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Life Arts    H1'ed 11/20/22

Beyond Eurocentric Theology: How Jesus Is (and Is Not) the "King of the Universe"

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Readings for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe: 2 SM 5: 1-3, PS 122: 1-5; COL 1: 12-20; LK 23: 35-43

Since taking up residency in Spain two months ago, I've developed a new understanding of why I've learned Spanish. It has allowed me to access lines of critical thought that would otherwise be closed to me as a resident of the imperial Global North.

Those lines have given me a new understanding of this Sunday's liturgical focus, viz., the celebration of "The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe." They have shown me how that phrase, "King of the Universe" can be understood in two ways, one that is oppressive and the other that is liberating - one that is Eurocentric and the other that is truly universal.

The Solemnity calls westerners to change our minds from Eurocentrism to one that sees Jesus as promising a New Order where the poor and oppressed displace the earth's traditional rulers.

Let me try to explain what I mean.

Critical Thinking

To begin with: a word about the critical thinking I'm referencing. (I intend to write much more about this in upcoming posts.)

I'm talking about Global South scholars who have shaped my worldview over my last 50 years. They include Costa Rica's Franz Hinkelammert, Mexico's Enrique Dussel, and Puerto Rico's Ramon Grosfoguel. I consider the first two to be colleagues and mentors of mine. I worked with them in Brazil and Costa Rica.

My initial reason for reconnecting with these scholars while in Spain was to sharpen my understanding of the language here. However, what I've learned has gone far beyond that superficial intention.

That's because the current project of my mentors is the reinterpretation of the "universal history" of humanity in ways that are anti-colonial and decolonized, and that put in ideological perspective the understanding of Jesus as "King of the Universe."

Fake Eurocentric History

Their critical vision holds that the traditional tri-partite periodization of western history as (1) antiquity, (2) middle ages, and (3) modernity is deceptively Euro-centric and colonial. It completely distorts human experience as if universal history were synonymous with European history - as if God's self-revelation began with the Hebrews 1200 years before the dawn of the Common Era, as if philosophy started in 5th century (BCE) Greece, and as if modernity began with the European Renaissance in the 16th century CE.

According to Hinkelammert, Dussel, and Grosfoguel, none of that is true. It ignores the fact that in terms of world history, Europe and its understandings of God, philosophy, astronomy, physics, and industrial development are completely marginal. Theology and philosophy began in Africa (think Egypt and the Bantu nations) thousands of years before Moses and Socrates.

Its development moved eastward towards India and China, leaving a marginalized Europe on the periphery.

For instance, China experienced its Renaissance long before Europe. Islam's understanding of the world based on scientific principles (including the heliocentric universe) preceded Galileo's and Newton's by centuries. In fact, the latter European "greats" largely copied their insights from Chinese books printed on presses that predated Guttenberg's by hundreds of years.

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Retired in 2014, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program. His latest book is (more...)
 

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