Monday, June 11, 2007

Elizabeth Amoah on Ghanaian women and justice (guest post from johnieb)

A Summer Series post.

(Amoah is the woman on the right.)

Intrepid reporter and former spook johnieb (a.k.a. dontwantadamnedblog) has written a report in the comments section of a June 5 post here on what he heard from Elizabeth Amoah of Ghana, one of the two visiting lecturers at Hartford Seminary last week. (The other was Ivone Gebara of Brazil.)

It's a shame to keep his offering to us hidden in a comments section, so I present it here, with thanks. Tolle lege.

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Some remarks on Theologian and Ghanaian Assemblywoman Elizabeth Amoah's lecture at Hartford Seminary 06/06/07 on "Justice in an EcoFeminist Perspective"

Ms. Amoah showed us the way Ghanaian women do theology in her report, centered on their question, "Who will give us justice?" Ghanaian women's theology arises from their concrete context and their need to understand it. Doing theology thus is neither impractical nor elitist, but is seen as part of the ongoing effort to act for their livelihood and survival.

Their historical circumstances confront them with injustice, which is an immediate challenge to the women's lives and that of their children. Nonetheless, the unjust powers cannot be identified easily or with complete certainty, due to internal contradictions within the Ghanaian context. (I did not get to ask her if this relates to Walter Wink's work, with which I am not familiar, though I suspect it may.) Nonetheless, the women recall the Ghanaian saying to themselves (paraphrase): "If you're sick, do not remain quiet, but speak out, and your sickness will finally be cured." The women realize they must continue to reflect, speak, and act.

Ghana, with West Africa, is tropical, with an economy based on the exploitation of natural resources through mining and plantations. Multi-National Corporations (MNC) control this process with the aid and encouragement of the Ghanaian government, which sees this as "economic development" and, importantly, as the means for personal accumulation.

The people are divided ethnically and linguistically, which gives ample opportunity for these powers to overcome popular dissent from their decisions. Many are recent arrivals from more remote areas, where living is even harsher. Those who work for the MNCs have comparatively good housing and other advantages, which is a continuing temptation for Ghanaians to drop out of school, education giving alternatives to the MNCs for development and well-being in the longer term. Those who do not live in company areas live in shantytown shacks, polluted by the toxic by-products of the MNCs. Investment in public sanitation and health , even at the most basic level, yields place to keeping costs low in the short-term, and to the rampant corruption and greed of officials, both company and Ghanaian government. Lack of sewage systems and public works leads insect-borne diseases, especially Malaria.

The MNCs create a staggering gap between the relatively prosperous employees, mostly male miners, and the very poor, here again mostly women and children.

Overall, conditions for the women in Ghana reveal the contradiction between the abundance God gives to all Creation as the means of life, and the powers who deny access to these gifts for the many, and shortsightedly damage the natural world upon which we all depend. The fruits of justice the women yearn for are the use of these gifts for all.

Conditions for this justice cannot be met without respect for the created environment; justice means the harmonious relations of humans, the land, and all that it produces to the benefit of all. Greed, corruption, exploitation of people and resources harm one part of the whole to serve the powerful part, but harm to one part harms the whole, whether we perceive this immediately, or at all.

Who must answer our cries for justice?

Government explicitly accepts its role to govern the whole, not a part; thus, the moral principle of sharing, which in embedded in the oaths of office, is violated when officials are individualistic and selfish. It is a violation of their oaths and their positions to place private gain before the common good.

Their choices to serve the MNCs are violations, for they are at best only part of the Ghanaian context. Their interest is not the livelihood of the people, but the taking of natural resources as cheaply as possible for use elsewhere. The Ghanaian government may pass legislation against de-forestation or mining, but the officials promptly ignore the laws they pass for their own gain.

The people cry for justice, and do so in hope; first, that their cry may reach others who are affected, and others who may support and join them. "Others who are affected" includes not only wider circles of solidarity in the present, but future generations.

The Ghanaian women are Christians, and read their Bibles with an eye to such understanding as will help them in their lives. They read the Parable of the Unjust Judge, for example, and remember the Judge has no reason whatsoever to do the right thing; they know unjust officials, and take their dealings with them seriously. But they cry out in hope--they meet and talk with one another. They join political groups. They petition officials at public meetings, and in private conferences. Ghana being football mad, they organize Soccer clubs for boys, who must be in school to play.

They (and we) cry out for justice, and live in hope.

All for now.

-- johnieb

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Except that johnieb also noted, in an earlier comment:

Ms. Gebara was nice enough to say I was in agreement with her at some specific points as to constructing theology within a capitalist patriarchy.

You ol' radical, you.


johnieb said...

Wait till I write up the notes from her lecture; been at other things: heh. Sometimes the revolution gotta wait, though I also skipped the Rose Pruning Seminar at Elizabeth Park, partly for want of shears: AKA interest.

I sicced my friend towards this blog; he does Education there. The NYT did a piece on the transition there when Dr. Jim Forbes left the Senior Pastor's position last Wednesday. Arnold said he had to go somewheres, but he didn't say where. Forbes's predecessor was the spook--Bill Coffin--I was just a not-so-innocent bystander. Heh.

