There are so many books that have changed my ideas, but three in particular have shaped the arc of my theological reflection. I’ve listed them here in the order I read them:
- A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutierrez. I read this during my first or second year of seminary. Up to that point, I thought there was one, objective story the Christian Bible presented and I believed that the point of theology was to uncover this one, objective story. Gutierrez showed me that there are many stories one can produce from the Bible and that these stories are constructed purposes or goals. One can have the goal of liberating people from oppression. Or, one can have a goal of keeping the oppressive systems in place. Each of these goals will produce different different stories, different theologies, and different reading strategies. The real key to producing good theology is to identify and embody a good purpose or goal.
- Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership by Andro Linklater. There are two types of land ownership: private property and yet-to-be private property. That’s what I had assumed before I read Owning the Earth. Linklater showed me that the ways humans have related to the land has changed widely and diversely through the ages. He also showed me that something I regarded as a tautology–property is always private and has an owner–is actually a choice. Humans can and have chosen to relate to land differently. This caused me to understand that everything about human life and culture is a choice and we have the ability to make different choices.
- “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Lorde showed me that we cannot use the same reading strategies and constructive approaches that were used to produce hierarchical theologies of exclusion to unwind this hierarchy and replace it with a better theology. We need new tools, new questions, and new ways of approaching Scripture. If we keep using the same hermeneutics that brought us here, we will end up in the same place where we began.