VOLUME 37, NO.1.
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden
v. Guest Editorial
1 The Social Teaching of the Early Church,
Ronald G. Thwaites
4 Vatican 11, Medellin, Puebla and Today,
Michael Campbell-Johnson, S.J.
19 The Theology of Liberation,
35 The Impact of Evangelical and Pentacostal Religion,
45 Towards an Afro-Caribbean theology:
The Principles for the indigenisation of Christianity in the Caribbean,
56 Church Schools: Instruments of Inertia or Change?
68 The role of Women in the Church and Society,
Sr. Mary Bernadette Little
83 The Impact of the Church on the Political Culture of the Caribbean : Jamaica,
98 Current Trends in Caribbean Theology and the Role of the Church
in the Future of the Caribbean,
108 The Church in Haiti,
Jean Bertrand Aristide
114 Notes on Contributors
115 Instructions to Authors
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The Hon. R.M.Nettleford, O.M.., Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor of
Continuing Studies, Mona (Editor)
Veronica Salter, School of Continuing Studies, Mona (Associate Editor)
G.M.Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Professor of History, Mona, Jamaica
Sir Keith Hunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, Cave Hill.
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics, Mona
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University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
This issue of Caribbean Quarterly contains some of the papers presented at a
seminar held at the University of the West Indies, Mona, in the summer of 1990. The
central theme of the seminar, had as its ideological base, the Theology of Liberation.
Birchell Taylor's article places the origins of Liberation Theology firmly in the six-
teenth century church of Latin America, whereas the articles by both Johnston and
Aristide cite the Conference of Catholic Bishops at Medellin as the catalyst for
Liberation Theology. The impact of Medellin and the resulting conflict in the
Catholic Church, (despite the many encyclicals produced by Rome on Social Justice
and documented by Johnston in his article) is felt most strongly in the short, but
polemic article by the newly elected Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on
"The Church in Haiti".
Papers by Chevannes, Espeut, Kirton and Little are attempts to address the work
of the church in dealing with the myriad problems facing the people of the Caribbean.
Kirton's article brings home sharply to us that both the invasion of Grenada (and
more recently Panama), and the more subtle invasion by the electronic church, indi-
cate how little we are in control. Chevannes' article provides some solutions, as well as
valid reasons for the decline in popularity of the traditional churches. That the church
itself contributes to the status quo is given passing mention in Espeut's article on the
"Church and Education". Little addresses the problems of another marginalized
group in the established churches women. She states that "even the very language of
the church needs to be re-examined as there is a presumption that masculine is
normative". The fact that Espeut, in his paper, talks of the danger of 'Mother' church
becoming emasculated" amply illustrates this.
Both Roper's and Munroe's papers are positional ones. Roper cites the Evangeli-
cal and Pentacostal Churches as having appeal to the poorer masses but making scant
attempts to extend the gospel message to the satisfaction of their needs. Munroe
speaks positively on the role that the church has played in the Liberation Movement,
but argues that the negative elements of conservatism and authoritarianism have led
to the perpetuation of the dependency-syndrome and the need for messianic leader-
Thwaites' article, a historical one, is a plea that we go back to the fundamentals of
the early Christian church, which developed in response to social needs. He cites that
the early church was for the underclasses, but that the concepts of democracy, com-
munity and the role of women had been adjusted by the historical context. He ends
with a challenge How do we measure up to this earlier social teaching today?
We welcome Lloyd Searwar as Guest Editor, a 'Caribbean Man', who has exem-
pified, in a life of public service to the region, the social teachings advocated in this
special issue of Caribbean Quarterly.
GUEST EDITORIAL: THE SOCIAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH
IN THE CARIBBEAN
The inclusion in this collection of papers, originally presented at a seminar on the
Social Teaching of the Church, of an address delivered at the time by Father -Jean
Bertrand Aristide, the new president of Haiti, is a dramatic pointer to the role which
the Christian Church is being called upon to play in the Caribbean, at a moment of
prolonged social and economic crisis, compounded by a lack of intellectual clarity, if
not confusion, in the approach to intellectual clarity.
It is not being suggested, far from it, that other men of religion are about to be
called to high office in the State. The particular circumstances of Haiti are, fortunate-
ly, for the most part, not replicated in the Caribbean, but the long tenure of the brutal
and bloody regime of the Duvalierists, owed much to the location of that State in the
sphere of influence of a superpower. The Haitian regime was able to thwart the will
of the people and to pursue its ways with impunity, as it was percieved, in the context
of the East/West conflict, as the necessary bulwark, at any price, against the spread of
communism from Cuba.
Some of the dilemnas which the English-speaking States of the Caribbean con-
front, and whose experiences provided the main context for the seminarThe Social
Teaching of the Church, derive from their similar localities. Since Independence,
these small states have experimented, with only modest success, with a variety of
strategies for the achievement of desirable social and economic change and develop-
ment. However such experiments have often been thrown off course because in
responding either to pressures on their security or in a desperate effort to secure
assistance, governments were driven into adoption of so-called pure strategies, either
on the left or the right, with scant attention being paid to the special circumstances of
the small, mostly isolated, states of the Caribbean. Within this context of constraint,
there has been too little room for independent thought, policy formulation and
Now, either from conviction, or under pressure from externally formulated and
imposed structural adjustment programmes, these states have embarked on the path
of privatization and export-led growth. While in no way advocating a return to state-
centric approaches, it must be noted that current policy implementation is accom-
panied, nearly everywhere, by the erosion of that state-power which alone can mediate
growth into equity which has to include the maintenance of the social infrastructure -
the hospitals, schools, and basic social services for the growing contingent of the
unemployed and the marginalised, especially women and youth.The fact that such
deterioration in already poor living standards has not come about accidentally, but as
the result of deliberate policy choice, has led, on the one hand to mounting out-migra-
tion and to widespread alienation on the other. People are turning away from the
traditional institutions, whether they be the state, political parties, or even the trade
unions. There is an accompanying despair, and more seriously still, an emerging
tendency towards the development of movements outside of civil society. The Black
Muslim uprising in Port-of- Spain, Trinidad, in July 1990, may only be the first sign of
a disturbing trend in our societies.
Given the situation of hopelessness and intellectual stalemate, there is a need for
fundamental thought about the way forward. This must surely begin with the recog-
nition of the inherent dignity of man under God, and the search for structures ap-
propriate to our Caribbean society, which support the development of people rather
than the prompt payment of international debt or commitment to an approved
strategy. The seminar The Social Teaching of the Church, a joint project organised
and sponsored by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), University
of the West Indies, Mona, and the Human Development and Social Justice Commis-
sion of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kingston, sought to address some of
these issues. It brought together( as reflected in the range of contributions to this
Special issue of Caribbean Quarterly), priests, pastors, and laity who had reflected
long and deeply on the historic experience of the Church, and on their own per-
sonal experiences of the impact of Christian thought and values on the processes of
social and economic change, not only in the Caribbean but in Latin America and the
wider developing world. The papers presented in this Special Issue of Caribbean
Quarterly, should make an important contribution to the task of defining and
projecting a vision of a preferred Caribbean society, which is more than an export
free-zone, or tourist paradise.
THE SOCIAL TEACHING OF THE EARLY CHURCH
RONALD G. THWAITES
Events over the past year in the world invite a close look at the social teachings of
the Christian Church to assess how durable and relevant these are to our present
predicament.Who would have expected just a short while ago that the ideological
mentors and the constructs of political economy of the left the element we called
"progressive" would be discredited and disavowed even by its strongest proponents.
The Cold War which has divested such resources from world development, which has
been an engine to certain important types of scientific and technological research and
which had swept the Antillean people into the vortex of East-West conflicts is fizzling
So what are we to believe in? What external pressures of some new and unpre-
dictable source will influence the course of our political economies? What set of
principles will we apply to our societies? Or has the age of principle gone out with the
scuttling of socialism as we have known it? What is left? Is there anyone so naive to
think that the situation ethics of liberal capitalism can lead to the era of justice and
peace for which we all yearn?
An Important Juncture
We seem to be seeking development defined largely as economic progress at any
cost. A "we first and at any cost" ethic, a rhetoric (but not yet the practice) of self
reliance have replaced the populist notions of corporativism and state-inspired com-
munitarianism which interested us in the 1970's. Is this for the best? Is there a choice
anyway? What are the prospects of personal worth in this context? Our experience is
that some do get ahead but many, many more fall by the wayside and we are losing our
sense of moral outrage about it all.
Our region then is at an important juncture. Our thought and action patterns
depends so much on impulses and shocks from abroad. Geo-politics has changed its
presumtions maybe but it still impinges on us.
So we look upon ourselves and ask what aspects of our history and culture can
guide us at this time. It is in this context that we need to appreciate the currents of
church history and theology which influence us.
Many of us have forgotten that the early Church, to which we frequently look for
special authenticity and inspiring vigour, grew up in persecution amidst a pagan
world. Those believers who count themselves as among the new marginalised; the
counterculture battling the storms of advancing materialism, permissiveness and the
like, need to recall the vitality of Christianity before it became Christendom. The early
believers, instructively, for today showed extraordinary joy and less in word or testa-
ment that the radical and electrifying witness of their lives suffering and often death.
Therein, I think, lies the first teaching applicable to our condition.
Joyless observance, mechanical ritual, cynical behaviour, selfishness and laziness
are religious and social patterns completely at variance with the early Church.
Lukewarmness at the loss of a longing for the restored Kingdom are out of keeping
with original Christianity. Is there in this tradition a possible response to the hedging,
the half-heartedness affecting so many of our communities nowadays?
Response to Social Need
Christianity began as a religion of salvation and relief for all people but particular-
ly for the underclass, the powerless of the society. It gave a real hope, not in the way
many of the Jews had expected, that is, in the vindication of an exclusive and secular
cause, but after a fashion that certainly included the necessity of a profound and
comprehensive social response. This is a point which unfortunately still has to be
bourne in on the Caribbean Church where many believers avidly separate themselves
from any meaningful social connection or define it down to a narrow parochial relief
The metaphor and activity of the early Church can be seen as developing as a
response to social need. The Apostolic Tradition and the Fathers of the Church were
prepared to face the secular authority on moral issues.
On the other hand, principles gave way to compromise on other occasions. As it
became apparent that much time would have to pass before the Second Coming, the
history of the early church indicates the accommodation with culture. Genuine
democracy, communitarianism, the role of women all became adjusted to the histori-
Accommodation with Secular Authority
Because principles and history interact, the Church's teaching underwent sig-
nificant change in the process of adoption of Christianity as the religion of empire by
Constantine and his successors. The very event which accured the rapid widespread of
the new religion brought within this process, the threat of co-option, the weakening of
a critical focus on society.
The history of the middle ages, in fact from the watershed of the Fourth Century,
becomes a tale of institutional growth alongside a social impact heavily related to the
relationship with secular authority. As never before, the Christian social teaching
becomes preoccupied with the issue of state power, in its own right, or as a subsidiary
to primary ecclesiastical authority. The danger of Church as power broker, becomes
manifest in the Middle Ages and generates in its turn, a culture of protest a
reformation spirit which itself waxes and wanes for a millennium and onwards to this
Church history for the early modern period marks a further story of interaction
with state power its exercise even in mission territories and attempts by many to
extricate church life from this dominant pattern and regain some of its independence,
freshness and courage associated with the early Church.
Eventually, Christendom as a demanding preoccupation will give way to the per-
ception of a servant Church whose understanding of its nature while not situational is
dynamic and which is most attractive, true and forceful when uncompromised by
binding secular responsibilities.
The social teaching of the early Church is to be distinguished from the organized
and formal body of official teaching on the social order. It is instead an evolving
understanding of the social implications of the Gospel. Christians have always had to
respond to the truth that Jesus was concerned with the world and what he preached
was bound to affect the consciousness of behaviour of those who accepted his word.
Early social teaching derived from the special regard which Christ had for the
poor. He identified with them from his own background and experience and was
against the temptations of wealth and power. Christianity has the potential for being
the "New Way" because the poor have a key place in the divine scheme of things.
By the 19th Century themes were clearly established, over centuries of early
history, for the development of Christian social doctrine. They remain the basic
(1) The dignity of the human person as created on the image of God.
(2) The human rights and responsibilities which follow from that dignity.
(3) The essentially and radically social nature of human existence.
(4) The interactive responsibility between individual and society and state.
(5) The place of voluntary organizations, Guilds, Trade Unions, Church Agencies,
1VATICAN-H, MEDELLIN, PUEBLA AND TODAY
MICHAEL CAMPBELL-JOHNSON S.J.
The aim of this paper is to defend the proposition that, in the last thirty or so years
since the publication of Pope John XXIII's great social encyclical Mater et Magistra,
in 1961, the official social teaching of the Church has taken a new and highly sig-
nificant turn. This does not mean there has been a change in its doctrinal content: the
same truths and values are propounded as before. What has changed is the emphasis
placed on the central themes that have always been at the heart of Catholic Social
teaching. These are fundamentally two: a defence of certain person rights, especially
the right to private property, against collectivist tendencies; and, secondly, a particular
concern for the poor and powerless together with a criticism of the systems that make
or leave them so.
The publication of Pope John's encyclicals is in some ways a return to the vision of
the early Christians and the Fathers of the Church. However to understand the
significance of this turning point one must look carefully at the period which immedi-
ately preceded it.
1891-1961: A Survey
During this seventy year period only two major encyclicals were published the first
was Rerum Novarum in 1891. In this document Pope Leo XIII calls for reform rather
than the replacement of the capitalist or market economy. It rejects completely any
form of socialism. It also rejects a return to medieval institutions. It insists that reform
be brought about by co-operation between Church and State, together with workers
and their employers. It stresses both the personal and social dimensions of property,
but it gives special weight to the former. It insists on the right to a just wage, rejecting
the view that labour is merely a market commodity. It insists also on the right to
association Today the encyclical might seem weak and timid in the remedies it
proposes. But in its day it caused a sensation. It had a tremendous impact, strengthen-
ing Catholic workers' movements all over the world, and awakening many Christians
to the need for social legislation. It was late in coming and we might well wonder why
the Catholic Church took so long to respond to the problems of the industrial
revolution. Fifty years after the Communist manifesto of Karl Marx, only then was the
Church ready to make a pronouncement. One of the reasons was that too many priests
and church officials were ignorant of conditions among working class people. They
had not made it their business to find out what the industrial revolution was doing to
Forty years on we come to the second encyclical, of Pope Pius XI Quadragesimo
Anno. This marks a significant progress from the first. Again the Pope sees the need
for change and for the first time there is talk about structural change. The encyclical
offers the world a third way, the way of a co-operative or vocational state. Both
communism and socialism, on the one hand, and capitalism as it then existed, on the
other, are severely criticised. The Pope supports private ownership of the means of
production and does not oppose the wage contract as such, though he calls for
considerable modifications in it. He insists that the primary motivation in the
economy must be the common good rather than profit, and the primary social process
must be co-operation rather than competition. But more important is the emphasis
on the so-called principle of subsidiarity: the call for the establishment of many
intermediary groups in society which it is the duty of the state to support and protect.
Pius XII, Pope during the second world war, was caught up with different problems
and did not issue a major social encyclical. He was, however, very concerned with two
themes. First he emphasised that not all answers to social and economic problems lie
in structural reform; we also have to reform the human spirit, human ideas and values.
Second and perhaps more significant, the right of all people to the use of the goods of
this earth is prior to any right to private property, and therefore a more equitable
distribution is essential if there is going to be any justice in society.
This is only a sketch of seventy years of development in Catholic social thought. It
was a rich development but a rather limited one. Rerum Novarum was mainly con-
cerned with he situation in Europe. It was a reaction against certain industrial evils in
Europe and it was addressed to Roman Catholic bishops. Quadragesimo Anno offers
a programme for a new society, but again only for an industrial society. It was
addressed to all Roman Catholics and not just to bishops. We have to wait for the new
period, which starts with Pope John XXIII, before we come to an encyclical which
addresses the problems of the entire world, not just the industrialized nations, and
which is addressed to all Christians and, later on, to all people of good will.
To sum up, during this seventy year period from 1891 to 1961 there was formed a
coherent body of teaching known as 'the social doctrine of the Church'. Theoretically
it offers a third way that is neither capitalist nor socialist; in practice it gives solid
religious legitimation to the free enterprise model of society. Its protests against the
excesses of capitalism, strong in Quadragesimo Anno in the 1930s, became more
muted during the papacy of Pipus XII. The Church still challenged the ideology of
liberal capitalism bit its opposition to socialism was more explicit, more systematic
and more effective. In the opinion of one commentator on whom I am relying both in
this part of the paper and for much of what follows, namely, Donal Dorr: "at this stage,
Catholic social teaching had come to represent in practice almost the opposite of what
is now meant by an option for the poor" (Option for the Poor: a Hundred Years of
Vatican Social Teaching, Orbis Books, 1983, p. 111).
During this period it was normal for the Roman Catholic Church and other
Churches to try and promote their social teaching and practice in harmony with the
establishment, with those who held power in the industralised nations of the western
world. Since the time of Constantine, the Christian Church has generally been part of
the establishment in most of the western world, allowing for occasional harassment by
governments in some countries. On the frontiers of the western world, in such places
as South America, the Caribbean and Africa, the Christian religion was seen as going
hand in hand with western civilisation and colonial expansions.
Rediscovery of the Social Dimension of the Earth
Mater et Magistra introduces a process in which the Church began to have new
allies and new opponents. The change, which started and became increasingly evident
in frontier situations, especially Latin America and South Africa, is now beginning to
affect relations between Church and State in the traditionally Christian countries of
the old world. Far from being part of the establishment, the church, or at least parts of
it, is beginning timidly in some places, not at all in others, but with growing determina-
tion in a dew, to opt for solidarity with the poor and the oppressed and therefore to
cease being an ally of the rich and the powerful. The encyclical Mater et Magistra
stands at the beginning of this process and therefore, as I have already noted, marks a
significant turning point in Catholic social teaching.
The specific contribution Mater et Magistra makes to Christian social teaching is
a new interpretation of 'socialization'. This describes the tendency that makes each
person in the modern world the centre of a network of social relations, ever increasing
in number and complexity. Before John XXIII, the popes looked upon this tendency
as something negative and Pius XII warned Catholics saying: "The person and the
family must be saved from falling into the abyss into which an all-embracing socializa-
tion tends to lead them." In other words, the individual must be saved from increasing
State intervention whether fascist, socialist or communist.
Pope John, on the other hand, while recognizing the danger of excessive encroach-
ment by the state, nevertheless sees in this fact of increasing socialization the very
material from which a Christian can and must fashion a new and more just society
which, at the same time, allows the full development of the individual. So he calls
upon Christians to abandon an attitude of passive defence in the face of growing
socialization and to accept it as a historical fact, in itself morally neutral, but which
can be turned to good account in the building of the Kingdom. Of course it was this
positive spirit of optimism and hope that characterized Pope John's attitude towards
the modern world as a whole and stood in such sharp contrast to that of his immediate
What lies at the root of this change? I believe it is part of a much wider and deeper
movement within Christianity that can be described as a "rediscovery of the social
dimension of the faith." This position is argued with great force by Henri de Lubac in
a book called Catholicism in which he maintains that Catholocism is in its essential
nature a social religion, not a recipe for personal salvation. With a wealth of texts, de
Lubac shows that the early Fathers of the Church had an essentially social under-
standing of the principal dogmas of faith, of the nature and life of the church itself, of
the Sacraments, of the Mass, of Catholic eschatology. the very concept of individual
salvation was alien to their mode of thought.
This outlook, the common possession of the early Christians, was gradually lost in
the Church and finally became completely submerged in the 'Copernican Revolution'
of Descartes' philosophy with its intoxicating discovery of the individual, and in the
subsequent individualistic systems of Hobbes, Hume, Kant and the Protestant
theologians of the last century. Their influence, evident in the Reformation, the
Enlightenment, and the rise of Rationalism and Liberalism, sowed in all Christian
thought a strong degree of individualism.
In many way this was a necessary reaction against excessive tendencies in feudal
society. The reaction though went far too far and had in my opinion a negative effect
on Christian thought and practice. Towards the end of the last century, the French
writer Ernest Renan was able to describe Christianity as "A religion made for the
interior consolation of a few chosen souls". All areas of theological teaching,
catechetical instruction, sacramental and liturgical practice and personal devotion
were permeated by individualism. Such teaching and practice gave the impression, as
one writer put it, that "God is never faced with anything but an untold number of
individuals, every one of them regulating his or her account, the measure of their
personal relationships with God, just like the tax-payers, the travellers and the
employees who pass successively with no organic connection with each other, before
the pay-desks and the turnstiles of this world."
Precisely because of this trend, Christian social teaching, considered as consisting
mainly in a small number of well-thumbed social encyclicals, was relegated to the
margin of theological enquiry and considered to be the exclusive hunting-ground of
specialists in the fields of sociology or economics. I think that conception is in no
small way responsible for its general neglect by the majority of Christians which, to
some extent, lasts until today.
In Mater et Magistra, Pope John begins to reverse this trend. He states clearly: "I
must reaffirm most strongly that this Christian social doctrine is an integral part of the
Christian conception of life" (n. 222). Consequently it should be considered as a basic
attitude covering our whole approach, not only to the pastoral applications of our
faith, but principally to Catholic dogma in its entirety. Unless our understanding of
theology is profoundly social, our interpretation of its in its more practical aspects will
not be social either, and any social action we may undertake will be all the poorer in
consequence of being cut off from the wealth of doctrinal sources which should
inspire it. Mater et Magistra sets the stage for this rediscovery which underlies and
provides a coherent explanation for all the changes introduced by the Second Vatican
Council. It would take too long to detail those here. We would need to look at the new
meaning the liturgical movement has given to the Sacraments, especially the sacra-
ment of the Eucharist which is seen as a communal sacrament, building and cementing
a community; the new understanding of the Church as the 'People of God' and not just
a hierarchical structure; the concept of parish as community especially 'basic' com-
munity; an understanding of the social dimensions of sin and evil, and so on.
De Lubac sums up: "Catholicism is essentially social. It is social in the deepest
sense of the word: not merely in its applications in the field of natural institutions but
first and foremost in itself, in the heart of its mystery, in the essence of its dogma. It is
social in a sense which should have made the expression 'Social Catholicism' (and I
would add 'the Social Teaching of the Church') pleonastic."
Why do we even talk about a social teaching of the Church? All the teaching of the
Church should be profoundly and deeply social.
Internationalisation of the Social Question
Until the publication of Pope Paul VI's first encyclical, Populorum Progressio, in
1967, all previous encyclicals dealt with social problems on a national level.
Populorum Progressio is the first to take a global stance and deal with international
problems; its prime concern is the relationship between rich and poor nations rather
than between rich and poor individuals or classes within a nation.
This is an important step since it introduces for the first time the problems facing
developing countries. It coincided with a recognition of the failure of both the first
Development Decade, launched in 1960, and of President Kennedy's 'Alliance for
Progress'. The world had finally awoken to the fact it was divided into two camps: a
small number of highly developed, wealthy, industrial nations and a large mass of very
poor, undeveloped and largely rural nations. This situation was becoming increasingly
intolerable as what came to be called 'the Gospel of Development' began to spread to
every corner of the World. There were a number of reasons for this. First, the levelling
effect of the second World War which meant that many ordinary people from poor
countries began to travel for the first time and see conditions of life in the wealthy
nations. Second, the break up of the old colonial empires and the coming to full
independence of a large number of poorer countries in Asia, Africa and the Carib-
bean. The leaders of these countries came to power promising their people develop-
ment. Finally, there was the revolution in the communications media, specially film
and television, which brought the first world war and its dubious values and living
standards right into the homes of the poor.So development became the one goal
everybody sought or, as Pope Paul puts it, the new name for peace. But there was
much misunderstanding of what is meant by development. Here I want briefly to
distinguish four stages in a growing realization of what true development should be.
