The construction of Latina Christology: an invitation to dialogue.
But who do you say that I am? (Mark 8:29) Let us wage a war on totality; let us be witnesses to the unpresentable; let us activate the differences and save the honor of the name. (Jean- Francois Lyotard) (1) There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
The discourse of the life of Latinas in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. is an ever-continuing project of de- and reconstruction, of shifting contextual identities. The simultaneously painful and life-giving experience of perennially critiquing, confronting, and constructing new personal and communal perspectives on our continuously conflicting contexts is especially enfleshed for Latinas in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ Jesus Christ: see Jesus.
40 days after Resurrection, ascended into heaven. [N.T.: Acts 1:1–11]
See : Ascension
kind to the poor, forgiving to the sinful. [N.T. . The human pain of Jesus on the cross accompanies the pain of Latinas at deconstructing our own inheritance as Latin American and American cultural products and the racist systems that render us marginal both within the secular community at large and in the community of Christians in the U.S. Christ's resurrection makes itself manifest in us, too, as we continuously reconstruct our fragmented identities to live abundantly in the simul world of our deaths and new life.
To refer to Latinas as a general category is risky if we pretend to ignore the different origins and socioeconomic modes of existence of an enormously varied group in its geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic extractions. Nevertheless, in our own diversity, we Latinas do recognize in each other the tension generated by the continuous construction and self-affirmation of our beings. Very often, upon encountering one another, Latinas engage precisely in the mutual sharing of the diverse delineations of our identity contours. Even though they are not exact, the contours of the identity of any two Latinas overlap sufficiently to allow amply for their mutual identification and understanding. This mutual recognition is a key determinant in the affirmation of the constructed identity of Latinas. It is in this communal recognition within an otherwise uninterested or even hostile environment See: operational environment. that Latinas rest in a cultural home of our own.
That home, however, is not cemented in a particular ground of our own. It is a collage of random clippings from our Latin American mestizo mestizo (māstē`sō) [Span.,=mixture], person of mixed race; particularly, in Mexico and Central and South America, a person of European (Spanish or Portuguese) and indigenous descent. (2) cultural backgrounds and the U.S. cultural melting pot melting pot
America as the home of many races and cultures. [Am. Pop. Culture: Misc.]
See : America .
In the U.S., Latinas share with others a similar continuous project of simultaneous de- and reconstruction of identities and social location. Latinas work in their construction project alongside Latino brothers, African Americans African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. , Asian Americans This page is a list of Asian Americans. Politics
put differently , many of the struggles of Latinas overlap the struggles of our siblings in race, ethnicity, gender, and class. The particular recipe of Latinas' struggle for self-identification and societal localization Customizing software and documentation for a particular country. It includes the translation of menus and messages into the native spoken language as well as changes in the user interface to accommodate different alphabets and culture. See internationalization and l10n. , however, is, as for the other groups, particular to us.
A Latino brother and recognized biblical theologian the·o·lo·gi·an
One who is learned in theology.
a person versed in the study of theology
Noun 1. , Fernando Segovia, titles both the identity condition of Latinos and Latinas in the U.S. and one of his theological articles "Two Places and No Place on Which to Stand...." Virgilio Elizondo Virgilio Elizondo is a Mexican American, Roman Catholic priest who divides his time between his parish in San Antonio, Texas, and teaching at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. He is a major theologian in liberation theology and Hispanic theology. , another esteemed Latino theologian, expands on this mestizo condition that both Latinos and Latinas share in common. He recounts that in his own experience as a Mexican American Mexican American
A U.S. citizen or resident of Mexican descent.
Mexi·can-A·mer he "was not, and could never be, even if he tried, a real American, or a real Mexican." (3) In Elizondo's own words:
These were identities that I knew that I was and was not at the same time. Nevertheless, I was something. My own being was a combination. (I was a rich mixture, but I was not mixed up!) In fact, it was becoming increasingly clear to me that my own interior identity was new and exciting. I was neither an American, nor a Mexican, but fully both, and exclusively none. I knew both perfectly even when I remained a mystery for them, who did not wholly know me. (4)
The loneliness and alienation of the mestizo condition is permanent and irreversible. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, main proponent One who offers or proposes.
