Just more than twenty years ago, on the 20th of August 1983, the famous anti-apartheid liberation movement, the United Democratic Front, was launched in Mitchell's Plain, Cape Town. The vision for a post apartheid South Africa was sung out in slogan-like fashion: We want one, united, undivided non-racial, non-classist, non-sexist democratic South Africa, where peace and justice reign supreme. Today, almost ten years into post apartheid democratic South Africa we must embody this vision. We must also spell out more specifically what we mean by these features of a new society. This implies that we as church and theologians are engaged in society, in the public sphere, just as we were during apartheid. The question is, however, how we must go about fulfilling our public responsibility, our task of public theology in a democratic context. In this presentation I offer some guidelines, using our quest for economic justice as a case study. How we engage in the task of achieving economic justice teaches us much about the role we need to play in the broader public sphere. Moreover, as it will become clear later in this article, South Africa's political liberation did not coincide with economic liberation. This gives a further motivation for focusing on economic justice.
In this article I speak of theology as ecclesial theology; whereby theology, as academic discipline is practised in, with and for the church. In using the term "church", I follow the helpful distinction of the South African theologian, Dirkie Smit, namely that the church has six manifestations or forms: a worship service, a local congregation, a denomination, ecumenical bodies, individual Christians engaged in their normal daily activities, individual Christians as volunteers in various organs of civil society. According to Habermas and also Dirkie Smit, the public in a democratic society consists of four spheres; namely, the political and economic spheres as well as the sphere of civil society and the sphere of public opinion.
The guidelines I suggest for the engagement of church and theology with the public sphere are now dealt with under the following headings: (1) the dangers to be avoided when we go public, (2) the appropriate modes of public speaking, (3) those who enjoy priority in our public involvement and lastly (4) the aim of our public engagement.
1. BETWEEN SECTARIANISM AND CONSTANTINIANISM
In defining our public role in the new democratic context, we must guard against two dangers; namely, that of sociological sectarianism and Constantinianism.
For various reasons, former so-called struggle churches and former so-called status quo churches withdraw themselves from the public sphere in post apartheid South Africa. Churches wrestle so much with issues like financial survival, the vast social problems of their members, structural renewal, re-orientation with regard to their role in a fastly changing1 and democratising context, that they in practice make themselves guilty of withdrawing from their social responsibilities. Moreover, former called status quo churches, fearing that they might make the same mistakes as in the past, rather opt for disinvolvement in societal affairs.
Churches should in a new way adhere to an ethics of responsibility.2 This entails that we should respond or answer faithfully and adequately to the challenges with regard to economic justice posed by God, fellow-humans (especially the future generations) and the natural environment. Responsible action involves notions like paying attention, knowing what is going on around you, reading the signs of the times, discerning, acting freely and appropriately, taking risks, bearing consequences and giving account of your actions.
Churches in post apartheid South Africa run the risk of being co-opted by the agenda of the state. Former struggle churches that opposed apartheid run the risk of being too loyal to former comrades in the liberation struggle, who are now in government. In fact, we can be so passionate to see that the new government is successful that we lose the appropriate critical distance. On the other hand, former called status quo churches that supported apartheid might, in feeling the need to compensate for former morally wrong positions, run the risk of overcompensating for the sake of gaining credibility and re-orientation into the new political, economic and social context.
As churches we should perhaps pay attention to those voices that appeal to us to strive to be faithful and not relevant, to let the gospel determine our agenda and not the state or the corporate sector or even other sectors of civil society.4
Appropriate public involvement asks that the boat be steered through the rocks of sectarianism and Constantinianism.
2. APPROPRIATE WAYS OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
I reckon that a distinction used by James Gustafson5 might be helpful to South African churches in our quest to speak appropriately about public issues like economic justice. In a survey of documents on social ethics of the Church and Society division of the World Council of Churches, Gustafson identifies four varieties of moral discourse i.e. ways of speaking about morality. He reckons that these ecumenical writings can be divided into prophetic, narrative, ethical/technical and policy moral discourses.
