Saturday, 13 May 2017

God's Preferential Option for the Poor?

This past week I had an interesting discussion on two separate occasions about God’s (alleged) preferential option for the poor. That God cares for those neglected in human communities seems straightforward. But God’s preferential option for the poor? In defence of the statement that God prefers the poor proponents cite a vast array of biblical material that does indeed support God’s care for the neglected and ostracised, and pronounces a fearsome judgment on those who fail to care or even notice. But preferential option? Sounds resentful. But to say so is often seen as politically incorrect in the church. And if you do question this new orthodoxy of God's preference, someone will answer that it is easy for a rich person to say that. (‘Rich’ can also be substituted with western/male/white/heterosexual/Christian/tenured priest, etc.) If I were to use the language of ‘preferential option’ (which I haven’t for years), I might say something like ‘God’s preferential option for the innocent (of whatever they are accused) victim’ without in any way dismissing the biblical affirmation of God’s care for the neglected and ostracised. But I don’t use ‘preferential option’ in respect of God because God is beyond that kind of resentment. The (innocent of what they are accused of) victim gains an epistemological opportunity to understand what we – human beings and our communities and history – are, and this wisdom is given to us through the revelation of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  The innocent victim has an epistemological advantage that can bring with it transformation, particularly shown in repentance and a drive toward reconciliation. Ministry grounded in repentance and reconciliation brings in the wounded and forgotten, the poor and excluded. Without resentment.

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