This is a paper submitted in my Systemic Theology I class, Summer 2017. I felt the message was important enough to share with a wider audience. Note that I am aware this is not fully developed in "academic" terms but it nevertheless expresses my convictions in the age of Trump. I hope to further develop it in the future. I would for you to share and/or provide feedback.
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. --Augustine of Hippo
The love professed by Christians, especially Evangelicals has for all intents and purposes been lost in translation. Based on what we hear coming from the White House, the continued debate on health care and immigration, I do not see how a Christian can reconcile continuing to support this administration and say they are filled with Spirit of God and are “loving Christians.”
The 2016 Presidential election with Donald Trump’s victory revealed what many people of color knew was lurking under the surface, racism and social class backlash. The result did not just inform America of its new President, it revealed to America a great division between gender, race and education and a greater divide between White Evangelicals and Evangelicals of color. One of the most hurtful revelations was seeing that many who call themselves “followers of Jesus” and for the most part, (based on what is espoused in churches across America) biblical literalists, did not take the Bible literally when it came to the poor, the immigrant and the disenfranchised.
Since Trump’s inauguration America has simply slipped into social mayhem. Every day the news or social media outlets inform the public on the current administration latest fiasco and of the hate around us. Especially hate for people of color, the immigrant and the Muslim. Being a Puerto Rican who was born and raised in New York city, I grew up in a melting pot where there was tolerance for everything. It was a Sancocho that New Yorkers happily embraced. A Sancocho is a Latin American soup that consists of meat and different root vegetables in a delicious sauce. The dish has variations depending on what Latin American country one comes from but it is always a soup and always embraced as central to Latin American cuisine. This is where I get my Sancocho theology idea from. I believe when it comes to a biblical perspective on caring for the poor, we all may have variations but in the end the Bible is very clear on what was on God's heart and what Jesus made sure he did when he walked this earth. Whether or not a person is a literalist or somewhere in between, the only document used by believers as a compass is the Bible. But what is notably clear is that the voices of the poor and dis-enfranchised continue to be shut out of the discussions where the power brokers are making the decisions that impact their lives. Sancocho theology is simply a bridging of ecclesiology, missiology, social justice, theology of place and the good news of Jesus Christ.
Sancocho in the Latin American community is something people look forward to tasting. In some homes, it is the very act of making it ‘together’ that brings the families closer in Spirit. The Psalms say “taste and see that the Lord is good…” but can brown and black brothers and sister see the good news and for that matter, the Lord of Lords as good when so many of those who profess to know him and speak for him are so hateful, so dismissive of the plight of people who do not have the privileges they were born with simply because of the color of their skin, the family they were born into, the legacy of being on the “right side of the tracks.” Is it possible that there will ever be a time when there is true listening to what the other voices have to say and a real desire to make those on the outside of the theological borders welcomed? Can we theologize together about the current plight of our America and as is so customary to the Sancocho making process, put our unique perspectives in the soup that impacts the soul?
History shows that the [Black] church was pivotal in the civil rights era. My own research has revealed that Latino Pentecostals got involved much later in activism and developing organizations to help people through drug addiction, the HIV/AIDS crisis, mental health issues, teen pregnancy and families with children with disabilities because of their faith and interpretation of scripture. Many Latinos especially Puerto Ricans due to succumbing to a dualistic theology and tradition placed a higher emphasis on the spiritual dimension of human existence at the exclusion of what was happening in the physical world. Yet, in New York City there was more of an awareness perhaps because of the more social conscious churches in the NYC-Metro area. Many of us also grew up knowing that Jesus, our Lord, was also a flipping tables kind of Savior. In seeing Jesus in this way, Latinos who were able to see that they could be meek and they could also have righteous anger at the way things are sometimes found at the ‘temple’.
I find myself now, in South Florida nothing like my New York City, surrounded by churches who seem not to care about the unjust actions of an unqualified and undignified President. In fact, it was many in the White church community who handed him the reigns to the Presidency with what seems like no regard for the what the Bible has to say for the poor, the immigrant, the widow, etc. The bible looks very different when viewed from people on the margins. Leonardo Boff asked “in what sense can the Trinity be called “gospel,” good news, to people, especially to the poor and oppressed?” Boff seemingly understood that the world that Jesus lived in was very much like the Latin American world he lived in, his response to the message of the gospel was to produce a liberation praxis for Christians who believe like he did that “the Trinity has to do with the lives of each of us, our daily experiences, our struggles to follow our conscience, our love and joy, our bearing the sufferings of the world and the tragedies of human existence; it also has to do with the struggle against social injustice, with efforts at building a more human form of society, with the sacrifices and martyrdoms that these endeavors so often bring.” This is a radical challenge to the established order then and now and it is a compelling vision for a new kind of humanity that Christians can help create for a world that does not see good in our gospel especially in light of the people who claim to represent the “pure” gospel and their quest to reclaim American and make it “great again.” The question that was asked during the campaign and is still being asked today is “great for who?” It certainly seems that yet again, Evangelicals especially in the West, have found a way to keep people at the margins.
