Sermons or Stories? Preachers or Storytellers?

I am expected to engage with this week’s assigned readings and more specifically reflect on the work of scripture, in its interpretation and proclamation to people living in current times. What an interesting assignment! As I try to put together my thoughts in five pages or less I recalled the discussion I had with a friend of mine in Caculama Municipality, Malanje Province, Angola on Sunday 13 January 2019 on the question of whether we are hearing more sermons or stories.

People living in current times are demanding preachers with power and passion, sensitive to the cultural context in which the performance of biblical testimony takes place[1]. It is clear that the preacher has to have a moral authority and merits the trust of the hearers[2]. And preaching, valid preaching, must be faithful to the biblical vision for justice, which arises from both our exposure to culture and our cloistered contact with the divine[3].

The sermon addresses and narrates God’s liberating response to the cries of the oppressed: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:7-8)[4]. In fact, right at the start of his ministry Jesus set out his mission statement: good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed. This remains an inspiration for many social enterprise people today (Luke 4:18). Jesus didn’t need to invent a mission statement; he finds one ready-made in the Old Testament. The promise of good times no longer lay in the future; it was being fulfilled in the present – ‘today’ – and in his person. He is the Lord’s Servant of whom the book of Isaiah speaks. He is the one anointed by the Spirit, the longed-for Messiah. So echoing Isaiah, he promises good things to four groups of people: Good News to the Poor, Recovery of the Sight to the Blind, Freedom for the Oppressed and Relevance to those living Today. Surely, and I believe, this is the work of scripture in its interpretation and proclamation to people living in current times, which the preacher needs to articulate.

I am known as the border man because I was born on the border between Kwanza Sul and Huambo Provinces in Angola (Southern Africa) – an omen perhaps, in a society where class and the place of birth makes an important difference, that I would be a builder of bridges between people and communities. So, the identity of the preacher also comes to play when delivering the sermon. This was the case of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the servant of Yahweh, the itinerant preacher in Galilee who was then accused by the Jewish authorities, before the Roman procurator, of being political and a social agitator due to the egalitarian movement among the masses He inspired[5].

The sermon and the preaching of someone who understands the role of scripture, in it’s interpretation and proclamation to people living in current times, has to be prophetic and characterized by two elements: an overwhelming sense of an encounter with God and a message of moral and political judgement that the prophet feels divinely compelled to proclaim, particularly to those in political authority[6].

In my conversation with that friend of mine in Caculama we reflected on the fact that many pastors in our days tell stories, any stories, as long as the stories capture attention, seem relevant and take up sermon time. Perhaps the reason is that these pastors/preachers do not want to do the nitty gritty pastoral work of getting into a specific text embedded in a storied world of Israel and Church (and perhaps need more training and mentorship to enhance skill and confidence in exegesis).

What do we mean? Because Jesus told stories this is not a license for preachers to tell only stories and not “preach the word.” Any first year student knows that Jesus’s parables are riddled with biblical allusions, if not outright biblical motifs. That is, Jesus’s stories were told within a culture aware of and living in Israel’s ongoing story. Likewise, preachers today can elicit the biblical text or reference underlying modern stories, linking them back to the biblical moral of the original parable or passage (such as the theme of Moses in the film La Amistad).

I agree that preachers have to preach the Story of the Kingdom as it finds fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. That story is anchored in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Telling stories outside of that big story may be pleasing in some communities, but will never be edifying to the church. Preachers must grapple with this gift called Scripture and preach it[7].

It is interesting to note that Jerome Clayton Ross suggests, and I do agree, that the Bible must be read as a collection of communications between different and diverse parties; it must be contextualized. By locating the Bible, says Ross, we are able to attribute it to somebodies[8].

The work of scripture, in it’s interpretation and proclamation to people living in current times has to include the ascertaining of when, where, and by whom that text was written, who spoke the text? To whom was it written? For whom was it spoken? When was it written? Where was it spoken? Where was it written? What is it addressing? How is it presented? Why is it presented[9]?

For the church to be meaningful and relevant topeople living in current times will have to raise its prophetic voice; the Ministers of the Gospel must comfort the afflicted, but they also have the prophet’s duty to afflict the comfortable. The sermons and the preachers will have to challenge the status quo, because the primary purpose of biblical prophecy is to effect social and political change in a society. Prophets have never been called to conserve social orders that have stratified inequities of power and privilege and wealth; prophets have always been called to change them so all can have access to the fullest fruits of life[10](John 10:10b).

