What religious considerations should inform the current immigration discussion? Are you ready for leading liberation theologian, professor of social ethics and Latinx studies at Iliff Seminary to brew some rad theology? In Episode 44 of the Brew Theology Podcast Janel, Liz, Kyle, Ryan & Stef get to talk with Dr. Miguel De La Torre on the US Immigration Crisis, and what De La Torre calls an ethics toward place. Miguel is on Episode 8 as well. Back in Episode 8, Dr. De La Torre speaks about his theology of hopelessness, and “para joder” (Spanish for “screwing with”).
Currently, I am living in Germany as a Fulbright scholar at Johannes Gutenberg University. During my time here, I have visited concentration camps, attempting to understand how an advance and civilized society, a culture which gave the world Beethoven, Luther and Klee, could also mechanize some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century.
Rather than wrestling with evil, it becomes easier to simply dismiss Nazi concentration guards as monsters. Constructing monsters simplifies our visceral response. But even monsters pet dogs. It is so easy to characterize the abuser as inhuman, as lacking any sense of loving emotions. Simple binaries of good and evil makes inhumane those placed under the label of evil.
I am convinced that all eurocentric philosophical thought and movements – yes all – are oppressive to those who come from colonized spaces. When I contemplate every philosophical contribution made by the so-called Age of Enlightenment, it becomes obvious that the French Revolution’s battle cry for Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité was never meant for her future colonies in Vietnam or Algiers. Hegel’s entire endeavor for a historical truths rests on the presupposition of the superiority of the Europeans and the inferiority of non-whites. In his 1824 book, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, Northern Europe – specifically the German Spirit – is the Spirit of the new World whose aim becomes the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self-determination of Freedom, a Freedom which has as its own absolute form itself as its purport (341). Such a Freedom was never meant for the “inferior” in need of civilization and Christianization. Even the U.S. rhetorical end to our daily oath of “liberty and justice for all” was never meant to include those from African descent, nor their neighbors south of the border.
To hope is not some wishful desire but an expected joy that God will bring about God’s purposes. Jürgen Moltmann argued for a hope based in a God who keeps promises, a God who is a step ahead of humanity making all things new. Moltmann’s hope is based on God’s promise which validates the gospel and assures an eternal and blissful afterlife, safeguards a future with meaning and purpose, fortifies a sense of security, provides tranquility of mind, and, most important, secures a sense of peace in the midst of life’s vicissitudes.
But what do you do when the God of liberation fails to liberate? When God’s promises fall short, a theology must be constructed which limits who is destined for liberation and, by extension, salvation.
Returning to the land which witnessed my birth is always a gut-wrenching experience. Separation from my island has now been five times longer than Odysseus’ was from his. But unlike Odysseus, who was returning to a place he was familiar with, I am attempting to piece together some type of rootedness upon the shifting sands of my parents’ false memories (sí, porque los bichos no picaban, y los mangos eran más dulce; yes, because the bugs were not biting, and mangoes were sweeter).
Every Cuban over a certain age lives with a particular trauma caused by the hardships of being a refugee. Homesickness for a place that was never home, mixed with nostalgia, romanticization and an unnaturally-taught hatred towards various actors blamed for our Babylonian captivity contributes to the trauma of not having a place, of not ever being able to visit one’s grandmother’s garden to eat mangos from its trees, nor enjoy the gentle sea breezes.
The following video, where I give a short talk on racism and the church, was produced in June 2016 by the General Commission of Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church.