2. Why a Caribbean Theology? (Part 2)

In my last post I attempted to begin answering the question, “Why a Caribbean Theology?”  I must confess that I am not convinced that anyone will really understand the importance of the question by reading just one post, especially when the subject matter seems so new and “strange.”  Having been socialized to understand Christianity in traditional ways – explained by the familiar simple dichotomies of body – soul, sin – righteousness, saved – lost, heaven – hell, all supporting the need for personal salvation, and having worked hard to remain faithful to these understandings, it is understandable that many will feel reluctant to things which seem to stray too far from the tradition.  It often takes a series of discussions for us to see the unfamiliar for what it really is, and sometimes we find to our surprise that it is not as scary (and in this case heretical) as we once believed.  Caribbean Theology offers up its own menu of strange sounding concerns (when compared to traditional Christian thinking), but a closer reflection will see its fidelity to the Biblical text and mission for spreading God’s kingdom here on earth.

We have already argued that Christianity in the Caribbean region came here as the religion of foreign oppressors, and that initially it was taught in a manner that justified their atrocities over others they viewed as being there to serve their interests.  Our indigenous peoples were the first to experience this flawed Christianity, but it was also later imposed on others forcefully uprooted from their homelands and transposed here to serve their oppressors.  Though today the church neither possesses such a mandate nor deliberately participates in it, the fact is that she has never renounced it either, at least not in a significant way.  The result is that an examination of church teaching and practice will reveal that there remains much in Caribbean Christianity that continues to denigrate our people – whether it be the fact that our culture is denied participation in church (as seen by an insistence on the garb and worship of our colonial forebears as essential for holiness) or that spirituality is so defined as to make of less than secondary importance the situations of lack and injustice in which the vast majority of our people are forced to exist.

Caribbean Theology is rooted in the family of liberation theologies, and has as its major concern that scripture be read and faith practiced in such a way that our people realize their status as created in the image and likeness of God and enjoy a life of peace and justice.  It borrows from various thinkers and disciplines to analyze the current realities of our peoples, not limiting the study of theology to…theology (the study of traditional Christian doctrine).  The disciplines of history and sociology help us understand the influences on the theological ideas brought to us and how they shaped society.  Marx is embraced, but not in a fulsome way, to explain the ordering of society along social classes and how religion is used to justify such.  Friere helps us understand the educational paradigms that can help our people transform their reality.  But it is the Bible that offers us the blue-print of what it means to be the people of God – a people who find ourselves often embracing the “bitter end of the stick,” but who through faith in the Living God, and who by the practice of His righteousness create a better space for life on earth – one of love, justice and mercy – as befitting the Kingdom of God.

It is with the above in mind that we recognize that Caribbean theologians are more than Bible thumpers; like the prophets of Israel God’s word must make sense in their contexts, so they make pronouncements on politics and social practice.  Their scope goes beyond private, individualized sin to denounce corporate, societal and religious evil.  Their pulpit includes the news media and their pews encompass the street corners and inner sanctums of homes that never see the light of day in more up-scale society.  Their goal is the salvation of the whole man – body, soul and spirit – so they give voice to the voiceless, and call the rich and powerful to recognize their place under God in the formation of a just society, for it is in the practice of justice that we transcend the drudgery of life.   They form the true conscience of our nations.

Frankly speaking, the traditional ways of reading the Bible and practicing Christianity will struggle to compare favourably to the likes of Caribbean Theology.

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Looking theologically at what's happening in community development...and very disturbed at what I see.
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12 Responses to 2. Why a Caribbean Theology? (Part 2)

  1. Carrean Cruickshank says:

    It is clear from our history that if the gospel was to reach the masses of the Caribbean people in the days of slavery, it would not be the channel of the planters’ church. Hence, we saw a new method of evangelisn which was introduced to the region through the voices of the Moravian, Methodist and Baptist church missionaries. As their message hearlds through the plantaion were the oppressed people worked forcefully, it sends a new interpretation of biblical theology. Yes, it was time to be libreated, as voices of new church emphasises the importants of equality, practical ethics, and savation through the individual faith and own experience. The old tradtional ecclesiastical and social dogma of the oppressors was almost none excistence in the 18 century evanelical approach, and as a result many slaves was saved. I am not sure if today we are experiencing any form of social changes through the voice of evangelism.What has happen to our zeal and the legacy of then the 18 century evangical. Can this approached be review? It may of good help in building!

