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World Cup of Theologians: France – Jacques Ellul

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

French Historian Jacques Ellul TalkingJacques Ellul (1912-1994) was a sociologist who wrote extensively on the creation and effects of propaganda. The passion for this work came from his experiences with the French resistance to the Nazis during World War II (which earned him a commendation as Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem) and outrage at the injustices levied during the Algerian War of Independence.

As a theologian, he is most well-known for his contributions to Christian Anarchism and the assertion that allegiance to a political party or state makes one complicit in the oppression of others through violence and power.

In The Subversion of Christianity (1986), Ellul expands on this concept, writing,

The biblical teaching is clear. It always contests politicalpower. It incites to “counterpower,” to “positive” criticism, to an irreducible dialogue (like that between king and prophet in Israel), to antistatism, to a decentralizing of the relation, to an extreme relativizing of everything political, to an anti-ideology, to a questioning of all that claims either power or dominion (in other words, of all things political), and finally, if we may use a modern term, to a kind of “anarchism” (so long as we do not relate the term to the anarchist teaching of the nineteenth century). (116)

The reflection along Ellul’s theory and work continues on in the International Jacques Ellul Society, a multi-disciplinary group whose objectives are to preserve and disseminate his literary and intellectual heritage, to extend his penetrating social critique, especially concerning technology, and to extend his theological and ethical research with its special emphases on hope and freedom.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Germany – Johann Metz

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

metzJohann Baptist Metz (1928- )is a unique German theologian who learned first-hand both the devastation of human suffering and the furtherance of suffering caused by the silence of Christians. After World War II, in which he was an American prisoner of war, he returned to Germany and studied at the University of Innsbruck under Karl Rahner. He was a primary voice in the development of Political Theology, working to find meaningful theology after the collapse of humanism ideals seen in the Holocaust.

Metz is best known for his concept of the dangerous memory of suffering, an element of the Theology of Hope that stresses the role of Christian’s creating spaces for stories of suffering. Dangerous memory is also an essential part of our Christian experience because the memory of Christ’s suffering is one of our key catalysts for our salvation and the justice for all peoples that comes with that salvation. His ideas have been used to argue for an increased Christian presence alongside those with mental illness, survivors of abuse and genocide, and alcoholism.

Metz writes of the way memory is destroyed, in this instance for the survivors of the El Mezote Massacre in En Salvador in 1981:

The destruction of memory [in situations of injustice and violence] turns out systematically to hinder identity, to prevent people from becoming subjects or continuing to be subjects in their social-historical contexts. Uprooting slaves and deporting them always tends to destroy their memories, and precisely in this way serves as a powerful reinforcement of their state of being as slaves, their systemic disempowerment in the interest of effecting their complete subjugation. On the other hand, the formation of identity always begins with the awakening of memory.

Metz’s classic work, Faith in History and Society. Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, expands on his understanding of political theology, with special attention to the implications of living out this distinctive expression of faith.

Zane Ridings is a Masters of Divinity student at Brite Divinity School. As an undergraduate at Eureka College, he completed an honors research thesis titled: Walking Alongside the Least of These: Liberation Hermeneutics and Praxis-based Missions in Guatemala. This work has been part of Zane’s theological exploration of questions concerning justice, politics, and Christian fellowship and ethics.

World Cup of Theologians: Uruguay – Juan Luis Segundo

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Juan Luis Segundo (1925-1996) was a Jesuit priest and scholar who was instrumental with the introduction of liberation theology in Latin America and the application of the hermeneutic circle. His initial work, Liberation of Theology, raises issues of the Latin American context and its perspective, although he does so within the style of traditional Western theologians. segundo

In many Western contexts, the term “ideology” has a negative connotation, which bleeds into the consideration of liberation theology, to which Segundo defines the relationship of ideology and faith, writing in Liberation of Theology,

“a system of goals and means that serve as a necessary backdrop for any human option or line of action”, yet “Faith…is the total process to which [the human being] submits, a process of learning in and through ideologies how to create the ideologies necessary to handle new and unforeseen situations in history.” As such, ideologies are derived from the particular context of a community and contribute to faith. But at no point can ideology supersede the role of faith, which encompasses a diverse range of idealized theories of life.

His writing on hermeneutics emphasized the role of the community in interpretation, rather than assuming that an individual is the driver of the interpretive process. This stood as a critique and addition to Schleiermacher’s conception of the hermeneutic circle which would become a standard interpretive principle within liberation theology.

