Unlearning and Relearning

This pastoral study project, which I’m now calling Stained Theology, began in January 2022. The funding entity—Louisville Institute—hosted a two-day consultation (by Zoom) for the 25 grant recipients. It was a beautiful array of people and backgrounds and interesting projects. Click here to see more: Pastoral Study Grant Recipients 2022

Here is where I stayed during this consultation—a Church turned into an Airbnb, still with the original stained glass.

One of the most memorable and provocative presentations was led by Rev. Dr. Christine Hong. It was called “Decolonial Futures—Intercultural and Interreligious Intelligence.” Dr. Hong used the phrase “postures of colonialism” to describe the colonial frameworks or ideologies often embedded in our every day lives and that harm all of us, especially those without certain power. Unlearning these colonial postures and resisting them requires that we first see or acknowledge them as frameworks that are all around us and in us—postures that we often flex without even realizing it.

Dr. Hong put it rather starkly: Colonialism—defined simply as control by one power over an area or people— is not just a thing of the past. Rather, we are all living in a world shaped by colonialism. It is so pervasive and embedded—it’s the air we breathe. And the Church is no exception, she said. In fact, Christian spaces writ large (whether more conservative or liberal or so called progressive) are often where embedded supremacist and colonial ideologies go unexamined. We have a lot of unlearning and relearning to do, she said. All of us.

Therefore, after the consultation, I taped this slide from her presentation to the front of my Stained Theology binder. I try to review this every time I’m about to step into a new place or meet someone new or talk about my project. In case it is difficult to read, I’ve typed it below.

  • Be aware of bias and violence that emerges from white and Christian supremacy.
  • Be aware of the tendency to map over other people’s experiences and understandings.
  • Work to deconstruct that bias and white and Christian supremacy (unlearning and relearning) as part of daily life and research.
  • Be wary of compare and contract models (Christian and “Other”) and closed questioning.
  • Complexify binary thinking and models of understanding (colonialism posture wants us to think in binaries which often flattens people’ s experiences and narratives. Notice difference. See and let different narratives co-exist)

The following post will be more about what steps I took next, which was to partner with Nekeisha Alayna Alexis. Nekeisha is the Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism (ICUR) coordinator at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She also leads a team of teaching faculty, administrators and students in the ongoing work of AMBS’s strategic priority of undoing racism and building intercultural competence throughout the institution.

I’m so grateful she will be coming to Rainbow August 27-28. More on that soon.

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