How can Europeans enter the Kingdom of Heaven? A decolonial challenge to Western European political and public theologies in an age of migration
AbstractIn his 2019 Steve de Gruchy Memorial Lecture John de Gruchy provocatively posed the question: “Is it possible for a white South African male to enter the kingdom of heaven? The core of his concern was how is it possible for a person who was and is still a beneficiary of Apartheid and colonialism in South Africa participate in the creation of a just and transformed society. This question has a particular poignancy in contemporary South Africa where the beneficiaries of exploitation and injustice continue to live in close proximity to the victims in a society that still reflects the patterns of inequality created by Apartheid. However, the challenge of the question is not limited to one particular situation of exploitation and injustice but reverberates in numerous other contexts. South African Apartheid was an intensified microcosm of European colonialism and hence my question; “How can Europeans enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” Or to phrase it differently, how can Western European political and public theologies contribute to the creation of a just and sustainable world order, in the light of Western European colonial entanglements and Western Europe’s continued benefiting from unjust and exploitative international relationships. I pose this question as a white South African male who has lived in Europe for eighteen years and has recently acquired Swiss citizenship. Hence, the question is self-referring – it challenges the particularity of my own existence that is characterised by complicity, hybridity, and complexity of one who is a beneficiary of Apartheid, whose cultural heritage is influenced by Europe, who has deep roots in (South) Africa; who seeks to do theology while listening to the diverse voices of Africa; yet who now resides in Europe and through taking on the citizenship of a European country has grafted himself into the history and politics of Western Europe and all that this entails. So, the question is this personal – “How do I do political theology in Europe as a white South African, but also as a student of John de Gruchy?”
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