Faces Of Jesus In Caribbean Theology by Jason Gordon [Fifth Annual Conference] January 5-9, 1998


Most presentations in this conference have undertaken the task of creating a portrait of Jesus as they perceive his image within a specific socio-cultural locality within the Caribbean. My point of departure is to situate the different portraits within the broader traditions of imaging in the Caribbean.  If the presentations of this conference could be seen as the work of the artist, then I undertake to do the work of the artistic critique.  Mine is the task of evaluating the techniques used, the tones and shades, the appropriateness of the materials and the tools for achieving the desired results. Ultimately my task is to evaluate the images presented vis-à-vis the task at hand—mediating the religious dimension of the Caribbean reality.

Even if an individual painting may have striking beauty in its own right, what is its value, if this beauty is not disclosing the deeper truth of our reality. Or a particularly ugly portrait for that matter, if its aesthetics are in the service of mediation, then its ugliness is not something we must simply endure, we must contemplate it. My undertaking is thus, to situate this conference within the broader landscape of Caribbean theology. My hope is that through this critical approach to the wider tradition, that I may render service to the individual artist, by engendering self-critical reflection upon their attempts at portraits thus far. Art like theology is not driven by intuition alone. For they are also crafts. Without pausing to reflect upon the status of the craft form time to time, we may end up producing cheep replicas, distorted images, or phantoms of our imaginations. The portraits of Jesus that we offer have a hermeneutical task. It is to open possibility for an enhanced future by mediating the deeper reality of the community.  Thus ultimately, evaluation must revolve around this task of mediation.

The Genisis

It is now customary to date the paradigmatic shift in theology in the Caribbean with the 1971 publication “In search of New Perspectives[1]. Idris Hamid principal of St. Andrews Theological College wrote this work. Hamid’s paper and the two published works that came out of the six conferences that followed, display a consensus concerning the rupture and the tools used to analyse and interpret the Caribbean reality. His rupture is with colonisation, which for him occurs on four levels—“political, economic, cultural and religious[2].” He sights four essential pillars; (1) false dichotomy between body and spirit. (2) Proclaiming the spiritual needs of the soul as the really real (all that mattered) at the expense of the bodily needs. (3) An individualistic ethic that was destructive to Community. (4) A false opiate eschatology which pushed hope to the next life, negating historical engagement. The model of analysis utilised in Hamid’s text is historical critical using suspicion of colonisation as the hermeneutic key. Thus ideological suspicion revolved around the axis of colonisation and emancipation, rather than the axis of social class. It is important to note that Hamid’s focus is primarily on the effects of colonisation in religion and culture, only secondarily is it on the political and economic realm.

The 1973 conferences on Christology  organised by Idris Hamid represent the second milestone in the history of Caribbean theology[3]. When one reads the text of this conference there is no doubt of what the rupture consisted. It was a rupture with colonisation. At centre stage forming the new epistemological base is the exploration of “Caribbean man[4]” and “a new Antillian Culture.” What is abundantly clear is that the writers, the artist and the Black power leaders are the intellectual leaders at the forefront of this movement. The key term coined for analysis is “taking a long historical view.” This view is grounded in the genocide, slavery and indentureship of the peoples who now form the Caribbean. But this view goes further to analyse the effects of colonisation—its exploitation on every possible level of substructure and superstructure. The primary mode of exploration focused upon the use of religion and culture to colonise and resist colonisation. In effect this view of history was to short, for it allowed the naive optimism that liberation was close at hand. There was no sense of the power of the system to fight back.

There was a pivotal shift in the mode of analysis in the 1975 Missiology conference Out Of The Depths[5]. Five of the fifteen authors, who published, used Marx’s analysis as an interpretative framework. Some of these gave serious challenge to the tradition of Theology in the English speaking Caribbean. It is important to note that two of these—Adolfo Ham and Uxmal Livio Diaz came from Cuba, One-P. I. Gomes is a professional sociologist from Guyana, and the other two—Wilfrido Ramos and Louis N. Rivera are from Puerto Rico. The other ten contributors, eight coming from the English speaking and two from the French speaking Caribbean used cultural analysis in different forms. The ideological divide in the region revolves around the axis of language. The Spanish speakers aligned themselves with the continent.

All the papers used colonisation as a point of departure and an exploration of the “Caribbean man” as the general terrain. Up to the publication of this work, the English speaking Caribbean had not shifted from cultural analysis. The Spanish speaking Caribbean however, obviously aligned with Latin America, were producing a different brand of theology. There has never been one Caribbean theology, or one conceptual framework out of which the theologians worked. Our history of fragmentation, the difference in the colonisers and thus language, the size of the island, the racial background and cultural option of the theologian all affected the theology produced.

