Tuesday, February 16, 2010

4 groups in public theology

There are 4 observable and differing groups within the local Christian community in the area of public theology. Hence there are 4 different theologies.
Apathetic Group:
Christians in this group do not care about public issues at all. Even if they care, their concern are driven by individual's immediate needs and wants rather than a theological vision. The churches belonging to this group emphasize on the individual congregant's well being. Hence most, if not all, of the Sunday services are accompanied with sermons that have nothing to do with public issues. Rarely one hears sermon about social inequality, unjust treatment, and other public topics. The theology within this group does not grasp the full implication of God's cosmic-renewal project. Preachers and Christians in this group limit theology of "new creation" to individual and failed to include its implication to the entire cosmos out of ignorance rather than conscious decision. That means they simply do not know there is such an aspect in Christianity. This is the "boh chap" group (literally: heck care).

Wanna-be Group:
Those in this group are Christians that managed to grasp the full implication of God's cosmic-renewal project. They theologically advocate the Christian community to participate in public affairs. The theologians, pastors, and Christians in this group are generally informed over the connection of Christian faith with public issues. However this group has a serious lack. Although this group realizes the call to seek the welfare of the society, they do not know how to do it. Therefore this is the group that often mis-portrays Christians as militant fundamentalists who are trying to establish Christendom in current society to the public. They have good intention but lack ingredients like good framework, theology, and strategy to engage the public. Usually members in this group are educated lay Christians and informed church leaders such as pastors and elders. It is not too stretching to label this group as "kia su" group (literally: fear of losing).

Trumpeting Group:
This third group possesses the ingredients like good intention, framework, theology, and strategy to engage the public, but they lack boldness. This suggests that they know what they can and should do, but they do not have to courage to do it because they are afraid to invite public scorn over their involvement. They are content to trumpet about the call to engage public issues but they do not want to get themselves dirtied. So when real issues with social and political implications occurred, they would usually just talk among themselves or conduct closed-door meetings to talk about it. This group enjoys encouraging individual Christians to engage public issues as an individual and do not want to strategize concerted effort for it. Most of them are bought into the secular polity that believes in the possibility to engage the public square as a "citizen" and not as a "Christian". No doubt this is a hollow and uncritical perception, but it is the safest one. Usually members in this group are theologians and informed church or denominational leaders. Compared to the "kia su" group, this is more like a "kia si" group (literally: fear of threats & death).

Activist Group:
This group is theologically informed over the inter-weaved connection between Christianity and public affairs. They are not afraid of losing nor threat and death. The possibility of imprisonment is scary but not constraining. They are able to conduct public discourse in manner understandable to those who do not belong to the Christian community. Due to this, often this group is caricatured as the "liberals" within the religious community although they are theologically informed. Though they are passionate to engage the world yet they are not fundamentalists who blow themselves up for their cause. They pursue their cause in respectful and tolerant manner. Members in this group consists of lay theologians to professional theologians. Philip Blond and Rowan Williams are living examples. Dead ones are apostle Paul, Jason (Acts 17.6-7), and William Wilberforce. A dramatized example which is based on a real historical person is Gustav Briegleb in the movie Changeling.
So which group do you belong to???


Sivin Kit said...

It would be nice to consider myself along Rowan Williams :-) But then, I think I still have a long way to go.

I suppose in true postmodern fashion, people fluctuate between the "mindsets" or "basic orientations"(perhaps, groups are too boundary laden?)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Sivin,

Okay, a confession to make, I have you in mind each time I think of local example of those in the activist group. :)

The groups are manifestation of those mindsets and basic orientations. The categorization is the result of an observation.

Sivin Kit said...

:-) so touched to know I'm on your mind! ROFL

I understand the need to sort things out in our head!