Lately I’ve become aware of the fact that most of the discussions about church and theology that I’ve been part of have been dominated by white males. This bothers me, for it’s exactly this mixture of people that developed a rationale for apartheid! In order for churches to look different in our country this homogeneity will have to be shattered. I have also become aware of the fact that most of these discussions are dominated by American/Eurocentric theological thought and reflection. With globalization this is not inherently negative, but it is definitely limiting to our specific South African context. Our country is not America or Britain, even though some Christians (and their leaders) try to ghettoize themselves into believing it and living that way. Our current xenophobic crises should serve as a shocking reminder that we live in a specific country with its own geographical and narrative uniqueness.

In his excellent book,” The Academy of the poor”, Gerald West quotes a statement made in 1976 by the “Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians”. It proposed that:

The theologies from Europe and North America are dominant today in our churches and represent one form of cultural domination. They must be understood to have arisen out of situations related to those countries, and therefore must not be uncritically adopted without our raising the question of their relevance in the context of our countries. Indeed, we must, in order to be faithful to the gospel and to our peoples, reflect on the realities of our won situations and interpret the word of God in relation to these realities. We reject as irrelevant an academic type of theology that is divorced from action. We are prepared for a radical break in epistemology which makes commitment the first act of theology and engages critical reflection on praxis of the reality of the Third World.”

My feelings concerning South Africa resonate deeply with this statement. Even though, in all honesty, it scares me. Doing academic and First World theology have been very comfortable for me. By this I don’t mean that we can’t learn from Europe and Africa – what I do mean is that we need a proudly South African theology. But why is it that we flock en-masse to American theologians when they come to our country? Why are we so unwilling to learn from the local stories in SA? Before this turns into a rant let me return to our homogenous groups (I know this is not everywhere, the Methodist synod of last week was a wonderful heterogeneous affair – or so I’m told).

Part of my journey has been to develop friendships with brothers and sister who are part of the poor and marginalized in our country. It has been an adventure of allowing them to re-socialize and re-theologize me in Africa, in South Africa. Every other week I sit with my friend Eddie, who pastors in Diepsloot and then he summarizes his sermons for me – to say that I learn a lot is an absolute understatement. This leads me to ask the question, why are the Eddie’s of South Africa not involved/invited to our meetings? How can I/we change this? BTW, Cobus’s post reignited my thoughts on this subject.