Oh, we said our dreams will carry us
And if they don’t fly we will run – Santigold
For those of us called to be theologians, sinking deep roots into “the terrain of
spirituality and practice” is indispensable. We do theology because we want to
collaborate fundamentally in bringing about a different kind of world in the here and-
– M.Shawn Copeland
Our thoughts take a particular form in the world , and once they take form , they settle into our lives and become part of our imagination. Some people have thin imaginations and others have thick imaginations. I would like to focus on thick imaginations , or what one could call a grand imagination. The term ‘grand imagination’ is more relevant to theology , especially at this time. So much of what is thrown around in the academy has to do with recovering the grand imagination of the christian tradition , committing oneself to its preservation , translating the works of the great architects of this imagination. After all , theology is the queen of the sciences right?!?! The Queen must sit upon the finest of thrones! Nothing less than the Summa Theologiae can sustain the weight of her gold & silver. She can only be served by the most “serious” of thinkers (preferably men with no desire for other men…and a lack of Melanin would be nice too).
What I am interested in , is how a ‘grand imagination’ might shape our present world and determine our place in it. Or to put things more clearly , how this grand imagination seeks to explain the conditions that made its existence possible. It does this by not naming these conditions. The grand imagination was brought into existence by the transcendent. It has no points of contact in the world. None of the common marks of humanity (race , disability ,gender , class & sexuality) play any role in its existence. The grand imagination is able to admit that there is an order to things that precedes it , and that it has played a role in creating and sustaining the current order and is even capable of admitting that the current order of things is troubling. The solution? More of itself. It has classical texts , art , music , architecture , morality , Goodness , Truth and Beauty to offer us. The present order has got to go! As long as it is making room for the grand imagination to take over.
Now , share the quotes at the top of this post for no reason..I really do want to discuss making a break with the present order of things. Santigold’s song ‘Disparate Youth’ functions as my theme music , while M.Shawn Copeland functions as my thinker of disruption. According to Copeland , Catholic social teachings must be disrupted by the history of the black , that is to say , the logic of white supremacy. If Catholic social teaching is going to allow its whiteness to decompose and expose itself to the history and the flesh that some of its great architects engineered (Francisco de Vitoria) , then it must hear this living & speaking history…and it must be transformed from within. There must be a break. A crack in its grandeur , in its completeness.
If the grand imagination is to signify that which breaks with the present order , then it must become incomplete. It must break within itself , and lose its grandeur. It can no longer be grand. In fact! It can no longer be an imagination. It must take its finger out of Christ’s wound , and be like those who have not seen but have heard and believed. For there is nothing to see. There is nothing to imagine. It might be satisfying to believe that imagination will carry us , but if it doesn’t fly , we must let it go down..and we must run.