May the Lord Jesus grant me with courage to raise my prophetic voice in Africa and in Angola in particular, to preach the word in such a way that liberates the oppressed and the voiceless people.

Amen

[1]Born to Preach: Essays in Honor of the Ministry of Henry & Ella Mitchell (2000), p.vii, viii.

[2]Ibid, 2000, p.viii

[3]Ibid, 2000, p.viii

[4]In – The Politics of Jesus – chapter One, p. 14

[5]Born to Preach: Essays in Honor of the Ministry of Henry & Ella Mitchell (2000), p.25

[6]In – The Politics of Jesus – chapter One, p. 28

[7]https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/10/28/telling-stories-is-not-preaching/accessed on 20 February, 2019 at 6:40 PM

[8]Born to Preach: Essays in Honor of the Ministry of Henry & Ella Mitchell (2000), p.30

[9]Ibid, 2000, p. 31.

[10]The Politics of Jesus – chapter One, p. 28

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Do not Shrink Your Neighbor to Misery

“You have heard that it was said, – Love your neighbor and hate your enemy, – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Mathews 5:43ff

This biblical text was once used in the past by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in his sermon during his remarkable efforts to counter a vicious racist campaign in Alabama, United States of America. Dr. King argued that he, Jesus said, “love your enemies” – He was talking about the secret of the power of nonviolence action.

According Dr. King

“There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most of men and most women never discovered it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.[1]

The way includes speaking truth to power and being open to reconciliation with others in right action in the times and places we find ourselves.

As a consequence of the rooted and institutional corruption in Angola the percentage of people living in poverty is increasing (by/to more than 36% of the 25 million). In fact, critical poverty is the greatest drama, both for the suffering it causes in itself, and for its articulation with environmental dramas, the lack of access to knowledge and the deformation of the production process to one that is not interested in the needs of those who have no purchasing power.

The United Nations (UN) estimated in 2000 that it would cost at least $300 billion to lift a billion people living on less than $1.00 a day out of misery. These are ridiculously low costs when you consider the trillions transferred to financially privileged economic groups in the context of the last financial crisis. The ethical benefit of such a poverty alleviation program is immense, for it is unacceptable for 10 million children a year to die for ‘ridiculous’ reasons. The short- and medium-term benefit of poverty alleviation programming is great, as the resources directed at the base of the social pyramid immediately stimulate micro and small production, acting as a counter-cyclical process, as has been observed in the social policies of many countries including Angola. The Angolan government indicated recently that intends to “end the extreme poverty of three million Angolans[2]” by 2022, within the framework of the Monitoring Plan to Combat Poverty.

In the longer term, it will be a generation of children who have been fed decently, which will translate into their better school achievement and greater productivity in adult life. In terms of political stability and overall security, the impacts are obvious. This is the best-invested money imaginable, and the experiences of some countries like Brazil, Mexico and other countries that have implemented such policies have already provided the relevant know-how.

It appears to me that the very popular theory that the poor remain poor and dependent if they receive help is simply denied by the facts: getting out of poverty stimulates productivity, and money is simply more useful where it is most needed.

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”

(Deuteronomy 8:3)

Dr. Thistlethwaite, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, a syndicated columnist, ordained minister, activist, theologian, and translator of the Bible, affirms that “this text from the Hebrew Bible, and Jesus’ quotation of it in the Christian scriptures, is often used to justify poverty and interpreted to mean, “if you really have faith, you don’t need food.” That’s not at all what this text means, nor what Jesus means when he quotes it[3]. Professor Gutierrez, cited by Dr. Thistlethwaite, testifies that “you do theology differently when your stomach is full than when it is empty”, mainly because those who are on the street, who are hungry and in poor health, are the ones feeling the real effects of economic policies ….”[4] It is in acknowledging the real effect of exploitative economic policies that we understand the path of action we are called to follow.

May the Lord have mercy on us in order not Shrink our Neighbor to Misery.