A proponent is a person who comes forward with an a item or an idea. A proponent supports an issue or advocates a cause, such as a proponent of a will.
PROPONENT, eccl. law. of Mujerista theology and a first-generation Cuban immigrant, says:
Mestizaje is grounded in the fact that we live in between, at the intersection of our countries of origin and the U.S.A. In the U.S.A. we are mostly marginalized people relegated to the outskirts of society, not really fully belonging. Regarding our countries of origin, we know that even if or when we do return, it is never really possible to go back. (5)
This describes my exact existential experience in this country and when I went back to visit Cuba, my country of origin, as well.
In addition to the profoundly ambiguous identity and social location that Latinas share with Latino men in the U.S., Latina women suffer the soci-economic and sexist oppression and discrimination that render them doubly marginal in the country where we live and have our being. Vast is the statistical material documenting the poverty rates and the dismal higher education higher education
Study beyond the level of secondary education. Institutions of higher education include not only colleges and universities but also professional schools in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, and art. levels of Latinas and Latinos. Plentiful are also the statistical studies of the results of sexism and its Spanish equivalent, machismo machismo
Exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences. In machismo there is supreme valuation of characteristics culturally associated with the masculine and a denigration of , which adds its particular sting to the life of the Latina population. Latinas are socially divided in economic classes and educational levels among themselves, with a great number of Latinas living below the poverty level in this country. At any socioeconomic level, Latinas are more than likely to be discriminated against. All over the United States one can find Latinas holding the most menial MENIAL. This term is applied to servants who live under their master's roof Vide stat. 2 H. IV., c. 21. and low-paying jobs in society. Middle-class Latinas have to contend with discrimination, cultural irrelevancy ir·rel·e·van·cy
n. pl. ir·rel·e·van·cies
Noun 1. irrelevancy - the lack of a relation of something to the matter at hand
irrelevance , and paternalism paternalism (p·terˑ·n from their bosses or colleagues on their jobs.
We Latinas are keenly aware of our irrelevant status in society and even in the church in the U.S. Such awareness causes us a great deal of alienating al·ien·ate
tr.v. al·ien·at·ed, al·ien·at·ing, al·ien·ates
1. To cause to become unfriendly or hostile; estrange: alienate a friend; alienate potential supporters by taking extreme positions. resentment and pain. However, as Latina theologian Isasi-Diaz points out, "oppression frames us [but] does not define us." (6) What defines Latinas, for Isasi-Diaz and for me and many others, is the daily praxis prax·is
n. pl. prax·es
1. Practical application or exercise of a branch of learning.
2. Habitual or established practice; custom. of survival (sobre-vivir) of the struggle (la lucha). In our daily existence, Latinas suffer, struggle with, and survive the oppressive socioeconomic conditions, the constant attack of sexism in our environments, and the perennial ambiguity of our own identity at the same time.
Isasi-Diaz describes the beginning of the process by which Latinas deconstruct de·con·struct
tr.v. de·con·struct·ed, de·con·struct·ing, de·con·structs
1. To break down into components; dismantle.
2. the alienating and marginalizing forces and oppressive systems that attempt to trap us:
In order for our struggle to be effective, we start by analyzing deeply the situation in which we live, taking into consideration the ethnic and sexist prejudices and the economic exploitation. We do not suffer the various forms of oppression separately, but we experience the various prejudices and economic exploitation simultaneously--as a complex oppression with many layers, that affect all aspects of our lives. It becomes obvious to us, then, that racial or ethnic prejudice is linked to the economic domination that we suffer here as much as the economic exploitation in our countries of origin. And we know that our oppression as women cannot be separated from the ethnic and economic oppressions. (7)
The suffering that we experience as a result of oppression and marginalization mar·gin·al·ize
tr.v. mar·gin·al·ized, mar·gin·al·iz·ing, mar·gin·al·iz·es
To relegate or confine to a lower or outer limit or edge, as of social standing. does not lead Latinas to give up the struggle or to feel merely as objects that are victimized by the oppressor OPPRESSOR. One who having public authority uses it unlawfully to tyrannize over another; as, if he keep him in prison until he shall do something which he is not lawfully bound to do.
