Is the current European context a crisis or an opportunity? Musings from a South African

Christianity has been a part of European culture, epistemology, and ontology for centuries. Over these centuries, the colonial Europe ontology, which promoted expansion, individualism, and dualism, has amalgamated Christian mission and nationalism in its anthropological expansion across the world. Furthermore, the growth and promotion of the West as the world’s human rights judge has been consistent. However, with these current challenges, including the war against Ukraine, unexplained COVID restrictions against African nations, and governmental shifts reveal a new picture of the “pristine” Europe. In early 2022, the war in Ukraine affected costs for energy, food and consumables, and created a new refugee crisis. This is also known as a European crisis. Many news outlets have had people mention how it is unimaginable that this is happening because European countries are not ‘third-world countries’. This recognition of European nations as better or having to be immune to war and cost of living crises is peculiar and can be tracked to the modernity paradigm.

Anibal Quijano explains what this paradigm is and what it says about those in the world through the lens of modernity.Modernity is a European paradigm of rational knowledge. Modernity may also be known as the time of the Renaissance or rebirth, which is this return to a style of knowledge that says “Cogito, ergo sum”. This European paradigm forms theproduct of a subject-object relation (Quijano, 2007: 172). It presupposes that there is a subject which is a category referring to an isolated individual because this individual establishes itself in itself and for itself in this discourse and in its capacity of reflection. Moreover, the object in this subject-object relation is a category referring to an entity that is different from the subject and external to the subject by its very nature. Finally, the object is made up of properties which give it its identity and define it, i.e., these identity markers define the object and at the same time position it in relation toother objects. Consequently, this subject-object relation does not provide any room for the idea of identity in the object that is outside the subject-object relation. Also, the external parts of these relations between the subject and the object, which are initiated on differences of nature, are random exaggerations of their real differences since current research explains that there is a deeper communication structure in the universe beyond natural differences. The subject totality offers then a European image of perfection or the “pristine” as opposed to its object other.

African Theology and Black Theology of Liberation might serve to help in this crisis based on this paradigm. In The African God in Africanised theology is within and without and keeps balance with all that Godself has created. This challenged the foundation of subjective totality, in that in African thought systems, God is not above and below, outside and inside, and seeks maintenance of all creation, not simply the subject. Furthermore, God is the one who provides life for all and shares that role with no one or nothing. In Black Theology, theologians during the Apartheid era, like Mosala, Maimela, Boesak and others as well as Black Consciousness leaders like Biko, engaged theological reflection and hermeneutics in order to liberate the oppressed, particularly Black and Brown bodies across the world, from colonial Eurocentric theological reflection and action. Biko reflects that Black Theology: “…seeks to relate God and Christ once more to the black man and his daily problems. It wants to describe Christ as a fighting God, not a passive God who allows a lie to rest unchallenged. It grapples with existential problems and does not claim to be a theology of absolutes. It seeks to bring back God to the black man and to the truth and reality of his situation.” Black Theology has been used as a hermeneutical tool and ideological vision for the liberation of God’s people in bodies characterised as black.

The current issues deeply affect the subject totality image with the “pristine” by presenting the less than perfect acts of war, economic crises, and decreased growth seen only in the so-called “third-world countries”. So how can Europe reimagine and reconceptualise its total image and the calling amongst the crisis of identity? One way is to take up theBlack Liberation Theology of Liberation and the African Theology’s epistemological decentering force. It can begin to reclaim what Curtis Love calls Europe’s forgotten inherent gentile self. It can claim a decentred identity and operate as outsiders, claiming the world of the marginalised as its teachers. Furthermore, it can use Black Theology of Liberationhermeneutics to place the victim of totality’s order in mind when thinking of its actions in a crisis-hit Europe. Moreover, Christians and institutions can look at African Theology and Black Theology’s the force of a new realm of reality as an opportunity to dismantle its own reality of centrality, linked with the state and totality. This dismantling offers new perspectives for hermeneutics, contextualisation and action by moving away from the subject as the only force of reality. These perspectives allow for thought toward actions for those on the below and to communicate a love from and to the fringes of societies affected by the crises. Overall, the reclamation of the forgotten gentile self may help find a new identity on the fringe of the global order and yet serving those on the below during the crisis. What a beautiful opportunity to be the crucified Christ’s image in the world.

Cover photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Author

  • Ntandoyenkosi Mlambo

    Ntandoyenkosi Mlambo is a lecturer at the University of the Free State and PhD Candidate at Stellenbosch University. She is interested in spatial dynamics in South African church history.

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