Gerald O. West
Gerald O. West is Professor Emeritus in the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics in the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He has worked extensively with the Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research for the past thirty years, a project in which socially engaged biblical scholars and ordinary African readers of the Bible from poor, working-class, and marginalised communities collaborate for social transformation. His most recent book is: The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon (2016).
“Translating Leviathan, doing people’s theology as prophetic public theology, from below
There are a range of contending notions of ‘public theology’, so this paper makes a liberation-theology-oriented choice for a form of public theology that understands itself as a talking back to idolatrous systems of domination from the local theologies of life of organised groups of those marginalised by such systems. The South African Kairos Document (1985) provides an example of the process of moving from local, incipient, ‘people’s theology’ to publically articulated ‘prophetic theology’ – public theology from below. This paper reflects on using Contextual Bible Study to do public theology from below, drawing on the book of Job. In the God speeches of the book of Job (38-41), Job finds an unexpected ally in Leviathan. “The crisis” that drives the poetry of the book of Job “is not about God’s power”, argues Bruce Birch. “It is about God’s justice”. Job’s interrogation of God’s conception of systemic justice, provoked by his wife (Job 2:9), forces God to admit to gaps in God’s control of chaos and/as injustice. Behemoth (Job 40) and Leviathan (Job 41), who are “the first of the ways of God” (40:19) and the “king” of God’s creation (41:34), are also significant forces of chaos and/as injustice. This paper delves, through exegesis and art, into the discourse that these creatures wring forth from God, revealing a traumatised God, but offering Job another way of engaging with systemic chaos and/as injustice as this God of struggle and Job become alliance partners in doing public theology, speaking back to oppressive systems and rebuilding broken marginalised communities.