2. To charge a magistrate with being an oppressor, is therefore actionable. . To the contrary, the suffering of Latinas empowers us to engage in what Isasi-Diaz terms "our historical project." (8) The deconstruction deconstruction, in linguistics, philosophy, and literary theory, the exposure and undermining of the metaphysical assumptions involved in systematic attempts to ground knowledge, especially in academic disciplines such as structuralism and semiotics. of the oppressive contexts that threaten to diminish Latinas' lives happens precisely in, with, and under the praxis of the life of Latinas. Latin American Liberation Theology liberation theology, belief that the Christian Gospel demands "a preferential option for the poor," and that the church should be involved in the struggle for economic and political justice in the contemporary world—particularly in the Third World. already pointed us to the liberating potential of our daily praxis (as the intentional and inseparable combination of action and reflection) and to the here-and-now nature of salvation.
Latinas' faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior empowers Latinas to take action for individual and communal self-affirmation and responsibility and to deconstruct through our diverse praxis the oppressive categories that attempt to trap us. Jesus Christ is the constant companion of Latinas in our struggles and our de- and reconstruction project. He is our Redeemer because his resurrection was victorious over his suffering on the cross and his death, but for Latinas it is most significant that he suffered. He did not suffer just for the sake of suffering, and we don't, either. U.S. Latinas don't like to suffer, and we don't celebrate or romanticize ro·man·ti·cize
v. ro·man·ti·cized, ro·man·ti·ciz·ing, ro·man·ti·ciz·es
To view or interpret romantically; make romantic.
To think in a romantic way. suffering. Latinas look to Jesus Christ as the one who, having already set the captive free through his suffering and death and resurrection, still walks with us in our very real everyday suffering and death toward our daily resurrection and abundant life. We find Christ coming to us hidden in, with, and under our suffering. The causes of the daily suffering relentlessly keep causing pain daily, no doubt, and hence the need of "surviving" it, part and parcel of the Mujerista theology of Latinas. Jesus Christ accompanies Latinas with his redemptive presence, empowering our social and cultural survival in the U.S.
So, as has been said, the christological perspective of Latinas empowers us to survive the indeterminacy in·de·ter·mi·na·cy
The state or quality of being indeterminate.
Noun 1. indeterminacy - the quality of being vague and poorly defined
indefiniteness, indefinity, indeterminateness, indetermination of cultural and social identity and even our marginalization by racist and sexist systems. The experience of fragmentation of Latinas can help to give confidence to others that, accompanied by Jesus Christ, it is indeed possible to survive and live abundantly in a diverse context, even when marginalized and sub jugated by the center. White Anglo theologians in the multicultural U.S. who are recognizing the value of diverse voices in their disciplines are now invited to step away from the center, to abandon it, and to risk stepping into the multivocal collage of contextual theological interpretations bringing their own interpretation to the collage. In so doing, such theologians would be entering into a real dialogue with the diversity of voices of the people of God, one of them being the Latina voices.