[1] # Occupy the Bible – Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, 2012, p. 11

[2] https://www.club-k.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=33636:governo-quer-tirar-da-pobreza-extrema-tres-milhoes-de-pessoas-ate-2022&catid=41026&Itemid=1083&lang=pt

[3]# Occupy the Bible – Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, 2012, p. 21

[4] Ibid, 2012 p. 2

Corruption:the killing gun in Angola

 

Paul, the Apostle advises us not to take part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (Ephesians 5:11). This week I reflect on the alarming situation of the gun’s use in the States, an object that is killing massive numbers of people around the world. I particularly agree with Garry Wills on his article entitled Our Moloch that for many “the answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings”[1], especially in the United States of America.

I recall that in Angola guns were distributed to civilians in most cities after the first democratic elections in 1991. As a result of this act we have seen Bloody Friday, mainly in Luanda, an event that killed lots of Bakongo and Ovimbundu people, ethnic groups mostly who were different from the ethnic group associated with the party dominant in the area at the time. Today, 16 years after the Peace Accord signed in 2002, gun problems are still causing many deaths everywhere in Angola. According to Garry Wills, and I fully agree with him, “the gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a bit of debate. It is an object of reverence”. In fact, as stated by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, “…trust in guns is a failure of trust in God”… especially because, adds Dr. Thistlethwaite “guns provide the illusion of safety and it is an illusion”; “guns are a ‘false god[2]”.

Gun control in Angola (through the inter-ministerial commission put in place for this purpose) continues to be a big issue – because people are still dying from the negative use of guns. Nevertheless I would consider corruption as just as much a killing gun in our country. I consider corruption as an urgent justice issue and it is by no means a modern challenge.

“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2)

We do not have to look very far to find historical accounts where corruption brought down a nation. Angola, our beloved is an example of a nation devastated by this type of gun that kills mostly the vulnerable people, while the minority elite suck dry the resources that belong to everyone. In his most recent visit to Portugal, the Angolan head of state stated that “it is necessary to destroy the nest of the weevil” in regard to the fight against corruption in the country, though the President also acknowledged the risks related to this hard task, by saying: “when we set out to fight corruption, we had [the] notion that we needed to have a lot of courage; we knew we were tinkering with the nest of the weevil[3]”. Please see above the kind of Angolan weevil I am referring to.

Interestingly, the Bible has multiple references to corruption and historians have documented how corruption infected the Roman Empire in its later days and eventually led to its downfall. As a seminary student, I strongly believe that in regards to corruption Angola has been a failed State. Unfortunately corruption is also rooted in some churches, where the appetite for easy profit has led some church leaders to practice nepotism and conflicts of interest. By doing so, those Church leaders are literally killing the faith of many believers.

Here is what to do about corruption: i. Throw away the guns of corruption; ii. Denounce and challenge those who are practicing it; iii. Speak truth to power; iv. Develop the ability to think critically and act strategically against corruption and oppression; v. Engage people in questioning the nature of their historical and social situation – what Paul Freire called “reading the world”; vi. Believe in and stop banalizing the truth; and vii. Get rid of paralyzing fear.

“I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”
(Psalm 85:8 KJV)

In conclusion, I affirm that corruption is one of the most urgent justice issues of our day in Angola. If we the Church care about injustice and inequality and the suffering of the poor and oppressed, then we must be deeply concerned about corruption. It is not holy to be willfully blind or keep silent as far as corruption is concerned, because this is truly a killing gun in our society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2012/12/15/our-moloch/ accessed on 29 November, 2018 at 8:46 PM.

[2] https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2012/07/22/do-americans-trust-guns-more-than-god/11928 accessed on 29 November 2018 at 8:49 PM.

[3] Jornal de Angola Sexta-Feira 23 de Novembro de 2018, nr. 15456, pag. 1

In God’s Time

ChipendaHonoring the life and work of Rev. José Belo Chipenda

R-L: Rev. José Belo Chipenda, Mrs Eva Chipenda and Mr. Luís Samacumbi

I begin my post this week with the beautiful biblical passage that portrays a little bit of the moment we are living in Angola – “Everything has its time, and there is time for every purpose under heaven: there is time to be born and time to die; … time to cry and time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to leap for joy; … time to seek and time to lose; time to keep and time to throw away; time to be quiet and talk time; a time to love and a time to hate; time of war and time of peace “. Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 1 to 8.

In the wake of the changes that have been taking place in the country, the President of Angola has determined the awarding of civilian and military personalities, posthumously and in life, with medals in recognition of their contribution to the conquest and preservation of National Independence, peace and democracy.

