Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Lion, The Lamb, and Rick Warren

I forget which liberation theologian wrote some years back something like the following: When you invite both the lion and the lamb to your table of inclusive dialogue, how will you assure that the lion doesn't eat the lamb?

It may have been Gustavo Gutiérrez who wrote an insightful comment to that effect. Or perhaps Juan Luis Segundo, or another Latin American liberation theologian. I don't recall, and would have to search years of back journals with no indexes in order to find the source of the observation.

What I have always admired about the liberation theologians is how their outsiders' perspective into the shell games of our liberal political worldview exposes what's really going on in those shell games. We pretend that, in trying to include everyone, we truly welcome the voice of everyone.

Without admitting that some of us are lions and some are lambs. Some have voices that count and some have voices that will not be heard at the table of "inclusive" dialogue. Some have power and others don't.

To host an "inclusive" table at which the power dynamics of domination and submission are not overturned reinforces those dynamics in a purportedly "inclusive" context in which we ask the lamb not to protest as the lion eats him, because protesting is bad form, unwelcoming behavior in an inclusive society.

This liberal use of the language of inclusivity, of bringing everyone to the table, of just all getting along, is obscene. It refuses to recognize the essential point, if inclusion is not to reinforce domination: that is, that power is distributed very unequally in our culture, and bringing everyone to the table without changing the power dynamics only allows those who already dominant to dominate even more fiercely, at the table of inclusion.

This liberal use of the language of inclusivity overlooks the intent of inclusivity and of bringing everyone to the table. It allows the dynamics of domination and subordination to continue in a new guise in which the lamb has even less protection than she ever had before, because now her very protest against being eaten will be taken as an act of ill grace at the inclusive table.

Why does the invitation of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation at the start of a new administration dedicated to change we can all believe in cut some Obama supporters to the quick?

If you want to know the answer to that question, you must ask the lamb. Not the lion.