- The prophetic moral discourse takes two distinguishable forms, namely one of indictment and a more utopian form. Indictment points to the roots of moral or social problems. By using vivid language and symbols and by evoking a sense of crisis or urgency, indictment shows how far human society has fallen from what it ought to be. Various biblical texts, e.g. Isaiah 1 and various other texts from a variety of contexts in the rich Christian tradition help us to formulate this vision. On the other hand utopian discourse, which is similarly vivid, evokes a hopeful vision. It proclaims an ideal state of affairs in the future and allures and motivates people towards its realisation (1989:269). For this vision we can also rely on various biblical texts, e.g. Isaiah 65:17ff. and other Christian texts. The prophetic discourse was prominent in the years of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Apartheid was rejected in strong, dramatic and almost slogan like language. In the same vein the vision of the post apartheid society was portrayed in dramatic, alluring and almost slogan like fashion, e.g. at the launch of the UDF. Jakes Gerwel, director-general in the office of former state president, Mr. Nelson Mandela, recently argued in the Sunday newspaper, Rapport, that he has affinity with the macro-economic policy of the current government. In fact, he says, he was secretary of the cabinet that formulated this policy. He sounds convinced that this policy would in the end benefit the poor. He is concerned, however, that in current economic discourse, which includes the participation of churches, he does not hear explicit voices on behalf of the poor. This challenge perhaps helps us to pose questions with regard to the way in which we use the prophetic discourse.
- The second discourse that Gustafson identifies, is the narrative discourse (1988a: 269). Stories and parables are told of significant events and of moral heroes in the community and tradition. These stories sustain common memory in a community. They shape the conscience, moral identity and character of members of the community. More than being rigorous casuistic arguments, stories provide illumination and help in the process of moral decision-making. This discourse is not strange to various African contexts with its strong oral traditions. The work of John Mbiti on the role of African proverbs in the liberation of the poor is a commendable example.
Gustafson's third discourse is called the ethical or technical discourse (1988a: 269). This discourse uses philosophical and rigorous modes of moral argumentation. Logic, precise distinctions, precision in the use of concepts like justice and rights and the identification of the rational grounds of autonomous ethics, which might be backed by Christian convictions, which can be shared with non-believers, are typical features of this discourse. The South African ethicist, Etienne de Villiers, indicates how Christians from both the churches who originally supported apartheid and those who opposed apartheid, did not attend sufficiently to this ethical discourse. The white Dutch Reformed Church, which was closely connected to the government, enjoyed the power that the so-called state churches previously had enjoyed in Europe. Within this so-called Christendom paradigm the Dutch Reformed Church could to a high degree ensure that their moral positions become law in South Africa (1995:559-560). It is clear that influencing public policy could take place without intense attention to the ethical discourse as portrayed above. The government gave attention only to one religion, specifically one Christian denomination and religious arguments, which were not necessarily accessible to non-Christians, were offered as moral positions.
De Villiers also refers to liberation theologians who mainly used the prophetic and narrative discourses during the apartheid years and are still doing so in their quest for economic justice in post apartheid South Africa (1999:82). Dirkie Smit, also views it as an important challenge to South African churches to fulfil their prophetic-critical calling within the framework of interdisciplinary scientific reflection, discussion and dialogue within a specific Christian denomination and also between various Christian denominations. According to Smit prophetic speaking, which does not take this route is no longer credible and impressive (1996b: 199-200). Together with Etienne de Villiers he suggests that the moral positions of Christians must be rationally accessible to non-Christians as well (1995:54). Smit and De Villiers suggest that engaging in ethical discourse involves speaking together, entering into dialogue with various disciplines and role players in society.
