Dorothea Erbele-Küster | Volker Küster (Eds.)
Responses to Covid-19 from Theology and Religions
Part I: Contextual Perspectives
Liberation Theologies Revisited in Times of Pandemic.
Volker Küster 15
Poverty through the Optic of the “Danger of a Single Story”
Paul Leshota 25
How the Pandemic Will Change Minjung Theology
Kwon Jin-Kwan 41
Fighting Against a Double Pandemic. Anti-Asian Racism,
Covid-19, and the Role of Asian American Churches
Eunil David Cho 57
“But it was God’s own mighty plan.” American Religion, Global
Pandemics, and the Hidden History of Racial Pandemonium
Juan M. Floyd-Thomas 69
“You live and do me nothing” (Aby Warburg). Dance of Death,
Vanitas, and Covid-19 Representations and the Mastery of the
Helmut Renders 85
Memoria Passionis Subversiva. The Moral Power of
Remembrance in the Pandemic – Through a Swedish Lens
Sigurd Bergmann 101
From a Temporary Crisis to Life under Conditions of
Vulnerability. Reflections on two years of Corona from the
perspective of the Protestant Churches in Germany
Heike Springhart 123
Covid, Climate, Coloniality. Theological (In)verses from Pasifika
Jione Havea 131
Part II: Interreligious Perspectives
Hinduism’s Encounter with Covid-19
Pradeep Chakkarath 145
Buddhist Resources for Dealing with Crises
Carola Roloff 161
Small Virus – Huge Impact. How Covid-19 Changed Judaism
Annette M. Boeckler 175
In Search for Liberating Love and Knowledge in the Face of a
Pandemic – Interfaith Engagements
Jude Lal Fernando 189
Taking Refuge in Sacred Texts in Times of Crisis. Lament and
Apocalyptic Visions in Interreligious Perspective
Dorothea Erbele-Küster 203
The first corona lockdown in spring 2020 affected our teaching and
religious practices alike. As contextual theologians we decided to reflect
on the consequences proactively with our students and peers.
Center stage became two international online-seminars in English on
“Responses to Covid-19 from Theology and Religions: Between Pandemonium
and Pandemethics” (winter semester 2020/21) and “From
Pandemonium to Pantopia” (winter semester 2021/22). Most of the
contributors to this volume have been guests in these seminars at least
once. The casual format was “interview – lecture – debate”: two students
from different cultural backgrounds interviewed the speaker of
the day (25 minutes), followed by a presentation by the guest (25
minutes) and a public debate (40 minutes).
There were also sessions with student presentations on relevant
literature or based on their particular contextual experiences making
use of their diverse backgrounds from Europe, US, Africa and Asia.
We recall very intense sessions on “Black lives matter and the Covid-
19 Pandemic” where some of our international PhD-students shared
their experiences of harassment but also anti-racism demonstrations in
Germany and the Netherlands, or “Covid-19 and the responses from
churches and theology” in Indonesia and Africa. It was stunning to see
what the Indonesian churches in different parts of the country Java,
Bali and Sulawesi have done to combat the pandemic with restricted
means. A quite different approach became visible in the session on the
African continent, with reports from Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.
While the later in many ways followed western hygiene politics as far
as possible under the precarious situation of the majority of the black
population, in Ghana and Nigeria the strategy is to live with the virus.
Experiences with epidemics such as Malaria and Ebola, or the
HIV/AIDS pandemic as well as overwhelming poverty in different
ways influenced this mentality. Major sponsoring bodies have de-
clined to support this project. We want to thank students and colleagues
for their great enthusiasm and contributions who have made it
possible nevertheless to counteract scientific mainstreaming and articulate
the voices of the margins.
A second output of this discursive practice is a German book
“Theologie infiziert” 1 that we wrote together with our colleague at the
Protestant Theological Faculty of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität
Mainz Michael Roth. Many thanks also to you Michael for our weekly
teams-meetings with shared screen, discussing the pieces we put together
during the week. As we are surfing the fourth Delta-wave into
the fifth Omicron-wave our theology is evolving. “Covid theologies
need to be in waves because the pandemic comes in waves. And as
surfers go back to catch the next wave, so could Covid theologies go
back onto the horizons of theology”, as Jione Havea puts it in his contribution
to this volume. The CWM (Council for World Mission) e-
Dare 2020 to which we both had the pleasure to contribute masterminded
by Jione was the third stream of inspiration for our reflections.
This book is divided into two parts that represent different dimensions
of Intercultural Theology. The first part brings together multiple
voices of contextual theologians from glocal Christianities. Common
generative themes are:
• The socio-economic dimension of the pandemic: injustice, poverty
and the intersectionality of different forms of oppression caused by
• The pandemic in the context of the global ecological crisis;
• The relation between religion and state.
Paul Leshota writes back against the “single story” of Africa being the
dark continent of disease and backwardness. He identifies poverty
caused by colonialism and global capitalism as the root cause. This
resonates with Jione Havea’s reflections from Pacifica on Covid, Climate
and Colonialism, starting with a close reading of ‘Amelia Kami’s
poem “Dear White Consultant” (2018). In “How the Pandemic
will Change Minjung Theology”, Jin-Kwan Kwon reflects on earlier
concepts of this liberation theology made in Korea in order to reshape
them under the current circumstances. He discovers the embodiment
Dorothea Erbele-Küster, Volker Küster, Michael Roth, Theologie infiziert. Religiöse Rede
im Kontext der Pandemie, Stuttgart 2021.
Jione Havea (Ed.), Doing Theology in the New Normal. Global Perspectives, London 2021.
Between Pandemonium and Pandemethics 9
of the subjects of history and also turns toward ecology. Korean
American theologian David Eunil Cho analysis how old Anti-Asian
resentments like “yellow peril” or “perpetual foreigner” are revived in
the pandemic due to Anti-Asian racism. He also exposes the myth of
the “model minority” as an instrument of white supremacists to play
out one ethnic group against the others. Cho sees Asian American
churches as agents that provide refuge, respect and resources for their
members. Juan Floyd-Thomas also turns to past experiences of the
Black community in the US during the Spanish flue pandemic that
resemble appallingly the current Covid-19 pandemic. Black Lives
Matter still less. As alternative source he turns to the cultural memory
of the blues. Poverty, racism or colonialism are classical generative
themes of liberative theologies. At the same time the pandemic has
drawn the attention to new generative themes like body and ecology.
