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The Trajectory of An Argument | “Encountering the Other” in M.A.

thesis (2011)
Timothy K. Snyder, M.A. cand. (Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, MN)

Figure 1:
Doing & Writing Theology with the Experience-Reflection-Experience Model.

PAUSE. Critical-Reflection: From a “wound”—

Something must be addressed. “Socio-theology”.
Interpretive (understand): “culture in action”(Swidler).
Critical (emancipate): Trinitarian relationality. Church
in the image of the Triune God (Volf).

BEGIN. with experience. END. with a call to re-engage

written as “theological (experience). Proposal:
ethnography.”// truth-telling concrete ecclesiology as
is relationally-situated as it conflict resolution or
really is. (Bonhoeffer) reconciliation of “conflicting
identities” (Gurevitch).

Requires an Interpretation. Return to same interpretation.

An Outline of An Argument: What’s Theological About ‘Otherness’

I would like to make an argument about what is theological about otherness.

By ‘otherness’ here I have in mind the pluralism of irreducible identities—hybrid, conflicting and fluid as
they may be —in which persons and social groups stake their lives in. Identities have such weight because they are
conceptual frameworks for meaning-making without which we would not be able to place ourselves in space and
time. Theology is a cultural practice “whose major concern is the identification and critical examination of the beliefs
and values that are central parts of religious traditions” (Delwin Brown). In doing so, theology makes normative
claims—just as say, social sciences and much of the humanities would— about the human community, social
relationships, our relationship to the natural world, ethics and so on.

What is theological about otherness begins with our experiences of everyday life. As a Christian theologian, I
am particularly concerned with everyday life in the primary location in which religious beliefs and values are
exercised: the local faith community. It is here that we experience a complex conflict. Here we encounter otherness in
a variety of forms such as ethnicity, gender, socio-economics, political affiliation (and so on...) and indeed differing
beliefs and values exercised side-by-side in religious practices. Theology functions within this experience both as
norming norms which justify the status quo and as a critical reflection of it that is both practical and prophetic.
Theology functions this way within the local community because here two fundamentally contradictory claims (one
often verbal, the other embodied) are made. On the one hand, the church is confessed as a belief that the church is in
the image of the divine—the ultimate Other. Yet, it is experienced as a human community with all the complications
that come with that. The confession is that God came down precisely when the world was God’s enemy. The image
historical Christianity has used for this event is that of the trinity: a self-open-to-the-world community of reconciling
love which does not remove or reduce it in all its differences, but seeks to incorporate them through a process of
reconciliation. This process of reconciliation requires the self and the other. The self needs the differentiated other
precisely because this is what God has done and continues to do in God’s preferred-future for the world.

That is what’s theological about otherness.