These stages are reflected in the subsequent formulation of Christian social teaching:
Growth in income: At the outset, development was considered to consist primarily
in economic growth. There was heavy emphasis on the need to raise gross national
product per head, especially through the injection of foreign investment.
Social progress: However experience soon showed that GNP per capital is too
narrow a definition. Economic growth is just one of several factors that need to be
considered. What is required is growth plus social change. Variables measuring
health, education, calory and protein intakes, literacy and so on have to be added into
the equation. The poor are poor not only because they lack enough money but
because they lack social benefits.
Integration: Both these approaches to development see it as something coming
mainly from without, whether in the form of finance capital or social benefits. By the
mid-1960's the failure of this approach was becoming all too evident. Poor countries
were beginning to realise that unless the process started within the country itself, it
was unlikely to start at all. The expression 'Third World' began to be used and the
countries it covered started taking a serious look at their own internal structures. One
problem they all shared was a highly unequal distribution of wealth, most of it being
concentrated in the hands of a small minority while the masses of the people lived in
poverty and outside the 'margins' of societies. So the chief task of development was
seems to be that of reintegrating these marginalised people into existing social struc-
tures. Attempts were made to broaden the structures and thus ensure a greater flow of
benefits from those who had to those who hadn't.
Liberation: Then came the perception that there are two serious flaws in the
previous approach. It presumes that the benefits of development can 'trickle down'
from the top to the bottom of the social scale. It also presumes that this can take place
without any major changes in existing social structures. Both presumptions were
increasingly shown to be false. In Brazil, for example, gross national product was
increasing rapidly yet, at the same time, the gap between wealthy and poor became
ever greater. Thus there was a growing awareness that genuine development can only
start from below, from the people at the bottom of the pyramid. The first is conse-
quently to liberate them from structures that keep them in a state of dependency and
oppression. Once freed, they themselves will participate in forming new structures to
build a more just society.
To each of these concepts of development there corresponds a characteristic
strategy for achieving it:
Aid Giving: If development is primarily economic growth, then the strategy to
achieve it is aid-giving, whether in the form of economic assistance or relief work.
Institutions: If development is primarily social progress, then the need is for a wide
range of social services or institutions to help the poor such as schools, hospitals,
training centres and so on.
Projects: If the most important aspect of development is to integrate the mar-
ginalised into already existing social structures, then the emphasis will be on socio-
economic projects of the self-help variety which enable small groups of people to pull
themselves up 'by their own bootstraps' and become integrated into the existing social
Conscientisation: If it is true that the first condition for any genuine development
is liberation from a state of dependency and oppression, then the strategy to achieve it
is best expressed by the word 'conscientisation' and the methodology of Paolo Freire.
This consists not only in awakening the poor to their state of dependency, but also to
a realisation that they themselves have to change the structure that oppress them. It
leads to popular mobilisation and to political as well as economic and social action.
There was soon growing consensus that the final stage and strategy are essential
for any real development. Unless it is present from the outset, the other three are
liable to be unproductive or even counter-productive. In other words, unless the
development process begins with the active and responsible participation of the
people mainly concerned at all levels, then any project, institution or relief work is
capable of doing more harm than good.
Populorum Progressio is clear in its teaching that development cannot be limited
merely to economic growth. "In order to be authentic, it must be complete: integral,
that is, it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man." But Pope Paul
does not arrive at the fourth stage described above. Though every person and all
peoples are called to be agents of change and directors of their own development, the
kind of change envisaged by the Pope seems to be 'from the top down', namely the
third stage. As Donal Dorr points out, the principal agents of change are those people
and institution who already exercise influence in society as it is. At the international
level, these are the rich countries and their leaders, as well as international agencies
such as FAO and the UN. Within the poor states the emphasis is put on the roles of
statesmen, journalists, educators and learned people. As regards the poorer countries,
special mention is made of those 'elite' who are studying in 'the more advanced
countries'. Another group who get special mention are the 'experts', and development
workers who go from the rich countries to help in the development of the poor ones.
The reason for this failure to go the whole way lies perhaps in the Pope's rejection
of a confrontation model in favour of a consensus one. Development is conceived as
taking place within existing social structures which can be expanded or modified to
integrate marginalised groups by those who control them. Thus, though supporting
the need for basic education and literacy, the Pope does not see these as a means of
conscientisation, of the awakening of a critical and combative political consciousness.
Populorum Progressio does not offer any strong encouragement to the poor and
oppressed to organise themselves politically. This dimension would only be intro-
duced when the poor started to speak themselves and when the wealthy and powerful
began to listen to them. This is the theme of the next section.
'Discovery' of the Third World
The second General Conference of Latin American Bishops took place in Medcl-
lin August 1968 and was a turning point in the life not only of the Latin American
church, but throughout Christianity. Its most important documents are those dealing
with Justice, Peace, and Poverty of the Church. They are significant not only for their
content but also for the methodology they employ which distinguishes them sharply
from the papal texts considered so far. Each starts with a factual description of reality:
it then passes to a 'doctrinal reflection' on this reality: the third and final part consists
in 'pastoral conclusions', orientated towards action. This is the methodology of libera-
tion theology which was born, or rather baptised, at Medellin. It is the hermeneutic
circle of Juan Luis Segundo which henceforth became the characteristic approach of
most Latin American church documents.
Within the limits of this paper I can do no more than indicate the four central
themes that dominated the Conference:
Structural Injustice: Time and again the Medellin documents speak of the Latin
American situation as being marked by structural injustice, it is these unjust struc-
tures which uphold and foster poverty. "In many instances", states the document on
Peace, "Latin America finds itself with the situation of injustice that can be called
institutionalizedd violence.'" (2.16) Poverty therefore does not come from the hand of
God; it is caused by human action that does violence to great masses of people.
A Poor Church: In such a situation it is clearly the duty of the Church to hear "the
defending cry" that "pours from the hearts of millions asking their pastors for a
liberation that reaches them from nowhere else." The bishops publicly confess they
have not always heeded this cry and have often presented an image of wealth. "Within
the context of the poverty and even of the wretchedness in which the great majority of
the Latin American people live, we, bishops, priests, and religious, have the neces-
sities of life and a certain security, while the poor lack that which is indispensable and
struggle between anguish and uncertainty. Incidents are not lacking in which the poor
feel that their Bishops, or pastors and religious, do not really identify themselves with
them, with their problems and afflictions, that they do not always support those that
work with them or plead their cause." (14.3)
In the next section the bishops then outline the role they see for 'a Poor Church'.
A church that is poor denounces material poverty caused by injustice and sin; it
preaches and lives spiritual poverty; and it is itself bound to material poverty as a
commitment. They then go on to recognize that their obligation to evangelise the
poor should lead them to redistribute resources and personnel within the church
itself, so as to give effective "preference to the poorest and most needy sectors" (14.9).
Conscientisation: Their new awareness of solidarity with the poor and commit-
ment to their struggle against injustice led the bishops directly to the task of conscien-
tisation. Here the influence of Paolo Freire is decisive. If you can cast your minds back
to the time when you learned to read and write you might remember sentences such as
'the cat sat on the mat' or 'the dog ate the rat'. Here is one of Freire's sentences: 'John
is a peasant: he works hard all day: his children are hungry: why? The words are easy,
mostly in monosyllables, but the message is pure dynamite. That is why Freire was one
of the first people to be imprisoned and then expelled from Brazil as subversive when
the military regime took over in 1964. Nevertheless at Medellin the Bishops took on
the need to conscientise people, to awaken them, so that they themselves can play a
part in building a more just society. They are clearly aware that this kind of basic
education is likely to increase the recognition by oppressed people of the fact that they
are oppressed and thereby lead to an increase in tension and even a risk to peace. But
they were also convinced there could be no genuine peace that is not based on social
justice. It may be necessary to put a false peace at risk in order to achieve true peace
Struggle for Liberation: How far should the poor go in their struggle for justice?
The document on Peace ends with a section entitled "The problem of violence in
Latin America". While emphasising that violence is neither a Christian nor gospel
solution, the bishops nevertheless recognize that a situation of violence already exists
and that: "We should not be surprised, therefore, that the 'temptation to violence' is
surfacing in Latin America. One should not abuse the patience of a people that for
years has borne a situation that would not be acceptable to anyone with any degree of
awareness of human rights." (2.16) Their own hope is to avoid violence but they quote
the famous Paragraph 31 of Populorum Progressio which justifies it in certain ex-
treme situations. It is a strong statement that requires a careful and more detailed
analysis than can be given in this paper.
Action for Justice
We now return from the Third World to the First World and to three important
Roman documents. Each is clearly influenced by what happened at Medellin.
Octogesima Adveniens: Published by Paul VI in 1971 on the eightieth anniversary
of Rerum Novarum, Octogesima Adveniens gave special emphasis to grass-root
political activity and the need for accurate social analysis. It sees the political dimen-
sion as essential because it "expresses a demand made by people today for a greater
share in the exercise of authority and in consultation for decision-making." (47) The
consequence is radical and marks a new departure from previous papal social teach-
ing. "It is difficult for us to utter a unified message and put forward a solution that has
universal validity. Each Christian community must analyse with objectivity the situa-
tion which is proper to its own country." (4) Christians are challenged to 'read the
signs of the times' and themselves take the appropriate political actions they call for.
Justice in the World: This document of the 1971 Synod of Bishops is also clearly
influenced by Medellin. It is one of the strongest and most important statements on
social justice ever issued from Rome. It owed a lot to the Pontifical Commission for
Justice and Peace, then at the height of its influence and activity. It is perhaps best
known for its famous key statement which subsequently sparked so much controversy:
"Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully
appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel or, in other
words, of the church's mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation
from every oppressive situation." (6)
Three points are worth special notice. First, the strong emphasis given in the
document to structural injustice which is seen not only in terms of new forms of
colonialism but also in the imposition of models of economic growth that widen the
gap between rich and poor. These are criticised in the strongest terms as also are some
of the policies of the wealthy nations responsible for them. Second, there is the clear
recognition that, at the heart of the structural injustices, is the lack of participation by
people in determining their own destinies. Wealth, power and decision-making are
concentrated in the hands of a few while the masses are outside the margins of society,
the voiceless victims of injustice. Hence there is a whole section on 'educating for
justice' to awaken a critical sense which will enable the marginalised to take their
future in their own hands. Finally, for the first time in a Roman document, a special
section is devoted to 'Justice within the Church' with a list of areas calling for serious
examination. Among them, influenced doubtless by the Latin American church, is a
call for greater simplicity of life and poverty on the part of religious, church ministers,
Evangelii Nuntiand: The last document in this section is the response of Pope Paul
VI to the 1974 synod of bishops, which failed to publish a final document of its own. It
is an important and valuable statement which provides a complete vindicaaion of the
1971 synod in spite of many criticisms against it. The important point to note here is
its use of the concept of liberation. The document submits it to a thorough theological
analysis which permits the Pope to avoid various dualistic tendencies and the dangers
of reductionism and politicisation which often follow from them. This analysis cannot
be dealt with here in detail. Suffice it to say that the Pope roots the concept of
liberation in the gospel and provides a rich vision of evangelisation that is both
spiritual and social.
Preferential Option for the Poor
The final section of this outline is concerned more with method than message, the
how rather than the why or what. It starts with the present pontificate and the third
meeting of Latin American bishops in Puebla in 1979 and then passes on to the two
major social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II. In my view there are no major advances
in doctrine with regard to the themes occupying us so far, though some new issues are
taken up and Pope John Paul's manner of dealing both with them and with more
traditional themes is very distinctive.
Puebla: It is significant that once again the centre of gravity in the development of
the Church's social teaching shifts to Latin America. the conference at Puebla was
formally opened by Pope John Paul II on the first of his foreign journeys. But, in spite
of the great length of the Puebla document, it says little that is new or was not already
said in Medellin. Its importance lies not in its content, but in the fact that it repeats
and confirms the message of Medellin. In spite of considerable ecclesiastical and
political pressure, the bishops at Puebla ended by showing that they were not
prepared to compromise on the positions they had adopted then years before. This
may not sound much of a result but, in view of all that took place both before and
during the conference, it was a considerable achievement.
The one section of the Puebla Document that is important in its own right is a
chapter entitled ~ A Preferential Option for the Poor'. Here again what is important
about it is more its title than its content most of which was already contained, at least
implicitly, in the Medellin documents. It consecrated and gave currency within the
Church to an expression that was already controversial and, to some extent remains
so, but which has become a partial summary and symbol of the new approach. In
making this option explicit, the bishops commit themselves to a variety of concrete
actions (defence of workers unions, peasant co-operatives, indigenous cultures etc), as
well as recognizing the need for the Church itself to revise its own structures, adopt a
more austere life style and help the poor to participate more in its life.
Laborem Exercens: Published in 1981, this was the first social encyclical of Pope
John Paul II, prepared for the ninetieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum but delayed
four months of the attempt on his life. It represents a new style of social teaching in
that it offers a comprehensive and profound reflection on the nature of human work
and the organization of economic life. It is a long and complex document that would
require many pages for even a brief examination of all the themes it touches upon such
as: socialism, capitalism, market forces, employer-employee relationships, economic
planning, and so on.
The one concept I wish to underline here is that of 'solidarity' which has become a
characteristic theme in the thought and writings of Pope John Paul. For him the word
has a long history which predates the formation of the Polish Trade Union and formed
the subject of a study he published in 1969 when still Archbishop of Cracow. For him,
a relationship of solidarity'is the foundation of a community in which the common
good conditions and liberates participation, and participation serves the common
good, supports and implements it. It is a rich and positive relationship which, as
Laborem Exercens points out, does not exclude opposition and confrontation. In fact,
a community structure based on solidarity must not only permit but facilitate opposi-
tion. The Pope offers this novel concept as his answer to the question of violence and
class struggle which are both fundamentally anti-Christian. Once again a detailed
analysis cannot be undertaken here but it should be evident that a strategy based on
solidarity offers the Church a way out of the dilemma it always faces when upholding
the right og the poor and the oppressed to struggle for justice yet at the same time
encouraging them to avoid violence, this, as Donal Dorr argues, amounts to a consid-
erable strengthening in the Church's position concerning the struggle for justice.
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis: The second and most recent social encyclical of Pope
John Paul 'On social Concern' was published in 1987 to mark the twentieth anniver-
sary of Populorum Progressio. It deals with a wide range of important international
issues that cannot be discussed her. It carries a sharp critique of current development
policies advocated by both the Socialist and the Capitalist blocs. It outlines once again
a Christian concept of authentic human development. And a fascinating theological
section takes up once again the concept of solidarity which we have just discussed.
But the only point I wish to underline here is that of the preferential option for the
poor or, to use the exact expression of the Pope, "the option or love of preference for
the poor". The Pope not only accepts this expression that was coined at the Medellin
conference and adopted as a necessary condition for Christian action in the Third
World, but extends it to the whole Church and to all Christians. He says: "This is an
option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the
whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian in as
much as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social
responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be
made concerning the ownership and use of goods". (42)
One final quotation can stand as a summary and conclusion of all that has been
said since it takes up the two principal strands of Christian social teaching. "It is
necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine:
The goods of this world are originally meant for all. The right to private property is
valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property,
in fact, is under a 'social mortgage', which means that it has an intrinsically social
function, based upon and justified precisely by the principles of the universal destina-
tion of goods. Likewise, in this concern for the poor, one must not overlook that
special form of poverty which consist in being deprived of fundamental human rights,
in particular the right to religious freedom and also the right to freedom of economic
initiative. The motivating concern for the poor who are, in the very meaningful
therm. 'the Lord's poor' must be translated at all levels into concrete actions, until it
decisively attains a series of necessary reforms. Each local situation will show what
reforms are most urgent and how they can be achieved. But those demanded by the
situation of international imbalance, as already described, must not be forgotten". (42,
I believe there are three principal conclusions we should draw from the above.
First of all, it is clear that the Catholic Church, even in its most official documents
from Rome, has a coherent body of social teaching that not only justifies, but
demands, in the name of the Gospel, radical grass-root action for justice, among and
along with the poor and the oppressed, If, in today's world, we do not make an option
for the poor that expresses itself in deeds rather than words, we are not true followers
of Jesus Christ. Secondly, the institutional Church, with the majority of its leaders and
members is, in most parts of the world, still very far from taking such an option. We
should regret and deplore this failing as well as ask forgiveness from the poor themsel-
ves. And we should leave no stone unturned to move the Church along the right path
by our own word and example. But the inactivity of others is no excuse for us to
disengage or diminish our commitment. The Social Teaching of the Church does not
consist in documents to be studied or theories to be elaborated, but in action to be
I would like to illustrate this last point by concluding in the magnificent words
with which, over twenty years ago, Gustavo Gutierrez ended his seminal work on the
Theology of Liberation. For they apply just as much to the social teaching of the
Church. He wrote:
"The theology of liberation attempts to reflect on the experience and meaning of
the faith based on the commitment to abolish injustice and build a new society; this
theology must be verified by the practice of that commitment by active, effective
participation in the struggle which the exploited social classes have undertaker.
against their oppressors... In the last instance, we will have an authentic theology ol
liberation only when the oppressed themselves can freely raise their voices and ex-
press themselves directly and creatively in society and in the heart of the people of
God. When they themselves 'account for the hope' which they bear. When they
themselves are the protagonists of their own liberation".
THE THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION
The emergence, establishment and continuing development of the theology of
liberation must be regarded as "the great new fact" of the history of the churches in
the world and particularly the Third World over the past two and a half decades. Of
course it has not taken place without predictable scepticism, struggles and hostility
from various quarters. Many of the exponents of the theology of liberation in Latin
and Central America have known what it has been to be exiled from their native land,
to be persecuted at the hands and instigation of political authorities, and their agents
and allies, and to be subjected to disciplinary measures and sanctions by their church
bodies and hierarchies.
The reaction that the Theology of Liberation has evoked has been a sign of the
impact that it has actually made despite the very early attempts to ridicule it out of
existence. J. Scannone has observed that the vigorous and hostile reaction to it is a
sure sign that the discussion it has provoked is touching some sensitive spots.
The reaction also indicates the nature of this theological project. It is anything but
far removed from ordinary everyday life or politically natural.1
The Theology of liberation has not only managed to hold its ground but has
become more precise and coherent in its formulation. It has extended the range of its
considerations and reflections in relation to the various articles of the Christian faith.2
It has at the same time remained quite self-critical and dynamic, not hardening into a
fixed inflexible final form or system, even though certain clearly defined and definite
positions have been developed.
The Theology of Liberation is not monolithic in nature. It is a theological project
that embraces within its framework different forms and emphases, varying perspec-
tives and critical issues.
It has even been suggested by some that it would be better if the plural "Theologies
of Liberation" were used rather than the singular Theology of Liberation.3 Neverthe-
less there are certain basic common features of the general theological orientation
that can be identified and on which something of a general profile can be developed.
Furthermore these features are basically typified in the pioneering, most well known
and developed expressions of this theological project, the Latin American Expression
which will be the focus of our own discussion.
Putting a date on the point in time when the theology of liberation had its birth has
been very difficult. Quite apart from the fact that movements of thought and reflec-
tions always prove difficult to be dated in terms of the exact moment of their birth, the
Theology of Liberation by virtue of its own peculiar nature makes it even more
difficult. Opinions vary considerably as to when its starting point was. There are those
who like Enrique Dussel are of the opinion that its roots can be rightly traced back to
the early sixteenth century in the prophetic theology of the Latin America Church
associated with such names as Antonio de Montensinos and Bartolome de Las Casas.
The non-academic prophetic pastoral theology of these men in which protests were
made on behalf of the suffering and exploited races and peoples of the colonies
formed a starting point which subsequently found expression at different times in the
work and witness of others.
The Theology of Liberation of today is seen as a vigorous reappearance of that
early expression. Juan Luis Segundo does not go as far back as Enrique Dussel and his
associates. He dates the informal beginnings of the theology from the beginning of the
decade of the sixties of our present century and the formal beginning at the Publica-
tion of Gustavo Gutierrez's epoch-making book, A Theology of Liberation, ten years
later. Segundo says Gutierriz's book was a kind of baptism but the baby had already
Segundo therefore does not go as far back as Dussel to find the roots of the
theology but it would seem as if his chosen starting point might have been one of those
vigorous reappearances of the much older form according to Dussel. Without denying
the importance and influence of the earlier rudimentary expressions of the liberation
perspective many persons tend to follow Segundo's dating. In the very early years of
the decade of the sixties, the emergence and formation of this point of view and
commitment exercised its influence on the second Vatican Council and later most
definitely on the conference of Latin American Roman Catholic Bishops at Medellin,
1968. Rosino Gibellini offers a helpful review of the course of the development, while
still admitting that it has been of a complex nature. This is how he sees it:-'
The scheme may reasonably be taken to represent the basic situation in terms of
the beginning and development of the project.
The fundamental thing to which the distinctiveness of the Theology of Liberation
has been attributed is its methodology. It is considered to represent a new way of
doing theology in contrast with how it had been done in the traditional centres of
Europe and North America. A sampling of views in this regard makes the point:
(i) Gustavo Gutierrez writes "The Theology of Liberation offers not so much a
new theme for reflection as a new way to do Theology."6
(ii) Juan Luis Segundo asserts his "....feeling that the most progressive theology in
Latin American is more interested in being liberative than talking about liberation. In
other worlds, Liberation theology deals not so much with content as with the method
used to theologise in the face of our real life situation."7
(iii) Alister Kee who is himself not a Liberation Theologian as such but an
insightful and sympathetic critic, states: "Liberation theology is not the application of
traditional theology to a different theological agenda including exotic phenomena
such as revolution. It is a Theology done through a completely different method."8
There are many ways in which this methodological distinctiveness any be expli-
cated.The way chosen here is to focus on six features of it that are considered
characteristic while not forgetting that among many liberation theologians there are
differences of emphases and in perspectives. These six features are themselves often
referred to in different ways and under different headings but are generally in evidence
when any reasonably accurate summary of the theology is given. They form an integral
part of its methodology and are closely interrelated but with none to be emphasised at
the expense of the other.
The Theology of Liberation is self-consciously and deliberately contextual. This
means in essence that the theological project is itself an active and dynamic response
to contextual realities in terms of the life situation and historical experiences of the
people. The question is asked,
"Where is liberation theology to be found/" and the answer is given -
"... You will find it at the base. It is linked with a specific community and forms a vital
part of its."9
This locates and grounds the theology of liberation in a specific context as the base
of its operation and to which it is responsive in terms of issues that emerge from it and
impinge directly upon the life of the people. It is well known that the context that
forms the framework of this theology is one that is marked by oppression, exploita-
tion, injustice, deprivation and disadvantage.
Rebecca Chopp writing to this context with special reference to the Latin
American situation, though not exclusively, says:-
"...The first and most important factor, is the context of Latin American Liberation
Theology in the concrete situation of massive poverty, a context that can only be
hinted at by terms such as poverty, starvation and oppression."10
Such realities are directly related to the colonial, neo-colonial and other oppres-
sive historic-political and social relationships that form the experience of the people
in their particular context. These realities are now confronted by or are seen from the
basis of the ferment of the people's faith, this is a faith that senses the possibility of the
fulfilment of God-given human potential in history here and now, in concrete human
existence in society. It is a faith that discerns that the conditions and realities of the
context that undermine such a possibility were not in line with God's liberative and
creative purpose. Both the general and specific factors that result in the dehumaniza-
tion and marginalization of people within the given context come within the scope of
the concern and commitment of the theology of liberation.