    • Carrean Cruickshank says:

      It is clear from our history that if the gospel was to reach the masses of the Caribbean people in the days of slavery, it would not be the channel of the planters’ church. Hence, we saw a new method of evangelism which was introduced to the region through the voices of the Moravian, Methodist and Baptist church missionaries. As their message hearlds through the plantation where the oppressed people worked forcefully, it sends a new interpretation of biblical theology. Yes, it was time to be liberated, as voices of new church emphasises the importance of equality, practical ethics, and salvation through the individual faith and own experience. The old traditional ecclesiastical and social dogma of the oppressors was almost none excistence in the 18 century evangelical approach, and as a result many slaves were saved. I am not sure if today we are experiencing any form of social changes through the voice of evangelism.What has happen to our zeal and the legacy of the 18 century evangelical. Can this approached be reviewed? It may of good help in building!

      correct entry

  2. Hopelyn Richards says:

    If we are being guided by the word of God to live effectively as christians, I do not understand, as stated in the post, that Christianity in the Caribbean region came here as the religion of foreign oppressors, and that initially it was taught in a manner that justified their atrocities over others they viewed as being there to serve their interests.

    The Word of the Bible is written by inspired men of God, not by oppressors

    • Double D says:

      While I will agree with you, it is also true that the word was interpreted and used to justify the actions of the oppressors. So they made it seem as though it was all good and well to suffer because our reward in heaven is going to be greater, it was ok to obey them because servants should obey their masters. They made themselves out to be heavenly beings because they are white and the Jesus they presented to us was white which makes us inferior to them…That is not a true concept of Christianity.

  3. Dave Nelson says:

    My reason for agreeing with a Caribbean Theology is based on informed and eye-opening discussions as well as historical realities. From the emancipation of slavery until today many Caribbean people including the Rastafarians were not impressed with the ‘white man’s’ theology nor the ‘foreign churches’, yet, by far we are still under their dictates by the church hymn books from abroad, the ‘church organ’ music and their evangelism styles.
    Since emancipation we have come a far way e.g, the European church dress code which was once viewed as the correct attire, not anymore. We are now theologically sound and educated enough to chart our own belief system by applying the Bible to our culture and understanding who our God is, His expectation of us and our responsibility to Him. Theologically, we owe no nation any obligation. We, like other nations, stand answerable to God for our sins. We can be guided by our Caribbean culture, the Bible as our religious book and be strong enough to maintain our theological dignity. Our theology must be built around our conviction towards worship and our response to our Deity without being guided or controlled by other outside influences.

  4. I am supportive of a Caribbean theology for the following reasons; I personally believe that the resedual effect of eronous teachings during the slavery is still in practice.
    These practices may be delebrate or igranant of the truth of Christianity. An establish Caribbean theology could be considered an elevation to a better understanding of our cultures and position in the world and in Christ Jesus.
    It promotes reading of scriptures and practice of the Christian faith, and bring enlightenment and therefore, the need to move away from the Western theology.
    The Caribbean people would come to appreciate themselves, created in the image of God. Instead of feeling like second class people, we would search the scriptures and see that the middle wall of partition was broken down which brings equality.

