Deaf geographies, and other worlds.
One of the grant proposals that I’m preparing asks what a DEAF hermeneutic of Christian theology might be… It’s an important question, for the simple reason that the Church, through education, clubs for ‘the deaf’, missioners… and so on, has been the single biggest historical organisation working within and for the DEAF community, and the most influential gatekeeper to the DEAF communty. Even where education, science, medicine and welfare have taken over, they had done so through the lens of a Christendom (or in the case of the French secularists, anti-Christendom) that has lasted since the dark ages.
Hannah Lewis brilliant ‘Deaf liberation theology‘ has been really helpful. However, it’s led me to engage with liberation theology proper – which leads me to a bit of a problem.
Maybe it’s just me… but my initial approach to liberation theology has the same slightly ‘odd – hard to pin down’ taste that I find so unpalatable in some postcolonial, nationalist, racial, religious, or Deaf writing… and I don’t like it… actually, I do like it in a way (see below), I like it very much… but I don’t have much academic respect for it.
Let me be clear… I’m not saying that those disinherited by the Church don’t have a right to be angry. They do.
Nor am I saying that contestation isn’t needed. It is.
Nor am I saying that there is not a good case for needing to find considerable leverage to force those who maintain the status quo to release their grip on power. I think there is…
What I am saying is that to approach theology with the aim of ‘reading in’ a political justification is interesting… but only of limited use…
The reason I think it’s of limited use is because – in my limited understanding – Liberation theology has confused and conflated Christendom and Christianity… the relationship between creator and created and the organised mediation of church favour… into one foul smelling pile of oppressive practice which can only be shoveled away by reading the voice of the oppressed into scripture… Within that framework, biblical hermaneutics have to serve the oppressed, in the same way that they have previously been made to serve the powerful.
Doesn’t that fundamentally cause the same situation… just from the other side… and render the decortication of God’s relationship with humanity just as impossible to discover within a fetishised, produced reality that is just as twisted?
Of course… it could easily be said that I’m a part of the problem. White, hearing, British, middle-class, English native… what’s to say that my motivation isn’t entirely self-preservation? Well, nothing.
But it strikes me, in the same way that my work on DEAF space revealed the possibility of a DEAF history that allowed both histories of deafness and Deaf histories to exist, but recalibrated them by demonstrating the extent to which they relied upon each other… work on liberating theology has to do the same, by proposing a framework that is bigger than both and, therefore, describes the production of oppressive Christendom, and the emergence of resistance to it theologically…
Perhaps in the same way that DEAF history is inherently an historiographical project… what I’m looking for is a hermeneutic of theological hermeneutics… whatever that’s called!