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Review of Racism and God-Talk: A Latino/a Perspective (NYU Press, 2008)

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Review of Racism and God-Talk: A Latino/a Perspective (NYU Press, 2008)
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  more than a highly developed set of skills and competencies, but a deeplyingrained and internalized ethic of hybridization — among the various, andseeming disparate, cultural, linguistic, intellectual, and spiritual modes of expression that he deployed.In a similar vein,  Your Spirits Walk Beside Us  demands that its readerssuspend the a priori assumption that there is indeed an internal cohesionand unity that circumscribes many dimensions of black religion and black politics. Even when students concede the heterogeneity of black religiouslife, they often invoke the equally problematic corollary assumption thatit must be a relatively recent phenomenon. Savage also debunks that fall-back position by highlighting the one constancy in black religious andpolitical life — i.e., that serious debates and tensions have proceededunabated since the early days of systematic inquiry into black religion.  American Prophecy  contains a particularly crucial lesson for students,namely that canonical works do not possess the trans-historical andimmutable truths that are often attributed to them. Indeed, on some of the more fundamental questions of social and political life, like racialdomination and redemption, it is not the canon, but the (prophetic)voices of the marginalized and wherein lies the greatest potential fornew paradigms of political thought, more inclusive modes of socialorganization, and democratic renewal.  Racism and God-Talk: A Latino/a Perspective . By Rube´n RosarioRodrı´guez. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2008. ix 1 297 pp. $75.00 Cloth, $24.00 Paper doi:10.1017/S1755048309990551 John Francis Burke University of St. Thomas Any text that suggests that John Calvin is a liberation theologian deservesa closer look. In  Racism and God-Talk  , Rube´n Rodrı´guez seeks to offer a mestizo  theology, out of the Presbyterian perspective, that is consonantwith critical race theories such as that of Cornel West, yet moves theUnited States Latino articulation of   mestizo  theology beyond an essenti-alist cultural identity to being “a transcultural paradigm for resistingracism” (70). Book Reviews 195   Mestizaje  historically is the mixing of African, European, and indigen-ous peoples in the conquest of the Americas, but in contemporary Latinoand Latin-American cultural deliberations it has come to mean a mutualmixing of cultures which does not culminate in assimilation. As much ashe acknowledges the groundbreaking work of Virgil Elizondo, Rodrı´guezcontends that Elizondo’s genetic rendering of   mestizaje  cannot effectgenuine transcultural relations. Instead, Rodrı´guez is drawn moreto Ada Maria Isasi-Dı´az’s articulation of the “‘kin-dom’” (219) of Godand Luis Pedraja’s notion of dialogic encounter. Through Isasi-Dı´azand Pedraja, Rodrı´guez seeks to advance a nonessentialist interchangethat affirms the diversity among interlocutors, yet draws upon commonground to realize relationships that are more inclusive. In addition, heaccents that  mestizaje , historically forged in the crucible of colonialismand neocolonialism, is more is intrinsically committed to empoweringthe marginalized, in contrast to the notion of hybridity.In the second part of his text, Rodrı´guez provides topical applicationsof his  mestizo  theology. First, in Calvin’s case, Rodrı´guez provocativelycontends that Calvin’s emphasis on prophetic preaching, care for thepoor and sick, suffering for the sake of righteousness, and the responsi-bility of magistrates to “secure a certain measure of social justice inhuman transactions” (125) is consonant with liberation theology’sfocus on empowering the poor and the powerless. Second, continuinghis iconoclastic analysis, as much as Latino Protestant spiritualities areleery of popular religiosity, Rodrı´guez contends that the appearance of Guadalupe at Tepeyac in 1531 is a Christological event — the “theologyof the Word” (170) in a new cultural context. Put otherwise, popularreligion provides “voice to religious experiences not yet articulated indoctrine” (156).Third, in terms of a  mestizo  Christ, in addition to H. Richard Niebuhr’sfive paradigms  vis-a`-vis  Christ’s relationship to cultures, Rodrı´guez  via Pedraja accents “Christ through culture” (204), eliciting how Christ isrealized in different cultures yet manifests a new way of living togetheras opposed to “exclusionary practices” (209). Fourth, Rodrı´guez articu-lates pneumatology through Isasi-Dı´az’s “praxis of solidarity” (225) inwhich the oppressed and oppressors converse on how to transformoppressive structures so that all parties are liberated. This new “commu-nity of faith” (224) initiated at Pentecost entails (1) that one can findthe Spirit apart from traditional church structures and (2) the Spirit isnot consigned to a privatized state as in North American spirituality.Finally, Rodrı´guez concludes that  mestizo  theology’s emphasis upon 196 Book Reviews  inclusion, reconciliation, and justice suggests a 21st.-century ecclesiologythat is ecumenical and non-hierarchical in character, as manifestedin the extensive interchanges between Latino Catholic and Protestanttheologians.Clearly, this text is directed at scholars and practitioners of liberationtheology, not political scientists interested in the practical political impli-cations of United States Latino spirituality — there are no concrete casestudies as in Catherine Wilson’s  The Politics of Latino Faith  and Gasto´nEspinosa’s  Latino Religions and Civic Activism in the United States .Rodrı´guez’s liberation rendering of Calvin though does provide an eye-opening contrast to the conventional rendering of the Calvinist legacy,especially in American political thought.However, Rodrı´guez’s recasting of   mestizaje  as a paradigm of inclusion, reconciliation, and justice is much more problematic. WithinUnited States Latino theology, there has been a growing resistance tousing racial discourse to realize liberation, preferring instead to focuson overcoming class disparities. Unfortunately, Rodrı´guez never respondsto this argument.In turn, Rodrı´guez wants to shift  mestizaje  from being a basis forLatino cultural identity to instead being a normative and experiential fra-mework that can transform structures of domination and realize inclusive,egalitarian communities. Yet, even he at times accents “Latino(a)” or“Hispanic” as “an act of political solidarity” (221). Rodrı´guez’s delibera-tions retain the tendency in Latino studies — as far back as GloriaAnzaldu´a’s  Borderlands  — to privilege the Latino (or in Anzaldu´a’scase, the Latina) standpoint and to reify the oppressor. The same goesfor Rodrı´guez’s rather Christian confessional rendering of bothGuadalupe and ecumenism — the status of non-Christians in themixing remains unclear.Rodrı´guez does not show sufficiently how  mestizaje  can move beyondthe language of   resistance  to domination to a discourse of mutual egali-tarian relations between diverse peoples. In this regard, JacquesAudinet’s lateral rendering of   mestizaje  in  The Human Face of Globalization  still offers more conceptual promise. Overall, Rodrı´guezwould benefit from a conversation with social scientists (and  vice-versa ) on how to move beyond  prophetic  witness to transforming  politi-cal  structures and processes. That being said, Rodrı´guez’s volume is avital contribution, not only to liberation theology, but also to thegrowing discourse on how to realize a transcultural and transnationalcivil society. Book Reviews 197
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