Baptizing Oppression

For the oppressed, to be restored in community with their oppressors means both being lifted out of the oppression and, as Volf rightly reminds us, a process of forgiveness to begin, so that the oppression leaves not only the physical reality but also the internal identity. For the oppressor, the process must come from a different direction, and so a theology of the cross that emphasizes identification with Jesus in his brokenness may actually lead to misapplied formative theology. When the dominant identifies with the dominated without relinquishing the patterns of the domination, they are, in effect, baptizing the domination as part of the formative community, leading often to its inclusion within not only the church, but indeed also in broader Christian theology itself. A baptized domination must find, after all, validation from some direction in order to perpetuate and, indeed, defend itself from critique. This is why, again, that a comprehensive liberation of the oppressor cannot simply be a matter of practical theology—how the church gathers and what it expresses. As patterns of oppression become embedded in the ecclesial traditions, those traditions and leaders that are responsible for conveying Christian theology embed their own self-justifying domination in this theology.

from my dissertation

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