The Theology of Liberation therefore does not have as its chief concern to be first
and foremost universally relevant and applicable. It rather takes its c responsibility
and accountability seriously and confesses both its contextual commitment and con-
The second feature of the theology of liberation is that it is practical. It is intimate-
ly bound up with practical engagement in the context toward liberation.It is possible
for there to be contextual interest and commitment while nevertheless remaining
largely theoretical and speculative, contextual realities and issues can become from a
position of detachment no more than a matter of interest and subject of comment,
debate and discussion. This is simply not so with the theology of liberation. It is a
theology that is done from the base of involvement or dynamic engagement in the
context. It is rooted and grounded in action or more technically in praxis which
represents a complex of factors by which the human reality is understood in a dynamic,
relational and practical manner. And this is why a well known exposition of the
theology of liberation maintains that it is critical reflection on Christian Praxis in the
light of the world of God.11
The emphasis on practical engagement as essential to the doing of theology means
that there is here an epistemological break or shift in the methodology employed by
this theology in relation to that of the traditional way of doing theology. And it is the
point at which the theology of liberation has been quite critical of the traditional
The traditional method is seen as abstract, academic, theoretical and speculative.
It has sought to gain knowledge and truth that are of universal relevance. It is seen as
being applicable to any given context. This is but another aspect of the imperialism
practised in relation to other societies and cultures. The theology of liberation on the
other hand has a different starting point. It does not begin with detachment. It begins
with commitment that expresses itself in engagement in the historical process of
liberation. And to understand the theology itself warrants active participation in the
liberating process, since it is considered to be vitally important that we advance
beyond a mere theoretical or intellectual approach that is simply satisfied with under-
standing a theology through its theoretical dogmatic constructs.
Truth and knowledge emerge out of action or practice. This is why doing theology
which is the process of critical reflection is the "second act". commitment is engage-
ment in the "first act". Gutierrez writes:-
"... The pastoral activity of the church does not flow as a conclusion from theological
premises. Theology does not produce a pastoral activity, rather it reflects upon it.12
Liberation theology is the critical reflection on engagement within the framework
of the great efforts and struggle undertaken by the poor and oppressed and those who
share solidarity with them. This reflection takes place in the light of the word of God.
The resources that are at the disposal of this theology are therefore, the context, the
praxis or engagement, the scriptures, and the tradition and the life of the church itself
which is the immediate setting within the context for the doing of the theology. Of
course, the fact that the church is the immediate setting does not mean that the
concerns of the reflection will be exclusively those that relate directly to the welfare
and well-being of the church itself. There is also a dynamism that is characteristic of
this theological project which makes it open to change and development and prevents
it from hardening into a system of orthodoxy. Indeed one of the ways in which the
primacy of praxis has been summed up is to indicate that "orthopraxy" comes before
An appropriate and necessary accompaniment of engagement or praxis analysis. If
the issues and realities are to be understood and effectively dealt with, there must be
understanding of the context, particularly its socio-economic structures and its social
and cultural arrangements and how they work and affect the lives of the people.
Theology must therefore enter into dialogue with the social sciences which will be
used as its analytical tool. This has turned out to be one of the most controversial
features of the theological project, mainly because of an early attraction to Marxism
considered as an appropriate tool of analysis by many liberation theologians. That has
led to the charge being made that the theology of liberation is no more than thinly
disguised Marxism;13 not worthy to be called theology, an essentially Marxist political
ideological construct. In this respect while the Vatican document, "Instruction on
certain aspects of the theology of liberation" does not make as direct an identification
of the theology of liberation with Marxism, it charges it with making insufficiently
critical use of it.
To reduce the Theology of Liberation to Marxist categories or to regard liberation
theologians as doctrinaire Marxists because they have sought to use Marxist analysis
in their attempt to understand their society is considered to be gross misrepresenta-
tion of the true situation by liberation theologians and sympathetic critics alike. It has
been pointed out that most of the liberation theologians who consider Marxism as a
useful tool of analysis are themselves critics of aspects of Marxism. They do not make
positive use of it without critical emendations at various points. They do not feel that
Marxism is logically tight and fixed as a system to such an extent that it must be
accepted in totality or not at all. they do believe that Marxism can be used as a tool of
socio-economic analysis without its metaphysical conclusions being accepted. And
they are also quick to point out that very often they make more use of the works of
revisionist Marxists such as Althausser and Vernon than of the more orthodox
There is also the known practice of non-Marxist social analysts making selective
use of Marxist ideas and this is not considered as making them into Marxists.
There is likewise precedent for the Christian faith using non-Christian philosophy
to aid it in its understanding and its teachings and this is not considered to have made
it pagan, and whatever else may be said it ought to be borne in mind that within the
fold of liberation theologians there are differences of opinion concerning the useful-
ness of Marxist analysis in enabling understanding of the contextual realities in
contemporary Third World societies. There are those who are cognizant of the limita-
tions of Marxism and think that it is not necessary to depend on it for coming to grips
with the society. Instead they seek to develop a "populist theology" which draws upon
images, concepts and modes of thought of the people themselves. In this they are
seeking to make use of a historical hermeneutic that emerges from their natural and
In the end what is of great importance is the principle that analysis is an essential
feature of practical engagement which is the first act, upon which critical reflection
takes place in the light of the Word of god, which in turn is the second act.
The third feature is prophetic consciousness.The prophetic nature of the theology
derives from a close link to the historical practice which is emphasised. The theology
of liberation sees the search for understanding of what is taking place in the historical
context as part of getting to know and identifying with what God is doing in the
outworking of his liberative and redemptive purpose. History is the sphere of divine
purpose of righteousness and justice.
In locating and identifying with God's redemptive purpose in history, the theology
of liberation is very sensitive to the claims, challenges demands and promise of divine
righteousness and justice. God is Himself the God of righteousness and justice and is
very concerned about the victims of unrighteousness and injustice the poor, op-
pressed and exploited. God is conceived of as God of the poor and oppressed. This is
seen to be very much in line with the classical prophetic tradition of the Bible.
When the Bible is read from the perspective of the poor and oppressed, as it ought
to be, in the particular context where poverty and oppression are a major reality of the
people's historical experience; the God of righteousness and justice is seen as the
Liberating God. He is a God who acts to liberate the oppressed.
The Exodus event and experience is accordingly seen as the paradigmatic event of
God's redemptive and liberative activity. The Exodus is seen as a historic-political
event by which God liberated the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt, constituted
them into a Holy Nation and entrusted them with the task of establishing justice
towards the creation of a society of freedom and human fulfilment. It is believed that
when the Exodus event and experience is seen in this light it is saved from being
narrowly spiritualized and then rightly seen as both a political and spiritual reality at
one and the same time.
It is seen to be of profound and central importance in the biblical narrative, not as
a distant historical event but one that remained as a constant pattern for under-
standing God's liberating activity in the life and experience of subsequent generations
in the history of God's people.
The work of Christ is seen as part of the continuing pattern of God's liberating
work in terms of the Exodus. His work is the complete fulfilment and enrichment of
the Exodus event and experience. In it the Exodus is brought to its climax along with
new dimensions of profound significance. For example, the liberation accomplished
by Christ fulfills the promise of the prophets and inaugurates a new covenant which
reaches beyond the boundaries of historical Israel, thus embracing all humanity.
Liberation theologians are convinced that the Exodus metaphor and motif remains
relevant today as there are contemporary human conditions and situations which bear
distinct correspondence to those of the ancient Hebrew people in Egypt whose groans
God heard and to which He responded in the event represented by the Exodus. The
prophetic vision and consciousness of the theology of liberation are shaped by this
along with a related commitment to righteousness and justice through a shared
solidarity with the oppressed in their struggle for freedom and fulfilment.
This leads into the fourth feature of this theology which is its political conscious-
The theology of liberation is self-consciously political. It is convinced that some
form of political conditioning is inescapable whether it is admitted or not. It believes
that those who advise that the church should be apolitical or that the church should
free itself from all ideological interests are often more politically and ideologically
conditioned. It is a theology that is committed to taking sides and making choices in
historical praxis that have inevitable political implications. The partisanship that this
theology displays is not necessarily at the level of political party support and commit-
ment but at the level of a more fundamental division in society, that is division at the
structural level. It faces up to the reality of "the world of the poor and oppressed" in
society and opts to take sides with them. This is often referred to as "Bias to the Poor"
or "preferential option for the poor". This according to Gutierrez is more than simply
adding sensitivity to our present occupations. It is really a case of entering into the
world of the insignificant. 4
To be poor is to be truly insignificant, to be powerless economically, not truly
regarded, without real identity as far as the rich, the dominant and the powerful are
One of the ways in which the political interest of the theology is displayed is in the
process of education that forms an integral part of the project. This is referred to as
conscientization, a process aimed at heightening of the self consciousness and em-
powerment of the oppressed for liberative decision-making and action on their part.
By this they are meant to become critically aware of the real nature of their situation.
they will understand that they are not fated to be as they are and will be able to identify
the causes and sources of their oppression. Self-realization, coming to terms with
their own potential and the possibility of change through their own action become
part of the liberative process. The theology of liberation sees this as an important part
of its own project of doing theology which involves the preferential option for the
Quite apart from the fact that the process is different from the traditional teacher-
student relationship, it also indicates how the theology of liberation differs from
certain other theological orientations with which it is often associated or even iden-
tified. For example, political theology which is linked with the names of Jurgen
Moltmann and J.B. Metz, as pioneers and exponents, share some of the concerns of
the theology of liberation and has been part of its inspiration, yet liberation
theologians have been critical of it. It has been pointed out that in the end political
theology and the theology of liberation move on different horizons. In the case of
political theology it is responding to the challenge of the spirit of the enlightenment
in Western Europe. It faces a challenge of critical rationality and the expression of
individual freedom in a context largely dominated by a comfortable middle class. The
challenge is to make sense of God to non-believers for whom God has been marginal-
ized in a secular society. On the other hand the theology of liberation faces the
question of the meaning of God for a person systematically dehumanized by the
socio-economic and cultural situation. It is the challenge of proclaiming not to a
non-believer but to a non-person that he or she is a child of God. Conscientization
works to this end.
In the same way the theology of development, which became very popular immedi-
ately prior to the emergence of the theology of liberation based on he concept of
development which inspired the programmes of the United Nations for developing
countries, has been criticized by the theology of liberation. The good intention of the
theology of development has been recognized and acknowledged. The fact that it
represented concern for the poor and saw it as an outworking of the faith is acknow-
ledged. Yet it is felt that, despite early enthusiasm, the theology of development soon
betrayed its inadequacies and unsuitability. It represented a model that did not come
to grips sufficiently with the actual situation as it existed in the places where the
approach was made. It was short on analysis that would reveal the real causes of the
human misery being experienced. It failed to appreciate that development often
needing under-development to succeed. This is why liberation is considered a much
more suitable concept for the basis of action in relation to oppression, poverty and
exploitation. Conscientization as consciousness raising towards liberation is an effec-
tive part of this process.
The most effective use of conscientization has been made within the framework of
the worshipping community. The outstanding examples of this are the "Ecclesial Base
Communities" or groups of a similar nature, where within the context of worship are
undertaken, study of the bible, reflection on life and exploration of the theological
meaning in the face of the daily issues that confront the people.
The political commitment of the theology of liberation expressed especially in the
emphasis on preferential option for the poor and conscientization has been one of the
areas which has attracted strong criticism of it. The basic criticism is that it is both
reductionist and exclusivist. For example, it has been claimed that no distinction is
made between liberation and salvation. It is maintained that they are incorrectly
treated as correlates which means that the gospel is totally politicized. This inevitably
leads to the great temptation of the kingdom of God being identified with one side in
the political struggle or with one socio-political cause.15 In the same vain it is claimed
that the universality of God's love is at stake when such concepts as 'preferential
option for the poor' or bias to the poor are emphasised. It no longer appears to be a
love that reaches out to and embraces all equally.
Liberation theologians are quite aware of these charges but their intention is
neither to be reductionist nor exclusivist in the ways with which they have been
charged or, as it may appear, from the ways in which they have expressed themselves.
The ambiguities of the human situation and the socio-economic reality which
confronted them might well have been oversimplified by some of them in the earlier
days of the theological project. It is also true however, that from those very times
attempts were made to avoid such over simplifications. For example Gutierrez at-
tempted to make the distinctions by speaking of levels or dimensions of liberation.
The first level is that which relates to the aspirations of the dominated and oppressed
peoples in the face of economic, social and political factors in their historical exist-
ence that put them at odds with the dominant and powerful in their midst. The second
level relates tot the emergence and formation o f a new historical consciousness in the
people which imbues them with a new awareness that they must assume responsibility
for their destiny, the third level relates to sin which is the ultimate cause of injustice
and oppression and from which Christ is the liberator. These distinctions speak of
three levels of liberation which indicate that salvation is integral. It includes historical
liberation and ultimate redemption; in this sense liberation and redemption are not
correlates though they belong together.16
The same attempt is made to work out the relation between human historical
action and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, seeking to give expression to the
continuity and discontinuity or identity and differentiation that exist in the relation-
ship. Liberation theologians continue to debate among themselves about how these
matters are to be approached but they are aware of the dangers and seek to deal with
certain of the charges that are continually being made.
When it comes on to the question of "Bias to the Poor" or "Preferential Option for
the Poor", it is not felt that there is any fundamental contradiction of the university of
God's love. It is not because God does not love everybody but poverty and oppression
represent the undermining and contradiction of God's overall purpose for human life
in community. People are basically equal in the creative purpose of God. They are
meant to share mutuality of relationship and this is not possible where life is ordered
in terms of domination and dependence, power and powerlessness, superiority and
inferiority. Attention must therefore be paid to the disadvantaged towards and end in
which God's purpose will be fulfilled for the benefit of all. On this basis there is no
place for neutrality. Any attempt at neutrality results in support for the status quo,
which is a form of taking sides but the wrong side. The preferential option for the poor
is a way of bringing back balance or seeking to bring about a situation that will reflect
more clearly the overall purpose of God's love for all.
The charge is frequently made that the theology of liberation is wedded to the use
of violence to bring about socio-political change. It is sometimes expressed as if this is
an unequivocal and uncritical commitment to the use of violence to achieve perceived
ends and that all liberation theologians are unified on this matter.
Liberation theologians in fact differ among themselves over the question of the
use of violence. However, a fairly representative viewpoint would be a commitment to
the "Just Revolution" closely akin to the "Just Way Theory". Basically the use of
violence is not regarded as a first choice. Realism, if nothing else, dictates the neces-
sity for restraint, bearing in mind the force of arms available to the oppressive powers
and the overall machinations of the national security state ideology that is invariably
embraced by them. Nevertheless there is a sense in which fundamentally there is no
choice as to whether they are implicated in or committed to violence, since as they see
it violence is already a fact of life in their context. It is systemic and people are either
victims or beneficiaries of it.
It is therefore felt that dogmatic commitment to non-violence simply reinforces
the violent structures. Many liberation theologians are therefore open to the pos-
sibility that the time may come when there is no alternative but to resort to violence
in one form or another in the struggle for liberation of the oppressed. The par-
ticularities of the given situation will determine what is to be done. There is hardly and
place, if at all, for any predetermined rule to be used to impose an absolute ban on the
use of violence in the struggle for liberation and worst of all for such rules to be
defined, dictated and imposed from outside the actual situation. Even though this is
not a non-violent position it is still not the rabid violent position sometimes ascribed
to the theology of liberation as a whole. It is in fact in line with what many others who
are not committed to the theology of liberation hold, and it is not as pro-violence as
some of the critics themselves are, as for example in their attitude to other religions or
communists, even in these days of Glassnost.
A fifth feature of the theology of liberation is its emphasis on the sense of the
corporate.The nature of the theology itself bears witness to the sense of the corporate,
for it is considered to be the fruit of corporate reflection on the corporate experience
of the oppressed. Even though well known individual names are associated with the
project, they are anxious to point out that they are essentially representatives of a
larger body that has done the thinking and reflection. The individual theologians are
themselves animators facilitators and clarifiers.
Liberation theology is critical of the predominant interiorization and privatization
of the faith which all but discount the corporate dimension. This has led to the gospel
and its message being seen as exclusively concerned with matters of the individual soul
and with private and personal individual morality. The fact that the church is itself a
corporate entity with corporate significance in the context to which it belongs is not
given sufficient consideration. There is a sense in which the gospel does not seem to
have any meaning for the church as such. Sin and salvation are essentially and
fundamentally matters of an individualistic nature. This means that there is an in-
evitable retreat of the church from its mission of social responsibility which would
take it beyond the "charity principle" and commit it to knowing and understanding the
causes of the things that made charity necessary and to participation in the struggle for
Liberation theology believes that when the gospel is read from the perspective of
the poor and oppressed its corporate dimension becomes evident. Both sin and
salvation are seen to have corporate significance. Sin is capable of being embodied in
structures, systems, institutions and orders of society that disfigure, manipulate, op-
press and crush human beings. Salvation also has a corporate historical social
dimension which is the liberation of human beings, and the transformation of society
on the way to total salvation in the established kingdom of the new age which is the
fulfilment of God's purpose by God himself.
This emphasis on the corporate has not escaped criticism, the individual is said to
be swallowed up in the corporate whole and above all there is the danger of sin being
divorced from personal human will and simply encased in impersonal structures or
institutions. There is no doubt that there have been and still are instance when
liberation theologians seemed to have played down the individual dimension of sin,
for example, to the extent where it seems to be non-existent. This is often the result of
the response to the perceived overemphasis on the individualistic approach that
seems to prevail generally. It would be hard for liberation theologians to dispute that
sinful structures, as they perceive them, come about by human choices and decision-
making. They however would wish for there to be greater recognition and acknow-
ledgement that over time injustice could become institutionalized in structures and
systems and that these could victimize people terribly while at the same time not
leaving anyone currently responsible in the primary understanding of the term.
The sixth feature of the theology of liberation is that it is committed to a new way
of approaching, interpreting and understanding the bible a new hermeneutic.This
new method of interpretation embodies and exemplifies the features that have already
been discussed. Its overriding emphasis and aim are related to the meaning of the
scriptures for the contemporary context in which they are being interpreted. It is
therefore never satisfied with simply ascertaining the original meaning of the text or
knowing the original intention of the author. What the text has to say in terms of
contextual issues and realities, questions, problems, demands and challenges with
which it is confronted is of paramount importance in terms of meaning for guidance,
direction and understanding of the purpose of God and the call to action in the given
context. The text is not properly faced from a position of detachment but from
commitment. There is in fact no purely objective detached or neutral stance by which
the scriptures are approached, even though this is often claimed and encouraged as
the truly scientific approach. The interpreter wherever he or she is, is already condi-
tioned and where this is not admitted, as a matter of choice, invariably the condition-
ing is by the dominant culture. So that is an oppressive context, there will be
conditioning supportive of things as they are. This is why the theology of liberation
believes that the process of interpreting scriptures must include both ideological and
exegetical suspicion, the idea of suspicion does not necessarily impute or imply any
deliberate ulterior motives on the part of anyone. It really rests on the conviction that
predetermined interpretations or interpretations based on settled convictions, avail-
able to be applied to any given context despite its particularities, begin by being
ideologically deficient since they would have been lacking in the vital human date
necessary for the elucidation of the contextual situation.
Great emphasis is placed on similarities between the experience of the people of
God in the story of the Bible and that of the poor and oppressed here and now. This is
one of the points made for the relevance of the exodus paradigm and motif. It is also
one of the reasons why it is though that the poor and oppressed themselves are
considered to have an access to the understanding of the scriptures that must be
recognized (a special privilege). This does not mean that understanding the scripture
from any other perspective has no place, though some liberation theologians express
themselves in such a manner as to give the impression that they are claiming this. The
message of the bible is considered to have socio-political implications and interpreta-
tion is aided by social analysis.
This approach to and emphasis on the bible is part of the growing awareness of and
concentration on spirituality within the theology of liberation.
At the outset it was legitimate criticism of the theological project that little or no
attention was paid to spirituality worship, prayer, contemplation, and meditation.
This is now being corrected and there is a growing body of literature being developed
within the framework of the theology of liberation which recognizes the link between
engagement in the historical praxis of liberation and commitment to worship, con-
templation, prayer and meditation.18
The approach to the scripture has received its fair share of criticism, the theology
of liberation has been accused of abandoning the hard won gains of biblical criticism,
of arbitrary and selective use of scripture to serve its own selfish ends and of making
careless and superficial correspondence between the biblical world and the contem-
porary context. These are criticisms that have also been made of other theological
approaches and points of view, so in any case these are not deficiencies confined to the
theology of liberation. The fact is that it while it would be hard to deny that all these
dangers are possible in the theology of liberation; they are by no means inevitable
especially if certain safeguards are put into place which many liberation theologians
have sought to do.
They have acknowledged the worth of historical criticism and have made extensive
use of the tools of biblical criticism in general. However, they do not allow themselves
to be limited absolutely by their findings. They think these tools both restrain and
suggest possibilities of independent meaning. Their commitment to the use of social
analysis both in terms of the understanding which this is now giving on both the
biblical world and the contemporary world helps them to define more carefully the
structural correlation between the world of the bible and their contemporary context.
Yet with all this, dangers remain though the risk is reduced.
The theology of liberation is here to stay. It will continue in its many and varied
forms and in some cases may not even go by such a name. It will always be influenced
by contextual particularities and by its own dynamic nature based on its distinctive
In our own immediate context, the theology of liberation cannot be taken and
applied exactly as it as been applied elsewhere. Our own contextual particularities will
demand the broadening of the agenda of realities and concerns with which the most
well known forms of liberation theology are frequently associated. Race, colour, class,
identity, women rights and ecological concerns are all major issues that must be
reckoned with in our context and cannot be grouped under the single-issue heading of
poverty which however comprehensively it is meant to be understood will not do. The
kinds of tools of analysis will be more varied. They will quite naturally be influenced
by consciousness of the many-sided and varied nature of the issues to be contended
with; and so no tool will be absolutized. The relevance of the Marxist tool of analysis
will itself remain an issue of debate but in any case it will be one among many if or
when it is considered appropriate.
the assumptions and presuppositions of the analytical tools themselves must also
be subject to biblical revelation and insight, the liberation perspective on church and
ministry will be influenced by the strong Protestant those with greater access to
people participation without any conceivably high level of threat to existing church
hierarchy. Lagging economical development should receive encouragement from
liberation theology because of its cross-confessional nature. Through a measure of
polarization will take place where "received theology" is still a dominant source of
influence and is still the measuring tool of cry other theological expression. The link
between spirituality and commitment which is a growing emphasis of the theology of
liberation will be a challenge where existing dichotomy which is maintained in this
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. See article, "The Theology Liberation Evangelical or Ideological" in Concilium 10 Vol. IV.
2. A good example of this is the very ambitious "Liberation and Theology" series being undertaken by the
Publishers Burns and Oates and authored by very well known Liberation Theologians.
3. Such theological projects as Feminist Theology, Black Theology, Gay Liberation Theology, Theology of
the City, Minjung theology, African Theology, have all been grouped in the general rubric of the theology
4. See Article, "Two Theologies of Liberation" in the Month, August 1984. Gutierrez's book was originally
published as Teologia de la Liberation Peceptivas, CEP, Lima, 1971.
5. Gibellini, R. The Liberation Theology Debate, (SCM, London, 1967) pp. ivyw.
6. Gutierrez, G. A Theology of Liberation, (SCM, London, 1975) p. 15.
7. Segundo, J.L The Liberation of Theology, (Orbis, New York, 1976) p. 9.
8. Kee, Alistair, Domination or Liberation? (SCM, London, 1987) p. 67.
9. Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology,
(Burns and Oates, 1987) p. 19.
10. Chopp, Rebecca, "Latin American Liberation Theology" in Ford, David (Ed)
An Introduction to Christian Theology in the Twentieth Century. (Blackwell, 1989.) See also her, The
Praxis of Suffering, An Interpretation of Liberation and Political Theologies, (orbis, 1986.)
11 .Gutierrez, G. A Theology of Liberation, (SCM, 1974) pp. 6ff.
