Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Verbum et Ecclesia]]> vol. 32 num. 2 lang. pt <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Seeking the <i>good</i> (peace) of the republic: The violence against and of difference in defining the public space</b>]]> This article will reflect on the role of legitimate and authorised violence in state-making. This violence in the name of the good defines the state (Benjamin's law-making violence) by the exclusion of others (Benjamin 1996). Law-making violence together with the violence that coerces or binds [religare] the public into a common understanding of the good (Benjamin's law-maintaining violence) is at the exclusion of other interpretations of the good (Benjamin 1996). As the law-making and law-maintaining violence of the state is always at the expense of the excluded other, the excluded other will produce a counter violence of difference seeking a legitimate place within the common space of the republic (Benjamin's divine violence). What is the church's role in such a context of violence? Is the church's role to help clarify and clearly define the good that will bind [religare] the citizens into a stronger and more prosperous and peaceful state - onward Christian soldiers marching as to war? Or is there another calling, to be disciples of Christ - with the Cross of Jesus going on before - and enter the space of violence beyond the knowledge of good and evil as peacemakers? These questions will be examined by bringing into dialogue Žižek's (1997) interpretation of Christianity with Derrida's (2002) interpretation of hospitality, specifically in the violent South African context. <![CDATA[<b>The reconciliatory role of Holy Communion in the Methodist tradition</b>]]> Violence is an instrument of segregation, whether it manifests physically, emotionally, verbally or by any other means. Can the church be an instrument of reconciliation where people have been divided through violence? This article explores the reconciliatory role of the Sacrament of Holy Communion in the Methodist tradition, which has as a Christian denomination, experienced many threats of division in its history. Holy Communion, it is argued, is the one place where people, who may find every reason not to be together, are invited to share in an event which unites them. <![CDATA[<b>The role of the Old Testament in a violent world</b>]]> This article explores the responsibility of Bible critics with regard to the role that the Bible should play in our violent society. The crucial question that needs to beaddressed is whether the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, is part of the problem or part of the solution. The Old Testament is clearly a violent book. How do we deal with this? Does the Old Testament really have a positive contribution to make in a society riddled with violence? Some Bible critics tend to shy away from these questions, but there are exceptions. For some, violence is so endemic to the Bible that there is little to save. For others, the Bible has a very constructive role toplay in a society plagued by violence. <![CDATA[<b>'Mission and Power' - The relevance of the Edinburgh 2010 discussion in the theological engagement with violence</b>]]> The ecumenical conference in Edinburgh in 2010 identified the issue of 'Mission and Power' as one of the pressing mission themes for our generation. Christian mission has always been associated with power. The promise of the risen Christ was that his followers would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them. History, unfortunately, recounts how Christian mission became backed by force and violence, the very opposite of the kind of power and energy associated with the Spirit of God. At the Edinburgh 2010 conference this violence in mission was studied as expressed in churches' relations with indigenous peoples. This article engages violence theologically and ecumenically by inviting the Edinburgh 2010 discussion into the reflection on violence in the democratic South Africa, as it was presented as a contribution to a wider discussion on violence in South Africa. This is done with the following objectives in mind: (1) to better understand the interaplay between violence and power against the background of a broader global and ecumenical discussion of this issue; and (2) to suggest clues for the theological reflection on violence that may help to create a powerless, space-creating discourse that opens up thinking and contributes to healing and justice.The article concludes by building on the Edinburg 2010 foundations of mission as dialogue and proposing prophetic dialogue as a powerless discourse: 'Transforming the meaning of mission means that … God's mission calls all people to work together for healing and justice in partnerships of mutuality and respect.' <![CDATA[<b>Overcoming modernity's individualism: Becoming a community of peace in the face of violence</b>]]> Modernity's understanding of the primacy of the individual represents a significant challenge to a holistic understanding of the vocation of the church. Furthermore, individualism, that is the understanding of oneself as separate and apart from others, is often the foundation for violence against the other as the interconnectivity, and therefore the dependence and vulnerability inherent within a relationship, is lost. When the church is relegated to serve individuals as private and individualised belief systems, it is banished to a cold, dark cell of isolation. In order to respond to violence, the church needs to create communities that restore and reconcile relationships, thus embodying peace. <![CDATA[<b>Religion and violence in a globalised world</b>]]> Violent religious extremism is seen as one of the mega-problems of the 21st century. This article - based on a key lecture at the conference on 'Violence in a democratic South Africa' at the University of Pretoria and the David de Villiers memorial lecture at the University of Stellenbosch, both held during August 2010 - critically discussed the interaction between religion and violence in our present-day, globalised world. Three different propositions on the relationship betweenreligion and violence were scrutinised. In countering the proposition that religion, or more specifically monotheism, necessarily leads to violence, it was argued that violence is not an inherent, but rather an acquired or even an ascribed quality of religion. The second proposition that religion leads to non-violence was affirmed to the extent that religions do provide a strong impulse to overcome violence. However, they also tend to accept violence as an inevitable part of reality and evenjustify the use of violence on religious grounds. The third proposition was regarded as the most convincing, for it argues that the link between religion and violence is contingent. Some situations do seem to make the use of violence inevitable; however, religions should refrain from justifying the use of violence and maintain a preferential option for nonviolence. <![CDATA[<b>The pastor as model for peaceful existence</b>]]> Many people are disillusioned in the democratic South Africa. That is because they went out from the assumption that with the dawn of democracy, violence would disappear. Unfortunately this did not happen. As with most things in life it is not an either … or, but a both … and scenario. In fact, violence is part of the democratic system. Real peace between men and powers can only be the peace of God, the peace which alone heals all disorder. The peace of the world is at best peaceful coexistence, not peace. In South Africa we have a negotiated agreement to peaceful