  5. Hopeton Suthreland says:

    In the initial stages when hearing about a Caribbean Theology it seemed to be a relatively new movement. Having heard about it with some level of understanding of what Caribbean Theology is about one can see the need for it. I can agree that there is a need for us to embrace a Caribbean Theology.We have inherited a theology that came to us from the eastern world that exposed us to their culture.Therefore a Caribbean Theology would allow the Caribbean man to understand the bible from a Caribbean perspective.This is not to say we are to throw away our biblical history but rather allowing us to express ourselves in worship to God in our own culture out of our Caribbean experiences, and struggles . It is sad to say that some of our churches fall victim to the foreign ideas and experiences rather than embracing their own. We often import preachers with their own ideas to indoctrinate us. Another reason why a Caribbean Theology is necessary is it will help us to form what I would call a Caribbean identity that is, a group of people that can be identified together. The reason for this is many of our men in the Caribbean are still searching for their identity. It can also help one to understand that we are a people of value and self -worth. Coming out of slavery we have not fully regained these things.

  6. O'NIEL SCOTT says:

    As we embrake upon a new kind ot theology it is a true saying that people do not easily accept changes, especially when it affects or challenges the way they think or present state of mind that is already geared in certain direction. As we speek to understand to the fullest the importance of caribbean theology, one must first understand what it meant to be truely liberal and practical. I has always been a question on my mind , why the church seems not to be effective as it should, is it that she needs to do somthing different from the norm ,or is it that she is not doing somthing that she should be doing such as play a more integral part in the life of tooday’s society.

  7. Richard Jarrett says:

    For the Caribbean Church to embrace a Caribbean Theology, it must first see the necessity for one and take ownership of it. As a people we have been robbed of so much and the common factor we have with all our other Caribbean neighbors is our slavery past. The major influence which has carried us this far is our belief in a God who has revealed himself to us in the form of theology which has been handed down to us from our colonial masters. This theology has carried us thus far, but do we take full ownership of it in our Caribbean context?. I can still hear my grandmother’s voice praying to “Puppa Jeezas” or asking “Massa God” to have mercy, such language or terms to some may seem ungodly, but this was how she took ownership of what was passed on to her, by framing worship and by extension, theology in light of her own culture context.
    Several questions comes to mind as I grapple with the idea of a Caribbean theology: Does the average believer have the freedom in a church setting to express him or herself in their own way without being scoffed at by their fellow worshippers or have we reached a level of maturity to offer worship and expressions thereof based on our own understanding of God in our own Caribbean context?
    Has the church been effective in presenting an understanding of God which shows him as accepting of us despite our social standing, education, the color or shade of our skins or our financial status in our Caribbean context?
    Has the church taken full ownership of the theology which has been hand down to us from our colonial past or have we syncretized it with our own concept of Caribbean theology?

  8. Dion Mitchell says:

    It is true that one blog or one class interaction about Caribbean Theological would not have swayed anyone significantly. But when one looks at the various arguments posited and then link it with that which we were taught in our history classes, it is not strange that most of us have arrived at a positive conclusion. I have accepted the argument that some aspects of what was handed down to us is flawed. If the colonial masters were the ones who were interpreting the scriptures, it is obvious that the said interpretation would have been skewed in their favor.

    I trust that the church will see the urgent need to revolutionize the entire theological system with a view of making it relevant to the Caribbean and in this case the Jamaican people.

  9. ALSTON REID says:

    Slavery was a business and every business wants to make a profit,therefore those who promote slavery will act in its interest,christianity was used by the Europeans to support the business of slavery.
    As we move towards modernism slaves began to benefit from christianity,slaves began to learn to read but most were unable to analyse the issues and what the colonial powers were engaged in
    The established churches played a major role in the abolition of slavery but we were already inculcated with the teachings and practices of European christianity which made it a culture.
    The emerging of post-modernism some caribbean christians began to analyse the teachings and practices of christianity and formed the opinion that these teachings and practices are not commensurate with our culture and a incremental break away from the traditional churches started.
    In my opinion caribbean theology was established during that period and is consolidating;This is indigenous as caribbean people because caribbean theology will allow us to communicate easier and reduce inferiority in relations to established norms ,we will be able to explain the Bible and christianity with a caribbean perspective which will be accepted to us as people.
    Liberation theology that is practice in South America is restricted to Roman Catholics ,however caribbean theology could b e a parallel system but needs to be modified so that the teachings and practices can be the same ,radical in its approach this was what Jesus Christ was all about.

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