James R Cochrane


The dialogue of Christians about their faith, expressed in literature, confessions, creeds, liturgical rituals, symbolic acts and proclamations of dogma, is a public record.  As with all public records, one may ask to what extent this one is in the first place the reflection of the perspectives and practices of a dominant group, class or elite?  Equally, to what extent may it legitimately be understood as the public record of the marginalized, silenced and poor sectors of its host societies throughout its history?  The weight of the available evidence, I believe, favours the view that the products of the dialogue of faith strongly reflect the interests or perspectives of the dominant, and weakly reflect the interests or perspectives of the dominated.  The relative perspective implied by the terms ‘strongly’ and ‘weakly’ is important, though: I do not accepts that the voices of dominated groups are entirely or almost entirely absent.  Their voices may well be present only in the traces of their absence (hidden), or in encoded form.  Just what this means is one focal point of this essay.  Discerning these two kinds of ‘presence’ is a complex task, as historians of popular life well know.  More so, when one takes into account the question of representation: whose voices in the end, do we hear?  The voices of the oppressed themselves, or their voices as represented by others?  If the latter, what changes in the act of representing the other in dialogue, as opposed to engaging with the other in dialogue?  This is a second focal point.  The third focal point is a reflexive move backwards from these first two point, to ask what the nature and goal of dialogue is, a question pursued by attempting to define a link between discourse and praxis.


Dialogue of Christians; Faith dialogue; Conversation vs Collaboration

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