coexistence, and sometimes, for example, after the miracle of the 1994 election and the euphoria of the World Cups of 1995, 2007 and 2010, we may even think we have achieved real peace. It is indeed in these times of euphoria that the people of South Africa may be tempted to lower our aim and settle for second best thinking that we have arrived. Model is used not in the sense of the pastor being an example of a peaceful existence to be followed. It is rather used in the sense that a pastor in his or her professional capacity has the knowledge of the meaning of the term 'peaceful existence' and also the hermeneutic competency to apply that knowledge in concrete situations. This opens the exiting possibility that pastors can become travel companions on the road to real peace. The different aspects of being a pastor, office bearer, professional and person, each contribute to the pastor being a model for peace. It must be emphasised that the different aspects always work together as a unity and the strength of the pastor as a model for a peaceful existence is in the simultaneous application of these aspects in the context in which the pastor lives. <![CDATA[<b>Violence as development? A challenge to the church</b>]]> Dullstroom-Emnotweni was the site of protests against the lack of service delivery by local government in 2009. The local leadership of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa was confronted with challenges when its members got involved in acts of violence both from the side of the community and from the side of the police. Viewing itself as an asset to the community and an agent in its development towards health and wellbeing, the church was challenged by the situation in its prophetic capacity as well as in its relationship with the 'state'. In an attempt to negotiate answers to the church's relationship with the 'state' in situations of violence, the uprising in Dullstroom-Emnotweni is used as a case study, and Calvin's notion of the church as a world-transforming agent, the views of African women theologians on nonviolence, the practical piety of local religiousness, and the memory of systems of governance as 'evil' are used as intertexts to define the church's position vis-à-vis violence as an option for development. A position of caution is taken, a position in which the church retains both its political distance and its prophetic voice, remains true to its calling as an asset to community development, and condones violence cautiously when development is at stake. <![CDATA[<b>Overcoming violence - a basic task of Christian churches</b>]]> In this article - based on the second of two keynote lectures at a conference on violence - the view is developed that the task of the church with respect to violence consists mainly in overcoming violence. In the first part of the article dealing with the basic tasks of the church it is argued that the task to overcome violence is close to the essence of the church. The point of departure is taken in Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession, which understands the church as the 'communion of saints' and names the pure proclamation of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments as the two characteristics of the church. The Christian message that the church has to proclaim the gospel entails a preferential option for non-violence that includes the responsibility to put an end to existing violence. In the second part of the article attention is given to the implications the basic task of the church in overcoming violence holds for the practice of the church. It is argued that the starting point is that the church has to proclaim the gospel of peace and as a community of faith become a community of peace herself. Some of the most important practical consequences the proclamation of the gospel of peace has for the church as a community of action, for her work in education, for her promotion of justice and for her solidarity with those in need, are discussed. <![CDATA[<b>Violence: The church is part of the problem</b>]]> South African Christians are not only surrounded by violence, but actively participate in acts of violence, therefore contributing to the unacceptably high levels of anxiety and counter-violence across the country. Christian churches - both the institutions and their individual members - are accomplices to the current chaotic state of affairs in South Africa. Simply accepting and adapting to the standards and values of the society in which the church operates erases the signs and characteristics of the alternative community that Christians are supposed to be. Being no different from the rest of society deprives the churches of their power and influence on society. The churches are caught up in a number of crises, causing them to be sidetracked from serious issues that need urgent attention. This calls for amelioration, which focuses not so much on creeds, but on deeds. Faith is supposed to change people and their behaviour. Challenging the way people behave, calling upon them to live without compromise and emphasising the need for introspection regarding the use of violence could bring creative transformation to both the church and society. To this end, this paper aimed to focus attention on the fact that the Christian churches in South Africa are not living up to their calling and, through its examination of the problem at hand, sound a call for introspection and action. <![CDATA[<b>Unnoticed and unloved: The indigenous storyteller and public theology in a postcolonial age</b>]]> The purpose of this paper was to present a commentary on my longstanding practice, as an African-American pastoral theologian, of utilising the ethnographic qualitative research approach centring on Black masculinity and violence. My goal was to comment on what I experienced, learned, practiced and published about violence as an African-American man who happens to be a pastor, pastoral counsellor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and teacher of pastoral care and counselling for over 40 years. My method of data collection for my research and writing has been ethnographic listening to the stories of African-Americans within families and small groups, and in churches, workshops and classrooms. There is a major limitation to this approach because ethnographic research is socially and culturally located and confined to the United States of America and to the African community. Yet, my published reflections as a pastoral theologian on violence over the years were presented to stimulate conversation and discussions in the cross-cultural contexts of students, faculty and interested publics within seminaries universities and churches, particularly in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia where I have lectured and taught. Violence in this paper was understood as being adversarial, behavioural, physical, verbal and nonverbal, exploitive and combative reactions to very powerful economic and socio-cultural values which exist globally. These values recruit and reduce all human beings from all social strata into commodity-orientated and commercialised economic definitions of human worth. Human identity and dignity are defined exclusively by the possession of wealth, social status, privileged position, power and prestige. Those who lack such so-called honourable designations and characteristics are deemed worthless, invisible and unlovable. To be poor in this orientation means to be completely worthless and valueless. Therefore, the paper proposed an indigenous narrative storytelling model which could be used to orientate people publicly to the appropriate source of human worth and dignity.