Dorothea Erbele-Küster | Volker Küster (Eds.): Between Pandemonium and Pandemethics (Leseprobe)

This volume brings together contextual and intercultural responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic from theological and interreligious perspectives. It searches for models of interpretation provided by religious traditions and their sacred texts, and the ethical guidance religious communities offer for coping with the pandemic. The authors explore imaginative ways that transcend the New Normal towards a »Pantopia« that does not return to the pitfalls of the Old Normal but tackles the injustices that the virus has revealed in the current Pandemonium. They strive to enable their readers to react to the glocal pandemic and its aftermath theologically informed by intercultural and interreligious perspectives.

This volume brings together contextual and intercultural responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic from theological and interreligious perspectives. It searches for models of interpretation provided by religious traditions and their sacred texts, and the ethical guidance religious communities offer for coping with the pandemic. The authors explore imaginative ways that transcend the New Normal towards a »Pantopia« that does not return to the pitfalls of the Old Normal but tackles the injustices that the virus has revealed in the current Pandemonium. They strive to enable their readers to react to the glocal pandemic and its aftermath theologically informed by intercultural and interreligious perspectives.


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Dorothea Erbele-Küster | Volker Küster (Eds.)

Between Pandemonium

and Pandemethics

Responses to Covid-19 from Theology and Religions

Contact Zone


Introduction 7

Part I: Contextual Perspectives

Liberation Theologies Revisited in Times of Pandemic.

A Prologue

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

6 Content

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-

8 Introduction

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

neoliberal capitalism;

• 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?

10 Introduction

• 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

Dorothea Erbele-Küster.

Part I:

Contextual Perspectives

Liberation Theologies Revisited

in Times of Pandemic. A Prologue

Volker Küster

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

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

Black Theology

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 [1981]; 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

theologies. 11

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 Theologies

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 [1970] and other

writings by the same author.


Cf. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionalitycant-wait/.


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.

Postcolonial Theology

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 [1973]

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”

Paul Leshota

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,

2009; https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.

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

2018, 9.


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

Kwon Jin-Kwan

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

truthful. 7

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.

The cover design makes use of art works by Solomon Raj, Hendarto, Nyoman Darsane,

André Kambaluesa, Hong Song-Dam, an unknown Ethopian Ikon painter and Lee Chul-Soo

(in clockwise order and on backcover; by courtesy of the artists; photos by Volker Küster).

This publication is sponsored by Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.

Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbiographie;

detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de.

© 2022 by Evangelische Verlagsanstalt GmbH · Leipzig

Printed in Germany

This work, including all of its parts, is protected by copyright. Any use beyond the strict limits of

copyright law without the permisson of the publishing house is strictly prohibited and punishable

by law. This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage or

processing of the entire content or parts thereof in electronic systems.

This book is printed on ageing resistant paper.

Cover: Kai-Michael Gustmann, Leipzig

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