Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 28, 2000
Gospel held 'captive' to marketplace, says theologian
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
What have we done to Christ in the past 2,000 years? We have turned him into merely the founder of a new religion, laments an Indian theologian.
"In my country many find Christian faith simply as one more religion among many others and Christ yet another cultist god; hence of no relevance to them," said the Rev. Christopher Duraisingh.
"Cannot the same be said about what the churches have done to Christ, the harbinger of God's reign even in this country?" he asked.
Duraisingh, an ordained minister of the Church of South India, gave the keynote address at the Canadian Conference of Theological Students at Newman Theological College Feb. 21.
About 100 people, including students and representatives of Christian theological schools from across the country, were present for the lecture.
Duraisingh claimed European-centred colonialism has turned Christ into a Western colonial emperor.
"It is the European history that is claimed to be identical to Christian history. Western images of Christ, the conqueror, are held as normative for all."
Others have reduced Christ to an object of their private piety. "This privatized Christ is seen as supporting the Western liberal values of individualism, progress and success," Duraisingh told the approving crowd.
"The Gospel of prosperity which is preached with promises of Christ's unabated blessings is nothing but the triumph of a consumerist mindset and an example of the captivity of the Christ of the Gospel to the logic of market."
Duraisingh criticized traditional understandings of Christ, which have emphasized the abstract, ahistorical and apolitical dimensions. He said their primary concern is to speak about Christ in himself rather than Christ in history with people.
Liberation theologians, particularly Latin Americans, find these theologies "irrelevant" and are calling for a Christology of discipleship - an inductive approach that speaks of the meaning of Christ by looking at the place of Christ in the concrete struggles of God's people for freedom, justice and peace, noted Duraisingh.
He called for a fresh understanding of Christ, which he said calls for an act of self-examination, contrition and change.
"What is needed for a fresh understanding of Christ in our times are both a radical historical thinking that the Hebrew Scriptures offer for us and an inductive method that starts with concrete experiences of Christian believers."
The recovery of a relevant theology requires learning to interpret the Gospel from the perspective of the Hebrew Scriptures, he said. "We need to pay attention to the concrete historical praxis of Jesus among the dominated and excluded."
"(Jesus') work is marked by calling people who had no name or identity, giving them names and affirming their worth, and by his protest and resistance of the systems, religious and political, on behalf of the poor and marginalized."
Another requirement for developing a relevant theology is "an active solidarity with those who struggle for freedom, justice and peace so that you will understand Christ anew from below."
Unwitting accommodation of the Gospel to individualism and capitalist consumerism among many Christians in the West is clearly incompatible with the Gospel, noted Duraisingh.