The aesthetic perspective shared by several authors becomes most
obvious in Helmut Renders article, who relates classical genres like
dance of the death or vanitas with visual depictions of the SARS-
CoV-2 virus. Sigurd Bergmann likewise emphasizes the tradition of
memento mori. The two contributions from European contexts by
German émigré Bergmann and the newly elected Bishop of the
Protestant Church in Baden Heike Springhart reflect on Sweden’s so
called “exceptionalism” and the role of the churches during the pandemic
in the two countries. They raise issues of human dignity and
human rights but also point to the vulnerability of human life. Springhart
opts for a vulnerable church: “The church as the body of Christ is
a bodily church, sensually perceptible and valuing the importance of
the physical and the lived body.”
The second part is orchestrating interreligious contributions that
broaden the perspective on how other religious communities have
tried to cope with the challenges that the pandemic caused for their
religious practices by searching their particular traditions for possible
means to interpret and counteract the crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic is
a challenge to religious practices and beliefs, affecting the life of individuals
and religious communities alike. The way religious communities
and their proponents respond to the pandemic reflect last but not
least as well their relation to the society and its legal authorities.
Mainly three issues are discussed:
• How does a particular religious tradition or community perceive the
Covid-19 pandemic and how are religions, belief systems and religious
practices affected by the pandemic?
• How does religion help to cope with the crisis?
• How does the Covid-19 pandemic affect interreligious life and practices?
Pradeep Chakkarath focus lies on the situation and responses from
within Hinduism in India as by far the largest number of Hindus live
in India. He argues that Hindu worldview integrating suffering as part
of human existence and meditation practices help to cope with the
pandemic. At the same time hygiene measures reinforce social inequalities
of the caste system and conceptions of impurity. Carola Roloff
also points out that Buddhist worldview is regarding suffering as a
central feature of human existence that has to be overcome by eliminating
the root causes in human greed, hatred and delusion. Likewise,
meditation may help in coping with the pandemic. Annette Boeckler
investigates how Judaism has changed due to transpositions of religious
practices into the virtual space in response to the Corona hygiene
politics. From an outsider perspective one is tempted to ask in
how far some of these changes are also boosted due to diasporic existence?
The sudden availability of virtual religious practices allowed
new networks in the global Jewish diaspora to be woven.
In spite all efforts we finally did not succeed including a Muslim
voice, not the least due to the restraints of the Covid-19 pandemic
itself authors withdraw their commitment last minute. Similar to blaming
the pandemic on the Jews in rightwing conspiracy theories, in India
Muslims were suspected of launching a “Corona-Jihad”. While
some fundamentalist Muslims saw the pandemic as divine punishment
against the infidels, in general Muslim religious authorities cooperated
with government health policies and regulations and advised believers
to pray in private rather than in public gatherings like the Friday prayer
and to abstain from the traditional pilgrimage (hadj) to Mecca. Also,
religious feasts like Ramadan were restricted to the private realm
of the family home. In Germany arouse a discussion about allowing
the Muezzin call to prayer and Muslim religious prayers on TV in
analogy to the Christian church bells and TV church services. While
in Germany and other Western countries the focus of the public debate
was on the cancelation of Easter and Christmas celebrations and the
consequences for religious and family life, Muslims and Jews pointed
out that their feasts and families were affected too. As a matter of fact,
this should have been debated as an interreligious issue.
Jude Lal Fernando highlights precisely interfaith responses to
the pandemic, as a counter voice to dominant responses to the pan-
Between Pandemonium and Pandemethics 11
demic, which “have reinforced the existing war paradigm like marketdriven
economy and racial ideologies and religious discrimination”.
He too underlines the importance of poetic language along several
poems and interfaith prayers written in response to the pandemic. In
the quoted poetic texts both the specificity and complementarity of the
theistic (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and non-theistic traditions
(Buddhism, Jainism, Neo-Vedanta Hinduism) become evident. This
may stimulate an interfaith response to hegemonic discourses and
false polarizations between the divine and human.
All contributions highlight main characteristics of the particular
religion and its foundational texts including the hermeneutics the different
communities and proponents apply. Despite the global character
of the Covid-19 pandemic the crisis is perceived quite differently
among the different religious communities: Whereas Carola Roloff
initial question is “What can Buddhism offer to deal with crisis?”,
according to her Buddhism itself is not undergoing a crisis, Annette
Boeckler starts with the observance that Judaism has been challenged
and changed by the pandemic. Hence, the strategies religious communities
develop to counteract the pandemic and the way they are affected
or not by the pandemic differs mainly due to three factors: (1) the
specific belief systems and worldviews of a religious tradition (as expressed
in their sacred texts), (2) the religious rituals and (3) the life of
the religious community. Notwithstanding that the pandemic confronts
all humans with their vulnerability, the focus among religious communities
may differ. 3
The editors shared in writing a prologue and an epilogue to the
contributions of this volume. Opening the toolbox Volker Küster revisits
liberation theologies as a frame of reference to deal with the
inequalities the virus has revealed. At the same time, he sketches intercultural
pandemethics and attitudes as well as strategies for imagining
Pantopia as an alternative to the neo-liberal New Normal. Against
the backdrop of the religions of Indian origin Hinduism and Buddhism
that view suffering as an integral part of human life that can be coped
with by religious practices such as meditation, Dorothea Erbele-
Küster rereads apocalyptic literature from the perspective of lament as
a counter strategy to tackle with crisis in the so-called Abrahamic religions.
May the contributions in this book foster apocalypso poetical
thinking and dream up Pantopia vs the New Normal.
See the contributions by Jude Lal Fernando and Heike Springhart as well as the epilogue by
Liberation Theologies Revisited
in Times of Pandemic. A Prologue
When it became public in early March 2020 that the new coronavirus
SARS-CoV-2 was much more infectious than earlier versions and that
we were standing at the fringes of a global pandemic, I decided that I
cannot teach contextual and intercultural theology without responding
to the virus. Yet it occurred to me almost immediately that it is not
only us who try to interpret the virus, the virus is also interpreting us.
The hermeneutical circle all of a sudden got a contraflow. While in the
last third of the 20 th century liberation theologies denounced poverty
and oppression, now it was the virus which revealed the injustices of
global neo-liberal capitalism and the intersectionality of different
forms of discrimination. Time to revisit liberation theologies and explore
what tools they have developed to respond theologically to the
signs of the times.