12. Gutierrez, G. A Theology of Liberation, (SCM, 1974) pp. 11ff.
13 In a review of John Sobrino's The True Church of the Poor, (SCM, 1984) Nicholas
Lash comments that in the view of some critics the theology of liberation is Marxist theory decorated with
flower from the "Garden of the Soul..... see Theology, March 1986, p. 140.
14 .See his article, "The Church of the Poor" in the Month, July 1989. See also Desmond
Tutu Von Hugel lecture, "The Bias of God" the Month, November 1989.
15. See for example, McCann, D.P., "Christian Realism and Liberation Theology",
(Orbis New York, 1981) also, Nelians, R. "Liberation Theology and the Captivities of Jesus" in Mission
Trends No. 3, Anderson and Stranksy (eds.) (Paulist, 1976); also, Oyden, S. Faith and Freedom: Toward
a Theology of Liberation, (Abingdos, Nashville, 1979.)
16 G. Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, (SCM, 1974) pp. 145ff.
17. See for example, Bonino, J.M. "Historical Praxis and Christian Identity" in Gibellini, R. (Ed.) Fron-
tiers of Theology in Latin American, (SCM London, 1980.)
18 .See for example (a) Gutierrez, G. We Drink from our own Wells, The Spiritual Journey
of a People, (Orbis, 1984, Job.) (b) Buff, L. Saint Francis, A Model for Human Liberation, (SCM Lon-
don, 1982.) (c) Galilea, S. The Way of Living Faith, (Collins 1988.)
THE IMPACT OF EVANGELICAL AND PENTECOSTAL RELIGION
My task is to assess what impact the Evangelical and Pentecostal movement have
had on the church's social teaching. I will do so by a discussion of the historical
antecedents of these movements. The discussion will point ways in which the basic
emphases have enhanced the witness of the Church. Finally it will raise some general
criticisms pointing out ways in which the evangelical movement has failed to go far
enough. These reflections come from one who has served as an evangelical pastor in
the inner city for the past eleven years.
The Historical Antecedents
The evangelical movement about which we are speaking is the product of revivalist
tendencies in the nineteenth century. The great awakening and the reassurance of
revivalism among American protestants are primarily responsible for modern evan-
gelicalisms. As a movement, however, it owes its themes to the holiness movement.
In a strictly theological sense the movement was a reassertion of John Wesley's
doctrine of "entire sanctification" or Christian perfection, not only within the
Methodist tradition which was beginning to neglect this aspect of the Wesleyan
heritage, but much more widely among all American denominations where such
themes found much resonance in the young, optimistic nation suffused with a form of
More than that, however, evangelicalism was a reaction, albeit unself-consciously
so, to what may be termed the embourgeoisement of 18th century Methodism.
Methodism developed as a preferential option for the poor in eighteenth century
England. By the nineteenth century more middle class life-styles, interests and options
had come to characterize the movement. The holiness movement then became an
attempt at a Church life more in touch with the masses. Development in the move-
ment reacted equally to the social ills of slavery and the so called ecclesiastical ills of
episcopacy. The Free Methodists in particular, were as constant in the emphasis on
Christian perfection (free from sin) as they were against slavery and pew rentals.
Charles Grandison Finney, a Presbyterian, was also against the pew rental system.
Though he spoke less (disappointingly so) about the abolition of slavery, he sought a
Presbyterianism with a preferential option for the poor. Finney, for instance, believed
that "entire devotion to Christ" could produce the systematic benevolence which was
the hope for the poor.
Early Evangelicalism was characterized by a threefold emphasis. There was first an
emphasis on personal holiness, second an anti-slavery sentiment and third, a religious
experience which showed a preferential option for the poor. The early movement took
the form, in some churches, of parlour meetings or various forms of small group
meetings. Prayer revivals and a love for public proclamation of the gospel with the
goal of conversion leading to personal holiness were the main activities of the move-
ment. Names like Finney in the last century and Billy Graham in this are the accus-
tomed heroes of the movement.
The Movement Divides
A major development which took place at the turn of the last century and which
was at the time of its development a kind of holiness heresy was the focus on Baptism
of the Holiness Spirit as a transmutation of the doctrine of entire santification. The
idea that personal holiness was made possible only by personal possession of the Holy
Spirit and that speaking in tongues was the evidence of Spirit baptism was to be a
major development within the holiness movement. However, the holiness movement
was split into two parties; those who saw the evidence of the Spirit baptism in terms of
personal purity (entire santification) and those who saw it in terms of empowering -
starting with empowering to speak with other tongues. The former we call evan-
gelicalism with its ethical or moral focus and the latter we call pentecostalism with its
miraculous or "power" focus. One emphasizes the fruit of the spirit and the other the
gifts of the spirit.
Composition of the Movement
The evangelical movement is made up of (i) Christian denominations bearing
names which are intended in general to point to their particular emphases;
(ii)parachurch organizations such as Youth for Christ, Intervarsity, Scripture Union,
Children Evangelism and the like, and (iii) various conventions (eg. Keswick) and
groupings with a strong dogmatic, apologetic or polemic focus. How has this move-
ment which is an informal coalition of themes and emphases on those themes, affected
the witness of the Body of Christ and impacted in the Churches' social teaching?
Movement among the underclass
The evangelical and Pentecostal religion has been a movement among the under-
class. From the very outset there was present among those who are now called
evangelical an antislavery sentiment. This is by no means claiming that they were
unique in so doing, or even that this was the raison d'etre of evangelicalism. It was also
acknowledged that many of their numbers were against slavery without feeling any
obligation to address slavery as a social reality. Timothy Smith makes this comment
about social evil in general and slavery in particular in addressing the response of early
"In many ways of course, the evangelists' pre-occupation with personal religious
experience could nurture an exclusively spiritual faith. Their chief concern was prayer
for a miraculous 'out-pouring of the Holy Spirit' which would breach the shackles of
human sin. Opposition to social evil was often only an occasional skirmish in their way
in personal wickedness. "
Evangelicals or more accurately the early revivalists were convinced that slavery
was against the will of God. They went further than mere opposition to slavery. The
fact is that especially in the former colonies their ecclesiastical gatherings comprised
slaves and former slaves. While other sections of the church had the required pews
rented by members of the plantocracy and their companions in arms, and with only the
balcony (if there was one) for the underclass these newly formed churches had general
seating and only the underclass came.
The denominations among the evangelical movement continue to attract members
of the underclass. There is especially in our Jamaican and Caribbean churches a
preference expressed by the labourers, helpers, artisans and peasants for the unsophis-
ticated religious expression found among evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
The language and liturgy (if there is one) is of primitive simplicity with crude and
sometimes vulgar expressions. The important thing, however, is that the liturgy and
language are understandable. This religion is very oral and understands that the
Jamaican culture is an oral culture. The structure is spontaneous and some of its worst
forms chaotic, but it allows for religious participation by all. This is important among
those for whom feeling is more important than thinking. The simple rituals of prayer,
fastings, testimonies and even ecstatic utterances are all within the range of those who
come. The reliance upon a professional clergy and expensive church bureaucracy is
Lack of religious sophistication is not an end in itself nor an ideal to be praised but
it has allowed for a sense of the people's church and has offered as well a wide
participation in ministry by the laity. This has theoretically although not actually the
case, released more resources for the work of the ministry.
Because of the manageability of the religious demands and especially the idea of
empowering, the religious expression has been made attractive to the powerless, "the
people of the soil". So that those alienated from sources of influence in the society and
who are victimized by forces, both real and imagined, are given access to power by
their religion. And even when the impact is only psychological, they are attracted to a
dimension of life from which they would otherwise be alienated.
Holiness Defined in Ethical Terms
Evangelicals and Pentecostal religion has emphasized otherwise neglected teach-
ings of the church. One can only imagine that the holiness movement at its genesis was
a reaction to what was taking place in the life of the Church then. The idea of "entire
sanctification" (Christian Perfection) has no doubt produced its own alienation.
However the generally moralizing tendency of this theology has restored an important
balance in Christian teaching. Three assumptions have informed the moralizing ten-
dency: (i) the will of God for the use of one's resources. (ii) as evil in the world has its
origin in human sinfulness, the redress of social ills is incomplete and inadequate
unless it begins with personal transformation. (iii) both the credibility of those who
seek for, and the integrity of the changes sought, demand and depend upon personal
holiness. Holiness here is defined in ethical rather than sacral terms.
The fact that personal morality is not and cannot be self-sustaining; the fact that
moral focus has often led to legalistic tendencies which produce their own tyranny and
oppression these are not perceived as important as the emphasis is which evan-
gelicalis, and pentecostalism have put on the link between personal and structural
Equally important is the focus on the Christian Faith as a charismatic religion. It
is the holism here which must be commended. One must look beyond the ways in
which certain forms of this religious expression (especially among Pentecostals)
resemble the incubated religion of the Ancient Near East. One must look beyond its
tendency towards mysticism and magic which are distortions of the idea of miracle.
One must appreciate that in such religious expressions is a statement about the
neglect of spiritual (supernatural) gifts by the church.
The idea of empowerment is the view that in its fight against social evil the Church
has access to a dimension of resource which is heavenly and divine. One must insist
that the correct balance be restored here because already there is a neo-capitalist
religious tendency towards a health and wealth religion in the name of the Christian
The language of evangelical and Pentecostal religion is apocalyptic and Adventist.
Sections of the Bible long neglected by Protestant scholars are sections in which they
are most at home. The little apocalypse, the Apocalypse Daniel. the Pastorals, the
Second Epistle of Peter are sections to which this branch of the church goes with
In recent time Liberation Theology has been making use of these parts of the
Scriptures because they are a "tract for hard times" and also because they are the
coded language of the oppressed. The represent "subversive" literature. To say that
this section of the Church has made regular use of apocalyptic literature in the Bible
is not to say that it has made the correct use or has understood the genre.The
apocalypse will play a significant role wherever theology is done in the context of
oppression and where theological method is reflection and practical commitment.
The point here is that it is to their credit that the evangelical movement has kept
apocalypticism and adventism alive for its members.
Just because of the endemic polemic and dogmatic approach there has been an
obligation to inculcate in members an understanding of the faith. This has made the
evangelical and Pentecostal movement a lay movement. The conception of ministry is
also that teaching builds life and holiness as well as service and teaching. Phoebe
Palmer an early revivalist puts it this way: Holiness made one a servant -at times a
suffering servant of his fellowmen. Sympathy with Jesus in the great work which
brought Him from heaven to earth' and the achievement of entire unselfishness, are
the true marks of sanctification. The second work of grace (Baptism of the Holy
Spirit) replaced the carnal mind with a dominant hold temper of perfect love "2
the development of modern cathetical school for the whole family in which per-
sonal holiness and sacrificial service can be taught are the strengths of the movement.
Other ways in which this movement has expanded the witness of the church
include its use of the media, both print and electronic. It has been the section of the
church to most effectively use the electronic media to both good and bad effect. It has
spread versions of the message and distorted the image of the ministry at one and the
The evangelical and Pentecostal movement has enhanced the church's fight
against social evil by being the religion in touch with the masses and by emphasizing
available spiritual resources through involvement of the laity and creative methods for
However this approach and understanding of the church's social teaching has not
been without weakness.
Inability to Deal with Fundamental Questions
In the first place this section of the church has spoken from the position of the
underclass without speaking for them. It has manifestly shown an inability and willing-
ness to grapple with fundamental questions of alienation and powerlessness. The fact
that there are contextual issues which are overbearing, determinative and oppressive
have hardly caught its attention. There are several reasons which made this the case.
It is so because it has never developed an understanding of corporate sinfulness or
sought to delineate the systematic character of evil. This is ironic because it is only
among evangelicals that a demonology survives and references to principalities and
powers are heard. This has come about because salvation is conceived in personalistic
terms. There is an inadequate ecology and a failure to extend the implications of the
gospel to sociology politics and economics. This also may have its antecedent in a in
the belief that there are two histories, one in which God acts redemptively, and one in
which there is a course of self-destruction.
All no doubt contribute to a view which frees the evangelical to ignore the larger
contextual issues. There can be no doubt that a lack of faith in human action is partly
the reason. There is only a half-hearted commitment to voluntarism about much of
social action by this section of the church. But is evil in human society so entrenched
and endemic that man's best effort will produce only superficial result?
It is sufficient to observe here that though evangelical denominations have been
comprised of the underclass, the issues of poverty and powerlessness have hardly
engaged its theological pronouncements. Instead it has found ways to alienate those
who have insisted upon those issues. Fortunately evangelicals have once again taken
up the discussion about the relationship between evangelism and social action.
The issue of race, identity and fundamental questions of justice are postponed in
favour of a crude adventism to take but one example while no other issue wields as
much influence on the sociology of Jamaica as its brand of family life with 80% of
children being born to informal relationships, the approach taken by those evan-
gelican Pentecostal denominations which have addressed the issue is a dogmatic and
legalistic one in which middle class prejudices dominate. One is by means raising
single issues as the sina qua non, one is saying that the evangelical church in this
regard has lacked contextual relevance.
Lack of Con extual Relevance
This lack of contextual relevance has itself been the function of atomizing and
dichotomizing tendencies. It is not difficult to see how a focus on personal holiness
without a mature appreciation of contextuality can lead to rugged individualism. This
has been the unintended reverse side of evangelicalism to produce an individual so
satisfied with his charismatic experience, so confident of his heavenly destination and
so certain of the outcome of all of history as not to be interested in doing something
about the 'Jericho road.'
The theology which separates man from his community soon separates body from
soul and word from deed. To admit that there is what one calls an atomizing tendency
toward individualism and a dichotomizing tendency which divides evangelism and
social action among evangelicals is not to say that this is inherent to the evangelical
understanding nor to say that this has always been so.
The fact is, in the last century there were numerous developments by way of social
activism in the holiness movement, among Seventh Day Adventists and Baptists
especially in the areas of healing and health care. The YMCA and YWCA move-
ments, the development of sanitoria for the care of tuberculosis, the facilities for
training as well as the pesduction of special dietary foods, (graham cracker, grape juice
and the like) are other examples from history. Work in education was neither limited
to Bible training nor sectarian in focus, as the history of various academies and
institutes show. However especially since the fundamentalist/modernist controversies
of the 1920s and up until the 1970s, there has been a preference for evangelism over
social concerns among evangelicals. This has been less so since Lussanne, 1974, and
the advent of the so-called Latin American fraternity with names like Padilla and
Escobar. Yet even these cutting edge thinkers and others like them have not broken
through the crust of conservatism in this regard to make a decisive impact on their
David 0. Moberg, in his book "The Great Reversal- evangelism versus social
concern"3 was not trying to be unkind or to caricaturize the evangelical position when
he gave the following summary:
"The evangelistic camp holds that the Christian has but one task that of winning
souls to Christ. The only important goal in life is to be a "fisher of men." In order to
have stars in one's heavenly crown, he must win others to Christ. Personal evangelism
and mass revivalism are the summum bonum of the Christian life. All church related
programs and organizations should be oriented toward that end, and every worthwhile
personal activity is designated to promote it. He that winneth souls is wise' (Proverbs
11:30) is a favorite Bible verse. Trophies for Christ are sought in somewhat the same
way a big-game hunter in Africa stalks his exotic prey. Nonevangelistic activities like
"church socials" and recreational events are permitted in church programming only as
a baiut to entice sinners into the net of the kingdom of Jesus.
However even Moberg himself suggests in the end that evangelism can be a motive
for social concern. It is not that evangelicals have no response to the social reality.
The basic positions are, (a) that social evils are the predictable result of man's
sinfulness and present an opportunity to present Christ who is the answer, (b) the
harsh social reality will unwittingly hasten the consummation of the Kingdom of
Christ by driving persons (the elect) to salvation, and (c) that the decision for Christ
will make the dishonest man become honest; a criminal, law-abiding; a sexual pervert,
upright; an improvident man, provident; a mentally ill person, well; a corrupt
politician, clean; a lazy worker, ambitious; a rapacious businessman, kind; a greedy
self-seeker, generous; a self-centered introvert, other-oriented. ... these evangelistic
Christians think that solving personal problems through converting souls to Jesus
Christ will resolve all the problems of the world.
As a group, evangelicals have been known to take positions on social and political
issues. They attempted to 'establish prohibition of the sale and use of alcoholic
beverages. They have taken stands on pornography, communism and abortion. Either
of two motivations inform such protests: moral indignation toward those that directly
and obviously involve "personal sins," or defense of the right and freedom to preach
the Gospel. In keeping with the perspective there is a much more developed position
on Communism than on racism and issues of justice, the gender issue, human rights
abuses, or on ecology.
A third area of weakness is the susceptibility of the evangelical movement to
ideological captivity. There may be several factors which contribute to this. Not the
least of which has to do with a euro-centrism and a failure on the part of evangelical
and Pentecostal religion to take roots in Caribbean soil. (Ashley Smith, "Real Roots
and Potted Plants" 4). The burden to be faithful to certain handed down and narrowly
focused dogmatic conclusions may also contribute to this. The importance the move-
ment attaches to proclamation and proselytization and the attendant religious and
civil liberties which it regards as being ensured by one system and threatened by the
other may also be a dominant factor.
Yet there is an unequal yoke and an ideological captivity to the values, cultural
orientation and ideological commitment of North America and Western Europe.
The Rev. Burchell Taylor's article,'Babylonish Captivity of the Church' 5 in which
he used as his foil the evangelical church in naming the title of his article, indicated
that this Babylonish captivity was especially evident in certain para-church groups and
agencies but expressed some doubt at to whether or not they should be included in his
discussion about the church. His presentation included those para-church organiza-
tions as part of the evangelical movement. Rev. Taylor opined:
There are some para-church groups and agencies that function independently of
the church, that do manifest certain cultural and ideological orientations are themsel-
ves purveyors of certain values that show definite signs of being captivity, at the same
time, they themselves add to the Babylonish tendencies by the demands they make on
the Church as they offer to serve it. They offer with strings attached. These strings are
in keeping with their cultural and ideological orientation. Invariably such groups
originate in rich metropolitan centers and they make the Caribbean, as well as other
Third world regions their prime target areas. In the essay Taylor delineates that he
called captivity by accommodation and complicity, a captivity by imitation and an
ideological captivity. His development on the ideological captivity is worthy of full
'The accommodation and complicity that are the means of the Babylonish captivity
of the church in the Caribbean take place both directly and indirectly or more
specifically, by active co-operation and also by passive support and submission, by way
of quietism or withdrawal into a world of its own private religious pre-occupations....
There is active accommodation all too often to what obtains or to what has always
been, which means adapting to and identifying with the goals, intentions and values of
the status quo to the extent where the church would offer to it what Peter Berger calls
a 'sacred canopy' for what exists. In this sense, the church becomes a willing par-
ticipants in the evils of its own cultural setting and offers theological legitimacy to
such evils, since they are in line with the values to which it accommodates itself. All
too often the captivity by complicity is in the specific form of ideological captivity.
There are clear signs that this is a feature of our current Caribbean Church life, as no
doubt it has always been. There seems to be, however, an intensification of this within
recent times since more articulate and overt commitment to ideological position in
our politics has become a feature of our life. In my own opinion, one of the real signs
of ideological captivity at the moment, is that the church tends to define its relation to
society by its attitude to communism to a large extent, rather than in relation to the
profound changes that need to take place, and the great areas of human need that are
crying out for attention from God's people. (Taylor, 1982. p. 12, 13).
The evangelical movement shares with other sections of the church a non-involve-
ment in the processes by which a Caribbean community will develop its own cultural
identity so that the images and symbols employed in liturgy will be distinctively
To speak of the impact of evangelical and Pentecostal religion in the context of the
church's social teaching is almost to attempt the impossible. The terms refer to an
informal coalition of religious groupings linked by the themes by which they swear but
often having less in common among themselves than they have with those who differ
on those very themes.
Nevertheless the distinct offering has been a mixed bag. It is at once a religion in
touch with the masses with an unsophisticated and often spontaneous faith and order.
At the same time it is of the poor without being for the poor. the profound issues of
poverty, oppression and disenfranchisement have hardly engaged its theological for-
The movement has emphasized, perhaps even exaggerated, the significance of
neglected areas of the church's teaching. The link between personal morality and
corporate morality is brought out by a focus on personal holiness. The reality of
available supernatural power and miracles, the hope of consummation of history in a
return of Christ are solid themes. On the other hand this has been accompanied by
individualism and indifference to systemic evil and the lop-sided focus on evangelism
to the neglect of social and political action. Its love of freedom, especially freedon to
preach the gospel, its doctrinaire conservatism and its dependence on the financial
support of headquarters have produced a movement with an uncritical ideological
The way forward lies in an understanding that the historical battle lines do not
have the significance in the new territory which they did elsewhere. The world has
changed and so has the church. The change in the world is towards the secular and to
make the face of evil more barefaced and sinister. Finally,the church must be creative,
united and thorough going, proclaiming and demonstrating the love of God in Christ
if it is to be and to have a redemptive presence.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Smith, A. Revival and Social Reform, Abonglen Press, 1955. p.138
2 Smith, A. ibid. p.149
3. Moberg, D. The Great Reversal, Lippincott Co.Ltd. Phil. 1972. p.20
4. Smith A. Rev, Real Roots and Potted Plants
5. Taylor B. Rev. "Babylonish Captivity of the Church", Caribbean Journal of Religious
Vol.4. No.1. 1982
TOWARDS AN AFRO-CARIBBEAN THEOLOGY:
Principles for the Indigenisation of Christianity in the Caribbean1
One of the criticisms which used to be levelled at the Church2 up to twenty or
thirty years ago was its failure to address the real issues facing the poor in society. It
used to be strongly felt that the Church itself excluded the poor from the walls of its
worship because of its lack of concern for their human and material condition. This
criticism is no longer valid; at least not here in the Caribbean and Latin America,
where at the level of the episcopacy and clergy the Church itself has been in the
forefront of social criticism, sometimes sacrificing many of its most articulate voices,
silenced by the hands of evil.
Yet, the poor are nowhere nearer the Church in any meaningful numbers, at least
not here in the Caribbean. This is so despite the fact that in Jamaica, for example,
there is not a single one of the established or traditional churches which does not have
an arm reaching out into the communities of the poor or providing specialised
services for the needy. Indeed, in a number of instances the social works inspired by
the Churches have developed into non-governmental development agencies, as dif-
ferent from agencies dispensing charity. And in the area of social teaching, the
Church's "preferential option" for the poor, whether expressed in sermons, state-
ments or, in the case of the Roman Catholic, pastoral letters, makes the Church one
of the most forward-thinking and radical institutions in Jamaica. Such witness ought
at least to improve the membership of the Churches. Instead, it is the Pentecostal and
Charismatic type Churches which have been showing dramatic increases in member-
ship. From 6% of the population of Jamaica in 1960 their membership has grown to
25% in 1982.
The traditional Churches are in something of a crisis. This was poignantly felt
recently, when representatives of these new religious movements from all over Africa,
North and South America and the Caribbean met in Trinidad and Tobago to launch
the "Third World Church".
This crisis provides the inspiration for this paper. My argument is not new, and
may be tired and cliched, but it is this: the traditional Churches are essentially
missionary, which is to say essentially European, in doctrine and worship, and, as such,
have failed to indigenise themselves. Several Caribbean theologians, including Wil-
liam Watty, Ashley Smith and the late Irdis Hamid, have made this criticism in the
past. A process of indigenisation would require two things of the Church: a liturgy
which is culturally meaningful; and a theology which begins to reflect at least some of
the spiritual values which are deeply embeeded in our culture.
The first of these two requirements is now being recognized, after roughly two
hundred years. Drums, for example, a most central instrument in Afro-Caribbean
worship is no longer taboo in many Churches, along with the guitar of more recent
popular culture. Some of the most favourite Revival Zion and Pukumina choruses are
occasionally sung in Church, and, much to my own amazement, I have seen congrega-
tions wave arms above their heads in imitation of the gesture of greeting the spirits.
