Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021

When Majority Cultures Co-opt Minorities' Self-Theologising

When the theology books don't talk about an aspect of your culture, you have to do what's called 'self-theologising'. Most theology resources made in the UK are middle class theologising, showing what the Bible says about various aspects of middle class culture. At the same time, minority cultures have been self-theologising about issues that are not mentioned much in the mainstream. In my experience, there is a very challenging dynamic at play when majority cultures try to use minority culture's theologising. Here's things I've observed as a lower-class, disabled pastor, whose majority of friends are minorities of various sorts:

1) Majority cultures have a tendency to co-opt minority cultures for their own purposes. 
An example could be when as white people, we see a young black christian, and think, he could really help our ministry be more diverse. From that point, a whole plan is made for this person's life that ultimately helps the majority culture's vision, not the young man's.

2) Majority culture groups tend to use minorities' self-theolgizing as a way of boosting the majority's brand, rather than considering how the minority culture wants to be presented.
This might happen in video snippets, where words from a working class theologian are recorded, but the logos presented, and the overall presentation, communicate that credit is due to the majority culture organisation. In some cases the organisation makes money off of this process, whilst the theologiser is not fairly paid.

3) Majority cultures tend to give themselves greater license with how they use minorities.
An example could be a white author using sermons from a black working class pastor, to write their book. They borrow ideas from his research, without asking the black pastor if this was ok. If on the other hand, they were thinking of using say, Vaungh Robert's sermons, they undoubtedly would have asked permission first. 

4) Majority cultures tend to presume the minorities have greatly benefitted from their resources.
This could be someone looking at a training program run by minorities, and saying, 'Well of course, you've taken the stuff you learned at our college, and tweaked it for your context.' The reality can sometimes be that people often sat frustrated through majority culture programs, and looked elsewhere for help with their theologising. 

5) Cross-Pollination doesn't occur because the self-theologising is rationed.
Cross-pollination happens when different cultures sit round the table and learn from each other about how the Bible speaks to every aspect of life (including our blindspots). Sadly, gatekeepers from the dominant culture tend to decide the agenda for what's discussed at the table. This means that the sub-dominant culture cannot present all its findings. Sometimes, the minorities don't even get an equal seat at the table, but are left at the kiddy table as it were.

6) Minority cultures are swimming upstream when they self-theologise. 
Apart from the lack of resources including funding available to self-theologise, it takes a tremendous amount of work to be taken seriously, and to show gaps in the majority culture's grid. Often to do this, we have to accept compromises along the way, be treated as poster boys for other organisations, all whilst doing cross-cultural communication with the dominant culture. This can all be very tiring, and some may just give up, and stay in the comfort of their own group.