Articles, Blog

Response | Oscar García-Johnson


The material that you’re about to listen to and
engage with came from our 2017 missiology lectures, when myself, along with my colleague,
Johnny Ramirez Johnson, said we need to do this next 2017 Missiology
Lectures on this topic of race, theology, and mission. And we invited Dr. Love Sechrest to
engage with us in that process. We wanted to explore the challenging
questions regarding racism and ethnocentrism and xenophobia and
all of those issues from the perspective of world Christianity with regard to how
these realities have existed in many parts of the world and also as part of the colonial mission endeavors. It is fascinating to think that the realities
we were talking about are not the experiences of one individual or even one society. We’re talking about whiteness as a way
of defining the world. And the conference and the conference
presenters addressed time and again this epistemology; this way of making meaning. It has also
been described as colonization and post colonization. The question is not about guilt; it’s about
engagement; it’s about what are we going to do with what we have inherited.
So the fact that we’re having a conversation should not point a finger
at you as a listener or viewer. But these are hard conversations the
conversation about race is one that has been deferred for so long and so often over and over again.
As soon as we get close to having a meaningful conversation about race we
recoil from the pain of it. And so in our lectures there you’ll see some of that
pain emerge; you’ll see some people who have long experienced racism
express and declare and name experiences that they have had that have been deeply
formative, de-formative even. So this conversation is not a pretty one,
but we’re having it. As observers, as listeners you will be
engaging, and we invite you to invite the Holy Spirit. The three of us pray a lot about this series.
We humbly submitted it to God and pleaded for God’s mercy to lead us.
We are feeble and combined we are imperfect and we have prayed that
the Lord will fill the gaps. And the conversation is only a starter;
it is in your hands; it is in your community; it is in your family and most importantly,
it is on your knees. I have to be honest with you, as I
stand here in front of you. Three competing forces, internal
forces, kind of collapse within me. Shake me, so to speak, shake my consciousness. I don’t think I’m a victim of the internal fight. I think I need to be aware of that, internal commotion as I try to address a topic on Native American people. Original American people. The three forces that fire within me, so you understand the struggle so to speak is; number one, theologically. It is exciting for me to be responding
to a non exclusively Latino theme. Native American theology, “Indigenizing Salvation.” But this is a dangerous excitement. I have to be very careful here, less this excitement pushes me into playing the multi-use Latino card. Our Mestizaje’s and Mulatez’s offer to
the Western establishment; economic, ethnoracial advantages, the
plasticity of our racial composition. So the capacity of occupying other minorities discourses, the X-men scholar type of thing. It’s tempting due to our multiple histories,
multiple subjugation, expressed in our complex; fussy intersectional mixing, mingling, blending, crossbreeding, juxtaposing, hybrid, borderline; kaleidoscopic, collage identity texture
that sometimes Latinos offer; to the globally designed, blueprint of education;
the possibility of cheap labor. To be clear, I am a Chiquita banana kid. Honduran by birth, with British Indigenous blood. Raised by Roman Catholics, enhanced, I mean enchanted by the Reformed tradition; converted by the Pentecostals, and
diversified by the American Baptist. Along the way, I learned to evade the Pope,
look up to the European civilization; Believe in Calvin and the Reformers, lose myself into the Pentecostal culto, and then hate the Pope; Act civily when facing nasty church politics,
for the sake of communion and mission; while being polite when relating to other Christian faiths. In short, I have been civilized multiple times. And there are the many layers of my subconscious by different modes of Euro-centered epistemologies. In order to function well within the
religious establishment of the West; In terms of social location, it might
look like, what the heck am I doing here? I have no business here. This is an original American who
needs to be here responding. George Tinker puts it this way;
“The healing of Indian people; “is Indian business, to be conducted by
Indian people and Indian community organizations;” “in ways that is consistent with Indian
cultures and values.” So on what basis I can really be here just
saying anything or something about it? And I think I do have something. It is my response, and these are the three forces that I’m talking to you that are in a way dancing within myself. I can only respond on the basis of
epistemic solidarity. Not as an expert scholar, but as a brother, as a sister; that has shared subalternatity with
Native American communities. Sharing global, you know, subalternaties designed by a global creator that have created a logic that; as we’ve heard here, the logic that has
modern, colonial, imperial subjugation. Pretty much deciding not just the US
experience of the Native American; but a much more global phenomenon
that is expressed here; but pretty much circling different parts of the world. So it is with that struggle and out of that, you know internal movement, that I can say something. And i’m going to try to do two things. Number one, I’m gonna try to name some of the contributions that I see in the work of Dr. Smith. And put some names and categories
that I think are important to later address; the very issue of, “How Do We Go Native,” in theology? Is there any way to do that being a Christian? Given the legacy that we carry and the epistemic captivity in which we find ourselves. Is that even possible? And I’m going to try to get there, but let me first appreciate the contribution that I’ve seen in Andrea. Number one, I see multiple disciplines
shaping the discourses; of the research that we hear today. Number one, critical race theory. We learned that whiteness is a
classified logic of the human social order. I see in that discipline the first binary, white. Second discipline, legal history. We learn that Europeans are granted
titles because they are the discoverers; and the Native people are the discovered ones. So we have the second binary there,
