Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch
A blessed workers' day to all those who have the privilege to work, for those who long to work, for those who find joy in their work, and for those whose work brings life. Blessings to those who work to survive, to those who are faithful in spite of struggle or hardship. Blessing to the workers and work seekers. May our work make the world a better place. May we commit our creativity, energy and our time to the work of justice, peace and love, and may it be seen in the things we do and make.
"What we would like to do is change the world--make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute--the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words--we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend"
- Dorothy Day, Founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.
Schillebeeeckx notes that without true solidarity the “gospel becomes impossible to believe and understand”[i]. The notion of true solidarity cannot be divorced from contextual solidarity. Our solidarity is not merely some spiritual concept that has no bearing on our real lives. So, in relation to HIV/AIDS Haight reminds us, “Jesus cannot be Christ and salvation cannot be real without having some bearing on this situation”[ii].The Southern African context is not unfamiliar with suffering and solidarity. Albert Nolan wrote during the height of the atrocities of Apartheid in the 1980’s that solidarity with the suffering will be “the new starting point for modern theology and spirituality in most of the Christian world today”[iii].
If we are to hope to correct our abuses of each other and of other races and of our land, and if our effort to correct these abuses is to be more than a political fad that will in the long run be only another form of abuse, then we are going to have to go far beyond public protest and political action. We are going to have to rebuild the substance and the integrity of private life in this country. We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibility that we have parceled out to the bureaus and the corporations and the specialists, and we are going to have to put those fragments back together again in our own minds and in our families and households and neighborhoods. We need better government, no doubt about it. But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities. We need persons and households that do not have to wait upon organizations, but can make necessary changes in themselves, on their own.
[i] Schillebeeckx, E Jesus: An experiment in Christology. Translated by Hoskings, H. New York: Vintage books 1981:623.
[ii] Haight, R, Jesus symbol of God. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (1999:26).
[iii] Nolan, A, God in South Africa. Cape Town: David Philiip publishers. (1988:43).
Prof Jean Pierre Wils delivered a paper at a biomedical ethics conference at Stellenbosch University in August last year (if I recall correctly). He made a deeply challenging and thought provoking point that contemporary ethics seems obsessed with just health care, but the more important ethical issue is just health. Simply stated, unjust societies contribute to illness among their populations. This is not just a matter of providing adequate health care, it is a larger issue, it has to do with gender, economics, access to a healthy diet, sexual and reproductive rights etc.
I was asked to write a paper in response to his paper - which I have done and it is currently under review for a special edition of the journal 'In luce verbi' in which his paper and mine will appear. I will let you know when they are published.
In the meantime I discuss the issue of just health care and the South African biomedical theological ethical context in this video entitle 'Detrimental to your health'. I'd love to hear your insights, thoughts and comments!
Is Stellenbosch really the most unequal city in the world?
Today I rode my Brompton through Stellenbosch - I had 25 minutes between meetings and wanted to get something for lunch. It was the first time I had been on the bike in more than a week. I came back form Johannesburg with a rather nasty flu and still wasn't feeling great. But it was awesome to be out in the sun and enjoying the fresh air and beautiful western Cape scenery!
As I was riding my bike I reflected on Stellenbosch, which is the most unequal city in South Africa (a country which is among the most economically unequal countries in the world).
Watch the VLOG for some beautiful scenery, and think with me about a better economic system in which no one has too much while anyone has too little.
I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts! Don’t you love my old folding bike? It goes with me when I travel.
“The Christian God is no little god of fortune, in whose kingdom it is possible to remain free of want and sorrow. Jesus—multiplying loaves and healing the sick—could have had all this; indeed can have it. Instead Jesus identified with the suffering and for the sake of their sicknesses became sick; for the sufferers’ sake he suffered abuse; in order to overcome death he, like everyone else, became mortal. To accept the way of Jesus means also to hold on to the paradox.”
- Dorothee Soelle, Suffering