Ya wanna see how this one plays? I may try to boil this one down differently.

Jane R said...

I don't know about our other friends here but yes, I would love to see/read/hear what Ivone Gebara had to say. She's one of my faves, in fact I am writing a bit about her here and there (not yet for public consumption).

Ah, Bill Coffin. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. I knew him (not a surprise, that) -- as did sixty gazillion other people naturally. I hear the newish biography of him is quite good. I don't own it yet, though I did read bits of it while standing up in a bookstore.

johnieb said...

I saw a poignant piece on Bill--Amen, Sister, Amen--on PBS a few years ago; some interview footage from his retirement years in Vermont: really cool, in many ways, place, VT.

I read the older one, I think, plus OTEMAN, from the fine old gospel hymn, Once to Every Man (sic) and Nation, and I think The piece mentioned the new one. I don't think the Doonesbury Version, though sweet, captures his virility, the "guyness" huh? The Rev. Sloane Something, AKA William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Was he UCC or Presbyterian: I don't remember (or care much), as he never seemed to.

He was a guest Preacher at a Ministry Week at my Seminary: a real blessing and treat. A place for Biblical Studies, natch, and Neo-Barthianism; so a bad match for the area: Plains and very conservative Southern-esque culture.

Yes, Ma'am; I'll get busy, Ma'am; willthatbeallforthiseveningMa'amGodmyfeethurt.

Peace and blessing

johnieb said...

Argh: the typos! The typos!

I see the stray cap and the missing "not" after the semi-colon following "Neo-Barthianism, fifth line of text up. Others, yer on yer own, sailor.

johnieb said...

Tommy Lee Jones to Will Smith) "OK, Slick", and both innocent bystanders, here goes.

BTW, am I a stringer, or a real employee? I don need bennies, at least till I'm driven into exile to (or should that be "from"?) an uncivilized place. Maybe a very irregular column called ("Wait for it!")Dontwannadamnedblog or whatever I said? Some preliminary details, if ya wanna.

Y'all Want Some More Hot Sauce Wit Dem Beans and Rice, Doncha--Verde or Reg'lar? The Second Helping of the Theology Lecture Notes from Hartford Sem 06/06/07 Ivone Beraga

One of my special tasks is making inclusion. (OK, who could resist? What a bold and powerfully voiced insight! The gospel is simple, enough for children "God loves you and is with you." Ah, but the implications, no?)

We must remember: Theology itself is produced as a Capitalist commodity. (Look at your bookshelf, and deny. Or see the report on the Religious Booksellers event at Deirdre Good's blog, to the right; what? You want everything right here?)

All--women, the earth, society, men--is connected to all; to believe and act is difficult; the whole is fragile, and harmony of the parts is difficult to achieve. (A dynamic harmony is implied in several images later). There are many ways to repair this harmony in the world at all times; justice for women is such repair. (And also a blessed way of participating with God's Present Word in the Power of the HS? in historical time "For the time being: Zwischen den Zeiten." Luke-Acts)

"Subject-Object" epistemology is an outmoded frame of reference for fruitful work,; the new paradigm is wholistic/holistic (?), interdependent, done as praxis of participants (Who, Ms. Eccelesiologist?). Some theology has become a pollutant, which harms the whole/(holy?) body (Body of Christ and the Redeemed Creation.) Male domination, greed/competition are examples of the results of theological (Results?!) pollution.

Apartheid, especially in some churches (audience: growing chuckles), OK, you know which ones, especially of women is theological pollution. Correcting our theological anthropology (Androgynology?) cleans up cultural pollution of the Patriarchy and Capitalism: garbage (or the Philippians expression Paul uses, which even Fred Craddock admits means "sh*t", in his charming way. Capitalist Patriarchs! Yo S**T Stink!)

In theological s**t, God is assumed to be "super"natural. Who? What God is this? Our God is Immanent. (The first song, and first thing I remember learning in church, starts "Jesus loves the little children")

What was the Pope saying in Brazil, about "non-violence"? Theology is non-violent. ( I noted the visit was roughly contemporaneous, but no more; perhaps a more knowledgeable observer?) Does tradition need to be "re-interpreted"? ( I think "changed or junked"; call me "old radical", hmmph.) Unconsciously maintaining theological power is the face of pollution. (Has it been an advantage to be a woman as a theologian, in that the Face of Power wasn't paying attention to da Wymynzz! Tsk. Excuses never sound good from unsuccessful dictators. Speaking of which, when was the last time an ex-President didn't bother with a memoir? I digress.)

Theology must be more inclusive and locally meaningful; Universal (ontologically?) meaning must be expressed in local concrete ways: inclusion in Incarnation. This may mean digging deeply into the tradition to re-think the basics: tradition. Christology, etc.

Some questions perhaps towards a synthesis, remembering the traps come from Capitalism and Patriarchy, especially as they dominate women. (and the rest of reality, including gender/ identity sexual roles, as in TEC?)

(I kept thinking of Lettie Russell's reflections which I read more than twenty years ago *Household of Freedom*, and the Image of God/dess in Wisdom literature: the Divine Estate Manager. More I shall not say in public)

To follow, in Part the Third, coming up: "Whatch'all having for a dessert/ nightcap, Cher?"