January 24, 2011
What is your location?
How does it affect how you read scripture?
While in seminary, I was often asked, “Describe your location.” I wanted to turn on my GPS and give a geological position and perhaps respond, “I’m standing on the corner of Chalmers and Wright.
However, within theological conversation at the seminary, one’s location meant the importance of understanding one’s cultural, class, gender, educational and personal assumptions that created the lens through which one read scripture, interpreted it’s meaning, and lived this meaning in the world. One had to clearly understand one’s own location and to begin to listen carefully to the perspectives of others, as it would be different.
The basics of my location include: boomer generation, white, middle class, mid-western, female, graduate from liberal arts schools, widowed. These shape how I interpret what I read, how I integrate these readings and why I react positively or negatively towards various ideas and situations. We all have a location, a paradigm. What is yours? What shapes your own understandings?
While in seminary, when asked to write a theological reflection, we had to clearly describe the location from which we stood. Different locations would create different understandings. When I talked with a black woman from the inner city of Chicago who grew up in the projects but was now working as a community health nurse, I began to clearly see that her location shaped her perspective and therefore the final reflections from the information we both read. Her paradigm affected how she heard the Word and what it meant to her. They were different than mine. She had much to teach me.
Jurgen Moltmann in The Church in the Power of the Spirit writes “Reading the Bible with the eyes of the poor is a different thing from reading it with a full belly. If it is read in the light of the experience and hopes of the oppressed, the Bible’s revolutionary themes –promise, exodus, resurrection and spirit — come alive.” The location of a poor person is different. Therefore, they will see different things in the very same reading of the Bible.
Therefore, reading scripture requires the gathering of people in a community from various “locations”. It’s too hard to do alone. The power of the Holy Spirit works through the Word and those gathered to hear its truth. The Holy Spirit uses each of us to hear and teach and reflect together.
So what is your location? What can you teach me from the paradigm? We all have much to learn.