For more information about Segundo’s writing, see the entry in the Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Chile – Sergio Torres

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

TorresSergio Torres is a Chilean Catholic priest whose leadership and writing has focused on how the Liberation Theology of Latin America can separate itself from the ideologies of Eastern Europe and its Marxist materialist underpinnings and adapt to new contexts. In an interview with Instituto Humanitas Unisinos, he covers a broad range of liberation theology history, including the role of Amerindia in forging a new path for the church of the American continent.

IHU On-line: In 2012, we are also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication Gustavo Gutiérrez’s book. Since that inaugural work, what were and are the main contributions of liberation theology in the context of Latin America? What is the meaning of liberation today?

Sergio Torres: The rise of liberation theology represented an important moment in the history of theology in general. Before it, it was thought that there was only one universal theology, along the lines of St. Paul’s expression, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Without in any way denying this fundamental principle, liberation theology opened the contextual perspective. We believe in one Lord, but we do so from our contexts and our own different situations and cultures. The context allows one to delve into some aspects of the single message and make it more credible to people of different cultures. Born in Latin America, liberation theology has spread to Africa and Asia and has also generated experiments in contextual theology in North America and Europe.

The concept of liberation expanded and became richer. At first, they talked about the liberation of the poor, understood as the workers in the industries and factories of the great cities of the continent. Subsequently, the concept of the poor also deepened. The poor are the excluded ones, the marginalized, those who have no voice, are discriminated against, or, as we say today, “the other”. Currently, the concept of liberation expresses the salvation and liberation that Jesus brings, including many terms that refer to the salvation of neglected and oppressed sectors in the current cultural and social situation.

Today, there is not just one liberation theology. There is an open theological pluralism, one that is truer to some of the intuitions and basic principles of the first liberation theology. That theology still has much to give in and of itself. For example, it should continue joining the individual and complementary contributions of academic theologians and grassroots theologians. Moreover, professionals are called on not only to speak ‘for’ the poor but, from [the perspective of] the poor and with them.

Read the full interview – in Englishem portuguêsen español

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Mexico – Samuel Ruiz

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Samuel Ruiz (1924-2011) was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop serving among the indigenous Maya peoples in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Mexican state of Chiapas. He was an advocate for the rights of the marginalized peoples which led him into conflict, both within and outside the Catholic Church.

ruizEven though he was raised with a traditional and conservative view of the Church, he was heavily influenced by Vatican II’s desire to integrate the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with the culture and perspective of the local parish. This emphasis would mark his ministry and the Catholic faith that spread throughout the region.

To bring the Catholic faith to the Mayan people, he learned the dialects that were spoken widely and ordained Mayans into the diaconate and priesthood to further serve their communities. As he witnessed the injustices these people suffered, Ruiz championed the human rights of the indigenous people, calling for political reforms which led him into conflict with the leadership of the Church.

…we need to realize that we have a role to play in overcoming our own discrimination which is sometime very subtly held but that we do need to overcome it and see our indigenous peoples as brothers and sisters, not because we are legally mandated to do so, but because we genuinely see them as our brothers and sisters in our struggle for a better world.

For more information about the Mayan-led church in the Chiapas region and recent easing of anti-liberation policies, read more here.

For a coloring activity for children about Father Ruiz, click here (via doonething.org)

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.



The History and Future of Womanist Theology (Video)

Union Theological Seminary recently hosted a documentary about the origin of Womanist Theology through the perspective of some of its early adherents. The 12-minute video below is a preview of the full documentary, Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, which will be shown at the American Academy of Religion meeting this fall in San Diego, California, USA.

A social and spiritual look at female theologians and ethicists of African descent…Union Theological Seminary will premier Journey to Liberation, a 50-minute documentary on the founding of Womanist theology, an African-American feminist liberation movement. Filmmaker Anika Gibbons takes a deeper look at the radical spirituality and scholarship within the lives of the founding mothers of Womanist theology and Womanist ethics. She focuses on their significance as figures in African-American theology and history, and on the role played by Union in that founding.

For a summary and commentary on the event, see Womanist Theology at Union: A Past, A Present– A Future? by Jamall Calloway (H/T to Jason Harris and Postcolonial Theology Network Facebook Group)

For more videos, including an introduction to the film and resulting panel discussion about the current state of African-American women in theology and Womanist perspectives, follow this link.

 If you are interested in sharing your perspective and becoming a writer with GlobalTheology.org, find more information on our Get Involved Page!