Different approaches

From A survey of the literature of theological reflection in the region, I have discerned three distinct approaches to the discipline. (1) Those, who use analysis from other contexts eclectically force-fitting them onto theology and the region. (2) The second group, by far the most dominant tradition sees culture as the space for engagement and transformation. They seek to mediate the reality via the use of another discipline—cultural anthropology, literature, or history (3). The third group uses Marx analysis as the tool of choice for analysing the society[6]. Most of the written theology generated in the region falls into one or more of these categories.

(1) The Eclectic Tradition

The first category; “Those, who use analysis from other contexts eclectically force fitting them onto theology and the region” raise several serious issues connected with the production of theology. Stephen Jennings 1987 article “Caribbean theology or theologies of the Caribbean”[7] raises the first important point—out of what paradigm or tradition should Caribbean theology be evaluated[8]. He starts his analysis with the model of Caribbean society as melting pot. This model borrowed from North America, focuses on the boiling down of the many cultures into one super culture. In the Caribbean this is a false model, leading to the notion of uniformity of culture, or at least to a super culture to which all strands are destined[9]. Jennings, like others before him who have attempted systematisation, sees Caribbean Theology in orbit around Latin American Liberation theology, not as a creation in its own right[10].

Sehon Goodridge’s “The domestication of Theology[11]“ unwittingly raises the second main point of our discussion—Norms for theological reflection in the Region. It is written by a Caribbean theologian, Published in a Caribbean Journal, but it refers only indirectly to the Caribbean and footnotes no Caribbean authors. Can this be Caribbean theology? The Question, articulated differently; is there anything inherent in content or method to identify and distinguish Caribbean theology from other brands? The issue at hand here is –what does the term Caribbean add to the discipline  or craft of theology?

Some like Lewin Williams[12], and Burchell Taylor[13] use the term Caribbean theology without reservation. Others like Patrick Anthony[14] and Kortrigh Davis[15] prefer to avoid the term in favour of stressing the fact of the reflection happening in the Caribbean. In the first usage, the term Caribbean is adjectival and thus is expected to provide some distinct qualities, aesthetic norms and thus methodology that will inform more than the content of this theology. In the second approach the term Caribbean is purely geographical, with no expectations that will inform beyond the boundaries of the physical geographical space delineated. There are serious implications for using either term.

For the purpose of our conference “Faces of Jesus in the Caribbean” the implications are real. If the term Caribbean is geographical without remainder, the plurality of faces etched through our theological endeavour will represent the diverse traditions that reside within the geographical space. This would be a plurality without any need or possibility of a unifying centre. Here the cultural constructs and traditions we are using within theology opens the dialogue on the micro level. But this dialogue, as we have seen within the political realm in Trinidad and Guyana, often acts as a barrier to the discussions on the macro level. The individual constituency finding this new space for exploration and dialogue finds it difficult to move from the exploration of distinctive features, to the exploration of commonalties. The portraits only unifier, is the gallery—the geographical space within which they happen to hang.

If the term Caribbean is adjectival, not only must we undertake to produce the individual portraits, we must hang these portraits in such a way that the cumulative effect is greater than the individual part. Here I am proposing that if we take “a long historical view” a view that stretches from the earliest Amerindian presence, to the present Caribbean reality, the individual portraits, like the tiles of a mosaic, would yield another image of Jesus. Not just “A” face in the Caribbean, but a Caribbean face. This image, when viewed up close would accurately represent each of our diverse cultural expressions leaving nothing out. Yet when seen from the longer view, would yield the Caribbean face of Jesus. This is the first and most important critique of our tradition. It is too myopic..

This narrow view is potentially dangerous because we are being consumed in the individual constituents—African, East Indian, Women, Youth, individual territory etc.  We are not daring to take the longer historical view, the view that would allow us to see our commonality—that which makes us Caribbean. We have settled for faces of Jesus in the Caribbean and have not dared to take up the more difficult and yet historic challenge of configuring the individual faces within the exibition so that they form the foundational elements of the mosaic of the Caribbean Christ. My fear here is that our theology as necessary and useful as it is, if left on this level, would inevitably promote the great scourge of the age—tribalism. This as we know leads to ethnic conflicts, gender wars and territorial disputes.

(2) Mediation of Caribbean Reality.

