatology from the underside resists the “spirit” of empire, which undergirds colonial and neocolonial objectives. Walter Brueggemann articulates well how the commandments at Sinai made possible a community that demonstrated an alternative to the imperial system of the Egyptians.27 The Egyptians practiced an economy that used people as commodity and subjected them to incessant labor to increase the value of the empire. Yet, central to the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy is the command to rest, to “observe the Sabbath and keep it holy . . . for you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Deut 5:12, 15).28 Also within the Torah, the book of Leviticus is replete with the mantra “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7). This law set the wandering Hebrew people apart from the spirit of empire that had enslaved them. It acknowledged the life and breath of both inhabitant and alien in a manner different from Egypt. The church today retains this mission to live and breathe by a different, Holy, Spirit, who offers shalom for those who take the burden of Christ in relationship with the other.
While thinkers such as Max Weber have recognized the correspondence between The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,29 those who listen to the silenced underside will heed caution toward such an equation. Catholics and Protestants alike who inhabit positions of power within the capitalist system may hail theological and ecclesiastical contributions to the development of the present “progressive” capitalist system.30 However, the unproductive and unvalued voices of those suffering from hunger, malaria, malnutrition, those out of breath in the capitalist race, driven by the spirit of progress and success, may redirect one’s attention.31 Who counts as a person in this community we call church? If the Spirit has called us to be holy, for the Lord our God is holy, what alternative might emerge to the prevailing economic system in which we participate?32 Any mission including the perspective of the underside of the presentday capitalist system will question the philosophical and economic alliances and promises offered from positions of power.
Finally, a missional ecclesiology from the underside lives on account of inspiration from the Holy Spirit in accordance with the life of Jesus Christ as Lord. It considers elements of both resistance and love within the formation of a community centered around the Eucharist. The Eucharist locates the church around the broken body of Christ as the reminder of what it means to live faithfully. At the Last Supper Jesus commissioned his disciples to “Take this and divide it among yourselves” (Luke 22:17), and with the bread states, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. . . . This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19, 20). In the life in the new covenant, Jesus calls his followers to share, to re-member his body and to live out his life in response to the reality of blood and violence at the hands of the empire.33 The new covenant community realizes itself through the re-membering of the pain and messiness of this intensely economic, dismembered history tied to the reality of hunger, sickness, and death. Paul addresses the Corinthian church with regard to the Lord’s Supper:
Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? (1 Cor 11:19-22).
For Paul, humiliation of the have-nots is nothing short of contempt for the church of God. The use of power to exclude the voices of the hungry at the table precludes the very possibility of the rich and well fed to enter into the community of God. By participating in the growing divide marked by indulgence of some at the expense of hunger for others, the rich are the ones who will be “answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.” It is those who benefit on the backs of the poor that have aligned themselves with the imperial power that killed Jesus. Could it be that missional theology finds its possibility in living out the Eucharist in this way, by acknowledging the complexities of relationships between rich and poor, and by unmasking powers that entice us into a “sacred space” sequestered from the effects of our unacknowledged relationships with the poor?
Concluding Reflections of the Postcolonial Global Church at the Table
In the context of a global economy where the divisions between rich and poor are increasing, Leonardo Boff explores the implications of what a true communion might look like. “Rich and poor alike receive communion together in the Church, but they do not share it in the factory. If there were communion (sharing) in the factory, the eucharistic communion would express not only the eschatological communion at the end of time but also the real communion present in society now.”34 The relationship between rich and poor around the communion table is attuned to not only the needs of the other, but also the causes behind those needs. Can missional theology be consistent with the life of communion that proclaims good news to a broken reality? As missional theology integrates the voices from this global community that are alone able to reveal dominating tendencies of the present power structures and silenced histories of the present situation, the journey will be enriched by an emerging alternative as rich and poor alike are led to new creation in Christ.
