Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

In Witness to God's "With-Ness": Dalit Theology, the God of Life, and the Path towards Justice and Peace

Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

In Witness to God's "With-Ness": Dalit Theology, the God of Life, and the Path towards Justice and Peace

Article excerpt

Dalit theology is arguably one of the most critical and creative theological contributions in the pursuit of justice and peace to have emerged in recent years. As a political theology of liberation, Dalit theology dexterously combines theo-logical reflection with theo-political action and is shaped and sustained by the vision of justice and peace of the God of all life, who journeys with the oppressed in their pursuit of fullness of life. Dalit theology is, so to speak, in some way a theo-story of God's "with-ness"--God's accompaniment of the marginalized, alongside the margins, in their seeking and searching for a new heaven and new earth. That this identity-specific theology, which takes as its locus God's with-ness with the Dalit communities (communities now considered to be ex-untouchables), can widen the horizons and deepen the meaning of the theme of the Busan assembly--"God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace"--is the basic premise of this article. Dalit theology bears witness to God's "with-ness" and this with-ness in some way functions as the prism through which we can understand the polysemic nature of Dalit theology and praxis. In my opinion Dalit theology and its engagement so far with the theological question of the who-ness of God and the praxiological question of the how-ness of Christian ethical practices of justice and peace offers perspectives from margins (the side-lined and the under-mined) which can enable us to understand the theme "God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace" with greater probity, passion and posture.

Doing God-Talk Differently: Dalit Theology and the 'Who-Ness' of the God of Life

It need not be rehearsed here that for any theology to be life-affirming it is imperative that it finds its locus in a God of life. But who is this God of life? Various strands of liberation theology have cautioned us about how the semiotics of theological language, especially the way in which God is (con)figured, can impose strangleholds on communities and bind them with bonds of inequality and injustice.

From the perspective of women, Carol Christ in The Laughter of Aphrodite gives us an indication of how the symbol of the maleness of the Godhead can be counter-intuitive for the freedom and equality of women. According to Christ, "Religions centered on the worship of a male God create 'moods' and 'motivations' that keep women in a state of psychological dependence on men and male authority, while at the same legitimating the political and social authority of fathers and sons in the institutions of society." (1) In a similar vein, bearing in mind how the symbolization of God can be a constraint for the flourishing of women, Elizabeth A. Johnson in her work She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse argues "only if the full reality of women as well as men enters into the symbolization of God along with the symbols from the natural world, can the idolatrous fixation on one image be broken and the truth of the mystery of God, in tandem with the liberation of all human beings and the whole earth, emerge for our times." (2) Reflecting from a post-colonial perspective, Kenyan theologian Teresa M. Hinga points out how the symbolization of Christ "during the period of colonial and imperial expansionism" privileged the image of the conqueror. According to Hinga, Jesus as "the warrior King" gave imperial Christianity "an imperial Christ to match," "in whose name and banner (cross) new territories, both physical and spiritual, would be fought for, annexed, and subjugated." All the above-mentioned examples incisively highlight how the symbolization of God can be proportional to reaping "political" dividends for the dominant at the expense of the marginalized.

Grasping the political potential of theological symbolization, Dalit theology sought to effectively expose and rupture the prevailing, sometimes theologically sustained, hegemony and subvert the political dividends of theology to serve the oppressed and challenge the oppressors. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.