These innovations in certain quarters seem inspired by the felt need to attract and
hold the youth, but overall they remain impulses, rather than part of a coherent
programme of liturgical reforms.3 Nevertheless, they betoken a recognition that
certain forms of worship indigenous to the people need no longer be condemned as
expressions of the devil himself, and may be appropriated.
The same cannot be said at the theological level. A few years ago an unpublished
article by Ashley Smith on Pentecostalism made certain criticisms of the Church,
which, if followed up, could have constituted at least some impulse towards theologi-
cal transformation and relevance. Smith, more recently, followed this with his collec-
tion of essays, Real Roots and Potted Plants4, a title which summarises his
perspective. Life in Christ, as brought to us in the Caribbean, he argues, has failed to
accommodate the humanity, land, or the ethnicity of the African and East Indian
peoples of the region. He calls for a new Caribbean Church, speaking the language of
the people and worshipping in forms which capture their poetry, music, dance and
In Europe Christianity as much helped to shape as it was shaped by European
culture. Many of the doctrines coming down to us as the sacred teaching of Christ
emerged in the context of the evolution of the peoples and nations of Europe, their
hopes and aspirations, fears and prejudices, their wars against one another, and quest
for empire and absolute power. Had we learnt Christianity from the Ethiopians, it is
certain that Christianity in the Caribbean would have been different.5
An example of European cultural biases being passed off to us as Christian is the
Church's teaching on and attitude to sex. In his very revealing study of the papacy, the
former Jesuit theologian, Peter de Rosa, traces these to the tremendous influence of
St. Augustine, "the genius who was to teach Western Christianity to spean Latin and
to impose a large part of his version of Christ's message for the next fifteen hundred
years".6 Following his conversion from a debauched life, Augustine first swung to
Manicheism; its influence was to remain to pervade his sermons and treaties. His
treatise On the God of Marriage, "which was to Influence the entire Christian
tradition ... established the three bona, the goods, values, alms of marriage. These
were: offspring, indissolubility and fidelity".7 Sexual intercourse for any other reason,
for the fun of it, was sinful. Out of this essentially Manichean hatred of the flesh was
to come the hatred of women, celibacy, the cult of virginity, and the more recent
pronouncements against birth control and divorce.
De Rosa's argument may be questioned for their assumptions about the history of
ideas, and one may well ask how could the ideas of one man shape fifteen hundred
years of a civilisation unless that civilisation was itself predisposed to nurture them.
for the Manichean heresy of pronouncing the flesh as essentially evil is only a reaction
against its opposite, which is sexual debauchery and excess. The problem lies not with
St. Augustine or with manicheism, bit with European culture itself and the value it
places on the body. In spatial imagery the soul is considered heavenly-bound, but
dragged down by the gravitational pull of the body. "Desires of the flesh" are the bane
of every Christian struggling to lead a good life; desires of the spirit, on the other
hand, are always good in themselves, except where they lead to pride, "the greatest of
The result is an official Christianity which is more at home with people's minds
than with their bodies, because to it the two are divorced. The Protestant slave masters
and missionaries looked with genuine disgust at the wholesome and relaxed attitude
of the African slaves towards their bodies. Afro-Caribbean ritual dancing in fact any
dancing was sinful, because of its strong sexual motifs. To most Christians today,
adultery and fornication rank as the two greatest sins, no matter that the majority of
the Caribbean people are actually "living in sin," or that the place of sex between
shepherd and flock is a part of a folk tradition.
It is because European Christianity creates a split between body and spirit, while
on the other hand the Afro-Caribbean people treat them as unified wholes, that many
people will attend Church in the morning but in the evenings go to participate in or to
watch the cults, which they find "nicer", more satisfying. The Pentecostal churches,
notwithstanding the fulminations against "adultery and fornication", worship with
body and spirit. The felt need to worship God in "body and in spirit" underlay the
break by at least one charismatic group from one of the established Churches. Many
of its middle class members still retain membership in their denominations, but
experience more wholesome satisfaction in the dancing, which is sometimes vigorous,
and in healing and speaking in tongues.
An Afro-Caribbean Christian theology, as I see it, must necessarily arise out of
Afro-Caribbean culture. In this section I present some of the cultural beliefs and
values, which may provide theologians with some food for thought.9
Immanence of God
A common feature of African-Caribbean religions is belief in the immanence of
God. The best expression is found among the Rastafari, who regard the words Jesus,
"I am in the Father and the Father is in me", as a common existential condition of
every man. To the Rastafari, that God created man in his own image can only mean
that every man is like God, which means divine.
Yet, man is not the same as God. God exists independently of man, bigger, more
powerful than man he created man and the rest of the world, including the spirits.
Thus, although man does not have to go outside of himself to find God, no man
If God is within man, then so also is the power of God, making possible many great
things. Throughout -the history of African-Caribbean religions many leaders have
either claimed or been accorded the status of Godhead: Bedward, Howell, Prince
Emmanuel, Henry; and many more, religious and secular,10 have been attributed with
divine power: Nanny, Taki, Garvey, Bustamante, Hibbert, Hinds, Planno, Gad and
countless spiritual healers and leaders who provide counsel, insight and leadership,
and are alleged to have performed or be capable of performing feats such as disap-
pearing from the midst of enemies, healing, reading and prophesying (all feats per-
formed by Jesus).
It is thought possible to be able to nurture this inner power by communing with the
source itself, God, through spirit possession, or through study of the secrets of nature,
or of magic.
One manifestation of the power is the word. Originating from inside man it is
capable of acting on and moving others, physically and spiritually. The word, once
released or uttered, takes on a life of its own, independent of the utterer. A Rasta
leader once explained why he could not go back on his word: The word having been
spoken cannot be taken back.
Among the Rastafari the activity they call "reasoning" is a ritualised drama of
words, in which the speakers assume prophetic characteristics. But the tradition is an
African one, which quickly came to the notice of the early missionaries. It survives also
among the Pentecostals, where people get the spirit not so much from the drumming
and dancing as from the spoken word.
The power of the word lies not solely or even primarily in its logic. It lies in its
ability to move the whole person, body, mind and spirit, which it achieves through the
passion of the speaker, his tonal quality and range, the variation of his pitch, his
rhythm, the figures he uses, in short the range of cultural devices and techniques
present in Afro-Caribbean society.
This -worldly Orientation
Belief in the immanence of God gives to God a this-worldly attribute. His orienta-
tion at all times is to the present world of man, not to the future. The idea of
postponing the salvation of the people of God to some unspecified future is basically
alien. Which is to say that there is an inner compulsion in Afro-Caribbean religions to
find answers (and messiahs) in the here and now. This makes them concerned with
society and politics. We saw this from as early as the Great Slave Rebellion of 1831 in
Jamaica, led by the Native Baptist leader Sam sharpe. While William Knibb and his
other Baptist and Moravian missionaries preached some future salvation (and damna-
tion), Sharpe and other Native Baptist leaders preached freedom here and now. We
saw this again in the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion, in which Bogle's Stony Gut chapel
was the centre of organization. In between those events which shaped the course of
the nineteenth century, Myal leaders pronounced on and acted against existing evil in
the society. In the early 1890s, it was the turn of the great prophet and healer,
Bedward. When he was arrested for sedition in 1895, it was for agitating against the
whites in the colony.
The Rastafari have brought the this-worldly orientation to new heights. in their
critique of the complicity of traditional religions peddling pie-in-the-sky-when-you-
die,while the white man selfishly appropriates the wealth of this earth. The idea of
salvation in some other world after death is scornfully ridiculed and rejected.
Divine Order of the World
The world created by God is essentially one whose goodness and beauty lies in its
order. Respect for that order assures man life and happiness. Thus, man may and does
use his wit to exploit nature and his environment. But he must show respect and
observe the limitations of his condition of being himself a creature of God and
therefore part of the cosmos. The unity of order of the universe is such that good
always balances out, and therefore cancels, evil. It is this understanding which
provides that overflowing spring of hope in which the people of the region are wont to
bathe their sorrows.
This sense of order is critical to any appreciation of the concept of retribution and
of justice. The evil that one does must be repaid, just as the good that one does must
be rewarded, if not personally, then through one's relatives and kin. Restoration of
order must be effected for justice to be done.
An example which comes to mind is the Claudius Henry affair in 1961. The
Reverend Henry and several of his Rastafari followers were arrested, tried and sen-
tenced for treason felony, on grounds of acting with the intention of inviting a foreign
power to overawe the Government of Jamaica. Henry had written two letters to Fidel
Castro, informing him of their impending repatriation and of their wish to hand over
Jamaica to him before they departed for Africa. What no one seemed to have realized
at the time was that the Rastafari had interpreted the Cuban revolution of 1959 as the
triumph of the Amerindian people over the white man. They therefore saw Fidel as
representing the spirit of the Amerindian, and their concern was not simply to fulfill
the yearning of return to the land of our ancestors, but to ensure restitutive justice: the
restoration of the lands of the Americas to their rightful owners, and return of the
white man to Europe, the lands God gave him. That was all Henry and his followers,
confident of the imminence of repatriation, meant.
Interdependence and Community
Most observers recognize the spirit throughout the Caribbean. Despite the rise of
banking institutions, many middle and high income professionals still find it necessary
to "throw paadna" or "esusu", or "sol", as this folk institution is called in
Jamaica,Trinidad and Haiti, respectively. Communal forms of activity abound, and
may be traced to a perspective on life, in which mutual dependence plays a key role. At
the risk of appearing anecdotal, I recently came across a farmer the entrance to whose
home was blocked by a van whose owner was visiting a resort recently opened up by
his neighbour. The farmer was offended not because his bicycle could not pass, but
because of the utter disregard for him as a poor but proud resident. But for his
neighbour, he threatened, he would have set fire to the van. As we talked he disclosed
that, much to his deep regret, he had poured thousands of dollars into building a
house miles up the road on property belonging to his wife, only to have it unfinished.
Why? Because, he explained, rushing headlong into the building he had taken no
notice of having no neighbour. "Who to all to if anything? Mi se, 'Good neighbour,
good fren, beta dan far breda"'.
This attitude is not only rural. It pervades all of society. In a recent study of
volunteerism we found that most people spontaneously do good for others, even
without being asked, because in their view it is the prerequisite for being done good."
Foreigners note the generosity of Jamaicans in letting others into traffic lines.
The concept is not unconnected with the concept of justice, but here the emphasis
is one the mutality of interests which people share by virtue of living together as
members of society or of a community.
At the same time, one should note that the sense of interdependence in no way
implies loss of independence. To put the point succinctly, being a good neighbour
does not mean I have to be your bosom friend.
What ought the Caribbean theologian to do with all the foregoing? One of the first
impulses is no doubt going to be to see how they fit into the schema of dogmas taught
by the Church. Which is to say, how they compare with European theology. And that
would be a pity. Instead, I would like to suggest that Reverend George Mulrain, the
Methodist, and Father Joseph Owens, the Jesuit priest, offers not only examples of the
kind of approach needed but a methodology as well.
Sent to work in Haiti, Mulrain soon realized "how inadequate had been my
theological training", how "ill-equipped for proclaiming the Good News in Haiti".12
He soon realized that his training equipped him for western industrialized rather than
developing societies, and concluded that "If theology within the Caribbean is to relate
fully to the realities with which the people of God are living day by day, then the
approach to folk culture and folk religion must be seriously reflected upon in our
theological training institutions".13
Opening himself to the experience of the people he was sent to serve, Mulrain
looked for his own God in vaudou. For example, given the significance of spirits,
demons and supernatural forces in the everyday life of Haitians, and living proof of
their efficacy, he avoided condemning the beliefs as superstitions, unlike many Carib-
bean theologians, and instead sought in their inner workings the hand of God.
The true theologians seeks to discover more about God and how He reveals
Himself, not only in his or her own setting, but within the various cultures throughout
Even on the issue of spirit possession, Mulrain pleaded against dismissing "the
possibility that God might be employing them to alert His Church to further truths
A young priest, who during his training was instrumental in blazing the trail of
outreach work for young seminarians, Owens was intrigued by the Rastafari (which
foreigner is not?) whom he met while engaged in social work among the poor of West
Kingston and decided to study them. Dread: The Rastafarians of Jamaica was the
result of his work, a book which has become the best source of what the Rastafari
believe (the Brethren would say "know") and say about themselves.
But Dread was more. For Owens the entire experience was a learning one, as well,
convinced as he was that the poor was oppressed are possessed of an experience which
makes them special objects of God's manifestation. And so he opened himself to
understand, and to come to see how the Rastafari reinterpretation of the Bible "in
terms of the black man's experience and needs here is the profundity of the whole
dialectical movement -... renders it somehow universal".6 Here he discovered univer-
sal truth out of the particularity of a people's experience.
The method used by Mulrain and Owens it seems to me, involves three stages. The
first is gaining a view from within. Mulrain spoke of formulating his theological ideas
in the light of cultural environment. For Owens:
Rastafarian theology is experiential, it is not meant to engage one merely intellec-
tually. We cannot understand it and come to grapple with it unless we open ourselves
up and try to live it and experience it through the contact of subjectivities.1
The result of this "contact of subjectivities" was to be himself mistaken for a
Rastafarian, which he regarded as an honour, and to be charged by the brethren go
"Write as if you were a Rasta yourself!"
The second stage followed, almost necessarily, on the first, namely the develop-
ment of sympathy for the people. If it enabled Mulrain to search for the presence of
God in Haitian vaudou and in so doing to dissociate himself from his own seminary-
trained colleagues, it enabled Owens to present as faithfully as possible the
Bretheren's view of themselves and their faith.
But sympathy did not mean being undifferentiating. Mulrain, for example, could
not reconcile the fact that many loas were malevolent and therefore served as a
barrier. And for his part, Owens everywhere throughout the book maintained a
consciousness of the difference between Rasta and the Christianity he learned in the
School of Theology. He did not hesitate to point out:
That the difference between the Rastafarian Christology and that of the "Romans"
was summed up by one Rasta as the difference between life and death: "The issues of
the Roman system is to show to people that Christ is dead, but the principle of the
orthodox is to show to you that Christ is alive, incarnate with man within man so
that your soul, your mind, your body, your structure becomes one." (Catman). The
Rastaman, instead of building a vast edifice to house his God, proclaims that his own
body is the most worthy temple of the Almighty. Through his own vitality and integrity
he announces to the world that Christ is most certainly alive and active within man
One salient point of Christological doctrine removes the Rastafarians decisively
from the general tradition of Christian thought: ... the Rastafarians maintain that
Jesus also could have died. ... The suffering that Jesus had to undergo was the way he
was requited for his message of love..., but never could Jesus be said to have died.18
Sympathetic, Owens nevertheless did not suppress the points of difference.
The third stage of Owens' methodology was interpretation. Just in case the reader
failed to infer his point of view from his sympathetic portrayal, he provided his own
interpretation of the meaning of the experience of Dread.
By announcing that God is fully a man living among them, the brethren have not
debased divinity, but have enhanced a whole people's awareness of their own
humanity. ... By boldly proclaiming that heaven is on earth, and nowhere else, the
brethren have turned the faithful's eyes from futile gaze into ethereal realms and
'other worlds' back to the contemplation of the divine reality of this world, which
alone offers the materials wherewith to build a new heaven and a new earth .... By
elevating nature and natural ways to a renewed position of esteem, the Rastas have
saved their people from a blind and frenzied pursuit of the synthetic achievements of
Mulrain, also, explains why he took the position he did.
"The theologians of the established churches believe that they are theologizing at
best when their sermons and prayers in public bear the marks of academic excellence.
By contrast, listen to how the average person in rural Haiti prays to God, and you
recognize how intimate a relationship he or she has with Him. It is as though God is
real to the believer as the person sitting, standing or kneeling nearby. The style
adopted is 'down to earth', no high-flown literary style which can cover up a multitude
of sins. Faulty grammar is not a cause for distraction. The priorities are different.
What matters is that in prayer, the believer communicates with God from the very
depth of being".20
The Works of Joe Owens and George Mulrain provides us with two examples of
a genuine attempt to come to grips with the theology of an indigenous religious
movement. Caribbean theologians now have no excuse. They need to do likewise and
to pick up from there, to come to grips with their own theological understanding as
men and women who share in a distinct and still unfolding culture. Is it too late?
Perhaps. But after spending almost the whole day without finding work, who could
have told the workers that they would have been hired by the master of the vineyard at
the eleventh hour?
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Presented to "The Social Teaching of the Church Seminar", Kingston, May 31 June 2, 1990.
2. Throughout this paper in speaking of "the Church" or "the Churches" I am referring to the
traditional or "established" denominations, whose origins in Jamaica may be traced to the nineteenth
century or earlier. These include the Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Roman Catholics, United,
Moravians, Quakers and a few others. By the "Pentecostal" I mean those listed in the census under Pen-
tecostal, Church of God and A.M.E. Ziuon. The terms are not meant to imply that these latter are not
Churches. Indeed, it could be argued that they have an even stronger claim to being the Church in the
Caribbean, and the arguments of my paper cited in defense. No disparagement is intended.
3 An example of what I mean was the inclusion of the well-known Revival chorus, "0, let the spirit
fall on me!" in the ecumenical service of thanksgiving for the release of Nelson Mandela. In a revival meet-
ing this chorus (or any other, for that matter) is impossible without the combined rhythm of the two
drums, bass and rattler. But at the Bethel service, the song was accompanied by the organ! Naturally, the
spirit was lost; he never came.
4. Real Roots and Potted Plants: Reflections on the Caribbean Church. Mandeville, Jamaica:
Eureka Press 1984.
5. The fact that the slaves developed a Christianity of their own supports my point. The missionaries
preached their own version, the Myal and Native Baptists their own. This was possible because of the
freedom which the slave preachers had to proselytise. See my "Religion and Black Struggle", SAVACOU
V, 1972. It was possible also because, having got hold of that instrument of subversion, the Bible, they free-
ly interpreted the sections of relevance to their experience.
6 Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy. (London, 1988,) p. 443.
7. de Rosa, p. 446.
8 .This is an apparent contradiction, the sermonising against sex is probably consistent with the upward
mobility which is one of the most outstanding of the social characteristics of these Churches. It is probably
influenced also by their American origin and support. In any event, in terms of worship itself my argument
9 Most of the examples used are drawn from Jamaica, where I conducted most of my fieldwork. In my
view examples from the rest of the Caribbean would enrich, not contradict, those provided here.
10 In the African-Caribbean worldview these are not so much separate categories as aspects of the
same reality. The fact that Garvey and Busta were political leaders did not prevent myths from developing
about them. Bedwardites saw Garvey as Moses and their own leader, Bedward, as Aaron. Some of the
early Rastafari at least considered the possibility of Busta being sent by God. As a child, I used to hear
stories which suggested that he was personally invincible.
11 Barry Chevannes, "Volunteerism in Jamaica". New York: AFS International, 1989. Unublished.
12 George Mulrain, Theology in Folk Culture: The Theological significance of Haitian Folk
Religion. Frankfurt am Main, Bern, New York, Nancy: Verlag Peter Lang, 1984, p. 384.
EDUCATION AND THE CHURCH: ELEMENTS OF INERTIA OR
An awareness of profound and persistent poverty in the Caribbean and its probable
causes has led to calls for and movement towards change. Theologians and social
scientists have studied and are studying the moral, social, economic and political issues
involved in liberation and development both as goals and as process. Thorough scholar-
ship as well as honest self-appraisal and self-criticism have contributed to an apprecia-
tion of the role both of the church and of ideology in the quest "for man's complete
The magisterium2 of the Catholic Church has positioned itself squarely within the
development process by entering into honest self-appraisal and self-criticism; a corpus
of social teaching has emerged the subject of this conference which provides
direction if not velocity. The local and regional church has not lagged behind. The
Roman Catholic bishops of the Antilles3 have made their self-criticism public in several,
now well-known, documents4 and successive Archbishops of Kingston have written
Pastoral Letters to their flock on pressing social issues.5
There is always scope for taking the critique further, and this paper focuses on the
schools owned and operated by the Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH I N EDUCATION
"In the Caribbean the school came with the church, and the two have remained
inseparable to this day"' In Jamaica the nominal Catholic population is about 8% but
the profile and influence of the Catholic Church is arguably much greater, due in large
part to the church's involvement in education.
Of course, we say "Catholic School" quite glibly, but in fact many are Catholic in
name only, being run by non-Catholics, often without even a Catholic teacher on staff.
The presumption that church schools are being run as church schools may not be valid,
which may provide art of the answer as to why they tend to be so conservative.
Table 1: Number of Catholic Schools in Jamaica, by Urban/Rural
URBAN RURAL TOTAL % OF NATIONAL
Basic 4 3 7 0.49%
Infant 2 4 6 20.69%
All-Age 9 9 1.79%
Prep 10 7 17 15.4%
Trad.High 6 3 9 19.57%
New Sec. 2 2 2.5%
Business Coll. 3 3 n.a.
Extension Schl. 3 3 n.a.
Source: Silver Leaves, page (Columns 1-3); Column 4 calculated from data in Education Statistics 1980-
81 page 3.
Table 1 reveals that the Catholic Church operates 16% of the registered prep.
schools and 20% of the traditional high schools in Jamaica. To understand the implica-
tions of this one has to understand the structure and function of the Jamaican education
The Jamaican Education System7
Before the Negro Education Grant of 1835 the only schools in Jamaica were fee-
paying schools for white and free coloured children whose parents could not afford to
send them to England for their education. Part of the system of slavery was to keep the
slaves in ignorance, for if they learned to read, they might pick up funny ideas about
freedom. After emancipation, Missionaries (who received the Negro Education Grant
funds) established small schools with generally poor (and sometimes illiterate)
teachers. After the grant was withdrawn in 1845 many schools for the ex-slaves closed
and the quality of education for them fell even further. It must be pointed out that the
fee-paying schools for the whites and browns continued all during this period.
The Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 was a peasant revolt against the poor social
conditions of the day, including an unjust court system (where the magistrates were all
planters or planters' attorneys and the poor were often denied justice, especially where
they tried to take plantations to court), and poor and inadequate health services and
education facilities for the poor. The successor to Governor Eyre, Sir John Peter Grant,
introduced a substantial state subsidy for all schools which taught manual subjects,
including agriculture and industrial training.
This reveals an important feature of the mass education system: the planters re-
quired a steady supply of labour, and education was seen as a way to give the planters
power over the minds of their former slaves. A quote from the report of the Rev. John
Sterling to the British Parliament in 1835 shows that this is no exaggeration:
"It is plain, therefore, that something must be done, and it must be done immedi-
ately. For although the Negroes are under a system of limited control [apprenticeship]
which secures to a certain extent their orderly and industrious conduct, in the short
space of five years from the first of next August, their performance of the functions of a
labouring class in a civilized community will depend entirely on the power over their
minds of the same prudential and moral motives which govern more or less the people
here. If they are not so disposed as to fulfill these functions, property will perish in the
colonies for lack of human impulsion. The Whites will no longer reside there, and the
liberated negroes themselves will probably cease to be progressive."8
Another quote is even more to the point: "Emancipation has removed the whip; we
must now control their minds through education."
The planters could not prevent an education system from being put in place, but
they could ensure that the type of education offered was to their (the planters') ad-
vantage. And so public education prepared students for plantation labour.
So a dual system of education was established in Jamaica and became institutional-
ized: a private, fee-paying system patronized largely by whites and browns which
concentrated on academic subjects, and a public system offered to the blacks emphasiz-
ing manual training. Through this system the social structure created by slavery was
There were economic and cultural barriers preventing ordinary people from going
to high schools. In addition to the high fees, the curriculum was often quite foreign.
When St. George's college opened in 1850, the curriculum included Latin, Greek,
French, Spanish, English, rhetoric, history, mathematics, logic, metaphysics, ethics,
drawing and calligraphy.9 Only upper and middle class children had the background to
make use of this curriculum.