Michael Shepherd is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University. He is the editor of GlobalTheology.org and lives in Fullerton, CA, USA with his wife and son.

Minjung Theology: A Korean Theology of the People

Dream of a Female Worker

Dream of a Female Worker

How do you find the hope for freedom after centuries of oppression from four different world powers? What spark is there to transform the pain that you feel within and the emptiness of the world around you? Minjung theology is borne out of these questions and finds a response in a unique understanding of Christ and how to follow him faithfully.

Minjung (민중) is a word derived from the Korean pronunciation of two Chinese characters: “min” (the people) and “jung” (the masses). The combination of the two creates an image of the majority of people, the poor, the oppressed. The term originated as a descriptor in contrast to the Yangban, or ruling elite class.

Although it is similar in some respects to liberation theological movements, it is an oversimplification of the Korean context to lump in with Latin American, African, or other movements. There is less of an emphasis upon economic injustice and more attention to institutional oppression from colonial and hierarchical structures. These forms of injustice are partly due to geography, as the Korean peninsula is situated between China and Japan, and also (much more recently) politically between the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Minjung theology derives from the experience of the minjung– the people who are exploited by the elite. Initially conceived as an interpretive source by leaders of the Urban Industrial Mission who volunteered for labor camps in the early 1960s, the term has taken on added significance in successive generations. A similarity to the minjung can be found in the gospels’ use of the term ὄχλος (ochlos) to refer to the crowds (of commoners, outcasts) following Jesus.

There are two distinct features of minjung theology: 한 (han) and 단 (dan).

James Cone on a Black Jesus and the White Church

Black Jesus by Stanley Rayfield

Black Jesus by Stanley Rayfield

In the 1960s, theologian James Cone was writing in an era of civil unrest due to racial disparity in the presence of a majority church largely unaware and unconcerned with the injustices common to his experience.

Rather than postpone the triumph over injustice to some abstract, heavenly future, he stresses the incarnation of Christ into the lives of the oppressed. This emphasis empowers the oppressed as well as challenges the privileged. This hermeneutic introduces reconciliation as a necessity for mature discipleship.

Below is an excerpt from James Cone’s book, Black Theology and Black Power:

“The way of the church is related to the fact that the Kyrios Lord himself is on his way in the world, …and the church has no choice but to follow him who precedes. Consequently obedience and witness to the Kyrios require the discernment of the opening which he provides and the willingness to step into this opening.” –Thomas Weiser

The opening has been made and the Church must follow. To follow means that the Church is more than a talking or a resolution-passing community. Its talk is backed up with relevant involvement in the world as a witness, through action, that what it says is in fact true.

Where is “the opening” that Christ provides? Where does he lead his people?

The Impact of Pope Francis

David Horsey / Los Angeles Times (March 13, 2013)

There is still much to come in the tenure of Pope Francis, but already in his short time there is much that has caused the world (non-Catholics included) to take notice and consider the impact of this pontiff at this moment in history.

Let’s take a look at Five Reasons Why Pope Francis Matters… (Click to Tweet)

1. Recognition of the population shift of Christianity to the Global South

Much has already been written in missiological circles about the growing demographics of Christianity in Africa, Asia, and South America after a historical majority in Europe and North America. Despite the swelling numbers, the influence of these regions is still largely untapped.

Within World Christianity, there is no position more high-profile that Pope and few institutions wielding as much influence as the Vatican. The recent papal election was dynamic in the fact that cardinals from Africa, Canada, and the United States were considered as possible candidates (although their actual viability as candidates may be questioned).

With this appointment, Pope Francis opens the doors for other thought-leaders to emerge from the non-Western world. The perspectives that they inhabit will inevitably change the dynamics of the theological education, training, and implementation in ways that will impact our diverse and changing communities and world.

2. Pastoral experience among a growing (and practicing) Roman Catholic Church (more…)

Romero: A Seed of Freedom

“Que mi sangre sea semilla de libertad y la señal de que la esperanza será pronto una realidad.”

(Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.)

- Archbishop Óscar Romero

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated while he was celebrating the mass.

Romero had become an advocate and champion of the poor in El Salvador and Latin America, which brought him into opposition with the right-wing military government. Following his assassination, he has been recognized as a candidate for canonization and is currently revered as a Servant of God.

The following music video was produced as part of The Project: Martyrs Prayers. Accompanying this is a three-part podcast examining the life and message of Father Romero by Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The podcasts are available here (Part 1: Introduction, Part 2: Present Reality of Martyrdom, Part 3: Ancient/Modern Understanding of Martyrdom).


