The Common Good

'Can the Subaltern Speak?' or, Moving the Emerging Conversation Forward

[Read more of this blog conversation in response to the Sojourners magazine article "Is the 'Emerging Church' for Whites Only?"]

("Can the Subaltern Speak?" is the title of an article by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.)

The following is said at the risk of being considered a sell-out.

Events (as in the historical happening as well as in phenomenological terms) like Arizona's new racist law SB 1070, are one of the reasons why I haven't responded to the article, "Is the Emerging Church for Whites Only?" -- otherwise known as, "some color is not enough color in the Emerging/Emergent Church." It seems very capricious and disingenuous that on certain issues People of Color (this applies to other people at the margins, disabled, queer, women etc.) speak and work to eradicate prejudices, discrimination, and profiling based on appearances and social perception/constructs, while on the other hand we used those standards against others. I'm guilty as charged. I am a broken man. I am paternalistic, patriarchal, sexist, and racist. I'm stubborn, hypocritical, and prideful. I'm not without fault. Unfortunately, I am very unaware of my own baggage. Once in a while, by the grace of God, I'm confronted with my own sin -- Lord, have mercy on a me a sinner.

It is obvious that we do not live in a post-racial society and that our institutions, movements, and groups carry within them the disease of racism (as well as sexism, homophobia, patriarchy, ageism, discrimination against disabled people, among many other sins). We all partake of the paradox of power and oppression. I'm not surprised this new round of conversation about the supposed lack of melanin in the emerging/emergent church has spurred some animosity, reaction, and resistance. I am married to a White/Anglo/Euro-American woman and still after 10 years of a happy marriage, our strong disagreements and arguments have to do with racial/ethnic/cultural differences. The work toward justice and reconciliation is not one without discomfort and pain, especially when our baggage and experiences are so unique and embedded in our souls.

Today I stand behind what I wrote two years ago, in a similar series of posts related to Whiteness and New Monasticism. Nevertheless, since then I've met and come to love many people, broken bread, prayed, drank beer, and built relationships that make me confess that at times I've been unfair and violent in my involvements on this subject. I believe that in order to really move forward in this conversation we need to engage in a dialogue that goes beyond the abstract, the reactionary, and the caricatures.

Emerging/Emergent Church people need to hold things loosely. As I see it, this thing of Kingdom/Gospel/Soul living is about death and resurrection. If the Emerging/Emergent Church needs to die, well then, let it go in order to experience resurrection. For people who are critical of the Emerging/Emergent Church (both from inside and outside), what if we now move on toward a different level of engagement which re-frames the way we compare, judge, and work toward healing, wholeness, and harmony? A different level that goes beyond the appearances of who sells books and who speaks at conferences. There is much more to the Emerging/Emergent Church than what meets the eye. Just like Brown people in Arizona are more than just a target for deportation.

What if we who have been marginalized (for whatever reason) start functioning from different sources, instead of anger, repression, and an internalized, oppressive, false sense of "equality" that amounts to little more than uncritical assimilation? I a Brown Puerto Rican brother, and I want to function from a sense of dignity, rootedness, community, hard work, conviviality, relationships, stories, family, organic wisdom, interpersonal economics, celebrations, and incarnational spirituality, among many other things that make us who we are.

Can the subaltern speak? Can there be an insurrection of the subjugated knowledges? Yes, and oh yes!

However, the speech and insurrection had better be different. If not, it will be the same old regime with a different costume, same dog with a different collar. Liberation is not a change of guard. Liberation is more than changing administration. Liberated people need to learn and function by vibes, values, and principles different from the Empire. We should live and work toward a liberation that is humanizing and life-giving to everyone.

Eliacin Rosario-CruzEliacín Rosario-Cruz serves as community catalyst and cultivator with Mustard Seed Associates. He and his family are part of The Mustard Seed House -- an intergenerational Christian intentional community in Seattle, where they eat, play, work, garden, pray, and conspire for a new reality.

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