An examination of school and enrollment statistics at three different periods in
Jamaica's history will give an idea how Jamaica's education system developed:
The lot of the average Jamaican in 1931 was maybe to go to elementary school, and
no further. To get into the civil service or into a profession required a high school
education, which was beyond the reach of all but the few who could afford it. In rural
areas many never got registered in school at all, or were registered at the beginning of
the school year and attended irregularly. Where schools are more than three miles from
home and the children have to walk to and from school, registration and attendance
tend to bel low
Table 2: Number and Type of School, Jamaica 1931
655 "elementary schools": grades 3 -9 free
9 of these schools had infant departments free
14 "infant schools" grades: 1 2; fee-paying
19 "high schools": Forms 1 5 or 6; fee-paying
1 technical school; free
5 Teacher training colleges; free
1 Agricultural school; free
IThere were also private preparatory schools at that time, but we have no record of how many there were.]
Table 3: Enrollment and Average Attendance, Jamaica, 1931
Enrollment Average Attendance
Elementary 136,148 72,726 (53.4/%)
High School 2,161 2,040 (94.4/%)
(The population of Jamaica between the ages of 5 and 16 in 1921 was 226,010)
table 4: Number and Type of school, Jamaica 1962
385 "Basic Schools"
672 "All-Age schools" grades 3 9; free
6 of these schools had infant departments; free
26 "infant schools": grades 1 2; free
21 Junior School: grades 3 6;
8 Senior Schools: grades 7 11;
41 "high schools": Forms 1 5 or 6; fee-paying
6 technical schools free
5 Teacher training colleges; free
1 Agricultural school; free
1 College of Arts, Science and
By independence the high school franchise had been increased. Still, however, the
lot of the vast majority is to leave school at age 14 with not having taken any examination
which would qualify them for further training. Many get no education at all, particularly
those in deep rural area Senior schools, secondary schools of a lower standard than the
high schools, have been introduced, as well as Junior Schools which operate only grades
Instead of increasing the number of Traditional High Schools and broadening the
franchise, successive governments have chosen to multiply the number of types of
schools at the secondary level, each with different curricula, different terminating ex-
aminations, and different implications for social mobility. It all combines into a hodge-
podge of a system which is elitist and which reproduces the social and consequent
economic inequalities which are such a characteristic feature of Jamaica.
table 5: Enrollment and Average Attendance, Jamaica, 1962
Enrollment Average Attendance
All-Age School 290,505 185,305 (63.8/%)
High School 9,236(?)
(The population of Jamaica between the ages of 5 and 16 in 1%2 was 394,587)
table 6: Number and Type of School, Jamaica,1980
1080 "Basic "Schools
503 "All-Age schools": grades 3 9; free
81 of these schools had infant departments;
29 "infant schools: grades 1 2; free
283 "Primary Schools": grades 3 ;6
80 "New Secondary": grades 7 11;
46 "High Schools": Forms 1 5 or 6; fee-paying
7 "Technical schools": grades 8 11; free
6 "Comprehensive": grade 7 11;
7 Teacher training colleges; free
1 Agricultural school; free
1 College of Arts, Science and Technology
How did the selection for mobility take place? The answer is through the Common
Entrance Examination (CEE). A good idea when it was first suggested, it led to more
problems than it solved. The context was the fact that the High Schools were fee-paying
and therefore contained the children of those who could afford to pay, namely the
better off. The issues were:
(a) how to make secondary education more accessible to the masses?
and (b) how to choose those from the primary system to benefit?
The decision was to make education free (or nearly free) and to choose the students
on the basis of merit, hence the CEE. Children from both the public and private systems
would sit the same examination and would be placed in high schools based upon their
performance. In addition principals could admit 5% of the intake at their own discre-
Table 7: Enrollment by Gender, Jamaica, 1980
Enrollment Male Female
All-AgeSchool 248,8371 26,099, 122,738
1-6 178,860 91,551 87,309
7-9 69,977 34,548 35,429
Primary School 168,386 84,078 84,308
High School 52,140 21,161 30,979 (59.4%)
Technical 7,691 3,737 3,954 (51.4%)
Comprehensive 7,421 3,544 3,877 (52.2%)
New Secondary 94,788 8,683 46,105 (48.6%)
(The population of Jamaica between the ages of 5 and 16 in 1982 was 575,300)
It ran into problems from the start. The children from the private preparatory
schools ran away with all the places. The reason is not hard to figure out. Prep. schools
have more teachers per student, smaller classes and more teaching aids. Their teachers
are more educated. The students are from homes where there is electricity and where
the parents can help them with their homework. What else could one expect?
And so the 70/30 system came into being. Places awarded to children from prep.
schools would be restricted to 30% of the total, the remaining 70% of the places going
to children from primary schools. The discretionary 5%, of course, remained. Let us
examine the Common Entrance statistics for 1980:
Whereas 56.4% of entrants from (independent) preparatory schools secured a place
in a high school, only 22.7% from primary or all-age schools were successful. Although
some social mobility is taking place, by and large the system is reproducing itself. Most
of the students who do not perform well at high school level come from primary and
all-age schools. Large numbers of workers are still needed in the agricultural sector,
and All-Age Schools, especially in rural areas, turn out persons who can do no better
than fo to work on the plantation. And the marginalization of the male continues as
58% of high, technical and comprehensive school places go to females10
Table 8: Statistics on the Common Entrance Examination, Jamaica, 1981
GRAND TOTAL PRIMARY AND A/A INDEPENDENT
male female tota I male female total male female total
13,659 23,762 37,421 12,598 22,456 35,054 1,061 1,304 2,365
GRAND TOTAL PRIMARY AND A/A INDEPENDENT
male female total male female total male female total
4,004 5,303 9,307 3, 379 4, 595 7,974 625 708 1,333
(Source: Table 4-1, Ministry of Education, Jamaica, Education Statistics 1980-81, Ministry of education,
Errol Miller in his article called "Education and Society in Jamaica" brings out the
relationship between education, class and colour in Jamaica. He is addressing two
crucial issues in education: firstly whether education is or can be the agent for social
change, and secondly, whether education is or can be the route to personal advance-
"By the way [the educational system] is organized it determines who shall be edu-
cated and in what ways. By its structure it defines stages in the educative process, what
shall occur at each stage and how an individual shall pass from one stage to another.
The educational system is designed to fulfill certain social goals and in that sense it is an
agent of the social order.
"The manner and the measure in which the educational system enhances the life
chances of some groups of individuals and inhibits those of other groups are consistent
with the social stratification of the society. In other words the educational system
reflects the social order ... Put another way, because the educational system is an agent,
even where it is seen to facilitate changes in the social order it is merely facilitating and
perpetuating changes that have already been created in the social order by economic,
political or other means. By virtue of its relationship to the social order, the educational
system is by and large supportive and complementary and not creative."11
Education is not intrinsically an agent for change says Miller. It is the creation of
those in the society with power.: the system admits those who the power elite want to be
taught, and teaches them what the power elite want them to know. A succession of
different governments with different ideologies have left their footprints on the system.
If Miller is right and I firmly believe that he is then no school, or church school per se
can be either an instrument of inertia or an instrument of change. It is the ideology of
those who manage the system which will determine that. And Miller claims that it is a
middle and upper class power elite which determine that schools even church schools
are instruments of inertia!
the social teaching of the Church let us call it the ideology of the Church is
certainly powerful enough and clear enough to enable it to make its schools instruments
of change, even in the face of contradictory omens. The church exists in the world, and
even though it is charged to be not of the world, the prophetic role which this requires
is often difficult to sustain. However, let not the schools alone be blamed. Often
consciences have not been properly formed, and laity and clergy often take the easy
road of expedience, even when conscience dictates otherwise.
Miller sees a correlation between the social stratum of the children and their path
through the education system. In a way we have two systems "parallel" to each other,
one for the upper stratum and one for the lower, with those in the middle straddling the
two if they can. The two systems are widely different in the standard of education they
offer, and in the respectability of their terminating examinations. Apartheid in
International mobility is only available to those who take the regional or overseas
examinations, and only a small proportion of the Jamaican students get that oppor-
tunity. The JSC and SSC examinations which most are able to take, are not recognized
outside of Jamaica, and within Jamaica, passes in these examinations are acceptable for
entry into the police force and the army and little else.
And so Jamaica's education system produces people who have little social mobility,
and who are fit for little more than agricultural labour, which was OK for a plantation
society, but not OK for a society in the throes of modernization. A nation that wishes to
diversify its economy will need skilled workers who can fit into the new occupational
niches created by industrialization; but the present education system cannot produce
enough of those workers. And so the H.E.A.R.T. Program was born.
H.E.A.R.T. means "Human Employment and Resource Training", and it is a paral-
lel education system training young people in particular skills which fit into a develop-
ment plan, in a special H.E.A.R.T. Academies. A lot of money has been put into these
Academies rather than into the Education System (which has been allowed to
deteriorate). There are H.E.A.R.T Academies for Cosmetology, Data Entry
Operators, Agricultural Skills, and Garment Work Skills. This reveals the government's
preference for training (to fulfill an export-propelled model of development) rather
than education and development of the national human resources.
The Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Kingston, 1982-92 states the vision for
education by paraphrasing the Declaration on Christian Educationl2 of the Second
That the Church, seeking to restore all things in Christ, concerned with the whole of
man's life, would play a major role in education at all levels, insuring man's destiny, and
providing a Christian environment conducive to peace and unity in society".13
We can now interpret Table 1. The fact that the Catholic Church operates schools
at all levels of the system means that it is making an effort to cater to all the strata in
society, which is laudable; but the fact that it operates more preparatory than primary
or all-age schools, and that it operates more high than secondary schools, indicates that
the Catholic Church is exercising a preferential option to educate the elite, rather than
a preferential option for the poor, which is its charism. The Second Vatican council
" The sacred Synod earnestly exhorts the pastors of the Church and all the faithful to
spare no sacrifice in helping Catholic schools to become increasingly effective, especial-
ly in caring for the poor, for those who are without the help and affection of family, and
those who do not have the Faith."14
The fact that the church operates 16% of the Private Preparatory schools and 20%
of the Traditional High Schools in Jamaica indicates the depth of its commitment to
educate the elite compared to the rest of the education sector. Despite the fact that
there are more church communities in rural areas, the vast majority of Catholic schools
are located in the Kingston Metropolitan Area or in the City of Montego Bay, indicating
urban bias as well. Of the nine traditional high schools it operates, five are for girls only,
for boys only, and three are co-educational, revealing a gender bias in favour of females.
These observations are not new. In 1975 the Bishops of the Antilles meeting in
"We want to confess in all frankness and humility, that the records of our Church...
has not always been as good as it should have been. In spite of the example of many
dedicated priests and religious who have lived among the poor and fully shared in their
hardships, too often the church we represent has seemed to be on the side of the
wealthy and powerful. And, in order to maintain a position of privilege, it has sometimes
closed its eyes to wrongs and injustices crying out for redress. In the colonial past the
church sometimes acted as if it were a part of the establishment, condoning either
openly or by its silence the existing order. And in the post-colonial era the Church in
some places has not accepted the need for change with sufficient alacrity and good will.
Our church has also been guilty on occasion of acts of racial discrimination and of
perpetuating social and class divisions."15
table 9: SOCIAL STRATIFICATION OF THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
Stages of the
UPPER MIDDLE EMERGING
Pvt.Prep. Pvt. Prep.
Source : Table 1. Errol MILLER (1976)
It is true that the Catholic Church in the region has a long record of charitable works
of which it may feel justifiably proud. Its schools, hospitals and orphanages are many
and well known. But in the modern world such works and organizations may not be in
themselves sufficient. While they have certainly relieved the sufferings of many, they
have had little or no effect on unjust social structures and may, in some cases, have even
Since these words were written fifteen years ago the complexion of the church has
scarcely changed. While one can say that the educational activity of the Church still
reinforces the class system it is disturbing that this causes little concern in some
quarters. There seems to be an inability to appreciate the situation, an unwillingness to
examine the situation closely, to search for solutions. What is required is a careful study
by a team of scientists of the church's role in education.
Because teaching is rarely an occupation of first choice in the current economic
climate, persons who end up teaching are often not the best suited for the job. High
Schools are not geared to produce teachers; they generate a limited range of profes-
sionals, and often feed candidates directly into the North American College System by
holding the PSAT and SAT ( Pre-Scholastic Achievement Test, and Scholastic
Achievement Test, for entrance to American Universities) on campus. With a declining
number of Religious involved in teaching the system does not reproduce itself. High
schools need to become more flexible in their curriculum and less middle-class cultural-
More of an effort needs to be made to standardize the quality of education offered
in similar types of school. In the wider society primary is usually of a much lower
standard than preparatory education, and new secondary schools offer a much inferior
programme to high schools. Church schools should become more just by raising the
level of the content taught in primary and new secondary schools.
Because of the wooing of the elite both at both dest and pew, the very social teaching
of the Church with all its profundity is often not taught or suppressed. This lowers the
potential of the Catholic school by emasculating it; it shrivels into either a secular or a
pietistic institution. It is for teachers and school administrators to ensure that the vision
of Catholic education as a dynamic force liberating mind and body in translated into
It appears that whereas some discretion lies with the school, it is with the church
itself laity and clergy that there is the most initiative. If a church community or its
pastoral leaders are conscious and aware of the pitfalls then the chances are that the
school will be an instrument of change; but if they are unaware or unconviAced then it is
quite likely that the school will be an instrument of inertia. Local teaching authorities
should ensure that the social teaching of the Church in all its richness is taught, so that
the inertia can be overcome.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Populorum Progressio, title before paragraph 6.
2. The teaching authority, including the pope and bishops.
3 .The Antilles Bishops Conference, or the Antilles Episcopal Commission.
4. See bibliography.
5. See McEleny, Carter in bibliography.
6. Matadeen (1973). Page 171.
7 Taken largely from Whyte, 1983.
8 Gordon (1968). Page 59.
9. See Osbourne (1977). Page 91.
10 See Miller (1986) for a treatment of male marginalization among teachers.
11 Miller (1976). Page 47.
12. In Latin, Gravissimum Educationis.
13. Archdiocese of Kingston (1982). Page 23. Espeut (1983) discusses the Pastoral Plan
14. Gravissimum Educationis. Page 734-735.
15. Antilles Episcopal Conference (1975). Page 6.
16. Ibid. Page 8.
Antilles Episcopal Conference. Justice and Peace in a New Caribbean. Kingston: Antilles
Episcopal Conference. 1975.
Antilles Episcopal conference. True Freedom and Development in the Caribbean: A Christian
Perspective. Port-of-Spain: Antilles Episcopal Conference. 1982.
Archdiocese of Kingston. Pastoral Plan 1982-1992. Kingston: Archdiocese of Kingston. 1982.
Carter, SJ., Samuel E., The Development of Peoples: Twenty Years Later. A Pastoral
Letter from Archbishop Carter to the Archdiocese of Kingston. Pentecost, 1987.
Carter, SJ., Samuel E., God and Natural Disasters. A Pastoral Letter from Archbishop
Carter to the Archdiocese of Kingston, 1989.
Carter, SJ., Samuel E., The Priority of Labour. A Pastoral Letter from Archbishop
Carter to the Archdiocese of Kingston. may, 1988.
DeSousa, Neville. "Christian action for Social Change". in Figueroa, Mark and Judith Soares
Eds.) Social Change: Christian and Social Science Perspectives. Mona: Department of
Economics, University of the West Indies, Monograph No. 3. 1987. Pages 22-32.
Espeut, Peter. "The Implications for catholic Education of the Archdiocesan Ten
1982-1992" in Silver Leaves, 50th Anniversary Magazine of the Jamaica Catholic
Eucation Association. Kingston: J.C.E.A. 1982. Pages 22-26.
Gordon, Shirley C. Reports and Repercussions in West Indian Education 1835-1933.
Aylesbury: Ginn and Company. 1968.
Jamaica, Ministry of Education. education Statistics 1980-81. Kingston: Ministry of
Matadeen, Joyce. "The Church and education". in Hamid, Idris (Ed.). Troubling of the
Waters. San Fernando: Caribbean Conference of Churches. 1973. Pages 171-182.
McEleny, S.J., John J. The Church and the Stewardship of Wealth. Pastoral letter to the
Archdiocese of Kingston,
Miller, Errol. "Education and Society in Jamaica". in Figueroa, Peter and Ganga Persaud
(Eds.). Sociology of Education: A Jamaican Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
1976. Pages 47-66.
Miller Errol. Marginalization of the Black male: Insights from the Development of the
teaching Profession. Mona: Institute of Social and Economic Research. 1986.
Murray, Reginald. "Some Later Developments in Secondary Education" in D'Oyley,
Vincent and Reginald Murray (Eds.). Development and Disillusion in Third World
Education with Emphasis on Jamaica. Toronto: The Ontario Institute for Studies in
Education, No. 10. 1979.
Murray, Reginald N. and G.L. Gbedemah. Foundations of Education in the Caribbean.
London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1983.
Osbourne, SJ., Francis J. History of the Catholic Church in Jamaica. Aylesbury. Ginn
and Company. 1977.
Pope Paul VI, "Populorum progressio". in Gremillion, Joseph, (Presenter). The Gospel of
Peace and Justice: Catholic Social Teaching since Pope John. Maryknoll: Obris. 1977.
Vatican II. "Gravisssimum educationis". in Flannery, O.P., Austin, (Ed.). Vatican Council
II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, Northport: Costello Publishing Co.,
Whyte, Millicent. A Short History of Education in Jamaica. London: Hodder and
THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH AND SOCIETY
MARY BERNADETTE LITTLE
Now that we have entered the final decade of the Second Christian Millennium, it is
not surprising that organizations, businesses and institutions are engaged in self studies,
critical evaluations and futuristic projections and programmes to prepare, to be found
ready for the Third Millennium. But, as we have been frequently reminded, we must do
more than plan for probable futures; we must also vastly "widen our conception of
possible futures." To the study of history and anthropology, to the discipline of science
and technology, we must add the creativity that is the brainchild of the dreamer, the
artist, the visionary. As Alvin Toffler expressed it, "Today as never before we need a
multiplicity of visions, dreams and prophecies images of potential tomorrows."1
It is an accepted fact among us that the quality that makes us distinctly human is the
faculty we have to go about life with some definite ideas about ourselves which provide,
as it were, the spring-board, the starting point from which we create reality. This is the
distinguishing mark of the human person, the ability to conceptualize what are the
qualities of the self, and the competence to transform these concepts into creative
In all of this, what stands out as of paramount importance is the fact that the human
person must never loss sight of the fact that s/he is at the centre of all developments.
S/he must adamantly oppose any attempt on the part of anyone to diminish or falsify
his/her own being.
One of the many issues with which the Church and Society must deal at this time is
the increasingly firm stance and constant clamour of hundreds of thousands of women
within its ranks who can no longer accept the customary "standard approach" toward
For many centuries, society (and patriarchy in particular) has defined the role of
women as inferior with the result that most women in most cultures have internalized
their status as subservient, and subjugation as their lot.
Kate Millett, in her book Sexual Politics, perceives that:
A disinterested examination of our system of sexual relationships must point out that
the situation between the sexes now, and throughout history, is a case of .... a relation-
ship of dominance and subordinance. What goes largely unexamined, often even unack-
nowledged (yet is institutionalized nonetheless) in our social order, is the birthright
priority whereby males rule females. This is so because our society like all other
historical civilizations, is a patriarchy.2
The dynamics of world politics show that when one nation or group subjugates the
other "the ideology of the dominant group stifles and suppresses the sense of self of the
other and becomes the dominant ideology for rationalizing the other group's in-
Women have been subjected to this same dynamic by which they have been cowed
into submission even to the point of co-operating in their own oppression. What are the
peaks in a woman's life? When her father can boast that she is a loving, obedient
daughter ... when her husband can tell his friends in the club or the rumshop that she is
a dutiful wife and dedicated mother .... and when she is making her exit from this world,
her friends and neighbours will pay her the greatest compliment: 'She liver for her
family'? Where is her self? Her own true self? Buried deep in the abysmal trough of her
The formidable difficulties which confront a woman's efforts to resurrect and affirm
her selfhood are emphasized by Merle Hodge who say our society "was born out of
brutality, destructiveness, rape; the destruction of the Amerindian peoples, the assault
of Africa, the forced uprooting and enslavement of the African; the gun, the whips, the
authority of force.'A
This violence of our history is kept alive in the battle of the sexes .... in men and
women whose psyches have been scarred and mutilated by the plantation experience ....
the violence of our history is mirrored in the women beatings, rape and incest, and the
mutilation of the woman's physical self by knives, machetes, acid.
Of course, there is also the stereotype of the Caribbean Man morally weak,
unemployed or underemployed, selfish, irresponsible, conspicuous by his absence from
the home. Although he fathers children, he is the 'hit and run driver', the cariant of the
anancy-figure who boasts of bis nocturnal gymnastics and tells his friends in true
cricketing language that he's 'scored eight and still batting strong' and while his wife/girl
friend/bay mother will spend nine months in the "pavillion" as a result of his stroke/play,
he finds another pitch ... gets another woman pregnant with 'a ball that passed between
bat and pad and hit the wicket .... clean bowled!'
In this bizarre scenario, where is the psychological insight? The spark in the dark-
ness Is Caribbean Man's allergy to responsibility a result of the plantation experience?
After centuries of being chattel ... of being Massa's responsibility ... is he unable to bear
the burden of his own emancipation/freedom/destiny on his own shoulders because of
the psychological dependency-complex created by Massa? Most likely, I am wrong, and
glad of it. If I am even remotely near to the truth, then history has played the most cruel
joke on us. My interpretation is based on two experiences. The first came to me while I
was reading about plantation life. A European plantation owner was preaching to a
black slave the virtues of confining his attention to one woman. The black man burst into
laughter and told his Massa "Eh! Eh! Backra tink me really fool-fool. Him have a
hundred ooman and him want gi me wan!" The other experience was born out of an
observation by a friend who said to me: 'We are a free people ... freedom to raom the
streets aimlessly ... freedom to hunger and starve and live in card-board shacks ... that is
the essence of the poor man's freedom.' Is this why we are still looking for leaders
clothed in the grab of the plantation Massa ... Man riding on the horse .... who will
deliver us from ourselves? The political Messiah who will bear our collective cross? Is
this why our men find responsibility-even for their own selves an awesome respon-
sibility? And what of the women? After being sexually violated during the plantation
days, did she perceive, in her shame, the possibility of exploiting her sexuality for her
own upliftmentt?' We are emancipated now ... the battlefield has changed ... but is the
battle still being waged?
By all the foregoing, I wish to show that history conjures up for us examples of
human beings who were driven blindly by uncontrolled desire for domination and
power. Such persons could hardly be said to have entertained any worthwhile idea of
what is meant to be human. They have "blessed" situations like racism, slavery and
classism, and sexism. So much of the wrap and woof of the mores of life was sexism that,
in some cultures, many a man thanked God he was "not born a woman."
Jesus and Women
"The relationship between women and men and the consequent relationship which
exists between women and men who must stand equal before God has only been
properly lived by one person in our history: Jesus of Nazareth." If we read the Gospel
Narratives critically and attentively, we are bound to conclude that Jesus "unleashed an
incredible 'newness' into the balance of relationships between men and women and
between men, women and God."6 All divisions, separations and taboos accepted as
normal by the religions and culture of Jesus' time were not upheld by him. He came into
a world dominated by prescribed rules only Jews were chosen, only Levites could be
priests; dietary laws pronounced some food forbidden; women were suppressed
through ceremonial laws which presumed that natural feminine physiological functions
were signs of uncleanness that required special purification processes and rites. He
lived at a time and taught in a temple which separated Jews from Gentiles, Men from
But Jesus came to change things his "movement was a conflict movement." At his
crucifixion and death, 'the veil of the Temple was rent in two from top to the bottom!'
