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

By Mark Lewis Taylor | Go to book overview

2
A CULTURAL-POLITICAL
HERMENEUTICS OF TRADITION

There is no intellectual, cultural, political, or religious tradition that does
not ultimately live by the quality of its conversation; there is also no
tradition that does not eventually have to acknowledge its own plurality
and ambiguity.

David Tracy
Plurality and Ambiguity

In this chapter I turn more directly to what theological interpretation is to become in light of the trilemma. Reading and rereading traditional texts has often been viewed as central to theological reflection. Surely now, however, given the complexity of the trilemma, there can be no easy readings and rereadings of the Christian traditions' classic sources, especially of the Bible. There are no easy readings of the Bible, I say, because biblical writings are not only difficult in their literary forms, but also by reason of their complex historical contexts. Further, and perhaps most important, biblical texts and studies of their historical contexts are approached by present-day interpreters who have radically different cultural and political viewpoints.

Present-day social locations, shaped by diverse cultural practices and different degrees of access to political power, shape readings of the tradition's texts. Consider, for example, readings of the Markan passage about the possessed man of Gadara, in which “unclean spirits” come out of the Gadarene man and enter two thousand swine who then rush to their drowning in the sea.1 According to the summaries of Ernesto Cardenal in The Gospel in Solentiname, today's landless campesinos in Central America approach this passage as a judgment on inordinate wealth and as a signal of how Jesus' life was unsettling for the rich wanting to hold onto their wealth in the form of “about two thousand pigs.”2 Rarely do today's North Atlantic interpreters, with different cultural views and political or economic opportunities, even see this dimension of the passage.

One way of discussing this kind of difference among interpreters is to say that the campesino and North Atlantic interpreters live and think dif-

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