The use of other disciplines to mediate the Caribbean reality goes back to the genesis of the theological movement. Idris Hamid’s In search of New Perspectives begins with a provocatively descriptive passage from Earl Lovelace’s While Gods are Falling[16]. In this passage Lovelace does a critique of the colonial religion and its irrelevance to the worsening social reality. There is a shift from colonial rhetoric to humanism. From this ground the ideological suspicion flows–All the masses sung, and the whole colonial religious construct have nothing to do with God. He is god of the white and rich and not of the poor and black. God has left!

(A) Literature

In Troubling of the waters Professor Gordon Rohlehr explicates the methodology of using Literature to mediate the Caribbean reality[17]. Rohlehr views several authors from different cultural and ideological positions. He even juxtaposed the literary form with the folk. In 1982 Henry Charles picks up on Rohlehr in his Doctoral dissertation[18]. Charles investigates the work of four authors—Naipaul, Romain, Patterson and Harris. He does so without reference to the differences in cultural option, ideological tensions, or social class. He thus investigates the individual faces without the longer historical view. In the late eighties this tradition was picked up by Patrick A.B Anthony in his masters dissertation “Adam’s Task”, the poetry of Derek Walcott and Caribbean theology. Anthony is currently doing his Ph.D. project on “Symbol, Myth, and Ritual in Select plays of Derek Walcott”, My own interest in this tradition has been in calypso and Reggae[19]. More recently Neil Parsanal, used the tradition to reflect on the work of Buju Banton (a Dub artist from Jamaica) for his BA. Research paper, and Clifton Harris currently doing his Masters in Theology at Heythrop College London, is also using Buju Banton but from a different vantage point. In terms of graduate and post graduate work, this tradition has attracted much attention within Catholic circles.

But the tradition has some inherent problems. The methodology has been naïve to the subtle ideological competition between the individual portraits. It has also been unable to take the “long historical view” and see the region as a whole. Furthermore, literature like religion is always one step removed from the world of action, it is already a mediation of the real. Thus for religion to use literature as mediator, is to move theology further from the world of action—the real world. Theologies access to the world is thus via a long and often questionable detour. Using this method, demands a second scrutiny up front—a scrutiny of the mediator. Different Caribbean authors of substance hold different positions on foundational issues concerning the Caribbean. Within the tradition history is variously seen as void, violation or creative culture building[20]?

(B) Cultural Anthropology

Joseph Owens’, “The Rastafarians of Jamaica” initiated another tradition—The use of cultural anthropology as mediator of Caribbean reality[21]. In 1983 Barry Chavannes, a former Jesuit and cultural anthropologist furthers this tradition in his exploration of the positive and negative aspects of the African cosmology[22]. With this publication, Chevannes set about to accurately describe the ancestral fragments of the people who now populate the Caribbean. Theology had come to a second stage beyond the grief and anger, beyond the history of void and violation. The theological movement in its second response, now turned to catalogue what in fact remained, what can be retrieved. This strand of engagement in culture has become an important part of the project of Caribbean Theology. From our second theological conference on “Spirit World in the Caribbean”, this has certainly been the dominant approach to theology that our conferences have taken. Rather than going the rout of socio economic analysis, this part of the tradition, has sought to analyse the cultural heritage of the Caribbean so that ideological inspiration could start to emerge from within.

Patrick Anthony in his 1975 paper “A Case study in Indigenization” also made the realm of Culture the space of confrontation in the rupture with colonisation[23]. His approach here is more sociological. Anthony sees Culture as a “total concept including artefacts, political and social institutions cosmos and habits”. Anthony believes that the Caribbean is a unique cultural area unlike other homogeneous cultures. In the Caribbean antagonisms cannot only be analysed by class in an economic sense, since cultural option is part of the material used in the formation of these antagonistic groups. Anthony names four groups. (1) Euro-Centred Elite (2) Euro-oriented Creole upper-class, (3) a small Creole intellectual elite (4) the Afro Caribbean black population. Here Creole is used as a pejorative term referring to those who have assimilated the coloniser’s culture for social status. This is opposed to indiginization that is rooted in resistance and survival. Through his analysis of the antagonisms in the society, Anthony has moved the dialogue further along. Through this type of analysis, critique of ideology rather than becoming irrelevant, becomes far more important. Black is not just pigmentation or phenotype, it is primarily a cultural option. What is obvious here however, is that new tools are required for such a critique.

