Call me cynical, but here’s my suspicion: Adjectives in front of theology are deceptive. Yes, they’re needed; no, I’m not against them, but still, they’re deceptive. Here’s how.
By distinguishing some theology with a modifier — feminist, black, Latin American, eco-, post-colonial, or indigenous, we are playing into the idea that these theologies are special, different — boutique theologies if you will. Meanwhile, unmodified theology — theology without adjectives — thus retains its privileged position as normative. Unmodified theology is accepted as Christian theology, or orthodox theology, or important, normal, basic, real, historic theology.
But what if we tried to subvert this deception? What if we started calling standard, unmodified theology chauvinist theology, or white theology, or consumerist, or colonial, or Greco-Roman theology? The covert assumption behind the modifier post-colonial thus becomes overt, although it is generally more obliquely and politely stated than this: Standard, normative, historic, so-called orthodox Christian theology has been a theology of empire, a theology of colonialism, a theology that powerful people used as a tool to achieve and defend land theft, exploitation, domination, superiority, and privilege.
If that doesn’t sound disturbing, I’m not writing well or you’re not reading well.
Noting that "If standard Christian theology has indeed been colonial, then we would expect it to have certain characteristics," McLaren lists the following:
- It would explain — historically or theologically — why the colonizers deserve to be in power — sustained in the position of hegemony.
- It would similarly explain why the colonized deserve to be dominated — maintained in the subaltern or subservient position.
- It would provide ethical justification for the phases and functions of colonization — from exploration to settlements to land acquisition to minority marginalization to segregation to hegemony-maintenance, even to ethnic cleansing.
- It would bolster the sense of entitlement and motivation among the colonizers.
- It would embed the sense of submission and docility among the colonized.
- It would facilitate alliances with political and economic systems that were supportive of or inherent to colonialism.
- It would camouflage or cosmetically enhance its ugly aspects and preempt attempts to expose them.
As a little thought experiment, replace "colonizers" with "men" and "colonized" with "women," and ask yourself, does this describe typical Church of Christ doctrine and practice? I think you know what I think you'll find...