The Reverend José Belo Chipenda of the Congregational Evangelical Church in Angola was one among several who received the Medal of Bravery and the Civic and Social Merit of first class. The ceremony took place on November 9, 2018 at the Presidential Palace, and was part of the celebration of the forty-third anniversary of the Independence of Angola. Rev Chipenda has been a voice for truth and reconciliation over many years; His efforts range from his volunteer post WW II reconstruction work in Europe when studying in Portugal, civil rights education work with US College students following the death of Martin Luther King, Anti-colonial Activist work with the World Council of Churches, leadership of the African Council of Churches, holding the position of Secretary General of IECA, a valued counselor to Angolan church and political leaders and peace activists and a faithful supporter in later years of his wife’s innovative education projects with women and children, impacted by civil war. Rev Chipenda and his wife have mentored innumerable young Angolans, including me.

There is no doubt that many have wished this act would have happened longer ago, but as Elaine Martins sang, “…everything has the right time and nothing escapes the control of our God; even if everything seems far away we must always believe that God can do, even though it seems difficult to wait for the time when everything will happen”.

After all, in the time of God everything is fulfilled. Truly God uses the fullness of time to make possible what in the eyes of men and women seems impossible. The winds of change are really blowing and Angola begins to be seen as a country for all not only for the dominant elite. Like David – the Psalmist, I can also affirm that “in the tents of the righteous there is a voice of joy and salvation; the right hand of the LORD doeth prowess” (Ps 118: 15).

I must confess that I pinched myself because I thought I was dreaming. It was just almost impossible to believe that one day in Angola one would recognize an elder who thinks differently. Then I recalled that the acts of righteousness of the LORD only bring us joy, and peace and never sadness. God has been faithful and just, and has done much for us. In fact, we can shout to the four corners of the world that “the Lord did great things for us, and we rejoice” (Psalm 126: 3).

Where are the prophets of our time?

In his most recent speech on the state of the nation, the Angolan President guaranteed the unrestricted fight against illegal religious practices, declaring zero tolerance of the use of religion to extort the faithful for easy enrichment.

Through a Joint Executive Decree number 01/2018, of the Ministries of the Interior, Territorial Administration and State Reform, Justice and Human Rights and Culture, the Circular No. 228/15, dated 25 June, 2015 was revoked by the Minister of Justice, on ecumenical platforms/networks.

The legally unrecognized religious confessions, which have minimum requirements for recognition, were encouraged to submit to the National Institute for Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, information on their organizational and operational situation, including, among others, a steering committee, within 30 days.

The legally recognized religious denominations have been called upon to act within the framework of the law and morality and refrain from carrying out false propaganda in their church services, practices and acts that violate the economic, social and cultural rights of citizens.

What does this mean for the Angolan Church? Does the Church stopped being prophetic? If so, why? And how can the Church restore its place and its mission of being the salt of the earth and be the light of the world (Matt. 5: 13-16)?

The truth is that our Angolan society increasingly faces ethical and moral problems that always reach the less favored and the Church that should be part of the solution. By the above-mentioned Joint Executive Decree one can see that it, the church, is part of the problem.

It seems that we are apathetic and accept exploitative realities. We are often just behind some barriers (cell phone, computer, social networks) complaining, instead of going to fight against these problems. Thinking in this way, we can conclude that we will not save the world and in fact we will not, but we can begin to change from the reality that surrounds us by challenging our apathetic assumptions.

As there is no good thing that always lasts, nor bad thing that always lasts, times have changed. Truth is being restored in the country; the winds of change continue to blow strongly, appealing to us not to give up while others around us are suffering. But it appears to me that this voice it is not necessarily coming from the source where it was expected to come – the Church.

However, the question that does not want to be silent is: Where are the prophets of our time if the truth about ethics, morality and the common good is coming from others sources? Have the prophets of our time been co-opted and swept away by the easy profit practice? Will the prophets of our time fail to preach the truth, that sets people free, by accepting that a large number of people around us will continue to suffer, to be excluded, devoid of the minimum to live?

Who is actually the prophet of God? The prophet of God glorifies God – does not seek his or her own glory or use the gift of prophecy to become powerful or influential;

The prophet of God does not contradict the Bible – the prophet does not invent new doctrines nor distort the teaching of the Bible;

The prophet of God is a servant – he or she prophesies to help other people, not to give a performance or to pretend to seem important;

The prophet of God’s prophecies are fulfilled – if he or she prophesies about the future, what he or she says will happens; otherwise he or she is not a prophet of God.

