— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —
In my teaching and research, a certain issue about knowledge comes up frequently. ‘Perspectivity’ pervades the study of literature, history, philosophy, and even law. Concern for the ‘the dangers of a single story’, history being ‘written by the winners’, ‘epistemic privilege’, and ‘the length of the chancellor’s foot’, respectively, occupy students and academics alike. Indeed, related discussions can become virulent in Western societies when combined with identity politics.
Those who emphasize our individual perspective on the world – and the differences among these – have legitimate reasons to do so. Moreover, the historical marginalization of some voices demands that all have the chance to be expressed and that all receive due respect and consideration.
An emphasis on differences in societies characterized by diversity will not, however, help us to coexist peacefully. Relations defined in terms of ‘us’ and the ‘others’ provoke tension and conflict among individuals and groups. A deconstructive approach is divisive and cuts short dialogue. What we need to achieve mutual understanding is to adopt a constructive approach, an approach that may prove unifying.
The starting point of a constructive approach lies in a recognition that none of our own perspectives is complete or self-contained. Thereafter, the effort should not be made, however, to identify ways in which our points of view are limited and might be extended. Such an effort, while more productive than an emphasis on differences, is also misguided. It relies entirely on our human insights and capacities, though these are undeniably constrained. (Alone consider the evils that have been wrought around the world by the ‘progressive’ ideologies of fascism, communism, or fundamentalism over the last century.) Instead, we must, paradoxically, go beyond ourselves and recognize an authority that is not derived from particular perspectives, but that is independent of us.
For Christians, that authority is the Word, that part of God given to us as a guide (John 1:1). It has been reported and written by ‘man’, but the prophets, apostles, scribes, and theologians did so not of their own accord (Isaiah 45). They did so by the instruction of the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21).
Our proper role as believers is to submit to this divine authority (logos) and to allow it to direct our minds and conduct. More than that, Jesus commits us to go into all the world and preach God’s message to all creation (Mark 16:15). He has not merely given us ‘the right to tell that story’; He has given us the obligation.
The Word should not be considered a particular perspective itself, i.e., a point of view that also divides; instead, it is meant to connect individuals and groups, without distinction among them (Galatians 3:28). Alone the example of the accommodation of diversity in our Anglican community demonstrates how the Word can serve as a bridge across differences. Conceived correctly, it prioritizes what all of us have in common; it calls for loving-kindness in our interactions; and it makes possible the unity of understanding that perspectivity undermines.
The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.
Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.
We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.