1. Opening the liberative toolbox. Generative themes and
In the aftermath of the reorganization of the global order after World
War Two – marked by the powerplay of the East-West conflict between
Capitalism and Communism that resulted in the Cold War and
the North South conflict between the affluent industrial North and the
infrastructurally underdeveloped South, which in neocolonial structures
was still robbed of its riches in commodities and torn by surrogate
wars between the superpowers on its territory – contextual theologies
developed in the Third World and its diaspora since the early
1970s. These are theological identity re/constructions of Christian
intellectuals who are challenged by their compatriots why they keep
the religion of the colonizers and still want to participate in nation
16 Volker Küster
building. Yet they strive to decolonize theology and churches in the
wake of secular emancipation movements. 4 In the West new political
Theology after Auschwitz, Feminist Theology and social historical
exegesis were marginal responses in the field of traditional academic
theology to the holocaust and the protest of the generation ‘68 against
the covering up of the Nazi past and a restorative patriarchal society as
well as new injustices and oppression occurring in the Third World.
The following overview of these theological movements is representative
but not exhaustive. 5
Latin American Liberation Theology
The 1968 Second Episcopal Conference of Latin America in Medellin
aimed to translate the social agenda of the Second Vatican Council
(1962–65) for Latin America. Several Latin American Bishops had
already signed the Pact of the Catacombs (1965) during the last weeks
of the Council, a pledge to return to a simple lifestyle in solidarity
with the poor. Dom Helder Camara was not only the spiritus rector of
this initiative but also on the drafting commission of The Pastoral
Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes),
final and together with The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
(Lumen Gentium) one of the most central documents of the Council.
On the way to Medellin Gustavo Gutiérrez was one of the prominent
theologians who formulated a theology of liberation that applied
Latin American forms of social analysis like the dependency theory
and promoted God’s preferential option for the poor. Ivone Gebara
later broadened this into an option for life. During the Amazon Synod
2019 the Pact of the Catacombs was renewed accordingly comprising
an option for “integral ecology”. 6 The See – Judge – Act method introduced
by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, the founder of the Young Christian
Workers movement, had already found its way into Gaudium et
spes that encouraged reading the “signs of the time”. Both the See-
Judge-Act method and the option for the poor have weathered all conservative
onslaughts including death squadrons and the American
Cf. Volker Küster, The Many Faces of Jesus Christ. Intercultural Christology, Maryknoll,
NY 2001; id., Einführung in die interkulturelle Theologie, Göttingen 2011.
For more recent introductions cf. Miguel A. De La Torre (Ed.), Introducing Liberative
Theologies, Maryknoll, NY 2015; Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Anthony B. Pinn (Eds.),
Liberation Theologies in the United States. An Introduction, New York 2010.
Cf. Gustavo Guttiérez, A Theology of Liberation, Maryknoll, NY 1971; Ivone Gebara, Longing
for Running Water. Ecofeminism and Liberation, Minneapolis 1999.
Liberation Theologies Revisited. A Prologue 17
CIA. They have become part and parcel of Catholic Social teaching
and a continuing inspiration for liberative theologies around the globe.
Minjung Theology is a protestant branch of liberation theology that
was formulated in resistance to the South Korean military development
dictatorship recognizing the people as the subjects of history.
The Sino-Korean term consisting of two syllabi “min” (people) and
“jung” (mass) is deemed to be not translatable by its proponents. Yet
there are definitions like the one by sociologist Han Wan-Sang “the
minjung are those who are oppressed politically, exploited economically,
alienated sociologically, and kept uneducated in cultural and
intellectual matters.” 7
The much broader, mainly non-Christian Minjung movement opted
for democratization, human rights and social justice as well as the
reunification of the divided nation. Located in the epicenter of the cold
war the authority of the regime was based on a strong anticommunism
and alliance with the United States. Different from Latin American
Liberation Theology, Minjung theologians refrained from Marxist
tools and turned to social-biography and story as analytical categories
instead. Minjung events like the self-immolation of the textile worker
Chun Tae-Il became transparent for the Jesus event. The ochlos, the
people around Jesus in the gospel of Mark is interpreted as the
Minjung of his times. Introducing story telling as method and event as
theological category to analyze history paved the way for an alternative
approach in liberative theologies. 8
The civil rights movement had fought against racial discrimination by
law, so called Jim Crow laws, and for social justice and full citizen
rights for Afro-Americans. Parallel but independently from Latin
American Liberation Theology in the US James Cone pleaded for a
Black Theology to counteract prevailing white racism as a Christian.
He was inspired not the least by the Black negro Churchmen’s re-
Quoted in Hyun Young-Hak, Minjung. The Suffering Servant and Hope, in: Inter-Religio 7,
1985, 2–14, 4.
Minjung Theology. People as the Subjects of History, Maryknoll, NY 1983 ; Volker
Küster, A Protestant Theology of Passion. Korean Minjung Theology Revisited, Leiden 2010;
Jin Kwan Kwon and Volker Küster (Eds.), Minjung Theology Today. Contextual and Intercultural
Perspectives, Leipzig 2018.
18 Volker Küster
sponse to the black power movement. 9 Cone was calling white supremacists
to metanoia and put Christian faith to the test,
If Christ was not to be found in black people’s struggle for freedom, if he
were not found in the ghettos with rat-bitten black children, […] then I wanted
no part of him. 10
Today #BlackLivesMatter marks the dawn of a new civil rights
movement. Making the struggle against racism and for civil rights
theological issues proves to be the lasting contribution to liberative
Feminist theology, women’s theologies and Ecofeminism
While first wave feminism had already fought for the right to vote,
second wave feminism focused more on individual rights. Women of
color challenged white feminists of being part of the system that oppresses
them. They therefore preferred to speak of womanist, mujerista
(mujer Spanish for woman), Latina theology etc. It was the Afro
American lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw that introduced the concept of
intersectionality to describe multiple discriminations against the same
person, in her particular case black women. 12 Empowerment and vulnerability
have become important strategic categories. Today white
feminist theologians different from white male dominated mainline
academic theology have learned their lesson and practice forms of
intercultural and intersectional theologies. Ecofeminism on the other
hand, includes care for the whole creation. Emerging queer theologies
give these debates even a new twist. Feminist and women’s theologies
from Africa, Asia/Pacifica, Latin America and their diasporas added
issues of gender to the liberative agenda and give women, who are the
oppressed of the oppressed a voice. 13
Native American Theology claims the rights of the different tribes as
nations over against the American nation state. They demand their
“Black Power”. Statement by the National Committee of Negro Churchmen, July 31, 1966,
James H. Cone, My Soul Looks Back, Maryknoll, NY 1986, 44.
