Sunday, February 10, 2013

In the Public Square: Enter Caribbean Theology

Religion & Philosophy

It is a theology that has it roots in the struggle and resistance of our forebears who bore the brunt of colonialism. It is a theology rooted in the narrative of our lived experiences - a narrative of which we are the story tellers, a narrative in which we are the story, a narrative in which we are the subject and object of discourse, and a narrative that is still being played out today. It is Caribbean theology. At its core is the visceral plea to all of us to reclaim, come to grips with, rediscover, and assert our identity. This means the unyielding sanctioning of the values and practices (which we have adopted) of economic, political, and cultural forces that have long "manipulated and exploited our vulnerabilities." At the heart of this uncertainty of identity are self doubt, creolization, existing in the "shadow of empire", and poverty. Not only does Caribbean theology aim to find a solution to our problem of identity, it also seeks to ensure a just and responsible society. Two key figurative expressions that it uses in its analysis of our situation is the biblical metaphor of exile and also the use of "Babylon" as a symbol of imperialist and colonizing forces. This theology identifies in some respects with the Liberation theology of Latin America, but whereas the latter draws on Marxist analysis, Caribbean theology draws largely on cultural analysis for its methodology. Its sphere of operation is not limited to the enclosure of the Church, but in large measure it seeks to stand in the public square, addressing the welfare of the city, unmasking, confronting, and pastoring the oppressive forces and powers at work in society, and challenging values that put at risk our own identity.

Such is the theology that Dr. Garnett Roper (President of Jamaica Theological Seminary and inner-city pastor in Kingston, Jamaica), in his excellent book, Caribbean Theology As Public Theology, presents so poignantly. It is indeed a wonderful read. Superbly written. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. The book provides much food for thought. It also raises many questions which I will be presenting in a future blog post. Congrats to my former professor and friend on the publication of a truly significant work that, in my estimation, is one of the leading studies in Theology. 

[Photographic Art by Ric Couchman]