Another important dimension of the technical discourse on economic justice, is the fact that marginalized voices should be heard. This plea coincides with the North American theologian, Rebecca Chopp's identification of four modes of public theological discourse (1999:44-48). With an appeal to both black theology and feminist theology, she identifies the following four modes. The use of prognosis of empathy, i.e. the ability to identify with and understand someone different than oneself (especially when listening to their stories and testimonies), fosters the cultivating of compassion within the public space. Secondly, solidarity in praxis, which implies the forming of a network of interrelations among multiple and contending discourses. People, who understand differences, learn to live together with their differences. Together they enact transformation and redeem suffering. Thirdly, transcendence as possibility and praxis, which implies the creation of a public space in which compassion is cultivated as hope, in which slavery, classism and the denial of the dignity of women have no place, in which history is transfigured and justice is enacted. Her fourth mode is significant here. The testimonies of the marginalized deserve priority. "But, perhaps, drawn in an even tighter circle, forming the heart or the reshaped centre of the ethical imaginary, is the ethical responsibility of testimony to the memory and the presence of the dead and those who suffer. The circle of the suffering, the oppressed, the dead, ... summons us to see them, to hear them, to remember them, and in compassion, to rewrite and relive the narrative toward a future and a present of justice" (1999:48).
The work that is done by the public policy liaison offices of mainly the South African Council of Churches and the South African Catholics Bishops Conference reflects thorough analysis within the paradigm of the technical discourse.6
- The last discourse that Gustafson refers to is the policy discourse (1988a: 270). This is the discourse of the policy- and decision makers in society. They are people in positions of authority and responsibility. They deal with questions like: what is desirable within the constraints of what is possible, do we have power to affect change, what are the time frame for the achievement of ends, do we have all the necessary information and knowledge. According to Gustafson (1988a: 277-278), work in the policy discourse entails that we have to distinguish between matters of ethical principle and the inferences we draw for policy. One can attain greater certainty concerning the principle than the inference. De Villiers is of opinion that this discourse needs to get more attention in South African churches. He refers, for instance, to the high levels of corruption in the workplace and is of the opinion that churches, which engage in the ethical and policy discourses, can assist managers to make morally good management decisions and inspire their employees to set a high moral standard in doing their job (1999:83-84). We should influence the public opinion and public policy in a variety of appropriate and creative ways, e.g. consultations with and pressure on decision makers, letters in the press, education not only on how to vote, but on how to make a party political choice, marches, sit-ins, memoranda etc.
The four discourses of Gustafson suggest that prophetic speaking in a pluralistic context is crucial, but that it requires engagement in the ethical and policy discourses as well, in order to be credible and effective. Gustafson reckons that the moral responsibility of churches is not fulfilled when they have only spoken in the prophetic or narrative mode. "The prophetic discourse in the WCC literature has an important and legitimate, but limited function. It evokes a sense of urgency, and provides images of hope. It appeals not simply to the rational faculties of the readers, but also to their sense of injustice, moral indignation and moral aspiration. Prophetic discourse motivates action, but is not sufficient to direct it. One cannot move from prophecy to policy without the mediation of more specifically stated ethical principles and human values" (1988a: 272).7
Credible prophetic speaking is not possible if the route suggested by Gustafson is not taken.
To speak publicly in an appropriate way asks that we pay attention to all these modes of speaking.
3. PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT - FOR WHOSE SAKE?
Our public involvement should be guided by a cherished Christian notion; namely, that the poor, the marginalized, the destitute, the wronged and the most vulnerable in society fulfil an epistemological role in our economic justice discourse, i.e. God is only known in the doing of justice to all, especially the most vulnerable.8 It was specifically Liberation Theology that reminded us about the centrality of this notion for the Christian faith. The emphasis of Liberation Theology on this notion not only entailed that the interest of the marginalized should be viewed as a matter of social ethics, but that it be viewed as a theological question. How we respond to the destitute in society has to do with how we respond to God (Castro 1985:32). In a book, A Theology of Liberation - according to the English translation, which is recognised by many as the most important work on Liberation Theology, the Peruvian Liberation theologian, Gustavo Gutiérrez, echoes this position: "de armen verdrukken is zich vergrijpen aan God zelf, God kennen is gerechtigheid bewerken onder de mensen. Wij ontmoeten God in de ontmoeting met de mensen: wat men voor anderen doet, doet men voor de Heer" (1974:253). At this point one of the central passages in Scripture; namely, Jesus' parable in Matthew 25:31-46 about the recognition of Jesus in the suffering and destitute, quite clearly applies.9
A word or two concerning the destitute, poor and wronged is appropriate at this point. David Bosch's understanding of the poor in the Bible sheds light on this question. Bosch, a famous South African missiologist, observes that when Luke identifies those who suffer in various ways, he always puts the poor either at the head (4:18; 6:20; 14:13; 14:21) or end (7:22) of the list. The poor, therefore, seems to be an all-embracing category for those who are in various ways the victims of society, for those who lack every active or even passive participation in society. This marginality is present in all spheres of life and it makes people feel helpless. The poor, therefore, refers in the first instance to the materially poor, but also to other forms of misery. In fact, all who experience misery, according to Bosch, are in a very real sense poor (1991:99; 436-437). Gutiérrez, states that the destitute, poor and wronged, i.e. all people who experience misery,10 do have the first, though not exclusive, right to our solidarity. He pleads that we simultaneously confess the universality of God's love and his special identification with the suffering. If we fail to do this, we do grave injustice to the Christian message (1974:25-26).
Maybe we will not neglect the preferential treatment of the poor if we take heed of these words of the liberation theologian, Jon Sobrino.
"Poverty is increasing in the Third World, the gap between the rich and the poor countries is widening, there are wars - more than a hundred since the last world war and all of them in the 'Third World'. Cultures are being lost through the imposition of foreign commercial cultures ...Oppression is not a fashion. The cries of the oppressed keep rising to heaven ... more and more loudly. God goes on hearing these cries, condemning oppression and strengthening liberation ... What I ask myself is what a theology is going to do if it ignores this fundamental fact of God's creation as it is. How can a theology call itself 'Christian' if it bypasses the crucifixion of a whole people and their need for resurrection, even though its books have been talking about crucifixion and resurrection for twenty centuries? Therefore if those doing liberation theology are not doing it well, let others do it and do it better, but someone must keep on doing it".11
I am not pleading that we do liberation theology in the technical sense of the word, but that we address the issue at stake in liberation theology; namely, what becomes of the most vulnerable in society. Otherwise we do not engage in a faithful way with the public sphere.
4. IN SERVICE OF THE RESTORATION OF DIGNITY
A last consideration for the public engagement of church and theology has to do with the question about the purpose of this engagement. In the previous section where we dealt with the third consideration, we already hinted at the aim of our involvement. In my opinion, our purpose should be to take the lead in the restoration of dignity. So many things in the past and present have violated the dignity of humans: colonialism, apartheid, poverty, HIV/aids, violence, crime etc. Despite all the wonderful things that have happened in South Africa for more than a decade, we have also been and still are exposed to dehumanising forces.
- In a recent publication entitled Beyond the miracle. Inside the new South Africa, the famous South African journalist, Allister Sparks, describes the achievements of the young democracy as follows: "Looking back after nine years, almost a decade, one can credit the new South Africa with many excellent achievements. We have entrenched a new democratic Constitution, perhaps the most progressive in the world, and bedded it down through four national, provincial and local elections, which have been manifestly peaceful and fair. We have a Constitutional Court presided over by world-class jurists to interpret and defend it, and we have established a number of other institutions to give effect to the Constitution, including an Independent Electoral Commission, a Human Rights Commission and a Commission for Gender Equality. Not least we have managed a smooth transition from the Founding Father of our new nation to his young successor in a continent where this is rare. We have scrapped all the old race laws, guaranteed freedom of speech and the press, abolished the death penalty, legalized abortion on demand, protected the rights of gay people, and advanced women in many spheres of life. We have brought clean water to more than 9 million people who did not have it before, electricity to more than 2 million, and telephones - that vital connection to the new Information Age - to 1,5 million. We have integrated, at least nominally, more than 30 000 public schools that used to be racially segregated, as well as all the country's universities and other institutions of higher learning, raised the literacy rate of 15-to-24-year-olds to 95%, and brought free health care to millions of children. We have ended diplomatic isolation and rejoined the community of nations to play an influential role on the international stage. We have resuscitated an economy that was on it's deathbed, restoring fiscal discipline, cutting the budget deficit, reducing the national debt, bringing inflation down from double figures to within a target range of 3% to 6%, slashing interest rates from a high of 24% under apartheid to 14% prime; lifting trade barriers, removing a maze of tariffs and import duties, and generally winning universal praise for establishing a sound macroeconomic base from which hopefully to build future prosperity. It is indeed another country" (2003:3-4).