In good postmodern style, real dialogue on an equal footing would not have as its goal the legitimating of some interpretation, nor would it strive to delegitimate others. The key of the real dialogue would be the interaction among all the voices. Isasi-Diaz imagines this interaction in the case of white Anglo and Latina women:
Interaction is not just adding Hispanic women to the pot--the melting pot--in order not to feel guilty or to avoid being accused of not being inclusive. Instead, real interaction is embracing the other women because they are important in themselves and not because we can use them. This requires a knowledge of Hispanic women and our struggles and the acknowledgement that our oppression is directly related to the privileges enjoyed by the dominant class. (9)
The contribution of Latina theologians to a real dialogue, whose honesty and equality and indeterminacy could prove painful at times, is that Jesus Christ will accompany us whatever pain or anxiety it causes us all. From the Latina perspective, Jesus Christ will be there with all of us in our dialogical di·a·log·ic also di·a·log·i·cal
Of, relating to, or written in dialogue.
dia·log project of theological interpretation. We will live in the tension of indeterminacy, for there will not be any privileged interpretation among all the contextual ones. Instead, we together would have a Christology even richer than ours alone, a Christology responsive to the common diversity of the people of God in the diverse contexts of this country and the world. Thus we would all approach a multicultural Christ, and we would enjoy being, as Paul calls us to be, "one in Jesus Christ"--each one of us and others as we truly are and in the same degree; each one of us united in Christ within the diversity of our interpretations and experiences.
As, in the praxis of Latinas empowered by Jesus Christ, our reality is transformed, it is then that I concretely propose that, as a first action item to engage in the real dialogue, we all "adjectivize" every person and every christological claim. For example, "women" would be reserved to refer specifically to the wide spectrum of the diversity of women, but "African American women," "Latina women," "Asian American A·sian A·mer·i·can also A·sian-A·mer·i·can
A U.S. citizen or resident of Asian descent. See Usage Note at Amerasian.
A women," and "white Anglo women" would designate those particular racial, ethnic, and cultural groups of women. White Anglo women would have to get used to the inclusive and sometimes bothersome practice. Other groups of women are already used to being designated, and designate themselves, by their race and ethnicity. Also, some Christologies are commonly adjectivized, such as "Womanist wom·an·ist
Having or expressing a belief in or respect for women and their talents and abilities beyond the boundaries of race and class: "Womanist ... ," "Asian American," and "Latino/a" Christologies, among others. However, it is rare to see "white Anglo Christology" adjectivized. My proposal is that we use adjectivization equally for all Christologies or otherwise indicate the contextual perspective in which the particular Christology is molded. "Feminist Christology" would then explicitly refer to the christological interpretation of white Anglo women.
There are still many who, although welcoming voices from the margin that for them enrich interpretation, resist the challenge to see themselves having the privileged place of reading, interpreting, and teaching from the center. They insist on the universal nature of their Christology. Justo Gonzalez Justo L. González is a retired Latino Methodist theologian and prolific author. Education
Justo L. González was born in Cuba in August 1937, attended United Seminary in Cuba, received his M.A. from Yale, and then went on to receive his Ph.D. , Latino theologian and mentor of many U.S. Latino/a theologians, states that
North Atlantic male theology is taken to be basic, normative, universal theology, to which then women, other minorities, and people from younger churches may add their footnotes. What is said in Manila is very relevant for the Philippines. What is said in Tubingen, Oxford, or Yale is very relevant for the entire church. (10)
For those who are sympathetic to Gonzalez's criticism here, I submit the challenge of taking concrete action steps against the perpetuation of such marginalizing state of affairs.
The people at the margins are doing their part. They are speaking up, and such notable white male Anglo theologians as Walter Brueggemann Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) is an Old Testament scholar and author who lives in Georgia in the United States. Born in Nebraska and raised in Missouri, the son of a German Evangelical pastor, Brueggemann received his Bachelor's Degree from Elmhurst College and doctorates from Eden are slowly hearing their voices and hesitantly trying to accommodate them in a less invisible way, albeit still in the margins. (11) There is a lot more to do, a long, long way to go, especially by theological and religious educators. Loida Martell-Otero tells us that
The ongoing challenge for academia, then, is to create an environment that is as welcoming and nurturing to Latina and Latino theological scholars as it has been to more traditional groups in the past. It will not suffice to include a book on Latin American Liberation Theology in a class list of required reading. It will not suffice to grudgingly accept two or three Hispanics who have had to jump through the hoops just to apply. The tent must be enlarged. Seminaries must become truly multicultural centers of learning. What is said in Manila, the South Bronx, or San Juan must be seen as relevant to all the church. For theological discourse to become truly engaging, truly challenging, truly dynamic, all voices must be heard equally, with the same respect. (12)
Furthermore, as Robert Pazmino has pointed out, "an educational institution demonstrates true multicultural equity when all representative groups are granted the same access to resources, respect, space to be heard, appropriate role models, and shared power." (13) If concrete equalizations such as these are not systematized and institutionalized in·sti·tu·tion·al·ize
tr.v. in·sti·tu·tion·al·ized, in·sti·tu·tion·al·iz·ing, in·sti·tu·tion·al·iz·es
a. To make into, treat as, or give the character of an institution to.
