After last week’s conversation on race and emergence Christianity had died down somewhat, Tony Jones went back to work with an invitation to Christian feminists and womanists to submit entries (accepted by a small group of people without Jones) to be posted on Theoblogy, without comment or moderation from Jones himself. A few questions have come up: Is TheoBlogy really a safe place for dissenting voices? (I don’t even know if PJ is a safe place for others sometimes, but its my and the other authors’ safe space so there!). Why was this particular invitation given by a person who has derided womanists and feminists as angry, emotional, unreasonable (to the point of not meeting him face to face for “reconciliation”), and too dedicated to identity politics to validly critique his “incarnational” theology.
A more important question that we should be asking, like Caryn Riswald did yesterday; by the way, please read her post, A Blog Of Our Own. Why should womanist and feminist Christians be concerned to “teaching” Jones and his audience what they are doing wrong? Why is this their responsibility, their burden to bear? Why should the experience of Jones and his audience be placed at the center? Isn’t that the problem to begin with?
The problem I brought up in my previous two parts, “Can The Subaltern Blog?,” is the question of power and gender relations, and marginalization of women in the real world in seminaries and Bible colleges.
From Christianity Today, The Seminary Gender Gap:
“Perhaps the lack of job prospects is a deterrent: Why pay the tuition if you are not guaranteed a job afterwards? Or perhaps it is a matter of theology since some traditions discourage women from the pastorate on biblical grounds. Still, other churches support the idea of female leaders in principle, but simply fail to take the steps necessary to cultivate women’s gifts.
Combined, these factors produce a persistent minority of female, evangelical seminarians with a rather tumultuous seminary experience. Evangelical women who discern a call to seminary often find themselves without much community and without many resources. Whether or not they are seeking ordination, women report feeling ostracized by male classmates.”
The quest for safe spaces for women and racial minorities to work out their own faith journeys online is important. As one person on twitter pointed out, with one fewer moderater (the author), it would be open season on feminists and womanists whose articles were accepted by Jones’ “committee.” From what I have seen and read, Jones’ supporters use ad hom attacks themselves on the blogs of his critics. So, yeah, the lack of a safe space is a pressing issue.
I have two examples of constructive actions that Tony Jones and whoever else is interested in seeing things from “the Other’s” perspective: it starts with reading books by people who do not look or think like you do. Reading is just the first step, the second step is something my friend J.K. Gayle calls “rhetorical listening,” actually hearing out “the Other’s” argument and maybe engaging in some self-criticism. This part of listening happens when we let other voices than our own define themselves, and maybe even re-define you in the position that you see yourself. For an example of this, see J.K.’s reflections on racial gazes and rhetoric: About Biblioblogging…?: Jacqueline Jones Royster’s voices.
The other example is my friend James Bradford Pate, who regularly reads and blogs on books about controversial issues, even by authors he does not agree with. Like last year, he did series during Women’s History Month and Black History Month. James uses rhetorical listening to give authors who may not look like him a fair hearing. Both JK and James regularly blog about religion, race, gender, and politics. In both instances, these white men did the hard work themselves and were changed for the better. The oft-quoted, oft-attributed quote from Ghandi, “You are the change you seek” comes to mind.