The Stellenbosch economist, Sampie Terreblance, however, also sketches the unachieved liberation and transformation ten years after the dawning of democracy. He emphasizes that political liberation did not coincide with economic liberation. To prove his point he deals amongst others with poverty and unemployment. Terreblanche refers to the 2000 report of Statistics South Africa, which states that in 1996 at least 41,4% of all households live in poverty, i.e. they have to live with an income of between 601 and 1000 rand. He also refers to other statistics that paints an even gloomier picture (2002:383,412). He quotes various statistics to make the point that unemployment has increased in democratic South Africa (2002:407). He mentions for instance that in 1995 65% of black people between the ages of 16 and 24 were unemployed (2002:374). Many researchers argue that this figure has not changed for the better during the last few years. May I add that the HIV/aids pandemic that has its highest growth in this country is not unrelated to the unachieved economic liberation.
Terreblanche (2002:405-406) as well as the South African social scientist Mamphela Ramphele, who is now president of the World Bank in New York, argue that these negative effects of the market economy in a global context actually dehumanised people (2002).12 Three decades ago Terreblanche wrote a book on poverty amongst the so-called Coloured people in South Africa. In this book entitled Gemeenskapsarmoede, he describes the dehumanising effects of poverty. He mentions factors like inferiority complexes, i.e. people believing that they are inferior to those who have more, feelings of despair and hopelessness that open the door for carelessness, violence and even self-destructive behaviour and eventually a culture of poverty, i.e. the believe that you are doomed to be poor and to suffer and to face life as an inferior being with no hope.
The public engagement of church and theology involve that we strive for the rehumanisation of life, for the restoration of dignity.13 I believe that theology and churches do have a unique contribution to make to this endeavour. My proposal is that we make a contribution to the process of the restoration of dignity and rehumanisation if we adhere to and embody an anthropology of vulnerability, relationality and dependence.14
The famous North American philosopher, Alisdair MacIntyre, argues, with reference to disabled people, that true humanity means that we are aware of the fact that we are all in some way or the other disabled. We should recognize our disability and vulnerability. We are dependent upon each other. We should learn to live with the duality of simultaneously giving and receiving. MacIntyre describes the positive effect of such an anthropology for the transformation of the global economy in a striking way.
He pleads that society must not function with the politics of competing interests, but the aim should rather be to meet the interest of all. This will happen if the basic question relates to the basic resources that each individual and group needs to make their particular contribution to the common good. This will lead to a situation where the gap between rich and poor will be relatively small, where labour mobility is limited for the sake of stable families and institutions that will help to create and sustain a community that is a network of giving and receiving, where investment is also made in types of education that is not economically productive, and where everyone takes their turn in performing the tedious and the dangerous jobs in order to avoid social inequality. These goals of interdependence, of giving and receiving, that are to be pursued in households, workplaces, schools and parishes are in conflict with the goals of a consumer society and they are, of course, utopian standards. These standards are often not realised outside Utopia, and then only in flawed ways. "But trying to live by Utopian standards is not Utopian" (MacIntyre 1999:145).