Musician- Michael Glen Bell

Film Maker- Owen Thomas
More information on The Project: Martyrs Prayers.

Fear of Different Cultures

I spend a lot of time thinking about how the Western church can benefit from the exploration, examination, and integration of non-Western perspectives. A recent voice I have appreciated is Christina Cleveland (@CSCleve), a social psychologist, professor, writer, preacher, and consultant on multicultural issues affecting churches and organizations.

Her post, Our Culture of Fear (of Different Cultures), takes a psychological look at a group’s tendency to avoid those who are perceived as different. These same elements affect interacting with non-Western theologies because of the unspoken assumptions of Western superiority. If the people of the Global South are viewed as having a deficient or derivative perspective, it is a matter of priority to preserve the “purity” of a Western interpretation.

“I sometimes wonder if the animosity some express toward [those who offer a different perspective] is motivated by the fear that the case [for the opposing perspective] might turn out to be more compelling than they can handle.” (Greg Boyd)  We’re afraid that they might influence us. As a result, our cross-cultural interactions are not characterized by humility, openness, interdependence and hopeful invitation.  Rather, they are characterized by fear, retreat into cognitive closure and accusations. Our orientation and motivation is one of fear and retreat. Within our culture of fear, our words and behavior are motivated by a desire to avoid being like a certain group, rather than a desire to be like Jesus. (Click to Tweet) (more…)

A Pilgrimage of Hope

In my work with immigrants, there are certain stories that stick with me because they reveal some aspect of God. Usually, the stories of the poor are too similar to those in the Bible to ignore. They are almost literal, revealing the ways in which God actually identified with the poor and the oppressed. As we observe advent, I’d like to share with you the story of a hardworking family that came from Mexico 22 years ago.


Incarnation as Celestial Migration

Christmas is all about a migration story.  I am not referring to Santa’s Christmas Eve sleigh ride around the world—that’s travel, not migration—and it’s also not what Christmas is all about.

Even Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’s escape as refugees to Egypt just after the visit of the Magi—while certainly a formative experience in young Jesus’ life and an experience upon which we would do well to reflect upon—is not at the very center of the Christmas story. (more…)

Weekend Round-up

Weekend Roundup is a quick link to articles covering an array of subjects related to Global Theology. This week, we have articles on Christmas! African celebrations, peace in Palestine, and the Christmas tree in abolitionist movements. (more…)

Tago Ng Tago Theology

The title of this post is “Tago Ng Tago” Theology. “Tago ng tago” loosely translates from Tagalog as “be in hiding” or “always hiding.”  The term describes Filipinos who went overseas (OFW) to work , but did not leave when they were supposed to. Therefore, they live as illegals hiding in that country. This is a major part of the Filipino self-identity (in my mind) with over 10% of Filipino nationals living overseas in one form or another. The Filipino dream is to raise up a child to get a job overseas and send money home. There is perhaps no other country on earth so international… so globally minded as the Philippines.

A Filipino journalist who used to be a TNT in the United States (Tago ng Tago), won a Pulitzer award.

It seems strange that despite the strong place Christianity has in the Philippines, there is little real Filipino theology (within orthodox Christianity at least). In the past, there has been some original theology done by Catholic theologians in the Philippines, especially linked to martial law, but not much since. Most theology in the Philippines (again, not counting heterodox works) simply borrows from outsider works. Innovation seems to be more in line with switching who one borrows from. I am not Filipino, so it is not my place to say what good Filipino theology should be. But here are some things to think about. First think about a couple of other theologies… (more…)

A Biblical Reflection on Genesis 12:3 (LINK)

Below s a link to a piece describing the manner in which a Palestinian reads an oft-quoted piece of the Hebrew scripture and how his experience influences his interpretation.

A Biblical Reflection on Genesis 12:3

Dr. Naim Ateek

“On the day after Christmas, we went on a courtesy visit to the Israeli minister of religious affairs. Archbishop Tutu spoke “truth to power” and combined courage with candor. He told the minister about the importance of giving the Palestinians justice and freedom. As we were leaving the government building, we were followed by a man who kept repeatedly shouting the words at us, “Genesis twelve three; Genesis 12:3.” I could hardly wait to get home in order to look up the text in the Bible.”

Rev. Dr. Ateek is a Palestinian Christian pastor, teacher, and advocate. He founded the  Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and has authored Justice, and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation