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The Table Video

Miroslav Volf& Stacey Floyd-Thomas

A Christian's Individual Responsibility - Stacey Floyd-Thomas & Miroslav Volf

Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology, Yale Divinity School / Founding Director, Yale Center for Faith & Culture
Associate Professor of Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University Divinity School
March 25, 2019

A Christian’s Individual Responsibility – Stacey Floyd-Thomas & Miroslav Volf – CCT Table Conference Q&A – Resilience: Growing Stronger Through Struggle


My message is basically that so many of us try to and when I say so many of us, I’m not talking about just majority culture, I’m talking about the places where we worship during the segregated hour that King talks about at 11 o’clock on Sundays. All of us find ourselves for the most part, not everyone, but for the most part in pretty homogenous contexts worshiping God and we link ourselves up in a kind of hierarchy that celebrates this kingdom of God rather than what I believe God calls us into a kingdom. Right?

Where we don’t see difference as deficiency or threat but we see difference as showing us another aspect of God. Now, I’m not just saying this theoretically. When we are charged to love our neighbors as ourselves, first of all, we have to be able to know what loving ourselves is about. And many of us hate our neighbors because we hate ourselves. Because we have not as the one person who said earlier gone through lament because we have not done the Job or Jacob wresting for that fact of trying to figure out why we’re in this situation that we are. That necessitates vulnerability. And if we’re not willing to be vulnerable with our own pain, it insists that we wreak havoc and pain on other people’s lives. We project.

We know that it’s the man who gets beat down at work and who gets bullied and is the coward, has been made into a coward all of his life, that’s the man that ends up beating his wife. That the person who suffers from addiction, whether it’s from heroin or food, shopping or television, it’s because there’s some hole that they’re to fill and whoever blocks them fulfilling that hole gets squashed. I think what we’re called to do whether we live is to first deal with our own disease so that it might not become demons.

Right? That we literally project onto other people. And that’s hard work. It calls us the kingdom of God and I’m using a phrase by [mumbling] that she says it’s in the voices of the particular that we might find what is both imminent and transcendent. That if we look for God not in the comfort and reflection of ourselves but in the difference of someone else. Everything else becomes clearer but as Christians, we’ve given to soundbite theology that we just pluck, oh, “Do unto others “as you would have them to do unto you.”

Which really means for a lot of us do as I say, not as I do. It’s really believing in God. And it’s really believing that everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made and if we search for the model in others rather than the faces of Satan which society tells us ’cause as you started off, listen, money’s real, property’s real, I have a responsibility to take care of my family, automatically we use the creaturely comforts of this world to cut us off or to make us feel threatened from other people rather than say what is it that that person has in their own embodiment, in their own story, in their own life that I need not to appropriate with that reciprocity but that I need to commune with.

When we talk about, for instance, I mean we as Christians, especially we as Evangelical Christians, we really feel under attack ’cause everybody’s down on God and everybody’s problemetizing this and all these other religions, blah, blah, blah, we become more and more threatened of other religions because we know less and less about our own religious heritage. And rather than be able to look at Buddhists or Jews and say that there’s something about their devotion, there’s something about how they understand their history that can make me a better Christian if I use the same practices.

As much as we look at Islam, we’re like they’re all terrorists and da da da, the devotional practices that Muslims undergo day in and day out no matter whether they’re working, as Christians, Sabbath whatever, I have to work, Walmart says I have to come in. We have to find God wherever God might be found and it’s not blasphemous to say that if the God that you’re worshiping never appears, never works and never talks to you, that God you need to get rid of because really you’ve made an idol out of your own reflection of yourself.

So, that might seem very preach-y and long but I really think that we have to first deal with our won discomforts, our own holes and wrestle that out with God and then figure out how other people can help fill that and not in the dismissing and abusing of them but in the affirmation and appreciation of them.

I think a lot of us are afraid also. The risk is involved and we fear humans more than we are attached to God. And when we kind of muster strength, then we kind of have to puff ourselves up and then we become unwilling to listen to others and so, we go between this mindless engagement or what seemed like almost forced engagement. When we engage without listening to others or kind of timidity and kind of if we found our center in God and then moved out in these two ways of both learning and standing by what we believe is true and not fearing that we will be undone. [lively music]