One of the most famous twentieth century so-called public theologians in the United States, Reinhold Niebuhr, describes how difficult it is for us humans to accept our vulnerability. We are simultaneously free beings with creative and innovative capacities and beings that are finite and vulnerable. We become anxious because of this vulnerability and dependence upon God and others and consequently make ourselves guilty of the sin of pride. He distinguishes between the pride of power, intellect, morality and religion (1949:198-216).15 It is not difficult to demonstrate how pride leads to the development of economic systems that strive to ensure the survival and gratification of the self at the expense of other humans and of nature.
The doors to humanisation are opened where delivery from the sin of pride occurs. Christian theology, amongst others that of Niebuhr, reckons that this happens because of the grace of God. He and a growing number of theologians nowadays plead for a revaluation of sin, for a re-entry of sin-language into the public theological discourse. Acknowledgement of sin and the description of the human predicament in terms of sin will help us to develop a greater awareness of the reality, presence, involvement and liberating intervention of the graceful.16 God in our daily affairs. God intervenes for the sake of liberation in various ways, amongst others through his church. The graceful God helps us to accept our vulnerability and to view a life of dependence upon others not as something to become anxious about.
How do we go public with this Christian proposal for rehumanisation and the restoration of dignity, this proposal that a life of dignity for all can be build by developing an understanding of humans as beings who take control of the world (and who are not delivered powerlessly over to the forces of the market), as beings who do not fear vulnerability and dependence (and who consequently do not seek for security and peace in self gratification achieved by subjugating other humans and the natural environment)? I believe we can explore and utilise the arguments that other disciplines in the so-called human sciences and even natural sciences offer in favour of an anthropology of creativity and freedom, on the one hand, and an anthropology of vulnerability and dependence on the other hand.17 I believe the most powerful thing that we can do, however, is to embody this understanding of humanity in the various manifestations and modes of the church that I referred to earlier.18 Challenging people (individuals and communities in all spheres of life and no less in the corporate world) to reconsider not merely their values, but to reconsider their identity, their self understanding, their understanding of who they are, with the anthropology proposed here, might help us on the road of rehumanisation and the restoration of dignity. Putting this challenge to people, being ourselves committed to embodying it, might lend some sincerity and integrity to this endeavour that might just be convincing and liberating and humanising and dignifying.
Steering our ship between the rocks of sectarianism and Constantinianism, finding the appropriate way of speaking publicly, asking how our involvement impacts on the most vulnerable in society, is motivated by, is based on, and culminates in the fulfilment of the public theological responsibility to participate, by the grace of the triune God, in his work of humanising and restoring dignity. It involves recalling and re-telling and re-membering the story of the merciful acts of creation of God, of the incarnation of God in Christ, of his promise of life in abundance, of dignity and quality for all (cf. John 10:10), of redeeming and rehumanising power of his cross and resurrection, and of the transformative, restorative and humanising work of his Spirit.
Prof. Nico Koopman
Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology
University of Stellenbosch
5 May 2005
1. The Dutch theologian, Bram van de Beek, argues that in times of rapid changes, futuristic eschatology flourishes and social ethics diminishes (Waarom? Over lijding, schuld en God. 1984). [back]
2. After the Second World War, the focus of the Life and Work division of the later WCC, was on the notion of the Responsible Society. This development fed on the works of theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, and Helmut Richard Niebuhr as well as on scholars like Hans Jonas and Hannah Ahrendt. At present, increased attention is given to an ethics of responsibility. In South Africa, theologians like Dirkie Smit and Etienne de Villiers focus on this approach whilst the works of William Schweiker in the USA and Wolfgang Huber in Germany are of importance. [back]
3. The concept, Constantinianism, is derived from the period when the church became state church during the reign of Constantine in the 4th century. For centuries thereafter the state exercised an inappropriate authority in church affairs and the church in state affairs. [back]