Who might be recognized as prophets today if this question is seriously posed? I am wondering about those not usually seriously listened to – children, youth, women, the old, those from marginalized ethnic groups.

“In the last days, God said, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”Acts 2:17-18

Where are the prophets of our time? If we do not answer this urgent and burning question we will be considered like those who have been weighed, and found wanting (Daniel 5:27).

 

 

 

 

Teologias Africanas não são silenciosas

Nas últimas semanas tenho vindo a  falar sobre as mudanças que estão ocorrendo em Angola e o silêncio da Igreja. No período antes da independência, a Igreja foi muito vocal em face das injustiças sociais.African theologies are not silent

Porquê a mudança?

Acredito que há um legado de medo paralisante devido ao pesado legado do recente passado histórico de Angola. A Igreja foi silenciada em seu papel profético por esse medo. O que devemos entender é que esse silêncio não está ajudando o  país nem a Igreja a cumprir o seu verdadeiro chamado neste tempo. Precisamos entender que “se nos calarmos, as pedras clamarão” (Lucas 19:40). O trabalho de Diane Stinton sobre a teologia africana, bem como as idéias compartilhadas por John Mbiti sobre a religião africana nos lembram que as teologias africanas não são silenciosas. De facto, ler esses dois autores é como voltar aos meus dias de infância, quando perguntas sobre Deus e religião estavam na ponta da minha língua.

Como leitor activo, muitas das perguntas que mantive durante alguns anos, finalmente foram respondidas à medida que aprendi com Stinton e Mbiti. Eu até ri de alegria quando li sobre “prática e experiência” a razão pela qual um ancião maasai da Tanzânia fez três perguntas cruciais ao missionário, sobre a grande pessoa chamada Jesus Cristo que estava sendo anunciada a eles – “Ele alguma vez matou um leão? Quantas vacas ele tinha? E quantas esposas e filhos ele teve? [1]”Muitas vezes, quando leio a minha Bíblia, tenho a tendência de procurar as passagens que me dêem esperança e ajudem a trazer alegria às minhas situações de vida. No entanto, não é fácil olhar para a Bíblia como meio cheia.

Ler o trabalho de Diane Stinton e Isabel Apawo Phiri enriqueceu o meu conhecimento sobre as distintas teologias que surgiram e ainda emergem de vários cantos da África. No entanto, as perspectivas das teologias das mulheres africanas me permitiram valorizar e advogar por novas metodologias de leitura da Bíblia, porque, como bem declarou Weems, “nossas diferenças às vezes nos impediam de ouvir e entender uns aos outros”[2]. O onjango – uma casa circular feita de madeira e coberta de capim é outro lugar importante que eu acrescentaria que contribuiu muito na formação das teologias africanas.

O onjango é central para uma comunidade e é construído no centro da aldeia, todas as casas colocadas ao redor com as portas voltadas para essa importante instituição. Este lugar de prestígio social, ou a escola tradicional, era reservado para as gerações  adultas e jovens, onde homens e meninos, mulheres e meninas eram educados e as teologias africanas eram desenvolvidas. No onjango, toda pessoa é importante e todas as opiniões são valorizadas. De facto, as teologias africanas não são silenciosas.

Eu acredito numa sociedade alternativa através de Jesus Cristo que encorajou as pessoas a falarem e inspirou os seguidores a saberem que a verdade fala ao poder (Lucas 18: 2-3). Horsley disse que “Jesus foi espancado, torturado e executado por crucificação”[3] e através desse sofrimento uma sociedade alternativa foi criada. A Igreja tem medo de sofrer para dar nascimento a uma sociedade angolana alternativa?

É doloroso e interessante ao mesmo tempo aprender que a morte de Jesus Cristo seguida da crucificação constituíram a base para as pessoas dominadas persistirem em seu desejo de sustentar e criar uma sociedade alternativa, porque reconheceram que o silêncio mata (Salmo 32: 3,5).