Cf. James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, Maryknoll, NY 1990  and other
writings by the same author.
Cf. Volker Küster, Interkulturelle Christologie. Die vielen Gesichter Jesu Christi, Darmstadt
2021 [Jubilee Edition], 204–246 (§ 13 Jesus und die Frauen).
Liberation Theologies Revisited. A Prologue 19
land back. The trail of broken treaties (1972) pointed out that the
American government did not even respect the treaties they signed
according to their own legal standards with the natives. The close entanglement
of native culture and religion with the land not as property
but as God’s eco-system they are part of, opens up a quite different
view of the location of human beings in the world. This wisdom can
be found in native/indigenous communities worldwide and expands
the liberative cause beyond human worlds. 14
New Political Theology and socio-historical exegesis
In the West besides Feminist Theology the Theology after Auschwitz
was one of the rare examples of a contextual theology. The dangerous
memory of the suffering of the victims, the memoria passionis, is the
hermeneutical lens to interpret history as well as present society. Johann
Baptist Metz warns to trap into a “soteriological circle” that is
ready to forgive the perpetrators but does not know how to deal with
the trauma of the victims. 15 This new political theology was later
joined by the socio-historical school in exegesis, which was a theological
response by the generation ‘68. The 1990s have seen a pushback
in regard to this progressive atmosphere of departure from which
German academic theology did not recover till date.
With Postcolonial Theology the power question in all relationships
came into the picture. At the same time its proponents stressed the
interrelatedness of human beings among each other and with God triune
as well as the necessity that colonized and colonizers and their
descendants, victims and perpetrators enter into dialogue, even if it is
painful. With regard to theological method contrapuntal reading was
introduced as a form of dialogical imagination. 16
All this: the option for the poor, the focus on civil rights and society,
the stance against classism, racism, sexism and ecological aware-
Cf. Vine Deloria Jr., God is Red. A Native View of Religion, Golden, Colorado 2003 
and George E. “Tink” Tinker, American Indian Liberation. A Theology of Sovereignty,
Maryknoll, NY 2008 and other writings by the same authors; see also the contribution of
Jione Havea in this volume.
Cf. Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society. Toward a Practical Fundamental
Theology, London 1980; id., Memoria Passionis, Ein provozierendes Gedächtnis in pluralistischer
Gesellschaft, Freiburg 2006.
Cf. Volker Küster, From Contextualization to Glocalization. Intercultural Theology and
Postcolonial Critique, in: Exchange 45, 2016, 203–226.
20 Volker Küster
ness as well as narrative, postcolonial, intersectional theories and
methods equips us well with critical thinking to respond to the pandemic.
2. Toward an Intercultural Pandemethics
Generative themes of pandemic ethics
In Europe and the northern hemisphere three generative themes dominated
the discussions around pandemic ethics:
• The fear to come into a situation where triage would be necessary
was one of the major reasons for the lockdown. Clinic personal
would then have to decide within an instant who gets access to a respirator
and who might even be disconnected for someone with better
chances for survival. The protection of life was declared the highest
• Herd immunity as a public health strategy propagated by neo-liberal
populists like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro but
also the Swedish government came soon under critic as prioritizing
individual freedom and economic interests over against the care for
the elderly and severely sick people. This would conflict with the responsibility
of the state to protect the life and wellbeing of its citizens
and human rights.
• Vaccination at an early stage got nearly a salvific function in the
secular debate. The issues at stake in this vaccination complex have
been named long before the first vaccine was developed. How
should the vaccine as a rare item in the beginning be distributed, how
to prioritize? Should there be a compulsory vaccination in the long
run? Should vaccinated persons enjoy certain privileges? New questions
arose when the vaccination campaigns started, what to do with
leftover vaccine that was about to expire without prioritized persons
in range? Should youth and children be vaccinated in mass campaigns?
Should there be restrictions for those who reject vaccination?
From the perspective of the Global South this may well seem luxury
problems. With hardly any respirators available, even oxygen being a
rare good, triage appears to be a theoretical question. Even though
Cf. Dorothea Erbele-Küster, Volker Küster und Michael Roth, Theologie infiziert. Religiöse
Rede im Kontext der Pandemie, Stuttgart 2021.
Poverty through the Optic of the
“Danger of a Single Story”
When Covid-19 came on the scene, Africa was still reeling under the
burden of poverty caused by a combination of HIV, climate changeimposed
conditions and economic marginalization. The above adverse
conditions have worsened the situation of the already vulnerable people,
households, economies and predisposed the majority of the workforce
to loss of jobs, to infection, and to death. In the process the efforts
to facilitate food security as well as access to treatment and care
that were beginning to make better the lives of people, have been reversed.
The consequence is the perpetuation of poverty in Africa. The
inequality in the production and distribution of the vaccines has exposed
the dependency of Africa on the Western pharmaceutical market
and its vulnerabilities despite its comparative low Covid-19 infections
and deaths. This dependency has further crystallized the longstanding
identification of Africa as a poor continent, irredeemably
ignorant, unproductive, agrarian, inured only to backward looking
traditions as well as belligerent and errant tendencies.
This kind of narrative has become a trademark of almost every
single African country. In an effort to divert attention from their inefficiency
in bringing about meaningful development to their people,
our African leaders have often evoked the same refrain – and joined
the chorus – of inheriting underdeveloped and poor countries. There is
of course a sense in which the inheritance of underdeveloped Africa
could be defended but that would not be the complete story.
Gradually just coming out of its battle with HIV/AIDS and its
poverty wrenching conditions, Africa is now faced with a much more
pervasive and impoverishing condition of Covid-19. With its advent
and its consequent lockdowns, levels of poverty have increased and
26 Paul Leshota
worsened the conditions of the already economically marginalized
populations of Africa.
