THEOLOGIZING THROUGH EXPERIENCE By Joseph Velamkunnel, SJ
IntroductIon•We are in search of a theology which is relevant to the needsand aspirations of the people around.•This article refers to a few experiments conducted at learningtheology while living among the masses in rural Bihar.•It provides an alternative to the methods used in the seminariestoday.
Three points discussed here…Presuppositions regarding theologizing in India and its formative value.Some areas of exposure which would affect the participants.Conclusion
I.PRE SUPPOSITIONS•Context, Method and the experiences, the participants go through are not neutral; they condition the quality of the theology.•For many years to come, the large part of the Indian populationwill be living in the rural India. Thus we need to form apostles competentto work in the rural area.•Indian theology is an articulation of experiences which are typically Indian. Indian theology has something distinctive to contribute t the church,because it’s distinctly unique.
II. Exposure to Indian Reality.1.Indian religious traditions in its lived form2.Socio- economic reality of India3.Competent, limited exposure to western thought.
Exposure to Indian Religious TraditionsThis paper mainly refers to Hinduism as that was the predominantreligion in those villages.You also need a effective exposure to the living forms of Christianity,in the local set up(Scientific exposure)
Exposure to HinduismAids for observation:Experience of God as seen in the type of prayers, in the way of facingsufferings, needs mentioned in the intercessory prayers, rituals, religioussymbolism things used decorations, vows and pilgrimages, sacred places,occasions of prayer, sacred events, sacred men such as Priests, Medicinemen, Sadhus etc; nature of God’s as seen in the images and sculptures,type of idols worshipped various sacraments, sanctifying the differentphases of their life, understanding of death and after life, meaning of birthespecially that of girls, magic, divination and any other phenomenonconnected with religion.
•It’s good to have an exposure to more intense forms of living Hinduism, existing in Ashrams and fruitful contact with Gurus.•Contact with Hindu sages, at some point is essential as they are with intense religious experience and are capable of articulating it.•Prior to reading Upanishad and Vedic text, good to red Ramayana & Mahabharata.•Awakening of the Indian Christian experience must be sought more and more through the discovery of those common elements on the experiential level ofHinduism and Christianity.
B)Christian religious traditionAnother starting point for Indian theology is the lived experienceof the Christian faith.Get an idea of what the faithful experience in their religious life;without passing any judgment.Thus one must visit, interview, discuss, take part in their religiouscelebrations etc.
Aids for Observation The sacramental life-its frequency, purpose, understanding of the symbolism, prayer life, meaning, type of prayer, community dimension of prayer, social consciousness, moral code, concept of sin and repentance,, attitude to God in suffering, collective sinfulness, attitude to authority, frequency of the use of Bible.
2) Exposure to the Socio Economic Reality of India: Aids For ObservationSocial Life: How many castes? Relationship? Differences between them in theoccupation, names, living quarters, religious practices? Village organizations? Festivals? When and how expensive? Any low caste persons treated badly last year? Any bondedlabourers? Do the religious leaders oppress the poor? Relationship between the membersin the families? Who are the decision makers in the families? Status symbol? Inter-castemarriages? Any instance of violence?Economic Life: Landless? Day workers? Income? Is that sufficient for food,medicine…etc? Clothes? Any debt? Cash crops? Water facilities? Fruit trees? Food habits?Malnutrition? Any form of economic oppression? Wage system? Any labour trouble lastyear? Why? Who controls the wage system?
Political Life: Parties? Are the money lenders, the party leaders? Does casteinfluence politics? Relationship between economic life and party politics?During the last election any instance of violence on the poor/low caste?Role of religion in Politics? Were the villagers free to vote for theircandidates?Educational Life: School? How many children attend the school daily? Dotheteachers come regularly? Adult literacy? Male-female attitude towardseducation? religious taboos regarding the education of women/girls? Relationshipbetween educated youth and the parents and village elders?Any reforms attempted in the last year.
Indian Reality•Vast marginalized masses live at the mercy of the minority.•The top 10% of the population represent 27% of the total consumption.• While the 40% of the population represent only 19% of total consumption.•India is still a largely agricultural country. But who owns the land? Top 10%population•Has 55% of the total Land and bottom 40% has no land.•About a million die every year in India, badly nourished.•In Cities, where 20% people live, have 40% doctors and 90% of hospital beds.• In rural India, where 80% people live, only primary health care centre’s present.
Exposure to Other CulturesKnowledge of the tradition of the Eastern and western churches, of Latin Americancountries, of the Afro Asian neighbours will provide us a wider perspective for thinking.Insights of Marx, Freud and other thinkers, will influence our thinking.Some of the socio-economic problems of our people are similar to that of otherdevelopingcountries. Thus the theological reflections of these churches may stimulate us in ourthinking.Let’s not forget the differences.One of the disservices rendered to the cause of the inculturation of theology, is the largenumber of western theological books, given to read. Many of the reflectionsin these books, refer or applicable to those societies.
ConclusionThe above mentioned methods are only starting points of Indian theology. Eventually totalvision will emerge from these experiences. Sharing in the struggles of the massesfor their livelihood would add a new quality to the theology of the Indian Church.
Different mode of Exams must be introducedAbility to communicate his experiences and reflections to others.Ex: Hindus, the catholic laity and other collaborators etc. He must proveHis ability to interpret the social reality, the events of the times in the lightof faith and impart this knowledge to the above mentioned groups.
The Hindu experience of God will modifythe Indian Christian experience of God.Thus there will be an encounter of theChrist in the Indian soil and a theologicalexpression of that experience in the IndianIdiom.