Reimagine Theology – Relevance in Hurt

An article by on August 23, 2017

I want a theology that begins to deepen people's understanding

Ruby Sales played and continues to play an essential role in securing civil rights for all people. She does this in very practical ways, and she does this in theological ways. She imagines a theology that speaks to the hurt, that notices difference while noticing the essential sameness, humanness. She imagines a theology that does not overlook those in the backyard, around the corner . . . in Appalachia. It is a theology that “begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them . . . .”

Turning 50 has forced me to reevaluate my calling, my purpose, from where or what do I derive meaning. In the On Being interview I reference above, Ruby Sales adds to her brainstorm of theological ideals when she clarifies, “as a black person, I want a theology that gives hope and meaning to people who are struggling to have meaning in a world where they no longer are as essential to whiteness as they once were.” And she alludes to the phenomenon of championing ethnicities as seemingly more “sexy” – which gave me pause.

Because really, in the endeavor to be more mindful, practice the presence of God in my daily life, part of that project is to examine intent, motive. And I wonder how much I am motivated by a sense that I am no longer essential to much of anything anymore, and certainly to the theological conversation.

But Ms. Sales has turned my face toward the heart of God by repeating her favorite black folk religion song, “I love everybody. I love everybody. I love everybody in my heart.” And when I love, I do not ask, “am I relevant.” I ask, “where do you hurt?”

Because, I am only relevant in relationship. And I can only be relating when my question is not about me, but about you.

Because, when I know where you hurt, that disclosure opens that space where I, too, hurt. And in our relating, we heal those places and become relevant to one another. And we become more relevant to others because we know, and we are healing, and we can be a part of their healing, too.

Where do you hurt?

How do you love?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. (2Cor1:3-4)

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About Nicole

Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MI).

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