Friday, March 08, 2013

Courage to Critique

I have to admit that I enjoy my EMMU studies! Both this year and last the assignment topics have been engaging and relevant and I learnt from being forced to put my thoughts down on paper. I do get frustrated though by the length of the assignments. They are necessarily short (and I'm not complaining) but my thoughts are long.
The assignment I worked on yesterday involved reading a booklet and applying it to the Marikana event. It was an interesting exercise, but I found myself convinced that we are seriously lacking in intellectual integrity in our theological and contextual thinking. I know that we are student ministers and perhaps are pre-school theologians, but I am not finding enough serious grappling in the Methodist Church.
I think it is unfashionable to disagree with others - after all, we should accept and love each other and co-operate and so on. But do we advance if we don't dialogue? And does that not require at least temporary disagreement?
But I find that I lack the courage to enter the discourse. I am too easily cowed by the dismissive word. I am too afraid of hurting an author who has at least made an attempt to get something out there. (And I am too afraid of offending my assignment marker...)
Where to now?


Steven Jones said...

Hi Jenny

Interesting post, this. I must say that I'm enjoying your blog posts; they are both challenging and intellectually stimulating.

I must confess that I am facing a similar dilemma on this particular assignment, and get the impression that those who set this task are trying to lead us in a particular direction - one that I'm finding a bit simplistic.

If one looks at the Wikipedia quote used in the question in isolation, one can easily gain the impression that all of the fault lay with the police, while none of the fault lay with the strikers. This is clearly not the case - both sides have much to answer for, as is being borne out as the findings of the Commission of Enquiry begin to unfold.

A cursory reading of the Luke 16 passage points to a rich man who lived a life of luxury with out any consideration for the poor man (and possibly even at the expense of the poor man). What this parable doesn't speak of is the poor man rising up against the rich man, suggesting that it is God who ultimately rises up to bring justice to the poor man and judgement against the rich man.

The danger here is that we could then use this passage to justify doing nothing, which is not only contrary to our Methodist heritage but also contrary to Jesus' teachings in Matthew 25.

The question then is how one interprets what one's Christian response should be in the light of the Marikana incident. There is an underlying economic issue, to be sure, but there's more to it than that.

The 'Oikos Journey' booklet provides 'a theological reflection on the economic crisis' in South Africa, but after 32 pages of reflection it provides a scant four pages of the Church's response. It also tells us what to respond to, but not how (perhaps that's an unrealistic expectation from a 36-page book).

Robert McAfee Brown's book 'Religion and Violence' speaks of 'structural violence' and how unjust structures need to be changed. One must therefore also question whether 'violent' structures can be overcome through means other than violent ones.

I'm still not sure how my final answer is going to look, but I do believe that an honest answer must look at both sides - even if that's not necessarily what the examiners are looking for!

I've probably been obtuse and unhelpful, as always ... :-)

Enjoy the fairest Cape!


Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Steven. I think I used the word simplistic at least three times in my assignment :-) I feel I have answered very inadequately, but I don't know what else to do!
I will probably critique the journey to oikos document on the blog if you are following. I thought of you and it could make a good conversation - so watch this space!