Why I am an Egalitarian…or why we see face to face.

I have been taking it easy and doing a simple word study on Liberation. Mostly, I have been wrapping my head around the egalitarian v. complementarian debate. I had a great discussion with my friend Kate Boyd about it, more to come from her soon.  Others weighed in and I have been reading a lot of blogs, essays, and texts about the subject. But I found the most helpful piece in a book about Latin American Liberation Theology, a little off topic but not entirely.

If you read any of my posts I am sure you will know I am a big fan of Enrique Dussel and his amazing work.  The book I am currently working through and highly recommend to anyone and everyone, is A History of The Church in Latin America: Colonialism to Liberation.  While sounding like a history book, and it is, it contains some profound theology and an amazing presentation of Liberation Theology. I think this book (or sections of it)  should be required reading for anyone claiming any sort of progressive theology. I digress.

In A History…, Dussel presents his view on the human and divine ideal of the “face to face”. While he often refers to national and international entities he also comments on the interpersonal. The personal is often the starting point for the global and the global politic is often played out on the backs of individuals. Extracting the two from each other is difficult especially in a colonial system in which the political is often enacted upon the flesh of the personal.

To Dussel the Totality (or power system) created dependent classes. These classes can exist as, “dependent, underdeveloped nations or as dependent women and children.” Power is not only transnational, corporate, or governmental but can also exist between folks. Men enact power over women. Adults over children. Christians over “pagans” or unbelievers. But that is not the ideal, neither human or divine. God’s plan for creation is for us to be face to face. Gods ideal for us it so remove the power and dependency. “These dependent roles,” says Dussel,” are, nonetheless, distortions and sometimes obliterations of their original and intended roles as ‘face to face’ beings. In oppressive systems, the metaphysical reality of a human being as exteriority [oppressed, work of the poor, dependents, us] is denied; and it is this exteriority that conveys the metaphysical meaning of reality.”  The ideal is for a balance of power. The ideal is for no person on top looking down, but that all share equal footing.

Dussel provides biblical support with key verses;

Exodus 33:11- in which God “would speak with Moses face to face.”

1 Corinthians 13:12- “For now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face.”

Face to face-ness is egalitarianism. Each “person” has its own place and own view but comes to other on equal footing. Face to face equality has no dependence, no one below waiting for power or wisdom or knowledge to be passed down. Face to face signifies, “the ultimate, supreme confrontation. It represents a proximity, an immediacy of two mysteries confronting each other a exteriority.” He goes on to say,” It is a primary experience, veritas prima: the experience of being confronted by the face of Someone as someone…a mystery that opens an incomprehensible and sacred beyond which I see not with my eyes and which sees me in my innermost being.”

This is Gods ideal. This is democratic and total. We were created in this state and we will return to it. A removal of this balance is reflective of our fallen nature. We choose to lord our power over others in defiance of what we know God to call us to. We create The Other as less than us, of needing our wisdom and power and love. They cannot approach God on their own, they need us to pass down his grace or words or love or light. They cannot understand God, they need our translations. In the same movement that we remove others from equality, we place ourselves at the top.

And while single verses are often used to proof text a support for inequality we must return to this value of Gods. Does one verse jive with something else we know to be true? God calls for equality, complementarianism calls for division.

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