Over the past two years, I have struggled to discern what a “theology from below” looks like in a wealthy, small, Midwest town.
About a year and a half ago, my wife and I returned from a year in Kenya and started a graduate program in a small town in Ohio. The transition was a bit rough. From a fast-paced urban environment with open wounds of economic injustices, political strife, and authentic community to a neatly packaged campus with Georgian-styled buildings, brick streets, and extreme individualism. My initial reaction was one of disgust, followed by anger, and then apathy. I could not discern what a “theology from below” looks like in a community like this one, and wondered if the pain of in Nairobi and other urban centers was anywhere to be found in a place like this.
A few weeks ago, I joined members of our church community in hosting a community dinner for all members of the community. It was an interesting mix of people…from well-published professors and residents of the area’s largest mobile home park to local immigrants and graduate students bumming a free meal, and it was the most eclectic gathering of people that I have seen here. I learned of a new version of the town after meeting Sue, a single mom who works for the university dining services, lives in the local trailer park, and works her tail off to make ends meet for her two children.