Perhaps this “new creation” with regard to the postcolonial context is something akin to the “third space” presented by Homi Bhabha. In The Location of Culture, Bhabha proposes that within the relationships of colonizer and colonized, a hybrid identity emerges as each tries to attain desired ends. He claims that in the process of colonization the colonizer mimicked the colonized in order to subvert the traditional systems of power so as to gain control of resources, land, and labor. And yet, the colonized also mimicked the colonizer in order to survive, maintain desired traditions, and to manipulate the situation for the benefit of one’s own clan or tribe. Over time, this hybrid space characterized by the mimicry of the other becomes unidentifiable by the traditions of either people group.35 Thus, “mimicry represents an ironic compromise.”36
And yet, in Christ we have an encounter that is not based on manipulation or subversion, but an opening of a third space that was previously only considered through conflict. We are invited to mimic the One that exists for the other, for right relationship. Christ provides the picture, the eikon, of the life of God in the world, who unmasks the cycle of violence by exemplifying love in the midst of hatred, peace in the midst of conflict, and hope in a world of despair.37 The church is invited to the table as a third space, where we are given a new identity by the one whom we proclaim as fully human, fully divine. As rich and poor sit at the table of the Lord together, each are changed by the other, invited into the struggles and histories of the other. To the extent that each identity has been shaped by the other, a new and hybrid identity emerges. As colonizer and colonized, rich and poor, capitalist and socialist, sit at the table together, the one bread, one body, one life of Jesus Christ becomes the new reality that redefines notions of progress in terms of the well being of the other, taking into account each history and each voice while conforming all to the all encompassing love within the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Spencer Bogle is a PhD student in Systematic Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. His studies engage issues of ecclesiology and international development, particularly through the lens of trinitarian theology and atonement narratives. He and his wife, Emily, lived and worked with the Basoga people of Uganda from 2004 until 2010. They were part of the mission team based in the town of Jinja. Spencer can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benson, Bruce Ellis, and Peter Heltzel. Evangelicals and Empire: Christian Alternatives to the Political Status Quo. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008.
Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Routledge Classics. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Boff, Leonardo. Church, Charism and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church. Translated by John W. Diercksmeier. New York: Crossroad, 1985.
Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. American Society of Missiology Series 16. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Covenanted Self: Explorations in Law and Covenant. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.
Cannon, Katie G. Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community. New York: Continuum, 1995.
Cone, James. A Black Theology of Liberation. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippencott, 1970.
Dussel, Enrique. “Beyond Eurocentrism: The World-System and the Limits of Modernity.” In The Cultures of Globalization, edited by Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, 3-31. Post-Contemporary Interventions. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.
Girard, René. I See Satan Fall Like Lightening. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001.
Guder, Darrell L., and Lois Barrett. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. The Gospel and Our Culture Series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
Gutiérrez, Gustavo. A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, rev. ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988.
Jameson, Fredric, and Masao Miyoshi. The Cultures of Globalization. Post-Contemporary Interventions. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.
Keifert, Patrick R. We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era, a Missional Journey of Spiritual Discovery. Eagle, ID: Allelon Publishing, 2006.
Love, Mark. “Missio Dei, Trinitarian Theology, and the Quest for a Post-Colonial Missiology,” Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 1 (August 2010): 37-49.
Moyo, Dambisa. Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. 1st American ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
Newbigin, Lesslie. Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
Novak, Michael. The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Free Press, 1993.
Rieger, Joerg. Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.
Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.
Webber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 2nd ed. Routledge Classics. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Wink, Walter. The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium. New York: Doubleday, 1998.
Young, Robert. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Malden, MA.: Blackwell, 2001.
1This essay is an adaptation of a paper presented at the Christian Scholars’ Conference, “The Path of Discovery: Science, Theology, and the Academy,” June 16-18, 2011.
2The publication Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986) by Lesslie Newbigin spawned a much more theologically centered conversation of mission. In that line, Transforming Mission by David Bosch has provided challenging contributions and has proven to be a “paradigm shift in theology of mission” in itself. David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, American Society of Missiology Series 16 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991).
3Darrell L. Guder and Lois Barrett, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, The Gospel and Our Culture Series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998); Patrick R. Keifert, We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era, a Missional Journey of Spiritual Discovery (Eagle, ID: Allelon Publishing, 2006); Mark Love, “Missio Dei, Trinitarian Theology, and the Quest for a Post-Colonial Missiology,” Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 1 (August 2010): 37-49.
4Throughout this paper the language will reveal the conviction that missional church and missional theology are inextricable.
5Guder and Barrett, 11.
6By the 1930s European powers had colonized 85% of the globe. The fields of postcolonial theory and theology emerged as previously colonized countries gained independence and struggled to figure out issues of identity that considered their own traditional heritage as well as the relationship with imported colonial philosophy, economics, and history.
7Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), 9.
8Robert Young emphasizes that “neocolonialism denotes a continuing economic hegemony that means that the postcolonial state remains in a situation of dependence on its former masters, and that the former masters continue to act in a colonialist manner towards former colonized states.” Robert Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001), 45.