b. , the so-called theologians of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color and the people of God that they represent will continue feeling and being marginalized, excluded, and ignored--even if the specters of a few of us walk around the corridors of white Anglo-dominated academia every day.
We will survive the oppression, accompanied by Jesus Christ every step of the way, and we will continue being "difficult," "of one-track-mind," "trouble makers," "too sensitive," and sometimes even "paranoid," as one or another professor or student of color has been termed. We, the few of us who elect to enter and stay in the marginalized conditions of our vocations, will continue gathering strength through our praxis and our historical project. And we will continue knowing that there is no authority in privileged unadjectivized interpretations. That is one way in which the people at the margins ignore the center that marginalizes them. That is a way of dethroning the oppressive center. I have colleagues who do not talk to the center, who speak only in gatherings of color, because they see no point, and I can see their point clearly.
A better way of unseating the center would be that those in the center themselves leave it vacant, and not in order to come join those in the margins, because when the center is vacated, so will the margins automatically: no center, no margins. A lofty and naive idea, perhaps, and one that Brueggemann does not think will be coming soon, nor should it:
I know of no way to bring resolution to the growing tension between what I have called centrist and marginated readings of the text, nor is it clear that resolution is desirable. It is not likely that the established community of reading--ecclesial and academic--will be displaced. These communities of reading will continue to dominate our discernment of the text. Nor is it possible to imagine that marginated readings will be silenced, even though the silencing capacity of dominant reading communities--ecclesial and academic--is considerable.... Our interpretive theological situation is, and will be for the foreseeable future, one of conflict and contention, and no maneuver of self-proclaimed authority will be able to silence the challenge to the hegemony. (14)
So, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Brueggemann, and according to ample confirming evidence in our colleges, universities, divinity schools Divinity School may be:
Kwok Pui-lan asks the naked-king question about the discipline of biblical studies Biblical studies is the academic study of the Judeo-Christian Bible and related texts. For Christianity, the Bible traditionally comprises the New Testament and Old Testament, which together are sometimes called the "Scriptures. :
Why are there so few racial and ethnic minority scholars in the field of biblical studies in the United States? African American churches love the Bible, but there are only about twenty-five African American scholars teaching the Bible in this country. The number of Asian and Asian American scholars is fewer than ten, while the numbers for both Hispanic and Native American scholars are even smaller. What can this tell us about the training of biblical studies in general and about the perpetuation of Eurocentrism in the discipline in particular? (15)
To even think of vacating the center may produce much fear. One could think that others could jump into it to fill it again, but only if the structures of current power realities are not transformed in a new dialogical interaction but merely substituted one for another. The tyranny of hegemonic truth will have to be abandoned by those who treasure it and are privileged by it. Leaving the center to become "just one more voice" within a diversity of voices could be confusing and anxiety-provoking. All those separate voices ... could anybody hear anybody else over the cacophony of them all? But the majority of the Two Thirds World hear each other with no trouble; hearing and being heard from the center has been the only thing that is difficult. Deconstructing one's own center space could produce too much tension, but tension is not new to Lutherans who thrive on such paradoxical doctrines as simul justus et peccator, the Word as law and gospel The relationship between God's Law and the Gospel is a major topic in Lutheran and Reformed theology. In these traditions, the distinction between the doctrines of Law, which demands obedience to God's will, and Gospel , Deus absconditus and Deus revelatus, and the two kingdoms. (16) Deconstructing conversations are already happening at the margins, so those vacating the center would have the witness of those whom Jesus Christ has been accompanying during confusing identity and alienating oppression.
