Christena Cleveland on Cultivating Sociological Imagination


– So when you talk about
this notion of trying to help people cultivate a
sociological imagination, that’s not something they
can do by themselves, right? How does that happen? How do you– – You know, I’ve cultivated my
own, when it comes to class. I mean, I’m an African-American woman. When you are a member of a minority group, you’re much more aware
of the ways in which being a member of that group affects you, and affects the way
people interact with you, and your life outcomes, etcetera. But certainly, I come from a background where I have a lot of class power. I come from a place where
money’s never been an issue. It’s always been more or less abundant. And certainly on a global
scale, very abundant, right? Part of it was moving into
a low-income neighborhood, but even more so, living with,
for about a year and a half, one of my low-income neighbors
who is a black woman, but lives below the poverty line, no formal education. And interacting with
her, and seeing that wow, I can’t take credit for
a lot of the successes that I have; I have some power. I’m located higher in the
social system than she is. And not for any good reason, other than, these are the forces that
are at work in our society. I think that, as Christians,
we should be even more interested in having a
sociological imagination. There are certainly good
biblical and theological reasons for it, I mean
Paul’s basically asking us to pay attention to
sociological imagination when he even invokes this
metaphor of the body of Christ. Because a foot can only
be a foot in relation to an eye, and in relation to a hand. And so it’s this relativity
and this recognition that the foot’s gonna have a different perspective and a different experience, in the body, than a hand is going to have. The whole family of
God is a social system. And for us to start to think about that, and not just in terms of our giftedness, or not just in terms of what denomination we might affiliate with, but
really, how am I a foot– No, no, no. I’m a black woman. I wanna be the best part in the body. (Tod laughing) What’s a great part? How can I be an eye? Or the brain? No, Christ
is the head, right? That’s sacrilegious.
(both laughing) – [Tod] How about a strong hand? – A strong hand or
something like that, right? How can I be that part, and embody that, and say this is my perspective, these are the strengths and the weaknesses that I bring to the table, as a hand. These are the challenges
that I face as a hand. And maybe these are some of the joys that I experience as a hand. And how can I be in
conversation with the elbow, someone who has an entirely
different perspective, and see that I can’t have
a full view on the world. I can’t have a full view
on the head, Christ, without being in contact and
communication with the elbow. And recognizing that we need
to find equality in our midst. There needs to be mutuality. I need to have the humility
to need that elbow.