The recovery of place has significance for more than the arts; it has rich missional significance. In fact, the recovery of missio Dei is directly related to a recovery of place. Without this way of seeing, the Incarnation becomes a doctrine that we embrace with our minds while refusing to know it in practice. Charles Taylor calls this “excarnation” in A Secular Age. Compare the words of Leanne Simpson, the First Nations academic: “Colonialism and capitalism are based on extracting and assimilating. My land is seen as a resource… The act of extraction removes all of the relationships that give whatever is being extracted meaning.” (interview with Canadian indigenous elder Leanne Simpson in YES magazine. “Dancing the World Into Being.” March 5, 2013.)
It’s people like Leanne Simpson who cued me to the connection between place and post-colonial theology. And in order for us to recover a biblical view of land, and the spiritual practices associated with it, we’ll need to make another connection: that between land and covenant. Over-emphasis on the latter yields a place-space trade, where concrete place is once again abstracted into space. But the differences are profound. Walter Brueggemann writes,
“Space” means an arena of freedom, without coercion or accountability, free of pressures and void of authority. But “place” is a very different matter. Place is space which has historical meanings, where some things have happened which are now remembered … Place is indeed a protest against the unpromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment and undefined freedom. (The Land, 6)
Moreover, a post-colonial theology of place must translate the general experience of oppression into the concrete particularity of dispossession. Who are the dispossessed? It’s usually those who have no power, or those who have been marginalized because of race or religion. See this video: Broken Covenant.