What would it look like to have a theology of access? Sorry for the double post, but I just keep thinking about how Christianity is part of the problem in our society when it comes to helping with people flourishing and working from their strengths. We have become obsessed with controlling culture and preserving ideology that keeps us comfortable, even if it’s harming others. Now don’t think this is going to be a bunch of “liberal propaganda” as one commenter recently wrote under one of my posts.
What would a theology of justice look like for today? I think it would be best termed a theology of access. That we should skirt the idea of social justice altogether and just worry about access, which is related to but not as triggering to conservatives as the current word that is all the rage: equity. The most access oriented theologian, who is not from the liberation tradition, was John Wesley.
John Wesley was pretty incredible for several reasons and his theology is highly adaptable because it was so eclectic. He studied Eastern Christianity, Patristics, the church fathers, and of course the Bible, and he preached tens of thousands of sermons over the course of his long life (1703-1791). He himself was Anglican, which split off from the Catholic church but preserved many of its aspects. The theologian I just wrote about recently, Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, says that Wesleyan theology needs to be adapted for each new era, specifically because he didn’t write a systematic theology like other founders of Christian movements.
Wesley was, rather, a practical theologian. His life itself is worthy of examination as regards his theology, which I am coining as a theology of access. He took a via media approach to Christianity – a middle way approach – and what that looks like will depend on what extremes are available as options for society at any given time.
Notable about Wesley was that he was profoundly engrossed with the needs of the poor, women, the uneducated (he also arranged for schooling for children and others), and he also cared for overly-emotional/distressed individuals. This wasn’t a liberal left wing idea. It was a Christian idea. Being the hands and feet of Christ.
I’ve read a bit of Wesley’s original works, and what comes to mind regarding a theology of justice is a theology of access. What is attractive about it is that it makes issues more about class than all about race. White people who are poor are disdained by liberals and called racist by everyone. Looking at the world through the lens of access lends viability to merit-based achievement (not socialism), that would still allow for structural supports (associated with socialism) that would allow for flourishing.
The problem isn’t capitalism, it’s our inability to provide access to everyone in a way that would lead to the flourishing that capitalism could facilitate. Socialism robs people of dignity and pride of hard work, but capitalism without access is a mythic meritocracy, and that’s what we have now.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think. (Or comment below).