But Anthony, like much of the cultural tradition, left important data out of the analysis. The hidden other of the Amerindian, Chinese, East Indian and Syrian remains invisible. He thus reduced the inherent plurality in the Caribbean to varying shades of a monolithic phenomenon. The  willingness to forget these multiple portraits, is an important indication that the realm of culture, is in itself problematic. In the project of the seventies, Walter Rodney, like Anthony is very clear about the epistemological rupture that is required in the Caribbean society. It is a rupture with white ideology and white imperialism[24]. For Rodney black is well defined, for the white western world has defined all non-Europeans as Black. Indians Chinese, Arabs, Africans, Etc. As such, Black is referring to those who do not have power. For the project of the nineties, this definition is no longer sufficient. Each of these groups is seeking to find their space within the broader landscape of the Caribbean cultural reality. Theology must thus incorporate new tools that would allow subtly in the differentiation between the various experiences of the powerless.

Unfortunately in the nineteen nineties there is still the assumption that theology in the region is primarily shaped by the African experience. Further more it is assumed that this experience could become the hermeneutic key[25]? The issue at hand is not addressed primarily towards theology, it is a question about what and who constitute the Caribbean? About whose experience can act as hermeneutic key? Ultimately it is raising questions about the hidden memory, about the ones left out, about the ones valued as “less then” by the dominant “Afro-Caribbean” culture. Has the victim of history become the new coloniser? In this case not political or economic, but cultural. In a paper titled “Our Caribbean Reality” prepared for a theological symposium In Jamaica, Chavannes says:

In this paper I focus on those Caribbean cultures shaped predominantly by the Africans. The justification for this approach is that in terms of mass movements they were the first, and now constitute the majority. In one aspect, namely population, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana are currently the exceptions, boasting East Indian majorities. But even here, the folk languages spoken by all the people is that formed by  the Africans.

It is important to recoginze this, because of the popular theory that the Caribbean is a melting pot: a little bit of Arawak, a little bit of Chinese, Lebanese and Portuguese, a large amount of India and the most of Europe and Africa. This is a misunderstanding. Caribbean reality is shaped by Africa[26].

If even we could contain the influence of the East Indians to Trinidad and Guyana, under what pretext do we neglect the Amerindian memory? Do we simply amputate the cultural experience of Southern Caribbean for the sake of a homogeneous cultural package? Our exploration must shed light upon this subtle attempt at homogenisation of the cultural world. These are the attempts at totality. The process of unmasking is important if we consider the history of rivalry between Jamaica and Trinidad, which stand at opposite ends of the region. It is also important if we consider the history of rivalry within Trinidad, Guyana and Surinam. These oppositions are not only geographical, they are also racial, cultural, and religious.

(C) Critique

In an analysis of ideology, Immanuel Wallerstein shows the deliberate ambivalence in the usage of the term culture by the emerging “world-system[27].” He points to two meanings of the term. (Usage I) The set of characteristics that distinguish one group from another and (Usage II) “Some set of phenomenon which are different from (and ‘higher’ than) some other set of phenomena within any one group. Usage I would refer to phenotype, customs, practices, etc. Usage II would depend upon a value judgement as to the relative worth of different cultural artefacts or expressions or practises exhibited by different sectors within the one group.  Wallerstein shows that culture is an ideological construct, which allows a certain masking of reality. He says:

Culture (usage I) seems not to get us very far in our historical analyses. Culture (usage II) is suspect as an ideological cover to justify the interests of some persons (obviously the upper strata) within any given ‘group’ or ‘social system’ against the interests of other persons within this same group[28].

We must thus suspect our use of the cultural space. We must question lack of sophistication in differentiating the ideological content sneaked into the discourse. We must ultimately question the relevance of our theology in the face of the forgotten memories in our Caribbean reality. Raising questions at this level towards theology is really asking the more fundamental question about the way forward. At this juncture, before seeking to move forward, I would first explore briefly the third tradition of theology in the Caribbean.

(3) The Marxists tradition

The Caribbean Contact was started by the Caribbean Council of Churches to be an official voice for the Churches. In the 1980’s many Church leaders voiced the opinion that the CCC and the Caribbean Contact were “too political”. The growing tension, and perception of the organisation, led to it being sidelined, and eventually to the paper decreasing in publication. My intent here is to focus on some significant departures that this tradition allows—social and cultural analysis.

Dr. Leslie Lett, in his article “Church Mission in uniting the working people[29]” reformulates the mission of the church in a typical Marxist perspective. He gives a critique of idealism as the philosophical foundation of choice. Showing its disastrous effects in the history of the Church. He then reworks the Churches mission in a “Materialist” philosophy[30]. The obvious use of Marxist categories, analysis and jargon, heralds a new stage in the history of Theology in the Caribbean. Marxism has been incorporated as a tool of choice.