North Atlantic European. And I say North Atlantic European
because there’s a huge difference between: Southern European and Northern Europeans. And we’re gonna see that. Huge Iberian powers and north European powers — the black legend. Just go and look it up. The third discipline that I think gives
us another binary is, critical economics. Europeans know how to work. Native American Indians do not know how to work. Therefore, you know we have here
a disadvantage they cannot own land. They can inhabit the land, as we heard. So we have the third binary here. White that’s number one, North Atlantic European
that’s number two, Capitalist that’s number three. The next discipline is mission history. We learned that European pilgrims are the
descendants of Abraham, now in the promised land; and the Native peoples are the Canaanites So the fourth binary shows up. White, North Atlantic European,
Capitalists, Christian. But we still have one more binary to go and I think that wasn’t necessarily articulated it was implied. And that can only be extracted through a more theologically oriented combo. I call it that theoretically, I mean
theologically ready combo. Which is the combo of theological anthropology, soteriological Christology and political theology. Those three I think pretty much help
us see the other side of the story. And I’m going to use a couple of
paintings here just to describe that. Colonization is justified on the basis
of, theological anthropology. That is, the Imago Dei, in the Indian, was
transformed into the Imago Diaboli. There is a theological,
anthropological transformation. And I argue, with all due respect, that it is this that justified and legitimized everything else. This is a picture here, I mean imagine
what’s going on in the European imagination; This is a picture in 1592 and that’s not
in Spain, that’s in Frankfurt. And you can see this, this is the land,
the discovery, the “New World” so to speak. Interesting a new world, just for some people, obviously. But the discovery of the Atlantic we call it. Anyway, you have here the ship; that’s salvation. We have here the land, they’re possessed by the devil. So that’s an important elaboration because
that will help us build a soteriological Christology. Western Evangelization translates into,
cultural exorcism. The Native peoples are exorcised in the name of Christ, as a witness to Jesus Christ. And that obviously leads us into political theology. A godly government requires a white social order and stability under the biblical principles of law and order. Otherwise we’re gonna have this problem. And this is a British painting showing what happens when you connect, when you really mix with the Natives. There is it’s called, anthropomorphism. It means you get contaminated. This is one of the bases of segregation. This is the imagination that is permeating you know, theological, political economics. The formation of society in itself. So you see the whites are now with these tattoos. That means that we were being
contaminated, being savage. It’s being transferred to the very humanity. So I think those are those factors, theologically speaking, needs to be taken into account. And then we have the fifth binary, that
I think pretty much with the fifth binary; we have a more complete picture of what it means to be and act as a US American and the context of the world. We have White, North Atlantic
European, Capitalist, Christian, Global Designer. Because the way to order society is
the way we do it here. So we have to order the whole world
in the way we do it here in the States, so to speak. Otherwise, we’re gonna mix different groups. So separation is desirable and a
necessary logic of of organizing civility. Let me give you a quote by one of our
heroes here Jonathan Edwards; “God has sent the gospel into these parts of the world; “and now the Christian Church is set up here in New England, and in parts of America; “where before had nothing but the grossest heathenish darkness…Satan’s Kingdom shall be overcome.” That’s what’s the interpretation and the rhetoric. In conclusion, I think I concur with Dr. Smith that Native people were considered subhuman or not human. But I’m not quite convinced that they were
not targeted as saving trophies of a; conquering-soteriological Euro-centered,
whitening, civilizatory Protestant missions. I think there is a rhetoric there that is
necessary for expansion. That is necessary for even
building politics. I mean that “other” it’s necessary, even for conquest, and the soteriological aspect is there. I think the second concept that I want
to kind of address a little bit here is salvation. But I think I’m gonna pass this one —
and I’m willing to share that. Walter Mignolo puts it very interesting. There are four laws of continental salvation: Salvation by Conversion to Western
Christianity, Salvation by Civilization; Salvation by Development, and
Salvation by Market Capitalism. That’s the way we save the American continent. But the question is how do we go Native? How do we go Native? And I’m gonna just mention this, if you want a little much more detail well you’re gonna have to wait a little bit. Because the book is coming it’s called, A Spirit Outside the Gate: Decolonizing Pnuematolgy of the South. And I’m articulating this a little more precisely. But I see several things that need to happen. Number one, we need to place Christian experience, thinking, delivering and praxis in colonial difference. What is called, colonial difference. I don’t have time here to explain colonial difference,
but if you ask me I can explain it. But the colonial difference is simply
the westernization of Christianity. The going beyond and prior to modernity, coloniality and occidentalism are the core logics of Christianity. To go native in the second place, we need to delink from sources, paradigms, and disciplines; keeping the American human
imagination gated through coloniality of belief; coloniality of power; coloniality of
communion; and coloniality of time and history. To go native and the third place means, to move from soteriological Christology to decolonial pneumatology. And lastly to go Native, I would say that we’re going to have to construct alternative canonical imaginations. And if we’re talking about going Native, we’re gonna have to build our own Native canonical imagination; And not depend on the Western canonical imagination. Thank you very much.

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