This article undertakes a practical theological reflection which
hinges on four tasks commonly referred to as hermeneutical circle
namely: descriptive/empirical (what is happening?); interpretive (why
is it going on?); normative (what ought to be going on?) and pragmatic
(how might we respond?). The lens adopted for purposes of this
article employs a merger of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s TED Talk
of “the danger of a single story” 1 and the Jesus’ story that portrays
him as multi-phased; multi-faced; multi-storied who defies definition
through a single story. It is through the lens of the danger of a single
story that is integrated in Chimamanda’s and Jesus’ multi-phased,
multi-faceted and multi-layered hermeneutical perspectives that I endeavor
to interrogate the enduring narrative of poverty that is perpetually
linked so inextricably to Africa and its people. In the process another
submerged face of Africa will hopefully emerge, be gradually
identified with and pursued to recover the subjugated identity of Africa
as a continent gifted with people, natural resources and climate that
remains the envy of many on the entire globe. The next section is a
response to a practical theological question: What is happening?
1. Africa, HIV, Covid-19 and Poverty
The narrative of Africa as a poor continent has been around for quite
some time. It dates back to the time of the Greek and the Roman empires
to the medieval travelers and explorers and to the colonizers,
historians and anthropologists. 2 Those who claimed to have discovered
Africa placed upon it and its people a burden of a definition –
with effects on the African psyche – that would remain with her for
ages. Despite the advanced civilization discovered by both missionaries
and colonizers in the 18 th and 19 th century, in Africa, they could
only see in it a dark continent with its lazy, irredeemably ignorant,
poverty-ridden people, inured only to backward looking traditions as
Cf. Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story, TED Speech,
In her TED talk the Nigerian novelist shows how distorted the western image of the African
continent is by retelling only a single story about Africa. She underlies that human cultures
and societies are composed of many overlapping stories.
Robin Derricourt, Inventing Africa, London 2011; Ayokunle Omobowole, Stories of the
‘dark’ continent. Crude constructions, diasporic identity, and international aid to Africa, in:
International Sociology Review 30, 2015, 108–118, esp. 109.
Poverty – the “Danger of a Single Story” 27
well as belligerent and errant tendencies. Dube adds that this narrative
was well carried over into the 20 th and 21 st century in that
the media capitalized on presenting a disgusting image of Africa. On the TV,
Africa was the emaciated children of Somalia, the Zulu people shaking and
raising their traditional weapons, the Mozambique war-ravaged kids begging
for food, Liberian kids carrying guns and killing each other, the Rwanda and
Burundi genocide, the terror of Ebola, AIDS, Zaire becoming The Democratic
Republic of Congo, and so forth. In the movies Africa was “Out of Africa”,
“The Gods must be Crazy”, “Coming to America”, “Far Away Places”,
“Outbreak”, and so forth. 3
The outbreak of Ebola, HIV and now Covid-19 has not helped the
situation. Rather it has further perpetuated this enduring negative image
of Africa as a continent of disease, poverty, hunger, war and corruption.
In its wake in the late 20 th century, HIV had found Africa
unprepared mentally, economically and politically. In fact, as Chitando
4 observes, its onset was mired in conspiracy theories and dismissive
attitudes resulting in Africa’s inability to cope with the “visitor
who had pitched a tent in their midst” with highly destructive and
debilitating effects. Africa was forced to go back to war once again
and this time against an enemy that caught the entire continent snapping.
Its advent diverted all Africa’s attention and resources away
from developmental initiatives to HIV response efforts. Even as it did,
the health systems and infrastructure were not prepared for the overwhelming
incursion of the pandemic. The effect of general poverty
paired with high rates of HIV infection in Africa was quite dramatic
on the already vulnerable population. 5
Income at the household level as well as agricultural production
were depleted as illness and death affected in disproportionate ways
the human power at the prime of life. The economy began to bleed
immensely because of the demands imposed upon it by the HIV pandemic.
Expenditure, as a result of medical and dietary needs, added
more burden to an already ailing family income. Both the economy
and the health systems on the African continent were stretched to the
limit, deepening, in the process, poverty and inequality in health care
services. Though the impact was devastating at individual, structural,
social and community levels – from which Africa will take time to
Musa W. Dube and Paul L. Leshota, Breaking the Master’s S.H.I.T. Holes, Leipzig 2020,
Ezra Chitando, Living in Hope. African Churches and HIV/AIDS 1, Geneva 2007, 9.
Jan Isaksen, Nils Gunnar, Sognstad Arild, Socio-economic effects of HIV/AIDS in African
countries, A study commissioned by NORAD, Michelsen Institute, 2002, 10.
28 Paul Leshota
recover – the onset of Covid-19 has further plunged the whole world
in general and Africa in particular into a predicamental situation. The
effects, at the social, psychological, economic and spiritual levels are
devastating. Health systems are overwhelmed, economies are on their
knees and poverty for small economies is tending towards intensities
that have not been experienced in years.
2. Why is it going on?
Africa’s poverty and economic woes cannot be blamed on the natural
disasters and the pandemics alone. The complex and multifaceted nature
of the factors behind Africa’s poverty notwithstanding, there is a
sense in which Africa’s poverty can be attributed to the human element.
This element is articulated well in Tom Burgis, The Looting
Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers and the Systematic
Theft of Africa’s Wealth (2015). The network of the latter
groups is responsible for the run-down of Africa’s economic potential
and of its sustenance as a perpetually underdeveloped continent. They
are working in cahoots to loot Africa of its wealth and resources.
Though the West is responsible for constructing the capitalist economic
organization of society in which the rich exploit the poor in
order to keep their position of affluence and control, 6 it also created in
the process a few elites who would become the bastions of colonial
presence to provide a semblance of oversight on the system they understood
very little about. This system served as a basis for the most
brutal relationship of patronage between the agentive and developed
West on one side and the colonized and underdeveloped Africa with
its leaders on the other. As Nkwazi Mhango 7 observes, that system
was founded on and “shrouded in fabrications, lies and above all, distortions
that European bigots created in order to discredit Africa.” It
started with the exploitation, plundering and organization of resources,
establishment of colonial structures which would be sustained at arms’
length by the creation of elites and their rivalries whose relationship
would be characterized by incessant bickering. Both the elites and
their rivalries would, therefore, constitute a fertile ground for alienation,
political and economic instability to the delight of the colonizer. 8
Emmanuel Lartey, In Living Color. An Intercultural Approach to Pastoral Care and Counselling,
London 2003, 117.
Nkwazi Mhango, How Africa Developed Europe, Langaa RPCIG: Bamenda, Cameroon
Paul Valley, Bad Samaritans. First World Ethics and Third World Debt, London 1990, 96.