Here praxis comes to the fore as he says “The Church must have a dialogical involvement in the struggles of the working-class”. The underpinning of this praxis is this connection between “the unity of the working class and the Kingdom of God”. Here he proposes that idealism is the main obstacle to the kingdom as Materialism is the way to it. In this light he calls for the “indigenisation of theology and liturgy”. These must not only be class-consciousness, but they must make and option for the Kingdom as already expressed and thus they must stand in indignation against the present reality, unmasking its untruth. Marxist analysis has been incorporated. Unlike the publication Caribbean Journal for Religious studies, the Caribbean Contact became known for its social analysis, its Marxist or rather socialist bent and its support for the working classes. The tradition adds an important element—it consistently raises the issue of exploitation broadening the horizon of theology to see the continued exploitation of the Region from outside and within.

Oppression in the Caribbean has never been on the individual level. The post-Colombian history has its genesis in the policies of an imperialistic colonising power. Now with the “independence” granted to most islands in the region, the form of colonisation has become more cleverly disguised. Each time Western society has reworked the relationship between the economic, political and the cultural, producing a new paradigm of society, the relationship between the Northern Industrial nations and the Caribbean Region changes. These changes are not usually for the better since the exploitation steadily grown more oppressive[31].

In this light Dale Bisnauth warns us of the full impact of this reality

“…there hangs over the Caribbean the pervasive threat of American interference and intervention in our political and national life. Grenada in recent times, and successive waves of American military manoeuvres in these parts are reminders that Caribbean nations will not be permitted to follow paths of national self-determination of their own choosing.  The Monroe Doctrine, or one of its forms of refinement can always be invoked to justify this intervention[32]”.

In the infamous Santa Fe document prepared as a strategic plan for the region, for president Ragan, there is the subtle assertion that promotion and funding of American evangelism whose policies are on the political right will be a good counter attack to liberation theology and the process of indiginisation[33]. From the Mid 1980’s to the present day the evangelical churches have made their media presence felt. The impact this media blitz has changed the religious landscape pushing the ideological base of religious sensibilities further over to the right[34]. Religion is again a tool in the battle of imperialism. The present Caribbean reality must be interpreted against the landscape of Globalisation and the consequent neo-colonisation.

A constitutive element of the colonial world is commodification. Everything—humans, nature, knowledge, art etc—has exchange value. This I am proposing has not collapsed with independence. I am further proposing that the economic system has evolved in its mode of operation to ensure the continued successful exploitation of the “third world” I am also contending that the traditional axes of ideological division—class, race, religion, nation, gender—are often used to mask or legitimate this exploitation. Let us return to Wallenstein’s analysis using culture I (physical difference) and culture II (valuing as higher or lower):

The ‘culture,’ that is the idea-system, of this capitalist world economy is the outcome of our collective historical attempts to come to terms with the contradictions, the ambiguities, the complexities of the socio-political realities of this particular system. We have done it in part by creating the concept of ‘culture’ (usage I) as the assertion of unchanging realities amidst a world that is in fact ceaselessly changing. And we have done it in part by creating the concept of ‘culture’ (usage II) as the justification of the inequalities of the system, as the attempt to keep them unchanging in a world which is ceaselessly threatened by change[35].

He continues:

I have previously argued that the two principal ideological doctrines that have emerged in the history of the capitalist world-economy–that is, universalism on the one hand and racism and sexism on the other– are not opposites but a symbiotic pair.  I have argued that their ‘right dosage’ has made possible the functioning of the system, one which takes the form of a continuing ideological zigzag[36].

Seen in this light, Our new economic reality is no different from the pre-independence era. Globalisation or the emerging world system, is the continuation of the project of colonisation that began in 1492 when Columbus left Spain in search of India. This exploitation has become more brutal through the expansion of capitalism. The same ambiguity within anthropology and culture (usage II) that triggered the debate on the humanity of the Amerindian and then the Negro, allowing millions of Amerindians and Africans to be subject to the most brutal atrocities in the service of the expansion of empire, is still operating today. In the previous phase of capitalism there was at least a forced relationship (in space and time) between labour and capital. With globalisation, there has resulted a transparency and anonymity of the capitalist as the complex relationship offers a moral buffer behind which the local entrepreneur and political directorate hide. The system rather than becoming reflexive and transforming to the higher levels of human consciousness, seems to have used the reflexivity to transform for self-preservation.


