Joe Gorra, who is one of the best interviewers I know, has a fascinating conversation with friend and mentor Fred Sanders and his co-conspirator Jason Sexton on their new project, which is engaging California theologically.
The whole interview is worth a read, especially in light of questions about the nature of presence and our relationship to technology (which is just one more avenue into discussing our relationship to the culture around us).
I think this sort of localized theological reflection is going to become even more popular. In many ways, Sanders and Sexton are implementing a modified form of the contextualism model that has been all the rage in the emerging church, but which also got a nod from none less than Kevin Vanhoozer.
Jason: The Project plans to hold a series of gatherings between 2013 and 2015, bringing together theologians, historians, social-scientists, and others to explore specific issues that can be identified as part of the particular cultural make-up of the Golden State. We want to involve as many of the best thinkers as we can to address and begin a serious dialogue over what is right and wrong with the State, over what is broken while pointing to solutions that are embedded in our descriptions of the issues. In this way, I would hope that we might be able to give accurate accounts of all reality that we set out to address, perhaps even having some short or long-term influence on public policy issues within the State, in encouraging dialogue amongst younger and established theologians and their academic counterparts within the other academic disciplines.
To show all my cards up-front, I would love to see California wake up to the relevance of theological import for addressing all of reality, which most of the world is already aware of. I.e., that human beings act on the basis of what they believe and that our State has been deeply affected by a diverse range of ideologies, which theology more than anything else aids in reckoning with. Theology is as comprehensively relevant to human existence as it gets, and so it seems of utmost importance that theology both learn from in dialogue with the other academic disciplines making assessments of the State’s situation, as well as sharing key insights harvested from theological investigation.
Fred: The shortest description I’ve come up with for the overall intellectual task is that it’s somewhere between “A Theology of California” and “Theology from California.” Those would be the two bumper stickers. The former indicates that we’re bringing theological reflection to bear on this entity which is California, to offer a theological account of its existence and character. The latter indicates that we’re doing theological reflection about the usual subjects (God, creation, humanity, sin, redemption, eschatology) in this particular location, intentionally cultivating resources that are Californian.