Our theology can never equate the knowledge of God; we are finite and limited beings, while God is infinite and limitless. We cannot offer up an infinite, limitless, and universal gospel, our finite, limited, and contextual selves will not allow it. For the last four hundred years, those who have been the most rich, powerful, and main stream have offered up a “universal theology” that is good for everyone. Yet this universal approach did not have an answer for those who were chained up like chattel crossing the mid-Atlantic. It did not have a theology developed for the 5000 lynching’s that took place post slavery. And it still does not have a theology developed for the unequal education, housing, health care, employment opportunities, police brutality, prison sentences, and discrimination that many people (especially of color) in urban centers live with year after year.
My beef is not with the Bible; actually I really believe that it is the answer. Rather it is with the interpreters that conveniently “overlook” the passages permeated throughout the whole bible that speak on justice, liberation, and empowerment, while only interpreting the things that are beneficial for their particular context. It would actually not be that bad, except that it has been forced down upon us as “Universal Theology” for all people in all contexts and situations. When black people share a different perspective, it gets labeled black theology, Latinos do it and it gets labeled Latin Theology, when Asians do it is called Asian theology, yet somehow when white folk do theology it translates into “universal theology” because it lines up with what other white men in the 1500’s said which somehow is called “classical theology”. It is as if white theologians are conveniently unbiased as they read the bible, and they get to referee as we all take a shot at it. They get to decide who is in bounds and out of bounds. And surprisingly, every time someone questions the injustice and oppression that often caricaturizes the systems they live in and benefit from, that person has left universal truth. This is not an attempt to claim all white people are racists, nor is it to dismiss the authenticity of some people’s faith journey. What it is though, is a challenge for us to get off of theological welfare. That is the theological dependency that we have grown accustomed to because of our laziness of not doing our own theology.
We continually wait for the next “IT” book. At one time it was the Prayer of Jabez, then it was Purpose Driven Life, and I am sure there is another one by now already. We wait for these Pastors from Mega-Churches in the suburbs of Texas to tell us how we are to live, and how to be successful, how to fulfill our desires, and what God’s purpose is for us. Yet they do not know our context, our community, our story, because they are limited by theirs. That is not to say that they cannot say anything meaningful, but it would be even more relevant to your life for you to read and interpret for yourself. For you are able to interpret the bible for yourself as well you can interpret your context.
Better yet, read and interpret in community with others. Since none of us are capable of attaining knowledge equal to God because we are all finite in our attempts. We can allow our strengths to pick up where others miss, and where we miss others can catch with their strengths. When we allow “iron to sharpen iron” we can all hopefully grow in our journey together. Just imagine if the slave masters and slaves got together and eagerly sought to learn from each other. Where would we be today? It all starts by each of us doing theology by reading and interpreting scripture while also fully understanding the context and realties that surround us.