Theology in the region has no shortage of pertinent issues to address. In our move forward we must first decide whether the term Caribbean is simply a delineator of geographical space or whether it is to give the enterprise methodological inspiration and thus a unifying centre. If we choose the latter, we must then enter into a dialogue with other disciplines of investigation into the region. Here the task is to delineate traditions and paradigms that have emerged as landscapes against which the reality of the region could be interpreted. As we have seen these tools of mediation cannon be used uncritically.

The use of cultural anthropology as a tool mediating the social reality must thus be called into question. Cultural anthropology, by focusing on the fragments of ancestral culture leaves theology vulnerable on two dimensions. (1) Theology is vulnerable to the subtle ideological biases sneaked into the cultural realm by the continuing ideological zigzag as the individual constituents—race, class, religion, gender and nation—compete for acceptance as hermeneutic key. Theology’s blindness to this ideological competition has led to its forgetfulness of the plurality of our Caribbean region. It has further lead to the deliberate discrimination within the group considered powerless. (2) Theology is left vulnerable because its gaze is focused upon the micro level, neglecting the bigger trends that threaten to destroy even the vestiges or fragments of the ancestral past that are left. This vulnerability leaves theology reacting, seeking always to conserve what has already been destroyed. The methodological weakness here robes theology of its prophetic voice.

The double task at hand, is for theology in the region to explore with fidelity, each fragment of our epic memory, each vestige of our ancestral past. Theology on this level must undertake to make a cultural option, thus by definition theology must be a collaborative enterprise. On this level, cultural anthropology is a useful tool.  In the second moment of theology, there must be what Hamid and others called the “long historical view”. Through this second view, theology must seek to situate each of the individual portraits within the broader schema of the political economy. Here the task is twofold; (1) to unmask the competition of ideology between the individual portraits. But more importantly, (2) to unmask the continuing exploitation and destruction of our Caribbean reality through our blindness and naivety to the emerging world system in this late and hopefully last phase of capitalism. Here history, if it holds the long view, could be a useful tool of choice. The challenge that this poses to the tradition is the shift in theology from portraits of Jesus in the Caribbean, to its more historic task of configuring these individual portraits in such a way that the mosaic of the Caribbean Christ may emerge.

A way forward

One way forward that I am presently perusing, is dependent upon the use of history as the tool of choice for theology in the region. Here the task of theology is seen as critical reflection upon historical praxis. Gutierrez expresses it best:

‘Theology in this context will be a critical reflection both from within, and upon, historical praxis, in confrontation with the word of the Lord as lived and accepted in faith… a faith that comes down to us through manifold and sometimes ambiguous historical mediations.[37]

This is a significant point of departure because theology starts from the lived experience of the community of faith and reflects critically upon its praxis. Theologies critical role begins in and returns to the world of action seeking new ways for the community to be faithful to the Gospel message.

With this understanding of theology, history becomes the tool of choice. To be more precise, history according to Fernand Braudel and the Annales school. Where as other approaches to history focus on either; personalities, (heroes kings nobility), victims, (Slaves, the disenfranchised, proletariat etc.) or events (Battles, revolutions, etc) Braudel’s history focuses on a geographical space. He uses the geographical space as a stage narrating as faithfully as possible (1) its formation (2) who crosses the stage and the antagonistic forces that unfold through their crossing (3) the result of the crossing and the particularity of the space. Because the central figure is the geographical space, the perspective is atomically observer and not participant. Observation flows on several levels so the story could be layered–geographical, economic and civilisations, each responding to the three movements. This also responds to his three fold notion of time that comes together to create the long time-span that he has become famous for.

Thus the theological method will be dependent upon history being both narrative and scientific. As scientific, history will guarantee the search for truth, thus rooting theology’s reflection in a discourse which has truth as its aim. As a narrative, history can be configured through plots and sub-plots, which open it to multiple readings. Here Ricoeur will be used to show how History as narrative mediates through the configuration of plot. The theological dimension of the narrative is dependent upon Ricoeur’s understanding of the three-fold mimesis. To be more specific, it is dependent upon proving that the configural dimension of emplotment is open to reconfiguration and thus multiple readings. Further more it will be important to demonstrate that this reconfiguration enters back into the world of action, and thus acts to reconfigure the real world.

The second element of the theological method, also dependent upon history as narrative, is the possibility of reading back. Plot in a narrative only receives its fullest understanding at the end. Thus from the vantage point of the end of the text, the beginning and the middle receive new insight. The theological component of the work will be conveyed in and through the historical narrative. But at the end of the narrative, through the process of reading back, the theological and pastoral implications that are unearthed will be explored in greater detail. Thus theology by reading history forwards and backwards will enter into a critical reflection on historical praxis in the light of the word of God.