Poverty – the “Danger of a Single Story” 29
Despite its numerous efforts to reclaim agency and control of its
destiny, Africa was constantly battered to a point where this negative
portrait became synonymous with Africa and its people. The flipside
of this is that Africa too has learnt to gullibly embrace these definitions
and their permanence as its consolation to not act on its lethargy
to resist and self-define. It was towards this depiction that Chimamanda
9 cites John Locke as a man of imagination who portrayed Africans
as beasts with no houses; and in a much more philosophical slant, as
“people without heads having their mouths and eyes in their breasts.”
This representation of Africans as people without brains who only
care about what they see and eat cannot be missed in Locke’s rhetorical
depiction. The connivance, therefore, between the West and their
corporations on one side and the African leaders who happened to be
tycoons, warlords and smugglers on the other has rendered the looting
machine quite effective in keeping Africa and its people in perpetual
poverty and underdevelopment.
For the most part this has been achieved not without the participation of the
petty bourgeoisie who were party to and co-agents in the perpetuation of brutalities
against their own. In the process Europe was able to dupe the world
into fabricating all mendacities about Africa. 10
The latter bought into this one-sided narrative where, by omission or
commission, Europe was glorified and superhumanized and Africa
was belittled, demonized and subhumanized. Consequently, Africa
and its people are so conditioned as to look at Europe for their patron,
benefactor and savior. The relationship between Europe and Africa is
one in which the former cannot be anything except an investor and the
latter only a beggar who can only wait on grants, donations, loans and
aid and not vice-versa. This relationship has a bearing on various aspects
of Africa’s survival.
Similar tactics were used by the colonizers, elsewhere, to dispossess
the indigenous people of their land and wealth and to subject
them to the extraneous economic dictates of the West which they had
little knowledge of and control over. 11 With the imposition of the co-
Cf. Chimamanda, The Danger of a Single Story.
Mhango, How Africa Developed Europe, 3.
Conquest was one of the strategies used by the colonialists to dispossess the Africans of
their knowledge, politics, culture, economy and land. They imposed the culture, economy and
system of education that served to alienate Africans from their locus and context of existence.
Stephen Ocheni and Basil Nwankwo, Analysis of Colonialism and Its Impact in Africa,
Cross-Cultural Communication 8, 2012, 46–54, discuss at length the strategies used by the
British in their colonization exploits in Africa. Occupancy of land for purposes of mining and
30 Paul Leshota
lonial education system, the class of de-educated and unimaginative
but obedient administrators was ensured. These were prepared to embrace
and implement the Western models, ideas, programs and symbols.
As Valley 12 puts it, their university education prepared the African
graduates to find jobs and become disaffected opposition. In that
way their interests and values became aligned to those of their colonizers
rather than those of their own people, thus setting what Ocheni
and Nwankwo 13 terms petty bourgeoisie on a perpetual warpath
against the indigenous proletariat and peasants. It is this political elitist
group that is responsible for maladministration and abuse of the
resources masquerading as governance expediency.
3. Africa and Global Health Caricature
Relationship of dependency, in the health arena, was achieved through
divesting Africa from its medicinal heritage and legacy, collecting it
and processing it in Europe only to export it back to satisfy the want
and need they had now created. The net effect is that the health systems
have been globalized and centralized within the World Health
Organization (WHO) with the resultant fact that Africa has been alienated
from its own herbal and medicinal resources. Power and control
over what has come to be known as Global Health concerns, and
their implications for the global South, rest with WHO, North American
and European players.
The historical roots of the predominant concept of Global Health go back to
the period of European colonialism and are closely linked to the efforts of the
colonial powers to secure their supremacy and interests in formerly dependent
countries and regions. This hegemonic approach and claim to ‘Global
Health’ from the very beginning is still more or less evident today. The unequal
balance of power in times of politically and militarily enforced colonialism
was more bluntly visible and ideologically covered by racial superiority,
but Global Health reproduces the unequal relations and global inequalities
until today. 14
farming using cheap African labour was one strategy that is still in use – in subtle ways – by
the Western countries. The mining rights are in most cases in the hands of the Western countries
with a smaller share (between 20%–30%) going to African governments often not taking
into consideration the long-time effects of mining extractions on the biodiversity.
Valley, Bad Samaritans, 97.
Ocheni and Nwankwo, Analysis of Colonialism, 52.
Jens Holst, Global Health – emergence, hegemonic trends and biomedical reductionism,
Globalization and Health 16, 2020, Article 42, 18, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12992-020-
How the Pandemic Will Change Minjung Theology
The Covid-19 pandemic can be seen as an event that has brought
about drastic changes in almost every part of our life. But can we put
an epithet truthful to it? All events must contain some truths, otherwise
they are no events. The present pandemic kills many people and
the whole world is arrested by panic to see the enormous number of
casualties. This occurrence is catastrophic, and it changes many aspects
of our life: church, economy, labor, and other social activities,
etc. But does it tell us some truth?
1. Understanding of Event in Minjung Theology
Event (사건, saggeon) is one of the pivotal categorical concepts in
Minjung theology along with others such as han and dan. 1 Thus, I will
begin with some observations on the idea of event employed in
Minjung theology. Ahn Byung-Mu (1922–1996) in his book Stories of
Minjung Theology claims that God causes events to occur. 2 For example,
Jesus is an event in history. For Ahn, Jesus himself is not an individual
person, but a collective being. Jesus is an embodiment of ordinary
people (minjung) as opposed to the powerful elite. Moreover,
Jesus is the single major event that changes the direction of the whole
history (Albert Schweitzer). 3 According to Ahn Byung-Mu, the Jesus
Cf. Kwon Jin-Kwan, The Subjecthood of Minjung in History through Han, Dan, and Event,
in: Madang. International Journal of Contextual Theology 16, 2011, 550–568. Han is a sentiment
of the oppressed people that has been accumulated because of injustice inflicted on
them for a long period of time. Dan is an action of cutting-off the old life style of indulgence
in self-pity and passivity or debauchery, so that one can proceed to take action to liberate
oneself from oppression and poverty.
Ahn Byung-Mu, Stories of Minjung Theology, Atlanta 2019, 107.
Ahn, Stories, 269.
