Religion, Authority, and the State

See that fine lookin’ city up there? That is beautiful Belgrade, Serbia. And that is where I will be in a couple of days!

My abstract was accepted to the Religion, Authority, and the State conference hosted by the Ecclesialogical Investigations Network is taking place in Belgrade this year. I will be presenting on the following (more or less). 

Heresiology, Epistemological Violence, and cross-cultural Christianity: what happens when evangelism works?

An indispensable contribution of post-modern thought to contemporary theology is to affirm the inherent contextuality and particularity of Christianity.  That is to say, contemporary Christian theology in the West is thoroughly Amer-european.  In the process of the colonization and evangelization of North America, the particularity of Christian theological beliefs was posited universally. I submit that this move is epistemologically violent and has serious repercussions for the relations between Amer-european and Aboriginal Christians in North America.  Namely, the former still holds a monopoly on Christian truth claims, both ecclesially and academically.

Insofar as North American Aboriginal theology has been allowed articulation in both the church and the academy, the dominant identity of Christian theology has opened itself to some critique from diverting particular cultural voices.  However, orthodox Christianity still ultimately determines what counts as Christian theology and polices the boundaries of cross-cultural dialogue. Unfortunately, the attempts of Christian theology to receive different interpretations occur largely under the guise of a deceptive liberal pluralism: although minority cultural voices are given air time (mitigating an explicit colonial dominance), Amer-european Christianity seems to merely tolerate their theological musings and ghettoize Aboriginal theology to its own sub-theology, thus effectively reinscribing another form of epistemological violence.

Drawing on Daniel Colucciello Barber’s work on epistemological violence in Christianity I will show how orthodoxy and its practice of heresiology keeps the influence of Aboriginal theology at bay.  Furthermore, relying on the work of Aboriginal-Lutheran theologian George Tinker, I will argue that if Christian theology is going to take its evangelism, its good news, seriously, it cannot simply tolerate Aboriginal theology; this is a contemporary form of heresiology premised on epistemological violence. It must actually renounce its monopoly on truth and allow Aboriginal theology to transform Anglo-European theology.

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