4. In this regard the work of the North American theologian, Stanley Hauerwas is of growing importance. In various essays, articles and books over the last three decades, he has challenged churches in democratic societies to guard against the danger of being co-opted by the state, of viewing their task as that of being relevant in society, instead of being faithful to the triune God. A faithful church will not ask what her social ethic is. Such a church does not have a social ethic, but is a social ethic. [back]
5. In An Analysis of Church and Society Social Ethical Writings 1988a; Varieties of moral discourse: prophetic, narrative, ethical and policy 1988b; Moral Discourse About Medicine: A Variety of Forms 1990. [back]
6 For an evaluation of the responses of this office on the Arms Review Process in the first decade of democracy, see Koopman, N Defence in a democracy - a church perspective on the postapartheid defence review process, in Haglind, K (ed.) Arms Trade. Final report from the 2nd ecumenical conference in Gothenburg, 48 - 63. [back]
7. According to Gustafson the following theories can be helpful in the technical discourse, which guides the way from prophecy to policy, and which, in the language of this paper, eventually assure credible and convincing prophetic speaking. Gustafson cites the theory of middle axioms (introduced by the ecumenical theologian, J.Oldham, and developed by John Bennett), Karl Barth's concession to practical casuistry, Reinhold Niebuhr's dialectic between love and justice and the revisions of the natural law tradition, developed by Roman Catholics and K.E.Kirk (1988a:277). [back]
8. The North American Christian ethicist, Karin Lebacqz, demonstrates that adequate theories of justice cannot be developed without an emphasis on the most disadvantaged (as John Rawls does), without stressing the priority of the poor (as the 1986 pastoral letter on economic justice of the North American Catholic Bishops indicates) and without recognising the epistemological privilege of the poor, i.e. God is only known in the doing of justice (as liberation theologian Jose Miranda argues) (1987 Implications for a theory of justice, in: Boulton,W et.al.(eds.) 1994. From Christ to the world, p.254-260). [back]
9. Prominent Reformed thinkers affirm the centrality of the involvement of God in the world and of his special identification with the destitute. The Reformed theologian, John Leith, states clearly that for Reformed Christians the world we live in, the society we live in, the political, social and economic realities we live in, are all matters of faith. The central theme of Calvinist theology is the conviction that every human being lives in the presence of the living God every moment their life, be it in the political, social or economic spheres of life (Introduction to the Reformed tradition 1981:70). Lehmann states that in Reformed theology, God is called the Great Politician (Ethics in a Christian context 1963) and according to Meeks He is called the Supreme Economist (God the economist. The doctrine of God and political economy 1989). [back]
10. Gutiérrez warns that the understanding that poverty does not only have a material connotation, but also a spiritual one, should not be abused to make exceptions, like poor people who strive anxiously for wealth and rich people who are not attached to their wealth. This way of understading poverty fosters a relaxed attitude and a protection of the status quo of injustice. This abuse is a play with words and with people (1974:248-249). Bosch also pleads that the secondary use of poverty to refer to all forms of misery must not be abused to neglect the primary meaning of poverty as concrete and visible material poverty (1991:99). [back]
11. Quoted in Rowland 1999 Epilogue: the future of liberation theology, in: Rowland, C (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Liberation theology. [back]
12. Mamphela Ramphele Steering by the stars. Being young in South Africa 2002. [back]
13. Concepts like rehumanisation and restoration of dignity is not used in an anthropocentric way. It includes the nonhuman part of creation. Moreover, the concept rehumanistion is not used in an ontological sense, but in a moral sense. Nobody can take away your humanity in an ontological sense, but social structures, systems, policies and people dehumanize people and violate the dignity of people and the nonhuman part of creation by creating circumstances that prevent humans and nature from experiencing the type of life God intends them to have. [back]
14. In various articles I have argued from various perspectives in favour of an anthropology of vulnerability and co-dependence. Some theologians like the Orthodox John Zizioulas, the Dutchman Hans Reinders and feminist theologians like Mercy Oduyoye base an anthropology of dependence in the immanent Trinity (cf. The dis- (otherly-) abled and public morality; Theological anthropology, ubuntu and human rights; Theological anthropology and gender relations). Theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Karl Rahner and more recently the North American black theologian Deddo base it in the economic Trinity (cf. Theological anthropology and gender relations; Ubuntu is not enough. In search of an anthropology for peaceful living) [back]