42 Kwon Jin-Kwan
event takes place in the people, in their actions and sufferings for
changing history. I quote Ahn’s well-known passage about the idea of
I compare the minjung event to a single great stream of volcanic lava that
flows through many ages and erupts in different historical situations. It is my
view that this lava erupted with colossal volcanic activity in the Jesus event
and that this same lava is flowing ceaselessly below the crust of history in
this age as well. Therefore, the minjung events in today’s Korea, I believe,
are not isolated and independent but are in continuity with the Jesus event
two thousand years ago. This is important – I pursue the Jesus of present existence,
namely, how he manifests himself in this very age. He is manifesting
himself in the minjung event here today! Therefore, it is nonsense to pursue
the Jesus of two thousand years ago or the doctrinal Christ. What matters is
where and how the Christ of today – the Jesus event of today – is taking
place. It is happening neither within the existing system nor within the existing
church. Rather, it is taking place where you find yourselves after being
alienated, deserted, and expelled from these places, that is, ‘outside the city
gate’ where Jesus was executed. This is how I see it. 4
In Ahn’s understanding, an event is something special, unexpected
and revolutionary; among all events in history, Jesus is the single most
important event in history. Jesus is the epitome of liberation and salvation.
However, Ahn’s conception of event is not limited to Jesus. Anything
that brings about creative transformation and liberation can be
seen as a truthful event. Therefore, such ideas as Exodus, Prophets,
Resurrection, Cross, and contemporary people’s movements for freedom
and liberation are also regarded as substantial events.
Now let us turn to another major minjung theologian Suh Nam-
Dong (1918–1984). Suh Nam-Dong was a systematic theologian,
while Ahn Byung-Mu was a Biblical scholar. Major difference between
the two theologians can be noted when we hear their debate on
what text and context mean for theology. For Ahn, the text is the Bible,
and the context anything but the Bible. Suh Nam-Dong turns it
around, the world is the text, while the Bible being the context. For
Suh Nam-Dong anything in history and world can become a messianic
event. Biblical narratives of Resurrection, Exodus, Cross, etc. functions
as references or context for our understanding what is going on
in the world. For Suh Nam-Dong, the present action of the Spirit in
the world is more important than the past activities recorded in the
texts of the Bible. 5 He designates his interpretation discerning the
Ahn, Stories, 26.
Suh Nam-Dong, Historical References for a Theology of Minjung, Minjung Theology. People
as the Subjects of History, Maryknoll, NY 1983, 177.
How the Pandemic Will Change Minjung Theology 43
Spirit active truthfully in the world as “pneumatological interpretation.”
Ahn and Suh seem to disagree with each other, but their different
starting points converge in the long run. Ahn starts from the Bible and
approaches the matters of minjung’s worldly life; Suh starts with
worldly matters. Ahn witnesses to the Christ active in the people’s
worldly activities. Suh witnesses to the Spirit active in people’s worldly
life and activities. For Suh secular modern times are the era of
minjung and the Spirit: 6
Thus, God develops his own presence and activity in this way: the Holy Son
surpasses the Holy Father, and in turn the Holy Spirit surpasses the Holy Son,
and moves in an eschatological direction. […] The Holy Spirit is Christ’s
successor (cf. John 16). He is the transformation of Christ and is intrinsic
God dwelling in humanity. As such, he becomes the basis for the conviction
regarding the equal rights and dignity of all human beings. Therefore, the period
of the Holy Spirit is that of the minjung.
When it comes to an event, it is for Ahn a Jesus event in minjung’s
liberation movements, and for Suh it is an event of the Spirit, and both
are created by God. For both minjung theologians events are created
and initiated by God. But are the events that change history and the
world always initiated by the compassionate God? How about the
Holocaust? How about the World Wars? Did God create the Tsunami,
or Chernobyl? Are they triggered and initiated by God? Did God willfully
start those catastrophes? Then was the loving God the mastermind
behind those tragedies? What about the so-called Black Death of
the 14 th century, which killed more than 75 million people in Europe,
a third of the whole population, and the recent Covid-19 pandemic,
which is still killing millions of people all over the world? Are these
human tragedies caused or created by the loving God to occur in history?
2. A New Understanding of Event
Following the understanding of the two minjung theologians, the
coronavirus pandemic does not fall into the category of an event, but
simply to that of catastrophe or tragedy. Yet, I think that the two major
minjung theologians’ understanding of event is limited. According
to Ahn Byung-Mu, event has to do with Jesus Christ. It is Jesus’ or
Christ’s event. The event has to implicate the work of Jesus, even if it
is secular on the surface. For Suh Nam-Dong the event must implicate
Suh, Historical References, 164f.
44 Kwon Jin-Kwan
the work of the Holy Spirit. Then we need to approach event in a different
way. Our idea of event should be more neutral to include the
pandemic as an event. That is the case, because we are doing theology
after the pandemic. Ahn’s event is the people’s act for liberation, as he
believes that Christ is active among and with the collectivities in their
struggles for liberation. However, I would contend that after the pandemic
the event has to be understood as something that breaks out,
something unexpected, revolutionary, repressed, and shocking, and it
opens up the real and makes us encounter the real, the whole, and the
The present pandemic then ironically and in spite of all tragedies
gives us an opportunity to encounter the truthful and the real in our
life. The corona virus pandemic is the “revenge” of the real and the
truthful upon the faulty human world. I borrowed the term real from
the French psychoanalyst and philosopher Jacques Lacan. This concept
has been developed further by various philosophers such as
Slavoj Žižek. 8 According to Lacan, the real is outside of the symbolic
world that is created by words (language). 9 Our normal world is created
by our language, especially by long-trusted discourses and stories.
The intrusion of the pandemic was unexpected, unimaginable, and
impossible to the ordinary people of the world created by words and
language, but it has actually happened in our world and changed it. It
has broken down the meaning system of our everyday life and created
a different life style. Thus, the pandemic can be seen as the intrusion
of the real.
The recent pandemic is more than a human tragedy and it urges us
to do away with the normalcy that has been hitherto taken for granted
and never been in doubt. Its effects are far-reaching on diverse dimensions
of our life including economy, religion, politics, and even theology.
An event is a historical occurrence that infuses substantial changes
into very important aspects of our life. Churches, businesses, and
schools are closed. The features of everyday life have changed. Masks
must be worn, travelling is restricted, quarantines are required, and
only 50 people or less can be invited to the wedding. Many workers
have lost their jobs.