[1] Idris Hamid, In Search of New Perspectives, Bridgetown, Barbados: Caribbean Ecumenical for development. 1971.

[2] Ibid. p.12

[3] Idris Hamid, (ed.), Troubling of the waters, Trinidad: Published by author, 1973.

[4] When the calypsoian Black Stalin sang  “The Caribbean Man” in 1979 it was critiqued  as sexist, but In the early 70’s this was not part of the interpretative framework.

[5] I. Hamid (ed.), Out Of The Depths, San Fernando: St Andrews Theological College, 1977.

[6] For a selection of this position See; Leslie Lett, “Church’s mission in uniting the working people”, Caribbean Contact, August 1981, P.10.;“Seaga’s unreal statistics” Caribbean Contact, June 1985, P.7; Adolfo Ham, “Promoting Social Change in The Caribbean” Caribbean Contact, Vol. 19, No 1, Dec-Jan 1992/1993. ; Leslie Lett, “Development and Christian liberation” Caribbean Contact, September 1983.; Dale Bisnauth, “A Model of Development” Caribbean Contact, September 1986 P. 10; Dr. Rex Nettleford, “Collective wisdom and Development Strategies” Caribbean Contact, September 1987. P.7; Dorbrene O’Marder, “The Rightening of the C’Bean” Caribbean Contact, September 1986.

[7] Stephen Jennings, “Caribbean Theology or Theologies of the Caribbean, Caribbean Journal for Religious Studies, Vol. 8, No2 1987, PP.1-9.

[8] See also; Burchell Taylor, “The Babylonish Captivity of the Church In the Caribbean”, Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies,Vol 4 No 1 April, 1982. PP.1-16. Taylor explores many relevant points, but they could be addressed to the church anywhere. There is a lack of analysis (Marxist or cultural) of the Caribbean reality. This makes the theology universal without being particular to the Caribbean. Likewise, Ashley Smith  “The Christian Minister As A Political Activist”, Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies, Volume 2, No 1, April 1979, PP25-31. Smith gives a good analysis of the hyperactivity of the minister. But rather than root the analysis in the Caribbean he relies upon the analysis of Joseph Sittler. Stittler offers a First world analysis, the root cause being secularisation.

[9] For a critique of models used to analyse Caribbean society, see; Jason Gordon, “Trinidad”, In (Agenda 200) Vol 27, 1997 PP86-93

[10] See; Burchell K. Taylor, “Caribbean Theology” Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 3, No 2, September 1980, PP. 13-27.; Burchell Taylor, “The Babylonish Captivity of the Church In the Caribbean”, Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 4 No 1 April, 1982. PP.1-16 ; Burchell Taylor, “The Theology of Liberation” Caribbean Quarterly Vol. 37, No 1, March 1991, P32-33 ; Stephen Jennings, “Caribbean Theology or Theologies of the Caribbean, Caribbean Journal for Religious Studies, Vol. 8, No2 1987, PP.1-9 ; Lewin Williams, Caribbean Theology. N.Y: Peter Lang,1994. These theologians seek to interpret the tradition of Caribbean theology. They fall prey to the assumption that Caribbean theology is a derivitive of Latin American liberation theology. This presupposition blinds them to the originiality and the strengths and weakness of Theology in the Caribbean.

[11] Sehon Goodridge, “The domestication of Theology”, Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 1, No 2 July 1976, PP.37-45.

[12] Lewin Williams, Caribbean Theology. N.Y: Peter Lang,1994

[13] Burchell K. Taylor, “Caribbean Theology” Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 3, No 2, September 1980, PP. 13-27.; Burchell Taylor, “The Babylonish Captivity of the Church In the Caribbean”, Caribbean Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 4 No 1 April, 1982. PP.1-16 ; Burchell Taylor, “The Theology of Liberation” Caribbean Quarterly Vol. 37, No 1, March 1991, P32-33

[14] Patrick A.B Anthony (ed),  “Editorial” In Theology in the Caribbean Today: PERSPECTIVES; St Lucia: Archdiocesan pastoral center, 1995. P 1-4

[15] Kortright Davis, Emancipation still comin’: Explorations in Caribbean Emancipatory Theology, N.Y, Orbis, 1990.