Many evangelicals of color feel they no longer have a place amongst traditional Evangelical denominations as 81% of white evangelicals voted against the values dear to them. I, along with many of them, do not consider ourselves on the left but we most certainly do not see ourselves on the right either. It is our understanding of Scripture, our Sancocho theology that has us wandering… but as the great philosopher J.R.R. Tolkien said, “not all those who wander are lost.” Theology matters because people were already leaving the church, after the presidential election more left and that is expected to continue. Some have left because of the pastor’s position on politics and some have left because the conversation continues to be one-sided as it has always been in the world of theological discourse. It has always been a sign of arrogance to believe that Western or European Voices were superior to Non-Western voices. As William Dryness himself discovered, you do not know that you do not know until you find yourself in unchartered territory trying to affix your usual thinking to an unusual circumstance. It was in that place in Manila that he “began a crash course of theological reflection.”
Perhaps this Trump era is the unusual circumstance and the rallying cries of the ones that Dario Lopez Rodriguez said Jesus had a special love for, “…the poor and the marginalized, including the fragile, those on the periphery, the needy and the destitute, the ragged of the world, and the “nobodies” that predominant society has condemned to social ostracism and the basement of history” is the crash course alert for all the Evangelicals who believe they have this good news gospel interpreted 100 percent correctly. Class is in session but they have chosen to be absent. They have chosen to ignore what they can learn from people with stories they have never had to live.
What comes to mind is the quote shared by Dr. Timothy Tennet in the Week 8 class forum video who quoted John Abiti (a pioneer of African Theology): “we have eaten theology with you, we have drunk theology with you, we have dreamed theology with you. But it has all been one-sided. It has been in one sense your theology. We know you theologically but the question is do you know us theologically? Would you like to know us theologically?” Unfortunately, the answer in many spheres of the Western world continues to be no.
Rodriquez shared that “Luke develops a theology of poverty influenced by social, political, and economic factors present in his specific context.” Faith has always driven black and more recently brown people of faith to rise up and speak for those who have no voice and speak out against injustices, often times carried out by the very government that is supposed to watch out for all citizens. We have numerous examples in Scripture as Rodriquez points out with Lucan theology being one of them, on how Jesus always stood for the poor against the religious elite and the powerful government. A true good news gospel is one that is not afraid to engage in politics if it is to stand up and care for the poor. There is no other way to see it. As we also saw from various videos of churches during class forum discussions, those who felt filled by the Holy Spirit, those who prayed, all were led to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Their theology was “do as Jesus did”. Jesus was the model. A Sancocho theology is needed that recognizes all the non-western voices that bring the meat to the soup and understand “sticky rice”, “rainy season, and “leaky roof” with the Western voices that are more privileged and have the learning opportunities to know and speak of “incarnation” or “atonement” but cannot speak the language of poverty or ostracism.
The political figures and religious elite that have wrapped evangelicalism around like a scarf have done irreparable harm to the name of Jesus and the people who have understood the liberating mission of Jesus and fight to carry on that mission in the era of a Trump Presidency.
 Amanda Marcotte, “New Election Analysis: Yes, it really was blatant racism that gave us President Donald Trump,” Salon, April 19, 2017, accessed May 30, 2017, https://www.google.com/search?q=was+there+prejudice+lurking+before+trump+election&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
 Alec Tyson, “Behind Trump’s Victory: Divisions by race, gender, education,” Pew Research Center, November 9, 2016, accessed May 30, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/
 Deborah Jian Lee, “Betrayed at the Pools, Evangelicals of Color at a Crossroads”, USC Annenberg, April 27, 2017, accessed May 30, 2017, http://religiondispatches.org/betrayed-at-the-polls-evangelicals-of-color-at-a-crossroads/
 Psalm 34:8. NIV.
 Elizabeth Rios, “The Ladies Are Warriors”: Latina Pentecostalism and Faith-Based Activism in New York City,” in Latino Religions and Civic Activism in the United States, edited by Gaston Espinosa, Virgilio Elizondo and Jessie Miranda, 197-217. (New York: Oxford University Press), 2005.
 Reference to Matthew 21:12.
 Alister E. McGrath, Ed. The Christian Theology Reader, 4th Edition, (United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 196.
 Ibid. 197.
 Elizabeth Rios, “Church Dropouts: Four Reasons Why We’re Losing Devoted Churchgoers,” Influence Magazine, May 11, 2017, accessed May 31, 2017 https://influencemagazine.com/practice/church-dropouts
 William A. Dryness and Oscar Garcia-Johnson, Theology Without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2015), 25.
 Dario Lopez Rodriguez, The Liberating Mission of Jesus: The Message of the Gospel of Luke, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2012), 2.
 Timothy Tennent. “Theological Education in the Context of World Christianity.” Lausanne movement. (May 30, 2012). Accessed June 21, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Blh399dDtpU.
 Dario Lopez Rodriguez, The Liberating Mission of Jesus: The Message of the Gospel of Luke, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2012), 3.
 Kosuke Koyama as quoted in William A. Dryness and Oscar Garcia-Johnson, Theology Without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2015), 25.
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