Pastoral Reflection 12.6.15

How to give social exegesis a try

Social exegesis is the ability to see objectively and interpret soundly the complex pieces of society that create the whole. Rather than reading into a situation our personal beliefs, biases, and agendas, we must try our best, with the help of God, to let the context speak for itself.

Here are four principles to consider:

1. Ask questions
When thinking about issues of race, ask questions. What is it that I see plainly? What is it that I don’t see so plainly? What sources am I relying on to give me my information? Is there any validity to other perspectives? If you have no one in your life that you trust that holds a different perspective from you, let me encourage you to go and find a brother or sister that will allow a safe space for questions.

2. Dig deeper
What are the invisible yet very real factors that have bearings on race relations in our society? Go below the surface of divisive events and think about the
following questions:

What is the history of race in our culture and community, and how does it affect our social structures today?
What people groups dominate the places of power and who tend to have little or no voice? How are the disenfranchised looked upon?
What role does systemic inequality play in your understanding of poverty?
Who determines which idioms, expressions, and activities are right and wrong?
How does politics influence which social ills are deemed appropriate for the religious community to confront?
Is the religious community divided by race and class? If so, why? How is Satan at work?

As social observers, we must get below the surface of the iceberg in order to see the biggest and often unseen parts of the problem.

3. Be honest
We all have biases because we all have imperfections. If we’re honest, we’ll admit them. None of us are perfectly objective and due to our experiences and relationships we bring partiality to the table. Are you aware of your implicit biases towards people of other ethnicities? How read into events things that aren’t there based on an agenda? Sometimes our agenda is that we have to always be right even when we’re wrong. It’s called pride and we all have it.

4. Do something
Now that we have more knowledge, what should we do with it? Awareness should lead us to action. Besides praying, how can you be a force for good? How can you change unjust systems and not just blinded minds? What can you say or promote on social media that is educational, inclusive, and compassionate? How can you put water on this fire and not gasoline? How can you use this as a teachable moment with your children?

Why not give these four steps of social exegesis a try? It’s very likely that tomorrow will produce another tragedy. We can’t change what will happen, but we can change how we interpret it.

*Taken from ERLC article on social exegesis

Vicky Nooe