The epidemic was predictable at least for a small group of specialists
including those in the WHO. But for the states and the ordinary
people, it is quite new and unexpected and even unimaginable, and it
Peter Hallward, Badiou. A Subject to Truth, Kindle Edition, xxv.
Refer to Slavoj Zizek, Event. Philosophy in Transit, London 2014.
Jacques Lacan, Ecrits. A Selection, New York 2007 [French 1999], 228.
How the Pandemic Will Change Minjung Theology 45
has changed everything in our life. For ordinary people including us
theologians, it has become an irrevocable, unexpected event.
Vaccines seem effective in controlling and alleviating the serious
illness of the pandemic. The coronavirus will remain endemic and
become part of our life. The coronavirus pandemic has been caused by
humans who had exploited bats and other wild animals for commercially
selling, killing, and eating them. The Anthropocene is a neologism
meaning that the influence of human behavior on Earth’s atmosphere
in recent centuries is so significant as to constitute a new geological
epoch. This new epoch is apocalyptical. The pandemic is one
of the signs of our times. How can we reverse the path of anthropocosmic
history, which is approaching an apocalyptical catastrophe?
The pandemic is an anti-minjung event. Social disparity has widened
during the pandemic. Delivery workers labor almost 18 hours a
day; many workers have died out of overwork. Poor sectors of the
society get poorer. The pandemic accelerated the so-called Fourth
Industrial Revolution. AI, robotics, alternative energies, digital industries,
non-face-to-face platform companies, bio-technical companies,
computer industries, etc. are booming and dominating the world economy.
Traditional sectors are weakening, and minjung are among these
sectors. Post pandemic world will be a world of inequality and disparity.
A small elite group is flourishing while the majority of unprepared
and ill-equipped ordinary people (minjung) are diminishing under
permanent insecurity. Facing such economic insecurity of the vast
majority of people, the government pays various relief subsidies.
The social disparity incurs social discrimination and political unrest.
Race, sex, caste, class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientations
will cause more discrimination, violence and conflict. Black Lives
Matter is campaigning in the midst of, and against, white supremacist’s
campaigns including ‘Make America Great Again’ and QAnon.
In the U.S. and Europe, Asian hate crimes have increased during the
Churches are hit hard by the pandemic. Church gatherings including
worship services have been an epicenter of coronavirus outbreak.
Worship services and group activities are banned or attendances are
restricted to small numbers. Members of churches have decreased.
The financial situation of churches and seminaries is worse than before
the pandemic. Seminaries are falling; the number of applicants
for the ministerial job is decreasing.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a devastating but truthful event. It has
its origin in the real in our everyday life. It started from our lives, our
46 Kwon Jin-Kwan
unhealthy and exploitative lives. It forces to expose the pre-existing,
unnoticed conditions of the current global crisis, which challenge us to
respond in a more systemic way. Therefore, I redefine the meaning of
event thus: event is the coming of the real. The real is different from
reality. Reality is a social construction, and is a state as it is, while the
real is outside of such reality. Reality is constructed by human language;
the real is outside of the common language. The real transcends
our normal thoughts and expectations, and reaches truths. Then
event is an occasion of the coming or revealing of the real and truth.
3. Kairos for New Subjects to emerge
The issue of the subjectivity and subjecthood of the people in history
is pivotal when we seek to respond to the challenges of our times. In
order to correct structural problems and climate change issues, people
need to change themselves first. The current subjectivities of people
are the product of the current world. If we want a new world, correspondently,
new subjects must emerge. The emergence of new subjects
is a major concern of minjung theology. This is true for the Bible
as well, especially the Pauline letters. Now, let us share some examples
of the emergence of new subjects in history.
For Ahn Byung-Mu such an event is the Jesus event, or more concretely,
the Jesus’ resurrection event. The advent of new subjects who
usher in a new world is an event of resurrection. 10 After the execution
of Jesus on the cross, the Galilean minjung were disappointed and in
despair. Having encountered the resurrected Jesus, the Galilean
minjung became new subjects of history. Ahn testifies that the resurrection
of Jesus continues in the historical events of minjung and these
events occur outside of the church. Ahn’s understanding of resurrection
as the event that creates truthful subjects is a breakthrough of the
traditional understanding of the resurrection as rising of the dead. For
Suh Nam-Dong resurrection is the resurrection of the killed, not the
dead. Suh argues that natural death itself is a blessing and that the resurrection
is necessary only for those who are killed by injustice like
Jesus. Then we may well say that for minjung theology resurrection is
not a gift endowed freely on all, but a possibility for those who voluntarily
or by chance involve themselves in a truthful event.
The event becomes a space where all elements work together to
create new subjects. The 2014 incident of the Saewol ferry, which
Ahn, Stories, 261.
How the Pandemic Will Change Minjung Theology 47
sunk at the sea in the South-West of Korea and more than three hundred
innocent people, the majority of whom were high school girls
and boys, were drowned, shocked many people. They blamed the authorities
for inefficient and inappropriate rescue operations. The tragic
incident became a space of event. Fathers, mothers, and siblings of the
victims became historical subjects and participated in the movements
for overthrowing the inefficient and impotent government. The new
subjects of history were created in the space of this event.
The pandemic is a historical event. Its effects are far-reaching and
people`s ways of living have changed. In accordance with the changes
or transformations the pandemic has brought, there must be a significant
change of human nature. The world struck and sickened by the
pandemic waits for new subjects to emerge. The key message of Paul
in his Letters hinges on the emerging of new subjects. In Romans
8:19–23, Paul writes:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of
God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the
will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set
free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the glorious liberty of the children
of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail
together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the
first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the
redemption of our bodies (RSV Bible).
We find some important ideas in the text above: the children of God,
the whole creation, the redemption of our bodies, groaning in travail.
There are opposing pairs: bondage vs. liberty, decay vs. glory. There
are also co-related pairs: adoption and redemption, and futility and
decay. I think that the most significant pair in this passage is that of
our bodies and the children of God.
The whole creation is suffering from the pandemic and other catastrophes
such as climate change. It groans in labor pains; it awaits
the revealing of the children of God, who walk in the path of the Spirit.
Paul highlights the children of God, a new humanity or, we may
call it, a new subject in the whole creation. That the children of God
need to be seen from the body, is a major idea in this passage. The
new subjects of the world and in the whole creation are the children of
God, who have their body.
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