Moving towards a theology that embraces both oppressed peoples and care for the earth requires the reclamation of trinitarian concepts and language that move us into communities rooted in radical love. Patrick Cheng writes,
The doctrine of the Trinity is a manifestation of God’s radical love because it is an internal community of radical love. That is, the Trinity breaks down a number of categories, including the self and the other. Because God is an internal community within God’s very being, this collapses the usual difference between the self and the other (that is, otherness as being “external” to one’s self). Thus, God consists of both the “self” and the “other.” Indeed, the love among the three persons of the Trinity has been described by the term perichoresis (or circumincessio in Latin), which means an ecstatic dance or interpenetration of the three persons.
The Trinity teaches us that the ontology of God is paradoxically both oneness and relationship. Part of our bearing the image of God is our longing not only towards relationship and community, but towards love. That humanity bears the image of God means that all people experience the intimacy of God through embrace, inclusion, community, and love. John writes that although no one has ever seen God, if we love one another God becomes alive within us, tangible, and made visible (1 John 4:12). The love which we are to imitate is indeed a radical love that is demonstrated in the act of creation. Cheng continues,
I believe that creation can be understood as God’s outpouring of radical love . . .God’s own being is inherently relational. That is, because of God’s three-fold existence, God is already a self-contained community and does not need anything else that is external to Godself. However, God chooses to create the universe–including humanity–as an outpouring of radical love.
Last week I wrote about history/nature dualism, which holds at its core that the natural world exists for the exclusive purpose of human use and enjoyment. This says something about our understanding of ourselves within the universe: we can use and dominate that which is “other” to us.
I am captivated and inspired by the concept of the Trinity containing both “self” and “other” in a radical love relationship.
Our spiraling human patterns of domination begin with the natural world and extend to our own species towards those whom we think are lesser than us, not as economically valuable, or simply “other” than ourselves. Our imitation of trinitarian love requires us to deconstruct hierarchical relationships that promote self over other, rich over poor, male over female, and human over non-human in an attempt to image the radical love of God and make it tangible, real, and present in a broken and hurting world.
1. Cheng, Patrick S. Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (Seabury Books, 2011), 56.
2. Ibid., 62.