9This is not confined to “big business” and trans-national corporations, but also the decisions made by the World Bank, IMF, and the UNDP. The operative question in this address is, who ultimately benefits from the decisions made by these organizations? For a compelling critique from within, see part 1 of Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, 1st American ed. (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009).
10See specifically Bosch, part 2, “Historical Paradigms of Mission” and Guder, chapter 2, “Missional Context: Understanding North American Culture in Missional Church.”
11Or as some say, the ultra-modern.
12I use this term “enabled” with the full understanding that the relational structures between colonizer and colonized were in most cases dominated by a power differential that was used initially to “disable” the voice from being heard.
14Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), 12; emphasis original. See also Gayatri Spivak, who asks the question, “Can the subaltern speak?” Much of her work critiques the tendencies of those in power to speak for the other without listening to the realities from the perspective of the individual herself. Homi Bhabha employs the terms mimicry and hybridity to locate the voices that are never fully accessible to the colonizing powers. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Routledge Classics (New York: Routledge, 2004), passim.
15See Enrique Dussel, “Beyond Eurocentrism: The World-System and the Limits of Modernity,” in The Cultures of Globalization, ed. Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, Post-Contemporary Interventions (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 3-31. See also Walter Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).
16Bhabha, xv, states, “The hegemonies that exist at home provide us with useful perspectives on the predatory effects of global governance, however philanthropic or ameliorative the original intention might have been.”
17Young, 168, states: “Postcolonial theory is a product of Marxist as well as Marx’s thought.” For a detailed analysis of specifically postcolonial critiques see Young, ch. 13, “Marxism and the National Liberation Movements.”
18Just two years after the meeting of bishops in Medallín (1968), which is often identified as the inception of “liberation theology,” James Cone published A Black Theology of Liberation (Philadelphia: J. P. Lippencott, 1970). The two movements of liberation theology were not initially aware of each other, and Cone’s proposed liberation theology addressed oppression through the lives of black Americans who carried the history and burden of enslavement that was often justified through the use of the Bible and the Christian church. While an analysis of the different forms of liberation theology is helpful, for the sake of space, this section will specifically address the relationships of Latin American liberation theology and postcolonial theory to point out some general similarities and differences.
19See Katie G. Cannon, Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (New York: Continuum, 1995). In this book, Katie Cannon explores the concept of the bodies of the oppressed as sacred text.
20“Listening through” here is used to describe a sense of solidarity and relationship that opens the possibility to understand the situation of another and to read the Bible in consideration of what it might sound like through the experiences of another.
21The term “underdeveloped” has been utilized by many liberation theologians, back to Gutiérrez in A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988), ch. 6, who emphasized that the development of some countries has occurred at the expense of the underdevelopment of others. Interestingly, liberation theology arose as a response to the manner in which the Catholic Church was aligning itself with the language of development that prevailed within the dominant capitalist economies.
22Of particular interest here are the notions of charity and development that allow a safe distance between giver and receiver.
24Joerg Rieger, Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 39.
25This is a reference to Walter Wink’s three-volume trilogy, which is now offered in a condensed and delightfully readable one-volume account: Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (New York: Doubleday, 1998).
26The emphasis here is on how these confessions and convictions manifest themselves in the everyday and the mundane. I contend that these are the places in which the Western church participates within the oppressive power structures often times unaware.
27Walter Brueggemann, The Covenanted Self: Explorations in Law and Covenant (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 26.
28All Scripture citations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.
29Max Webber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 2nd ed., Routledge Classics (New York: Routledge, 2001).
30For instance, see Michael Novak, The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Free Press, 1993). Protestant and Evangelical connections between the Christian ethic and the “spirit of capitalism” can be found in Bruce Ellis Benson and Peter Heltzel, Evangelicals and Empire: Christian Alternatives to the Political Status Quo (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008).
31A connection here is implied between “breath” and “spirit” which are both valid translations of the Hebrew ruach and the Greek pneuma. See Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” which could also be translated, “Blessed are those who are out of breath.”
32This system is often labeled as political liberalism, characterized by Hegelian conceptions of Spirit that conflate the humanist agenda with the purposes of God working through history through reason.
33And, as Bhabha, 90, posits, “Remembering is never a quiet act of introspection or retrospection. It is a painful re-membering, a putting together of the dismembered past to make sense of the trauma of the present.”
34Leonardo Boff, Church, Charism and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church, trans. John W. Diercksmeier (New York: Crossroad, 1985), 122
36 Ibid., 122; emphasis original.
37See René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001) for a profound consideration of Christ as the alternative possibility to the mimetic cycle of violence.