ENTORNOINTELIGENTE.COM / Jamaica Gleaner / By Devon Dick
L ast month, at the launch of A Kairos Moment for Caribbean Theology , the co-editor, Dr Garnett Roper, president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary, told the audience that I was the most reluctant person to contribute the chapter ‘Caribbean Theology: A Failed Project?’ and wondered whether it was an indication that I had changed my mind about the contents of the chapter. I do not have a problem with the pillars that informed Caribbean theology or the methodology that informs Caribbean theology, but I think Caribbean theology needs to be repackaged and renamed.
Caribbean theology – its aims and methodology – to the best of my knowledge, does not inform any political manifesto or political debate, any denominational constitution, and is not in any mission statement of any theological school. It does not interest Caribbean people, nor is it part of the normal discourse of the Caribbean people. It had no bearing on the internal Jamaica Labour Party election. It might not be surprising that politicians and electors do not even know the term ‘Caribbean theology’, much less what it stands for. Few persons would know about the socio-economic and political aspects to Caribbean theology. Only former Roman Catholic priest Bertrand Aristide of Haiti made the themes of Caribbean Theology an integral factor in his election as president of Haiti.
One of the premises of Caribbean theology is that the Caribbean experience has its own contextual particularities which ought to be reflected in the Caribbean theological enterprise. Caribbean theology is concerned with representing the welfare of oppressed people in theological word and deed. It is a desire to know what God is doing about injustice and inequality, and what is the role of the Christian in enabling that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Caribbean theology is about mental emanci-pation, as well as physical emanci-pation from slavery. Caribbean theology rejects the received colonial theology and seeks transformation of society based on justice for all and equality of all. Lewin Williams, author of the seminal work, Caribbean Theology , mentions two important features of Caribbean theology as “contextualisation” and “indigenisation”. Caribbean theology aims of make a meaningful and concrete contribution to “Caribbean self-authentication, self-awareness, self-development, self-actualisation, and self-determination.” (Lewin Williams, Caribbean Theology , 2004, 124, 194.)
There are some who claim that Caribbean theology is identified with liberation theology of Latin America, and with liberation theology being so closely identified with the Marxist analysis, then Caribbean theology was doomed to fail.
I believe that renaming Caribbean theology as Emancipation theology has benefits. Emancipation theology would be for those who have experienced enslavement and its legacy. It is for those whose antecedents experienced enslavement. It is for those who have suffered and are still suffering from the consequences of slavery. It is for those who see the right hand of God in the political emancipation of 1838 in the British West Indies.
Since the word ‘emancipation’ is central to Caribbean countries, then Emancipation theology has the potential to excite Caribbean peoples. Emancipation theology would include indigenous theological formulations and differentiation from colonial theology. The emancipatory theological discourse would draw on the ideals of Jamaican national heroes who struggled for full emancipation. It is to make formerly colonised people central to the theological discourse. It is to aim for the liberation of the oppressed and oppressors.
It is to shift the focus from peoples who worship in the Caribbean, a place, and instead to talk and understand God from an emancipation motif. Let’s repackage Caribbean theology by placing liberation from enslavement as its central theme, and this is best done when it is called Emancipation theology!
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to [email protected] gleanerjm.com.
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