Who can miss the significance of this!
For a convert (and the first converts were Jews) to "put on Christ" meant a complete
change from the mind-set of that time. The old categories generated by racial dis-
crimination, social division and sexual distinction had to go. To persist in them was to
act as though Christ had not come, and his saving work (of suffering, dying and rising)
had not happened. To adhere to the old way was to go back to the era of sin and
bondage which could only lead to death. But more to the point, just think when Jesus
rose from the dead his first appearance (all four Gospels attest to this) was to women.
How could He do this? In Judaism, in the Law, a woman could not be a witness!... who
can trust the word of a woman? What then did He mean by appearing to these
"non-persons." Was He not wasting His time? He is ever the God of surprises. And His
spirit, like the wind blows where it wills, and we must be ready and open for colossal
surprises and epic transitions.
I don't want to single out ressurection appearances only, for these only brought to a
climax the unique contacts and special relationships which Jesus had with women.
There was something revolutionary in these relationships. He broke the code of rules by
talking with the Woman of Samaria, laid himself open to the charge of uncleanness by
accepting a drink from her and in a rare meoment in the Gospels, revealed his identity
to her. She would later, as an apostle, proclaim his truth and bring others to accept him
(John v v. 39). Jesus' relationship and encounters with Martha (whose confession of
faith was as strong as Peter's) with Mary of Bethany, the Canaanite woman and the
woman with a hemorrhage, whose faith he extolled, are of a quality unheard of in any
other founder of religion. These encounters were freeing experiences for the women
but above all, they were a concrete expression of Jesus' liberating acceptance of them,
which was fraught with shaking changes for the existing social order.
Women in the Church
The Christian religion, like all new religions, began with a burst of energy and
fervour. It was the explosion of Jesus' Spirit into the lives of the early Christians that
brought into existence the community of equals we read of in the Acts of the Apostles.
They took steps to put an end to customary social barriers and distinctions. In the same
book we read of Priscilla and Aquilla, of Apostle Junia and deaconess Phoebe, and of
Lydia whose presence and role within the early Christian Community would point to an
unusual equality of men and women.
Most of our scriptures, we know, were written in the latter half of the 1st Century
A.D. while Christians were still under persecution for their faith, but Elisabeth
Schussler Fiorenza notes an interesting development in post Pauline and post Petrine
writers. She states that in the years that followed the persecution there were several
attempts to lessen the tensions and conflicts that gave rise to persecutions, so "accom-
modations" to the prevailing culture and patriarchal structures and mores resulted. She
While for apologetic reasons the post-Pauline and post-Petrine writers seem to limit
women's leadership roles in the Christian community to roles which are culturally and
religiously acceptable, the evangelists called Mark & John highlight the alternative
character of the Christian community and therefore accord women apostolic and
In her earlier work Bread Not Stone, she expressed the same truth thus:
In order to survive in a patriarchal culture, the Church had to adapt its ethos and
structures to the patriarchy of greco-Roman society ... so whereas the Jesus movement
was a conflict movement, the early christian Missionary Movement was integrative
because of its ethos of love-patriarchalism.8
For myself, I have no doubt about the purpose Jesus had when he left the exalted
position with his God to take on our flesh. Unequivocally he states in John 10:10 I1 have
come that they (all of us) may have life and have it to the full, i.e. in all its fulness. With
DanielMaguire, I feel that just as race or class cannot stand in the way of the fullness
(although historically men have judged so) so neither does my gender nor the gender of
any other woman stand in the way.
In October 1965, while the members of the Second vatican Council debated on the
proposed Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, two American Bishops
submitted some remarks to the commission about the role of women in the Church
today. It was Archibishop Paul Hallinan of Atlanta who confessed that the Church has
been slow in denouncing the degradation of women ... He regretted that woman had not
yet achieved equality with men in the secular world even in areas where they were
perfectly competent; then he made four proposals among which was the following:
That the Church define the liturgical functions of women so that they could serve as
lectors and acolytes, and, when properly prepared, also, as they once did, in the
Apostolic office of deaconess. They could thus, as Deacons do, administer certain
Are the recommendations of this bishop too far-fetched? Are they theologically
unsound? Yet several distinguished Catholic theologians (among them Rahner,
Maguire, Kung) have stated that there are no theological reasons why women should be
denied this right.
Let us look at an example or two from history. M. Ramsay in the Church in the
Roman Empire before A.D. 170 writes of Thecla the companion of St. Paul: "Thecla
became the type of the female christian teacher, preacher and baptizer, and her story is
quoted as early as the 2nd century as a justification of the right of woman to teach and
Then from the Apostolic Constitutions we have the following direction concerning
the ordination of a deaconess:
Concerning a deaconess, I, Bartholomew, make this constitution: 0 bishop, thou
shalt lay they hands upon her in the presence of the presbytery, and of the deacons and
deaconesses, and shalt say:
O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the creator of Man and woman,
who didst replenish with the Spirit Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Hulda: who
didst not disdain that Thy only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also int he
tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, didst ordain women to be keepers of Thy
holy gates, do thou now also look down upon this Thy servant, who is to ordained to the
office of a deaconess, and grant her Thy Holy spirit, and cleanse her uncleanliness of
flesh and spirit, that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her to
Thy Glory, and the praise of Thy Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to Thee and
the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.11
Church history attests to the fact that women were ordained deaconesses for an
appreciable length of time (I recall that one of the reasons behind the inclusion of
women in order was the fact that most of those joining the early church were adults and
it was thought more proper that women administer the sacrament to women.)
In fact women performed many of the functions that over the years have become
associated or tied to priesthood. Phoebe is described in Romans 16 as a deaconess
although there have been many treatises in more recent times to explain that deaconess
she was not. Yet Paul writes: 'I recommend to you our Sister Phoebe, deaconess of the
church at Cenchrae 12. Please receive her in the name of the Lord.
In spite of all that had been open to women in the early centuries, it is a fact that the
process of "accommodation" nullified much that had been gained and, before long,
women found themselves in positions that reflected little or none of the Gospel
Vestiges of patriarchy still operate in our Church and I do understand that it is
difficult for men to appreciate the extent of the injustices meted out to more than half
of the human race. With Scanzoni and Hardesty we have to admit that in the Church we
stand at the crossroads. As Christian, we can no longer dodge the "woman problem." It
is indefensible to argue that women are equal in creation but are subordinate in
"The church must either be consistent with the theology it sometimes espouses and
oppose all forms of women's emancipation including education, political participation
and vocations outside the home of it must face up to the concrete implications of a
Gospel that liberates women as well as men. To argue that women should have political
and vocational freedom in the secular world while declaring that they should be subor-
dinate in marriage and silent in Church is to stand the Gospel on its head. The Church
must deal with its attitudes and practices in regards to women. To fail to come to grips
with this issue is to fail both God and the World we profess to serve in his name."
Confronting the Stereotypes
I recognize that, in spite of all that has been said up to this point, some could still ask,
'But what is the problem? Do women have a problem? Are they not provided for by
men? etc. etc. etc.' To focus on questions like these is to miss the point. Women are not
asking for privileges but for recognition of their rights. Can we conceive of a society
organized to permit and enable the development and mutuality of all peoples? It is my
firm belief that humanity and, consequently, society as well, has been needlessly im-
poverished by not willingly taking women's role seriously. Every lawful privilege a
woman enjoys she has had to fight "tooth and nail" to obtain, as though she demanded
a role not hers. A fine example of this is Emmeline Pankhurst who in the early years of
this century with others of like mettle braved insults, imprisonment, hunger and
violence to obtain for woemn the right to vote! The fiery determination of this woman is
evidenced in her words: 'We shall never rest or falter until the long weary struggle for
enfranchisement is won. for the vote we are prepared to give life itself.'
The right to vote came as a climax to a long struggle. But it was not too long ago
either that other injustices had to be resolutely tackled, e.g. Women folk were not
generally to be educated beyond secondary level because;
(a)their weak minds were not created to withstand the rigours of learning; and
(b)'higher learning would make a woman a stumbling block in the home rather than a
shining light of purity.' If women studied it might cause disintegration of
And in our own time do you recall that until about 15 years ago women were not
admitted to Catholic theological schools?
These examples give ample proof that women must never be lulled into thinking that
rights will be granted without pressure, struggle or persecution. Rather they must
realize that conversion from sexism is a must for every woman:
Metanoia for women involves a turning around in which they literally discover
themselves as persons, as centers of being upon which they can stand and build their
own identity. this involves a willingness to get in touch with their own anger. Anger is
liberating grace precisely as the power to break the chains of sexist socialization, to
disaffiliate with sexist ideologies.
... The acceptance of liberating anger and the reclaiming of basic self-esteem allow
a woman to look honestly at the situation that has shaped her life. She is able to
acknowledge her own compliance with the systems that have diminished her humanity.
The shackles of this system on her mind and energy begin to shatter, and she gains the
courage to stand up against them.14
Any attempt to speak of the role of women in the Church and in Society presupposes
that not only women but men also must recognize that women is "an equivalent human
person." Women need this recognition from the inside out. They must recognize the
many ways in which they have been depersonalized and assert their humanity. Even the
very language in which we have been trained to express ourselves needs to be re-ex-
amined. It is the language of patriarchy that presumes that all that is masculine is
normative. Do you know that even in 1990, there are presiders at liturgy who look out on
a congregation of women and say, "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours be
acceptable?" Yet every dictionary reveals that brethren is the plural form of brother.
Now would you consciously call a congregation of women, "brothers?"
The story is told of a woman who was elected Mayor of a city in England. the
mayoral chain was so heavy that she really count weat it. So it was decided that she
would symbolize her position by wearing a rose. The former Mayor, tongue-in-cheek
asked: "If I touch your rose, will you blush?" Equal to the occasion, she responded: If I
pull your chain, will you flush?"
I could cite several other examples but let me say that it is this concept of woman as
inferior that leads men to use language that excludes her, thus objectivising her or
treating her as a non-person. Here is a conversation between two men:
1stYou see de ting?
1stYou sleep wid it?
2ndYes man! I luv de beef.
Our calypsonians have gone one step further and invented a plethora of vulgar
sexual imagery to describe wholesome man-woman relationships, and calypsonians tell
us about 'fire in she wire' and the firemen with his 'hose' gushing water at high pressure
to put out the fire': and Calypso Rose invites us to 'Punta" but advises 'Punta at home,
don;t Punta outside.'
In her foreword to Llonheart Gal collection of life stories of Jamaican women
compiled by SISTREN Honor Ford-Smith explores sexual politics in man-woman
relationships, she observes:
Women's fight for material survival means that sexual relationships between men
and women are often characterized by the tedious playing out of a power struggle
ritualized by trade-offs of money and sex. The final word in male power is violence and
the last word is remale leverage in sexuality.15
If men have reduced women to the status of objectives or to a specific part of their
anatomy, how do women respond? they exploit this situation to the fullest, baring as
much of the merchandise as possible. And when the attention of the man strays to other
fertile pastures, they complain: "Him no like me no more .... him don't even lick me
again. Him have someone."
Improving the Quality of Man-Woman Relationships
As a matter of integrity women must be seriously concerned about stewardship, the
full use of their God-given talents. These talents should be used (not desecrated) in the
social milieu, in the Church and, where appropriate, in the nation at large. Marx
recognized the decisive influence of economic activities on human relationships. The
traditional Man-Woman relationship based on the belief that Man is bread-winner and
Woman is housewife and mother has an obvious economic foundation. The Industrial
Revolution, the gradual democratization of education and two world wars have taught
us all that women have vital roles to play in nation building. How does a woman perform
her public role as politician or professional and her private role without being
deficient in one or the other? Herein lies the dilemma. The solution resides in the
recognition that the traditional domestic arrangement must change to liberate women
and apportion new domestic responsibilities to our menfolk, and women must proceed
firmly but tactfully; already many of our enlightened menfolk have developed a siege
mentality and they complain, with some justice, that they have no desire to exploit
women. They were born into the System, and they conclude in profoundly philosophical
vein, "Ah so it go ... see?" One wonders whether the siege mentality combined with the
pressure on the male ego to assert itself, is causing our menfolk to enter the next world
long before their women.
After all, women are engaged in improving the quality of their relationship with
men. Liberation is not synonymous with confrontation. When a woman says she does
not want any man to pamper or patronize her or treat her like a child by opening doors
for her or allowing her first passage, or offering her his seat in a crowded bus, then the
shackles of her bondage are deeply embedded in her mind.
Solidarity among Women
Women must seek and learn to be bonded together so they can reach out, help each
other and respond to the needs of others. Women must speak up concerning all that
touches their lives and join with other women who are striving to be heard. SISTREN
comes to mind as a group that speaks out about injustices to women. The members seek
to conscientize the wider society and offer support and strength to some who need
encouragement. A sense of solidarity with suffering women is what SISTREN offers.
And when the majority of women in the Third World can be described as "poor,
powerless and pregnant",16 it is heartening to know that there are women who struggle
to find a way to deal with this fact of experience while at the same time creating a more
general new vision of Woman.
As women take active steps to help others to recognize that the old order must go,
they themselves struggle for authenticity and selfhood, they become empowered, deter-
mined and motivated to change in relation to others and to their world. The Daily
Gleaner is to be congratulated for its sensitivity and openness to women's" issues and
developments as evidenced by its devoting at least one page weekly to Women's
concerns. But the point I wish to make here is that it is the intervention of members of
SISTREN, it is the foresight and perseverance of women like Panela McNeil who
created Women's Centre and the vision of Angela Jones-Barber that was concretized in
the Women's Crisis centre and the tenacity of purpose of several others like Veenal
Vaswarnii, that keep "troubling the waters" and in so doing, lay the foundation that
precedes the recognition given by a public newspaper. The forum is thus created for
groups like the St. Andrew Business and Professional Women's Club to forthnightly
acknowledge that women should be adequately represented in the directorate of this
county.17 How encouraging it must be for business women to hear Mrs. V. Nelson
advocating entrepreneurial support systems that would identify the problems and solu-
tions encountered by women entrepreneurs! The progress made by women has not
been easy for they encountered social obstacles, viz. lack of recognition for profes-
sionalism, inequitable remuneration, discrimination and sexual harassment.18
But is it only in the corporate world that women encounter hurdles? That they are
hired and fired at will? Sought for employment when no male is available? Is it only in
the business world that women are given lower pay even when more work is done? What
is our experience in the church?
It is the role of women, therefore, to awaken men to the conscious realization of
their role and responsibility which cannot continue to be one of privilege and domina-
tion but one of partnership and shared responsibility. No one willingly lets go of a
Compare the circumstances surrounding the abolition of slavery in which slave
"owners" had to be recompensedd" munificently for the loss of their slaves, and many
others sought justification to retain them for as long a time as possible. Working women
should require that the men in their households carry shared responsibility, instead of
accepting that all or most within the home is women's work. The adage that "we raise
our daughters and spoil our sons" must be proved wrong if we are to stem the tide of the
frightening irresponsibility, the insensitivity and downright cruelty that so many of our
men display toward women and children.
Thank God we have travelled a long way from the place where women'd education
and development was suspect. We affirm unequivocally today that the participation of
women in most diverse professional disciplines can only be a blessing for the entire
society, both private and public, if the specifically feminine ethos would be preserved.
And yet we must zealously guard against the new face of discrimination. Not that
women have equal or almost equal access to all kinds of education, discrimination
has reared its ugly head at the market place. How many femal managers and directors
of companies do we know? Why are women being prevented from membership in the
upper class echelons of administration? Surely it is no longer a question of ability?
Should we press for legislation to ensure equal pay and equal opportunities for our
I am not minimizing the fact that, practically speaking, women face difficult
problems in public life even as they sometimes do in private life. But male leadership
through the centuries has not solved the conflicts in our world. Too often war or
provocation is seen as the only way to settle differences, too infrequently are con-
ciliatory measures employed. It is probably an odious comparison to make when I say
that it appears that, with men, life is more readily expendable. A woman, who is God's
closest instrument in procreation, who waits nine months in silent love and patience for
the birth of a child is, more often than not, the one who holds that offspring's life more
precious than her own. "Woman is organically opposed to war." This also explains for
me why the "gun-toting" creatures bent on the destruction of human life within our
society are male, (I cannot dignify these cowards with the title of "men") and not
Our world is slowly awakening to the fact that women are capable of managing the
affairs of an entire nation. In modern times Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi proved
themselves of extraordinary calibre and Margaret Thatcher has set herself a time
record in English history. And within the past several years we have witnessed the
emergence of Eugenia Charles, Corazon Aquino, Benazair Bhutto, Ertha Pascal-Troil-
lot and more recently Violeta Chamorra.
When I reflect on Aquino, Pascal-Troillot, Bhutto and Chamorra .... All popular
choices in countries gashed by the bloody wounds of civil strife .... all countries in which
men saw the solutions to their problems in the barrel of a gun ... is it any wonder that
these countries chose women to heal the wounds ... to commence the delicate task of
reconstruction? Is it public recognition that the female psyche is unique because it has
woven tact, delicacy, tenderness and firmness, patriotism and courage, into a wonderful
mosaic? Closer to home, haven't we noticed in our "Daily Gleaner," contributions from
those who have raised the question whether Jamaica may not be better served by a
woman at the helm?
However, in spite of the fact that some women are gaining greater public recogni-
tion the fact still remains that more than 60% of women and girls in the world live under
conditions that threaten their health and educational attainment, that restrict economic
participation and fail to guarantee them equal rights with men. This distributing con-
clusion came from a study conducted by the Population Crisis Committee in
Washington, D.C. and was revealed to us in Jamaica through the "Daily Gleaner":
The Crisis Committee concludes that if women are to become full partners with men
in the social, economic and political development of their countries, they will need to
change the age-old patterns of discrimination, evident to some degree in almost every
country, which have kept them second-class citizens.19
How do they change age-old patterns? One may ask. Women need to take seriously
their role as mothers and begin to nurture, "raise" their sons as they have "raised" their
daughters. The lack of role models in the home and often at school accounts for boys
receiving their education on the streets, with the unfortunate result that violence is all
but institutionalized with high incidence of rape, child abuse and wife beating. Dough
Halsall predicts that if nothing is done to turn around this situation Jamaica will soon be
facing a shortage of qualified men with a preponderance of qualified women.20 Edu-
cated women will be hard put to find a suitable life of partner of their own intellectual
standard. But is this a world shift, I wonder.
Women who through background, development and education have a fine sense of
who they are and what they want are confident in their ability to create a new way of
living for others through their perception and evaluation of contemporary situations. To
help others become more authentic is to help them throw off their shackles, for it is only
by breaking the former hold that the whole experience of life begins to change and one
begins the journey into wholeness.
Some years ago I had the privilege of attending a lecture21 given by Monika Hellwig
in which she called upon educated Christian women to make a difference in our world
by responding to the needs of our time. Remarkable was the fact that she offered no
new solution but placed before us the time-honoured aspects of the Christian life as our
source of strength and inspiration: prayer, compassion, solidarity and creative imagina-
Prayer and meditation she saw as a key force in developing clarity and authenticity.
It is through prayer that one is enabled to put on the mind of Christ so she can gain
independence from the present order to see and act prophetically and "evaluate" what
is by the light of what ought to be.
Compassion is an attribute of our God that makes him mother no less than father.
Compassion helps women to enter deeply into the experience of others as Jesus entered
deeply into our human experience "to understand it and possess it from within" to
transform possibilities by giving them a new centre and new hope. Women, Hellwigfelt,
because of their exclusion from recognition for so long have experienced marginaliza-
tion first hand and so may be better equipped to set aright those areas that are asked in
Solidarity: There is an adage that those who are disadvantaged fight more among
themselves than against those who oppress them. This is a trap that women must make
every effort to avoid. Women must support, encourage and affirm each other in their
struggle to create a better world. Women need to believe in each other and love each
other. It is only with love, compassion and support that women can reclaim their
psyches from which many have been, unwittingly, alienated.
Creative-Imagination: Many women have been stymied by the values and traditions
of their world but in the Caribbean there is hardly a woman who has not put her brains
to work to outwit her partner. Samfie or Anancyism is as much as attribute of the
woman as it has been of the man. In both it has been a tool for survival. But what I think
Hellwig is challenging women to do is to examine critically what is and to dream of
alternative expressions that are more worthy of us. Woman's gift has always been to
respond promptly to needs that are not being addressed and in prophetic sytle she
moved in to educate, to tend the sick and the poor. Social agencies, unions and even
governments inspired by women's contributions have entered the field to facilitate or
continue the pioneering work of women whose gift of compassion must never be
As I think of creative ways in which a woman could make her contribution today, I
recognize that she is held captive in the very area in which she could make her best
contribution ministry to other women. Who better understands than a woman the ethic
that is rooted in womanhood? She exercises authority without controlling dominance as
though by second nature because she has learned the process of letting go as she "walks
with her child" through all its stages of growth and development. This style of leader-
ship, far from being competitive is rooted in an ethic of respect and care.
Sexuality is another area that women need to consider seriously. Instead of using
their sexuality for weapon or leverage in their relationships with men they could reclaim
their sense of wholeness and preserve their integrity by regarding their sexuality with
the reverence it deserves. Women must create meaningful patterns of love. We are one
with the universe and we must be committed to ways that promote truth, honesty, health
and love. And as women are being called upon to take an active part in the unravelling
of the social constraints placed upon them, let them shout loudly also for the preserva-
tion of the environment. It is from the environment that her children and her children's
children will draw their sustenance.
And finally, as we approach the third Christian millennium I would like to see my
Church, our Church, following a vision that is all embracing, a vision and a philosophy
that is rooted in the freedom and equality that is fundamental to the Good News. I
would like to boast that our Church is culturally sensitive, free of all' isms while being
faithful to Sacred Scripture and Revelation.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (Bodley Head, London 1970,) p. 410.
2 .Kate Millet, Sexual Politics, (Doubleday, Inc., Garden City, N.Y. 1970), p.
3 .Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, Beacon Press, Boston, 1983, p. 162.
4 .Merle Hodge The Shadow of the Whip. An essay in Is Massa Day Dead? Orde Coombs, ed.,
(Anchor Press, Garden City, N.Y., 1974), p. 111.
5 .Francis J. Maloney, SDB in Foreword to Paul and the Christian Woman by Brendan Byrne,
SJ. (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1988,) p. viii.
6. Ibid, p. vii.
7. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza In Memory of Her, (Crossroad, N.Y., 1989), p. 334.
8 Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza Bread not Stone, (Beacon Press, Boston, 1984), p. 79.
9 .V. Yzermans ed., American Participation in the Vatican Council, (N.Y. 1967), p. 202.
10. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170, (Putman, N.Y.), p. 375.
11 .From The Didache, Apostolic Constitutions pp. 19-20.
12. St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 16 v. 1.In Greek: In Latin: Commendo autem vobis
phoeben sororem nostram, quae est in Ministerio Ecclesiae, quae est in Cenchris.
13 .L. Scanzoni & N. Hardesty, All We're Meant to be, (Word Books, Waco, Texas, 1975), p. 205.
14. Ruether, op. cit., p. 186.
15 LionHeart Gal: Life Stories of Jamaican Women (London: The Women's Press, 1986) p. xvii.
16 .The Daily Gleaner, Thursday, April 26, 1990, p. 12.
17 .Ibid, Thursday, March 22,1990, p. 17.
18. Ibid, Tuesday, March 20, 1990, p. 12.
19 .Ibid, Thursday, April 26,1990, p. 12.
20 .From address given by Dough Halsall to Members of Alpha Academy Alumnae Association at the
Pegasus in March 1990.
21. Monika Hellwig, Christian women in a Troubled World. Lecture delivered at St. Mary's College, Note
Dame, Indiana, 1985.
