At Fordham, I have the challenge and distinct joy of working with many different kinds of theology students, from undergraduate to master's to doctoral students, often in the space of a single day. This term, I teach an undergraduate course that is an introduction to practical theology. We are a small group that meet around a seminar table twice a week to delve into some basic approaches to thinking about how theology comes from and is oriented to practice, action, performance, understood quite variously in the theological tradition.
One of the approaches we studied looks at the ways theologians have appreciated the power of constructing one's own life narrative as a generator of compelling theology (and often serving as part of a silenced substructure on which academic theologies are built).
I asked my students to think about theologically significant learnings from their own life stories. With their permission, I share them with you here, perhaps as a way of occasioning your own thinking about whether and in what ways your own theology comes from the story you tell about yourself. Here is how we summarized the theology coming from their lives:
"Don't limit love"
"We don't have secrets"
"I have a different kind of care"
"Be open to letting people in"
"Remember that I'm all right"
Their resonance as potential mantras speaks to the power of the ways these young adults are able to live from the complexity of the lives they have already undergone. I find myself returning to these student apophthegmata and wondering how they are true for my own theological life.
Perhaps you have other theologically significant learnings that are the overtones of your narrative. Our class is trying to look critically and carefully at the ways such practices as telling a life story frame the theology that people can have.
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York