[16] Earl Lovelace, While Gods are Falling, Trinidad: Logman Caribbean Ltd, 1984. P. 151

[17] Gordon Rohlehr, Mans Spiritual Search in the Caribbean Through Literature, In I Hamid, Troubling of the Waters, Trinidad: Published by author, 1973, p 187-205

[18] . Henry Charles,  A theological-Ethical Appraisal of the Disclosure of Possibility for the Post-Colonial Caribbean Via an Analysis of Selected Literary Text,. New Haven: Yale University, 1982 This is an unpublished dissertation a copy is in my possession.

[19] Jason Gordon, “Exploring Our Caribbean Soul” Catholic News , Trinidad: March 1, 7,14, 21,28 and April 4th 1993. This was a six part series exploring six calypso’s of David Rudder and their chalenge for our reading of the social reality and thus theology today. See also, Jason Gordon, “ Bob Marley As (Post)-Colonial Critic: In Search Of A Liberative Potential For The Caribbean”, Paper delivered at the Ethno-Musicology conference University of Leads July 1997.


[20] See, Jason Gordon, A Critical Appraisal Of The Theological Contribution Of Fr. Henry Charles To The Project Of A Caribbean Theology, July 1996. Paper delivered at a symposium in Bartaria Trinidad.

[21] Joseph Owens’, “The Rastafarians of Jamaica” In Troubling of The Waters, P 165-170

[22] Barry Chevannes, “Some Notes on African Religious Survivals in the Caribbean”, Caribbean Journal of Religious studies, Vol 5, No. 2 September 1983. PP.19-28.

[23] Patrick Anthony “A Case study in Indigenization” in Out of The Depths, P185-213. See also; Horace O. Russel, “The emergence of the ‘Christian Black’ Concept: The Meaning of a Stereotype”, Caribbean, Journal of Religious Studies, Vol 2, No1, April 1979, PP.1-17.

[24] Walter Rodney, The Grounding With my Brothers, London: Bogle-L’Overture Press, 1975. See P. 16

[25] See Barry Chevannes, “Our Caribbean Reality”, in Howard Gregory, Caribbean Theology, PP 65-71, Also Theresa Lowe-Ching, Ibid, P 26-27.

[26] Barry Chevannes, “Our Caribbean Reality”, in Howard Gregory, Caribbean Theology, p 65

[27] Immanuel Wallerstein, “Culture as the Ideological Battleground of the modern World-System” In Mike Featherstone (ed.), Global Culture: Nationalism Globalization and Modernity, London: Sage, 1991, PP. 31-55. P.34.

[28] Immanuel Wallerstein, “Culture as the Ideological Battleground of the modern World-System” P.34.

[29] Leslie Lett, “Church’s mission in uniting the working people”, Caribbean Contact, August 1981, P.10.

[30] For many reasions I would prefer the term “Realist” rather than “Materialist”. The most important is that ‘Materialist” conveys not only starting from the concrete, but reductionism to material. A true materialist could not speak about the transformation of the world by a conscious human subject. With “realist” there is no such contradiction. See Jose.P. Miranda, Marx Against The Marxists: The Christian Humanism Of Karl Marx. London: Scm press, 1980

[31] See, F. V. Harrison, “Women in Jamaica’s Urban Informal Economy: Insight from a Kingston Slum,’ Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 62 (3&4): 103-128, 1988.Harrison shows convincingly that Jamaica, when it adopted neo-liberal economic policies in 1982 its economic position worsened. This is in spite of the fact that President Regan called the newly elected Prime Minister “our man in the Caribbean.” See also, Seaga’s unreal statistics” Caribbean Contact, June 1985, P.7; Adolfo Ham, “Promoting Social Change in The Caribbean” Caribbean Contact, Vol. 19, No 1, Dec-Jan 1992/1993; Leslie lett, “Development and Christian liberation” Caribbean Contact, September 1983; Dale Bisnauth, “A Model of Development” Caribbean Contact, September 1986 P. 10

[32] Dale Bisnauth, “A Model of Development” Caribbean Contact, September 1986 P. 10

[33] In the Santa Fe document which “in proposal 3 in the chapter significantly entitled international subversion, it is stated that “US foreign policy must begin to counter (not react against) Liberation Theology as it is utilised in Latin America by the ‘Liberation Theology clergy’.”

[34] For a similar view see George Lamming, “ C’Bean recolonised”, Caribbean Contact,  Vol. 15, No 6, November 1987. P.1

[35] Wallerstein. P. 38-39

[36] Ibid.  P. 39.

[37]Gustavo Gutierrez, The Power Of The Poor In History, London: SCM, 1983. 60.


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