THE IMPACT OF THE CHURCH ON THE POLITICAL CULTURE
OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CASE OF JAMAICA
Academic work on the Church and Political Culture in the Caribbean falls into a
number of categories: HISTORICAL (e.g. Osbourne 1989); POLITICAL/HISTORI-
CAL (e.g. Soares 1987; Bakan 1983); CRITICAL ANALYTIC (e.g. Smith 1989);
NORMATIVE (e.g. Hamid 1973); SOCIOLOGICAL/ANTHROPOLOGICAL (e.g.
Chevannes 19 ); SURVEY-ATTITUDINAL (e.g. Stone 1982, 1986, 1989). These
categories are, of course, not discrete and overlap to t significant extent. Moreover, the
work is valuable as far as it goes.
There are, however, important gaps in research and in writings which need to be
filled if we are to better understand our political culture and the impact of various
institutions, including the Church, on it. for example, there appears to be very little
empirically based work on the social psychological dimension of our culture or suffi-
ciently thorough analysis of data relevant to assessing the relative impact of the Church
as compared to quasi-political institutions. Yet, without this work, discussion of the role
of the Church remains speculative and impressionistic and insufficiently rooted on hard
data. Political science and conventional wisdom for example, suggest that the church,
the trade union and political party are the three institutions to which the people
traditionally attach significant value. Stone's 1981 Survey confirms this proposition in
relation to Jamaica (see Table 1).
Having said this, however, questions abound for which as yet convincing and data-
based answers have not been adequately elaborated. What is the relative impact of
church, Union, party, media, face-to-face communication, etc. in forming popular
opinion on current issues, in shaping more enduring beliefs and values? Does this
impact vary according to whether the dimension concerned is perceived as secular or
religious, political or moral? Is the impact the same regardless of gender, age, class,
race? Does the impact vary significantly according to general prevailing socio-economic
conditions, communication strategies or organisational forms? To what extent does the
relative impact of the Church, Trade Union and party reflect itself in data on compara-
tive membership, activist involvement, levels of participation, financial support for
these respective institutions? How far does apathy in relation to one reflect itself in
apathy towards the others, or is there an inverse relationship as between alienation from
religious and secular institutions.
Table 1: Question: Which institutions uplift people?
person s persons Independents
Church 25% 24% 23%
Trade Union 19% 21% 18%
Political Party 18% 15% 8%
Farm Org. 8% 9% 13%
None 29% 31% 37%
Source: Stone (1982: 38)
There is a great deal of primary material which could, with careful sifting, shed light
on these questions but which, as far as I am aware, still needs to be unearthed and
analysed in meaningful ways.
For example, all trade unions and church organizations in the Caribbean are re-
quired to file annual returns under the relevant legislation. Examination of these
records, not always fully accurate, does allow for plotting fluctuations in membership
and in financial contributions, as well as for comparisons of the relative support of
different social categories to different church organizations, and to church organisa-
tions as against trade unions. An interdisciplinary focus would, additionally, allow an
empirically based investigation of the extent, if any, of relationships between relative
participation in church-union-party organizations and changes in the economy and
My own preliminary examination of some of this data suggests more complex
relations than are often assumed. As Table 2 indicates, it does not appear, for example,
that in Jamaica membership in at least some main-line Churches always increases as
economic hardship grows. Equally, membership in trade unions does not necessarily
expand as workers' standard of living comes under attack. What does seem to happen is
that existing (or declining membership as the case may be) in such institutions may
deepen the quality of support to such bodies whilst increasing numbers seek relief from
pressure or redress of injustice elsewhere. At the same time, the data tends to confirm
the common view that, at least in the financial sphere, popular support for Churches
does exceed support for organizations like trade unions. Yet the impact of unions and
parties on public life more than likely exceeds that of the Church. Does this indicate
that the Church has a bigger potential for influence on national life than is being
realized or that the people contribute to the Church expecting that it will in fact confine
its ministry to religious matters? If answers to these and related questions are to be
rooted in reality, then relevant institutions need to both elaborate an agenda for
research along the lines suggested as well as retrieve and analyse the relevant data.
Political Culture Overview, Change and Continuity
Table 2: MEMBERSHIP, FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS OF MEMBERS TO
ANGLICAN CHURCH, BITU, NWU
ANGLICAN BITU NWU
mI r p/c4 m2 r3 p/c m2 r3 p/c
1980 34025 2.2 65.5 115212 1.0 8.8 36000 0.94 26.0
1981 35395 1.7 48.6 118118 1.1 9.4
1982 120753 1.2 10.4 36000 1.1 31.6
1983 35015 3.0 87.1 118909 1.4 11.5 34188 1.4 42.2
1984 37127 4.5 119.7 117561 -33000 1.8 53.7
1. Refers to registered membership
2. Refers to dues-paying membership, invariably well below total membership
3. Refers to dues income only
4. P/C refers to per capital receipts
Source: journals of the Annual Synods of the Anglican Church [Ecclesiastical Returns for Churches],
Kingston, Jamaica; Annual Returns, BITU, NWU
Politics refers to those dimensions of life that have to do more or less directly with
authoritative decision-making whether in the household, the Church, the state or any
other community. As such, politics embraces structures and processes, institutions and
relationships, behaviour and attitudes. It is to this last dimension that the concept of
political culture primarily relates. We may consider the political culture to be the
beliefs, the ideas, the values relating to politics prevalent in any given society. How the
people think politics works; what they think about politics; how they think politics, in its
various dimensions, ought to be; their attitude to the different elements and aspects of
the political system these are all parts of a country's political culture.
As such, the political culture is obviously related to the social culture, to the social
structure, to the political economy, to the political sociology, to the political structure of
the given community. These in different ways help to form the basis of political culture
which in turn impacts to one degree or another on these dimensions of society. Yet,
little or no academic research has been done explicitly on Caribbean political culture.
Equally, relatively insignificant scholarly writing has been done on the subject com-
pared to the substantial body of literature on political institutions, political economy
and political behaviour. This gap obviously needs to be filled as it is the political culture
which in a significant sense defines the political personality of a people, substantially
incluences their response to political events and largely conditions the nature of their
involvement in political change. Hence, for example, otherwise rational proposals for
restructuring a political system or for reforming a political institution may well run
agound to the extent of their disregard for the political culture. Conversely, perverse or
predominantly negative recommendations may recieve positive response when couched
in forms sensitive to the political culture. More research and writing on this subject is
therefore obviously urgent.
A paper of this kind cannot hope to fill the gap. What it can do, and what I shall
attempt, is to make some suggestions concerning aspects of the political culture and the
impact of the Church on the processes which I perceive to be underway. We shall in the
main rely not so much on hard data as on personal experience and participant observa-
tion drawn from 25 years' involvement in politics of the left. In a sense, our propositions
are not to be construed as conclusive, but may better be taken as indicating areas for
research and for further analysis.
As I suggest in Table 3, in many respects Jamaica's political culture is in a process of
transition, revealing elements of change and of continuity. Fifteen to twenty years ago, a
definite set of attitudes and beliefs defining core elements in the political culture had
matured and stabilised. Amongst these were an attachment to Jamaica a patriotism -
which had not only an instrumental but also an effective element. Loyalty based itself
not only on the country's ability to provide a living but on an empathy born of historical,
cultural and psychological factors. Across a wide spectrum of society, politics was, by
and large, viewed positively as an important instrument of economic advance, of social
progress and of national development. Liberal democracy was cherished particularly
the right to vote, to own property and freedom of speech. Institutions of civil and
political society like the Churches, the trade unions and the political parties were highly
On another level, political party competition and rivalry was seen, as a highly
worthwhile activity. Patry loyalism was so strong that almost nine of every ten voters
voted according to party rather than as a result of other considerations. Stong leaders,
defined as personalities who could get their way, were highly evaluated. The relation-
ship between leaders and followers was such that followers invested leadership with
charisma and in large measure divested themselves of power and of responsibility. In
this sense, authoritarian leadership was certainly endorsed and reinforced by popular
attitudes. Nevertheless, the relatively positive attitude to politics meant that party
affiliation, activism and representation at Parish Council or Parliamentary levels were
viewed as significant channels of service. Community-oriented values existed fairly
strongly alongside individual, self-oriented priorities.
Table 3: DIMENSIONS OF POLITICAL CULTURE
I. Attitudes to:
POLITICAL LIEADERS Messianic/Charismatic
Values Justice .Freedom
Service > self
High party elec
Self > Service
Low party electoral
Today, elements of change are increasingly maturing in this political culture.
Patriotic attachment to jamaica is being eroded. There is growing a much more critical
attitude to politics, to political parties and to political leaders. The view that "politics
can't help me" has developed considerable strength. Political parties are seen as not
worthy of partisan loyalty and a majority of voters no longer vote on the basis of party
attachment. leaders are less considered as having super-human, almost magical power.
Indeed, in large measure, they are assumed to be fallible, selk-seeking and, in many
instances, corrupt. Politics is believed to be less important for development; on the
contrary, in a real sense, it is considered a brake on progress. A new significance is given
to the non-political, non-governmental sphere. Individual attainment in this dimension
ranks more highly than previously and has probably become more highly valued than
service to others whether at community or national levels. These developments clearly
add up to a mix of significant negative and positive changes underway.
At the same time, some factors in the political culture have remained more or less
stable. For example, the people preserve strong attachment to liberal democratic rights
- moreso now than before the right to own property and to vote out governments. A
concern for social justice is growing alongside traditional emphasis on individual
freedom as well as the belief that politics ought to be more facilitative of justice. In
addition, our suggestion that the political culture is undergoing a transition should not
be taken to mean that there does not persist strong attachment to more traditional
beliefs particularly amongst the politically activist minority. Nor should we be under-
stood to imply that the elements of the new that are maturing did not exist previously in
important sections of the political community. What we are suggesting is that elements
of change to which we refer appear more dynamic than the aspects of the traditional
political culture with which they are in increasing contention.
to attempt to account for the changes and continuities now evident in our political
culture, we need to remind ourselves of the major factors which, more or less directly,
normally influence the political culture of any people. These are:
1. political history
2. political institutions and structures
3. political socialisation
4. socio-economic structure
5. geo-politics and geo-culture.
The Church invariably impacts on political culture through political history, political
socialisation and more directly as an interest group acting on political institutions. In
any given period these factors vary in the extent of impact on political culture and, over
time, the same factor may affect the political culture and, over time, the same factor may
affect the political vulture to differing degrees. In addition, at any given time, the impact
of any factor needs to be analysed in terms of how far it is direct or indirect, explicit or
implicit, uniform or contradictory. In this context, we shall argue that the impact of the
Church on the political culture is significant but less so than other factors, that it affects
more the conceptual framework rather than the substance of the political culture, and
that its role is more indirect than direct. Finally, I evaluate its significance as contradic-
tory a force facilitating as well as retarding political development.
What are the main factors accounting for the predominance of elements of change
over continuity in important aspects of our political culture? First of all, recent political
history, particularly in the 1970s, saw an acute sharpening of social tension, ideological
conflict, economic decline and political confrontation. Violence which hitherto had
been a relatively negligible factor in two-party politics became a primary feature of what
became characterized as "political tribalism". This served to stigmatise party competi-
tion, identify party loyalists with tribalists and lead significant sectors of the population,
particularly amongst the youth, to negatively evaluate political partisanship. Conversely,
this gave rise to a higher valuation of political non-partisanship and stimulated a desire
to reduce partisan conflict in the political arena. The attitude to party political relations
has moved significantly from endorsing to rejecting conflict, from disregarding to
encouraging co-operation amongst major political actors. In this transition, the role of
the Church has been important but undoubtedly secondary to the people's direct
experience of the consequences of political tribalism.
A second factor contributing to change in the contemporary political culture -
particularly in reducing the value placed on political participation has been the
significantly lower administrative and political capacity of the state. The contraction in
resources available to government relative to popular basic needs, the erosion of the
professional and technical quality of the state apparatus, the growth of clientelism and
corruption in the functioning of politicians and of public officials all have made the
state less effective. This has been especially the case in the areas of productive employ-
ment-creation and expansion of social services on the basis of which relatively par-
ticipant political cultures had developed in the post-war period. The reduced
effectiveness of Government as a source of development and welfare is contributing to
abstentionist and non-participative attitudes towards politics. At the same time, the
significant lowering of party loyalism and reduced political participation papers to be
accompanied by relatively high involvement in civic life. the decisive factor underlying
these changes has to do primarily with spin-off effects on the state of structural adjust-
ment economic policies and IMF conditionalities.
These latter have also contributed to important changes in social structure which, in
turn, are impacting on political culture. Amongst these, perhaps the most important, is
the dramatic growth of the informal economy. By definition, this has meant the rapid
spread of economic relations in which working people are compelled to be more
self-reliant and self-oriented, less dependent on both the political and the productive
process. The growth of the "drug culture", informal commercial importation, and
micro-enterprises of all kinds has, in effect, contributed to a certain independence of
politicians and corresponding disregard for politics. This combined with the perceived
ineffectiveness of the political system and of political leadership is providing a basis for
less sanguine attribution of charismatic qualities to leaders and more modest as well as
rational estimation of their capacities.
At the same time as these social and economic changes reinforce the regard for
personal freedom in the political culture, other factors are stimulating renewed concern
for social justice. Amongst these are the growth of inequality between a very wealthy
handful and an increasingly impoverished mass and the consolidation of the ownership
gap in the cor-porate economy between ethnic minorities and the black majority.
Paradoxically, these developments are laying a basis in current conditions for a
revalorisation of class and race awareness. (This, of course, need not lead to class and
race bonding, especially since the society is becoming more atomised and less solidary.
One final factor I would wish to mention as impacting significantly on change in the
political culture. It is the geo-political, geo-cultural factor, viz., the dramatic eclipse on
a regional and worldwide basis of "traditional" anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist
revolutionism in all its dimensions by western capitalism and consumerist culture. The
U.S. military intervention in Panama and the defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua
when combined with the apparent dismantlement of the world socialist community
discourage transformative attitudes towards the western-dominated status quo and
encourage a level of political conformism relatively new when compared to the 1970s.
The reappearance of fatalism and belief in the unlikelihood of fundamental change is,
of course, reinforced by the realities of a global economy in the late 1980s and 1990s
subordinative of both the Second and the Third Worlds.
This in turn renders the Caribbean nation-state less capable of meeting even the
most minimal material and psychological needs of increasing numbers of citizens. It
underpins an increasing alienation from living in the region and the growth of a national
sentiments, at the same time as attachment to Caribbean culture remains. All this
suggests that the political culture is changing more in response to structural rather than
The Impact of the Church
It is apparent from our argument thus far that the Church (and religion more
generally) is but one of many factors which impact on political culture. On the face of it,
and particularly in terms of nominal membership and historical longevity, the Church
should have at least as decisive a role as other more directly political institutions.
Certainly the data suggest that the Church-going community is probably a bigger
proportion of the population than that of party activists. Moreover, Church members
are more continuously involved in the Church on an ongoing basis than are party
members in their political organizations. Finally, of the Commonwealth parties, only
Jamaica's PNP is more than 50 years old, whereas the Church has had an organised
presence spanning, in many instances, well over a century and a half. The situation is,
however, more complex than these observations would suggest.
In the first place, a basic distinction needs to be made between Afro-Christian and
Euro-Christian tendencies in the Church, or what has been termed the Black In-
digenous Church and the Mainline Churches. While both share core Christian beliefs
and accept the Bible as the authoritative source of doctrine, the Afro-Christian tradi-
tion synthesises African, Slave and European religion, whilst the Mainline Churches,
more or less without modification, introduced European religious imports. More im-
portant for the purposes of this paper, Afro-Christianity has by and large been uniform-
ly an integral part of the emancipatory tradition in the Caribbean whereas the Mainline
Churches have either been ambivalent, reformist or repressive. Correspondingly, with
few exceptions since emancipation, the state has been accomodative of Euro-Chris-
tianity whilst being hostile towards Black Ingidenous Religion particularly the Ras-
Table 4: AFFILIATED CHRISTIANS IN COMMONWEALTH CARIBBEAN,
[Taken from Cuthbert (1986: 25, Table 1.71)]
Church Affiliated %
CCC-related 2,039,285 38
Evangelical 540,520 10
Seventh-Day Adventist 153,300 5
Other Protestant and Black Indigenous 61,550 2
TOTALS 2,794,655 55
Source: World Christian Encyclopedia, 1982.
Nevertheless, on balance, the role of the Church in Caribbean political history has
been on the side of liberation and of reform in the positive sense. If there is any doubt
amongst scholars on this score, there is certainly none amongst the people. The popular
perception is rooted in the considerable extent to which the Christian Bible has been a
main source of the conceptual framework of the people. Hence, in our conditions, the
impulses to resist oppression in all forms has found much of its justification in the Books
of the Old and New Testament (cf. Appendix I). Matthew, John, Exodus and the Psalms
have in this sense provided Caribbean people with liberal and revolutionary democratic
theory more than Locke, Paine, Marx or Lenin. Indeed in the 19th century, the Afro-
Christian Church provided not only political theory but also political organisation and
political leadership to the left movement as it was then. In the 20th century as well, the
role of the Bible as a source of justification for resistance and even rebellion is apparent
in Garveyism (Potter 1988) (And in lesser known movements like that of Rev. Claudie
Henry). Finally, in our political history, sections of the Church were of considerable
help to the peasantry and the working class int he provision of social and economic
services. In these ways, the Church has had a positive impact through our political
history on political culture.
There are, however, negative aspects of this tradition as well. The provision by the
Mainline Churches of conservative theory, leadership and organisation in opposition to
the liberationist tradition is well known and substantially documented. Less evident and
little discussed is the element of conservatism within the emancipatory tendency itself.
In both its religious doctrine and organisational structure there have been features
contributing to popular disempowerment side by side, even inextricably intertwined
with, liberationism. From the standpoint of doctrine and biblical interpretation, the
people are urges to resist, to fight for liberation. At the very same time however, they
are seen to be and see themselves as objects rather than subjects of leadership. In the
great project and process of emancipation, heroic prophets have to lead, the people's
responsibility is to follow. The positive aspect is popular arousal against slavery,
colonialism and injustice in all forms. The negative is the absence of a concept of
popular empowerment, with its corollary, the dependence on a David, a Joshua, a
Moses, a Messiah.
The dominance of this religio-conceptual tradition in our political history and its
continuing contradictory impact on popular political culture should not be underes-
timated. To one degree or another, the quality of modern Caribbean political leader-
ship and the process of popular empowerment has both benefited and suffered from
this tradition. There has been much analysis of this phenomena, initially conceptualised
in Singham's classic study, The Hero and the Crowd. What has been less noticed and
little understood in terms of its implications for political transportation is the extent to
which the left itself is unable to avoid aspects of the 'hero-crowd' relationship. Some
commentary has discussed this in relation to Maurice Bishop and the political leader-
ship in revolutionary Grenada. My own experience in relation to one of the most
advanced working class struggles in contemporary Jamaica the Hampden sugar
workers struggle has been the subject of recent analysis, the conclusions of which are
relevant to our current concern.
... the Hampden case highlights how weakly rooted democracy is within civil
society in Jamaica. In this respect, the absence of a tradition or a practice of democracy
within the trade unions, such as was the case with the BITU and the NWU, shares
common ground with its absence in the schools, in economic enterprises, in working
class and peasant interest associations, and in the family. In each of these basic social
institutions democratic forms may be present, but democratic substance is lacking. The
trend, rather, is toward hierarchy and authority, and away from equality and participa-
tion. Yet without equality and participation there is little meaning to democracy.
This tendency, not surprisingly, is deeply rooted within the political culture as well.
The "hero and the crowd" mentality is alive and well in Jamaica ... The workers at
Hampden clearly reflected this. For them, the UAWU would be an improvement on
their old unions because it would be better; it would be more honest, more militant and
more effective. For most of the workers there was no "we" here. They were the crowd
and the UAWU was their "hero". In fact, and more in keeping with the "hero and the
crowd" tradition, it was not the UAWU that was their hero but "Trevor". Trevor
Munroe was the UAWU in many of the workers' eyes, he was their Moses, he would
save them. This reification of Munroe occurred despite the fact he was not the lead
organiser at Hampden, nor did the workers even see very much of him. That did not
matter: they wanted a hero and munroe had national presence and a reputation for
defending workers' rights. And he did visit the workers at hampden enough to reinforce
his persona, indeed strengthening it, by doing more in this regard than other union or
political leaders had ever done before. This identification of a "hero" may have in-
creased the workers' willingness to persist in their struggle ... but it did nbt bode well for
their ability to make the UAWU work for them in the future (Feuer 1989: 55-56).
Clearly, the strength and persistence of this tendency across the centuries and
across the political spectrum can hardly be laid solely or mainly at the door of Church
doctrine or biblical interpretation. It has to do as well with traditions of authoritarian
organisation throughout civil society which, until very recently, both Afro-Christian and
Euro-Christian Churches displayed in no uncertain fashion. Perhaps more importantly,
the absence or limited impact of concepts and structures of popular empowerment and
grass-roots self-management has to do with the debilitating socio-economic conditions
of the masses and the rocky ground provided by such circumstances for positive
self-image, an important condition of consistent self-avtivity. As my own experience
suggests, this situation cannot be successful combatted only by preaching a counter-
doctrine of grass-roots capability to the people. This is necessary but insufficient. In
addition and simultaneously, the material conditions and skill level of the working
people requires a quality improvement that may provide a firmer foundation to a more
self-reliant social psychology and organisational methodology. The imperative, the
paradox and the most difficult challenge is for "Moses" to find a way between accep-
tance and rejection of the persona, towards making Moses himself in large measure
The character of this messianic leadership tradition in the political culture needs to
be more precisely specified if the prospect of change and the possible role of the
Church in such a process is to be understood. In the first place, the contemporary
prophets of recent Caribbean politics are cast down almost as frequently as they are
elevated by the people. This applies as much to the labour movement as to the electoral
politics. In this sense, the mystique of the "persona" is undoubtedly qualified by popular
perception of performance and by loyalties which are demonstrably conditional.
Moreover, I would argue that, for reasons already discussed, this tendency is now being
eroded in the political culture and is least strong amongst younger age groups, par-
ticularly amongst the urban working class. Hitherto therefore, the problem has not been
the permanence and sanctity of the leader's position. It has been that when a leader is
removed by the people, the quality of the authoritarian relationship between the leader
and the led does not change. The frequency and character of leadership change as well
as the people's attitude indicate both the real extent and the definite limits of popular
For the Church to impact positively on this contradiction int he political culture and
to facilitate strengthening of democratic tendencies is going to require conscious
change and persistent effort in the contemporary situation. This.brings me to comment
on the role of the Church as an important agent of political socialisation in forming
Here again, more empirically based work is required. What is the extent and content
of the contact between the Church and the young when their political selves are being
formed, for example in Sunday Schools? What is the degree, the form'of substance of
parental instruction in religious matters? There are data on these matters which need
retrieval and analysis. Certainly, attitudes to authority in general and political
authorities in particular are formed fairly early through a mix of household, community,
peer-group, school, media and church influences. Isolating one or another of these
variables and assigning comparative weight could be attempted only with some difficul-
In as far as the Church plays a role in socialisation however, with few exceptions its
contemporary structures, doctrine, leadership style, instructional methods probably
reinforce contradictory tendencies in the political culture. On the one hand, the Church
appears to replicate and reproduce authoritarian and conformist trends. At the same
time, there can be little doubt that its impact encourages esteem for community and
fellowship, justice and reghteousness in public life. For the positive role to be
strengthened is going to require thorough going democratisation of the Church itself,
particularly its structure and doctrine. If people are to have more power over their daily
lives than comes with periodic elections, then it stands to reason that consciousness of
the need for and possibility of popular empowerment is going to have to be more
widespread. Equally, structures and relationships, behaviour and attitude's which em-
power the few are going to have to be systematically and comprehensively assaulted.
The citizen as elector cannot be expected to have a positive attitude to reclaiming