Just imagine: no center, no margins; no male, no female; no Jew, no Greek; no slave, no free; no binary oppositions In critical theory, a binary opposition (also binary system) is a pair of theoretical opposites. In structuralism, it is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture, and language. to define us as center (male, Jew, free), or as "the Other" at the margin (female, Greek, slave), just all of us in our diversity as one in Christ, interacting together and dialoguing as one (not as two opposites) about who Christ is.
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) is a seminary based in Berkeley, California. It is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and is a member school of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU).
1. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press The University of Minnesota Press is a university press that is part of the University of Minnesota. External link
2. See Virgilio Elizondo. The Future is Mestizo: Life Where Cultures Meet (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Crossroad, 1992).
3. Elizondo, The Future is Mestizo, 26, as referred to in Jose David Rodriguez David Rodriguez (born on January 1, 1952) is a folk music singer-songwriter, performer, and poet. Life and music
David Roland Rodriguez was born and raised in Houston, Texas. , "Unidad e identidad: En busca de la unidad de la Iglesia desde la perspectiva Hispano/Latina Luterana," paper read at the ELCA ELCA Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
ELCA European Landscape Contractors Association
ELCA Excimer Laser Coronary Angioplasty
ELCA English Language Communicational Association (Japan)
ELCA Eagle's Landing Christian Academy Consulta sobre Identidad Latina (Chicago, 1999), 8.
4. Elizondo, The Future is Mestizo. 26, as cited in Rodriguez; the translation is mine.
5. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, En la Lucha. In the Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004), 33.
6. Isasi-Diaz, En la Lucha, 39.
7. Isasi-Diaz, En la Lucha, 46; the translation is mine.
8. Isasi-Diaz, En la Lucha, 189.
9. Isasi-Diaz, En la Lucha, 207; the translation is mine.
10. Justo Gonzalez, Manana ma·ña·na
2. At an unspecified future time.
An indefinite time in the future.
[Spanish, from Vulgar Latin : Christian Theology Noun 1. Christian theology - the teachings of Christian churches
free grace, grace of God, grace - (Christian theology) the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God; "God's grace is manifested in the salvation of sinners"; "there but for the grace of God go from a Hispanic Perspective (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990), 50, as quoted in Loida Martell-Otero, "The Ongoing Challenge of Hispanic Theology," in Teologia en Conjunto con·jun·to
n. pl. con·jun·tos
1. A dance band, especially in Latin America.
2. A style of popular dance music originating along the border between Texas and Mexico, characterized by the use of accordion, drums, , ed. Jose David Rodriguez and Loida Martell-Otero (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1997), 150.
11. See Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 711, n. 13. Brueggemann is still preoccupied with the process of adjudication The legal process of resolving a dispute. The formal giving or pronouncing of a judgment or decree in a court proceeding; also the judgment or decision given. The entry of a decree by a court in respect to the parties in a case. of the "provisional" interpretations and the danger of an "uncritical embrace of autonomy ... as costly as the alternative of authoritarianism."
12. Martell-Otero, "The Ongoing Challenge," 152.
13. Class conference by Robert Pazmino, quoted in Martell-Otero, "The Ongoing Challenge," 152.
14. Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament. 102.
15. Kwok Pui-lan, "Jesus/the Native. Biblical Studies from a Postcolonial post·co·lo·ni·al
Of, relating to, or being the time following the establishment of independence in a colony: postcolonial economics. Perspective," in Teaching the Bible: The Discourses and Politics of Biblical Pedagogy, ed. Fernando Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998), 69-85.
16. See Giacomo Cassese, "Identidad luterana," paper read at the ELCA Consulta sobre identidad luterana (Chicago, 1999), 1.