Remembering Esperanza: A Cultural-Political Theology for North American Praxis

By Mark Lewis Taylor | Go to book overview

Preface to the 2005 Publication

In U.S. Christian churches the event of grace is usually viewed as occurring first and primarily between individual believers and God. Social and political action is then seen as an outworking of grace already received by the believer. Remembering Esperanza presumes and argues otherwise, that the event of grace occurs, primarily, when believers find themselves collectively given to socio-historical movements of liberation, to what I term here “reconciliatory emancipation,” i.e., building new structured freedom in common struggle and hope amid forces of gender injustice, racism, heterosexism, and economic exploitation. These movements are sites not only for moral practice but also for encountering grace.

Fifteen years after Remembering Esperanza's first appearance, I remain deeply grateful for criticisms of the volume. I am also aware of its other shortcomings. Those critics were surely right who remarked that the book's style of writing often allowed its autobiographical reflections to become lost in labyrinths of theories and, at times, in a convoluted style. Would that I had been graced with a lighter touch in the book's writing. I can only say here that the book, for reasons I believe are clear enough, opened up themes that were deeply personal and that seemed to demand rigors of reflection at once hermeneutical, cultural and political, involving also gender, race, and economic theory. The book's style represented an effort to introduce personal reference into forming theory in theology, a task toward which theologians still need to strive.

Other reviewers were perhaps right on another matter. They argued that I had overplayed the reconstructive or “remythologizing” side of a Christian theologian's task. “Mark, you cannot just make up a tradition,” commented one colleague informally. Reviewer Hinze asked about the Christology, “Are we left viewing traditional materials not as ambiguous, but as primarily negative?”1

I readily grant that I might have explored more of the resources in Christian traditions that are variously deemed “orthodox” and that this might have situated the cultural-political Christology of Remembering Esperanza closer to what are often called the “classical” features of Christian theology. I have been helped by those like Hinze who have pushed me to do that. Yet I would remind us all of what should be a commonplace: “the tradition” is not only ambiguous; it is that, but it is also often a broken and destruc

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