15. The first form of pride is the pride of power. This entails that we as humans feel we are self-sufficient, we can determine our own lives, we can live free from vicissitudes. All people can make themselves guilty of this form of pride, especially those in positions of social power. People who are not aware of their vulnerabilities and of the finite character of their lives are guilty of this sin (Niebuhr 1949:201). They acquire power to perpetuate their position of assumed security (1949:201-202). The second form of the pride of power is prompted by a sense of insecurity, e.g. social, economic and physical insecurity. We seek power to guarantee a sense of security, inevitably at the expense of others (1949:202-203). Niebuhr states in a remarkable way that this form of the pride of power even leads to violence against nature. "Sometimes this lust for power expresses itself in terms of man's conquest of nature, in which the legitimate freedom and mastery of man in the world of nature are corrupted into a mere exploitation of nature. Man's sense of dependence upon nature and his reverent gratitude toward the miracle of nature's perennial abundance are destroyed by his arrogant sense of independence and his greedy effort to overcome the insecurity of nature's rhythms and seasons by garnering her stores with excessive zeal and beyond natural requirements. Greed is in short the expression of man's inordinate ambition to hide his insecurity in nature" (1949:203).
A second face of pride is intellectual pride. Like the pride of power this form of pride is derived on the one hand from the ignorance about the finiteness of the human mind and on the other hand from an attempt to obscure or overcome the conditioned character of human knowledge and the taint of self-interest in human truth. Intellectual pride does nor recognize its finiteness and particularity, but pretends to be final and universal. It forgets its temporality and assumes transcendence over history. It therefore strives to ignore its limitedness. It moreover strives to obscure its limitedness, e.g. the self-interested nature of its knowledge and the realisation that we do not have final truth (1949:207-208). Intellectual pride is seen in the lives of individuals like Descartes who did not want to give recognition to the fact that he was influenced by Augustine, Scopenhauer whose thinking was influenced by the fact that other thinkers received more recognition than himself, Hegel who thought that his thinking was final and that the Prussian military state of his time was the culmination of human history and Comte who predicted that Paris would become the centre of the new universal culture that he would invent (1949: 208-209). Intellectual pride is also manifested in the lives of groups. Niebuhr cites racist thinking as an example of the intellectual pride of groups. By proclaiming that people of other racial groups are inferior, that they are intellectually and otherwise not capable of enjoying or profiting from the privileges of culture, the privileged position and the fragile security of these groups that view themselves as superior are maintained (1949:211). The violence of racism, according to this typology, is amongst others, a sin of intellectual pride.
The third form of pride is moral pride. Moral pride entails that my view is portrayed as the good one whilst those who do not conform to my position are portrayed as evil. According to Niebuhr this self-righteousness "is not only the final sin in the subjective sense but also in the objective sense. It involves us in the greatest guilt. It is responsible for our most serious cruelties, injustices and defamations against our fellowmen. The whole history of racial, national, religious and other social struggles is a commentary on the objective wickedness and social miseries which result from self-righteousness" (1949:213).
Niebuhr states that the sin of religious pride makes the self-deification implied in moral pride explicit. This is done when our partial standards and relative attainments are explicitly related to the unconditioned good, and claim divine sanction. Against this background religion is not always an inherently virtuous human quest for God. It becomes a battleground between God and the self-esteem of humans. In that battle even the most pious practices may be instruments of human pride (Niebuhr 1949:213). [back]
16. In the second volume of his work on anthropology, Niebuhr deals with the grace of God. He states that humans should not only be described in terms of sin, but also in terms of the liberating and transformative grace of God. [back]
17. One form of public theology is to engage directly in these public discourses and to find the suitable language and appropriate modes of action for this endeavour. [back]
18. A second form of public theology is the task of embodying specific values and anthropologies in the normal ongoing practices of the church. [back]
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