Aqueles que sofreram por causa do império não ficaram paralisados ​​por sua agonia. Em vez disso, eles se organizaram. “O império de facto matou Jesus, mas sua crucificação tornou-se um símbolo de oposição ao império e uma inspiração para muitos persistirem em seu desejo de sustentar uma sociedade alternativa”[4]. Porquê a Igreja deveria permanecer em silêncio se as teologias africanas não são silenciosas? Eu só acredito que o espírito de James H. Cone, chamado de “pai da teologia da libertação negra”, que superou os obstáculos para encontrar sua voz, para responder aos sinais dos tempos oferecendo uma voz[5] para aqueles que não podiam falar nos Estados Unidos da América, inspirará os líderes da Igreja angolana a sair do silêncio.

 

[1] John Parratt, ed., An Introduction to Third World Theologies. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. p.105

[2] R.S. Sugirtharajah, eds., Voices from the Margi: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World. Revised and Expanded Third Edition. Orbis Press: Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p. 28

[3] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), pp. 129.

[4] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), pp. 134

[5] https://www.orbisbooks.com/said-i-wasnt-gonna-tell nobody.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=OrbisPublisher2018Oct&utm_campaign=OrbisBooks

African theologies are not silent

In recent weeks I have been talking about the changes taking place in Angola and the silence of the Church. In the period before independence, the church was very vocal in the face of social injustices.

Why the change?

I believe there is a legacy of paralyzing fear due to the heavy legacy of Angola’s recent historical past. The Church was silenced in its prophetic role by this fear. What we must understand is that this silence is not helping our country and it is not helping our Church find its true calling in this time. We need to understand that “if we shut up, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

Diane Stinton work on African theology, as well the ideas shared by John Mbiti on African Religion remind us that African theologies are not silent. In fact, reading these two authors is like going back to my childhood days when questions about God and religion where on the tip of my tongue.

As an active reader many of the questions I had on hold for couple of years where finally answered as I learn from Stinton and Mbiti. I even laughed with joy when I read about “Practice and experience” the reason why a Tanzanian Maasai elder asked three crucial questions to the missionary, about the great person called Jesus Christ who was being announced to them – “Did he ever kill a lion? How many cows did he have? And how many wives and children did he have?”[1]  Often, when I read my Bible I tend to look for scripture that will give me hope and help bring me joy to my living situations. Yet it’s not easy to look at the Bible as half full.

Reading Diane Stinton and Isabel Apawo Phiri’ work enriched my knowledge on distinctive theologies that emerged and still emerging from various corners of Africa. However African women’s theologies perspectives allowed me to value and advocate for new methodologies of reading the Bible because as well stated by Weems “our differences sometimes kept (keep) us from hearing and understanding each other”[2]. The palaver – a circular house made of wood and covered by grass is another important place I would add that contributed a lot in shaping African theologies.

The palaver is central to a community and was built in the center of the village, all houses placed around with the doors facing this important institution. This place of social prestige, or the traditional school, was reserved for the elderly and young generations where men and boys, women and girls were educated and African theologies were developed. In the palaver every person is important and all opinions are valued. Indeed, African theologies are not silent.

I believe in an alternative society through Jesus Christ who encouraged people to speak out and inspired the followers know that truth speaks to power (Luke 18: 2-3). Horsley said that “Jesus was beaten, tortured, and executed by crucifixion”[3] and through this suffering an alternative society was created. Is the Church afraid to suffer in order give birth to an alternative Angolan society?

It is painful and interesting at the same time to learn that the death of Jesus Christ and the followed crucifixion constituted the basis for the dominated people to persist in their desire to sustain and create an alternative society, because they recognized that silence kills (Psalm 32: 3,5). Those who suffered because of the empire did not become paralyzed by their agony. Instead they organized themselves. “The empire had indeed killed Jesus, but his crucifixion became a symbol of opposition to the empire and an inspiration for many to persist in their desire to sustain an alternative society”[4].

Why should the Church remain silent if African theologies are not silent? I lonely believe that the spirit of James H. Cone , called “the father of Black Liberation theology,” who overcame the obstacles to find his voice, to respond to the signs of the times offering a voice[5] to those who could not speak in the United States of America, will inspire the leaders of the Angolan Church to break out from the silence.

 

 

[1] John Parratt, ed., An Introduction to Third World Theologies. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. p.105

[2] R.S. Sugirtharajah, eds., Voices from the Margi: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World. Revised and Expanded Third Edition. Orbis Press: Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p. 28

[3] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), pp. 129.

[4] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), pp. 134.

[5] https://www.orbisbooks.com/said-i-wasnt-gonna-tell nobody.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=OrbisPublisher2018Oct&utm_campaign=OrbisBooks