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Theological Foundations For Democracy

THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR DEMOCRACY

The Rev Herbert Moyo

University of KwaZulu-Natal – School of Religion and Theology

Background

Politics affects and defines the life conditions of all citizens in a given State. Since the church takes care of the life of people also questions of politics belong to the responsibility of the church. Individual Christians have to relate to politics, and they raise the questions to the church on how they should relate to the state authorities and contribute to the political sphere and the church should give orientation and guidelines. There is also the issue of political casualties, which the church is taking care of such as victims of political violence, victims of poor delivery of services, corruption and tribalism. The church should not only take care of the casualties it should be proactive to avoid the casualties. For example in the story of the good Samaritan, if people continued to be robbed and beaten on the Road to Jericho, it will be wise to set up a hospital along the road for victims but it will even be wiser to stop the robbers from victimising travellers. For the church to be meaningfully involved there is need for the church to give sound theological and biblical foundations for her actions. (Luther’s theology is not systematic theology, it is generally biblical exegesis and as a good Lutheran what I call theology might be to some mere biblical exegesis)

Churches, cannot remain indifferent in Southern Africa where there is growing abuse of human rights, corruption, non-delivery of services, use of state institutions for personal gains, tribalism, pseudo democracies, growing unemployment and retrenchments and life presidency are threatening constitutional democracy. Good examples are Zimbabwe and Kenya. Despite the above misdemeanours many African governments base their legitimacy to govern on the liberation struggle for colonial independence. The liberation struggle is over and now the former liberators are the rulers and that creates new problems. This is especially important when governments coming out of liberation struggle, change and become autocratic but are still claiming authority by appealing to their contribution to the liberation of the people. The church in many African so called independent states is saw the oppressor in terms of skin colour and now they are not able to fight oppressors of their on skin colour. Some churches such as the Lutheran church claim neutrality, which is a fallacy because neutrality supports the status quo.

In instances where the churches raise political questions the State appeals to the Two Kingdoms Doctrine and Romans 13:1-7.

Bishop Ambrose Moyo in a foreword to the book by Ross: Gospel Ferment in Malawi: Theological Essays says: “…the church in Africa may be the only sign of hope in the
midst of all the suffering, extreme violations of human rights, and genocides…What contribution can the Christian churches make towards social justice and participatory democracy?” (1995:3-4).

What is the theological basis for the church’s support for a constitutional democracy? How should the church relate to the state in a constitutional democracy especially where temporal authority becomes a villain that consumes the very people it is supposed to protect? To answer this there is need to answer the following sub-questions:

What are the connections between Christian theology and constitutional democracy? How does Christian theology justify its choice of democracy over other forms of governance?

The major problem is the gap between democracy and theology:

The bible (the basis for my theology) is an ancient document[1]

  • From 2000 BCE to 200CE
  • Period of Emperors and kings
  • God is seen to bless those in power

Democracy is a modern concept

  • Roots are in Greco-Roman period
  • Emerges with the French and American revolutions
  • Belief in God is not necessary to make it work

Can we relate theology and democracy?

THEOLOGY
DEMOCRACY .Politics

.Political parties .Parliament .Presidents .Elections .Human rights

.God .Jesus

.Holy Spirit .The Church

.Faith .Bible

The word ‘democracy’ does not appear in the bible

  • The concept of democracy did not receive much attention from theologians for 1500years
  • The practice of democracy is not found in many churches

How do we get from theology to democracy?

We need something in between theology and democracy to help us to create a relationship. We have find Values, Middle Axioms and principles that can create a relationship between theology and the inner logics of a constitutional democracy.

  1. If the following Christian values/principles:
    • Responsible government
    • Human value
    • Dialogue
    • Sin
    • Justice
    • Freedom
    • Peace
    • Truth

are critically analysed alongside the inner logics of democracy they can be used as a bridge or middle axioms between theology and democracy.

  • Responsible government

Government is given by God. Responsible government should be accountable to God and God’s people. It holds us together to protect the weak and restrain the strong as well as provision of s common vision and effort. We are also commanded to pray for and respect political authority. This where governments despite abuses of human rights appeal to Romans 13:1-7. Romans 13:1-7 instructs Christians to obey temporal authority because it is instituted by God, when should I obey even if I do not agree and when should I disobey? If temporal authority becomes a villain that consumes the very people it is supposed to protect, for how long should the church continue to obey as suggested in Romans 13:1-7? Who is authority in a constitutional democracy?(The president, the people, the judiciary, the executive or the constitution.)

Human value

Human beings are created in the image of God, and filled with God’s breath with gifts and talents. Jesus died for each and every human being, God knows each person’s name and the heirs on their head. It is only in a constitutional democracy where government is obliged to respect the value of each person and create conditions in which they flourish as equals with others.

Dialogue

God communicates with humans and human beings communicate with one another. We have opinions, creative ideas and emotions. We find fulfilment in using our gifts and talents in society, we want to participate in the direction of our society by having our say. According to Steve de Gruchy: “A key way in which Freire describes dehumanisation is the experience of being an object in the history of the oppressor. The goal of humanisation is the task of becoming a subject in our own story. This affirmation of people as subjects is rooted in the Biblical understanding of people being made in the
image of God.”[2] Through dialogue in the political discourse we become subjects of our own destine. This can be achieved through a constitutional democracy. Dialogue therefore means that the form of government must listen to what people are saying, and provide opportunities fro them to have their opinion taken seriously.

Sin

For all the good things about us we still struggle with sin. Everyone struggles with sin-the rich and the poor, strong and weak, educated and non-educated. Corruption, manipulation and delusion are well known forms of sin in society especially among the rich and powerful. The effects of the sins of the powerful are much greater on society. Sin therefore means that the form of government must recognise that no group of people is perfect, and therefore ensure that the rulers are held accountable. Constitutional democracy demands accountability at all levels of society.

Justice

God is a God of justice. God desires justice to be done to the poor and the weak. Justice involves respect for each community and each person. Justice is blind to race, sex, religion, age, political opinions etc. Government must be just to all its citizens and protect all of them from injustice.

Freedom

God desires and works for the freedom of all who are not free. Human beings need freedom in which they can use their gifts and talents. In God we are free from, but also free for participating in God’s work. Constitutional democracy can provide for freedom in which human life and livelihood can flourish.

Truth

God is a God of truth. God deals truthfully with us and desires that we deal truthfully with one another. Untruth, or lying, is the basis of much suffering and injustice. Ideology is when untruth is believed as the truth.

Peace

Gunter Krusche in Lutheran Identity and responsibility in and for the world argues that the church has an earthly responsibility for a peaceful world order because it is the symbol of the peace of God.

Concluding remarks

The bible does not teach us directly about democracy but the above values tell us what the best form of government should be. This points to the direction of democracy as system of government that takes the above values and principles seriously.

Theologically we need to promote the key values on which democracy depends. Hold our leaders accountable on these values, teach the values to others and possibly practice these values and principles in our churches.

We looked at 8 core Christian values that contribute to our understanding of governance.

  • Responsible government
  • Human value
  • Dialogue
  • Sin
  • Justice
  • Freedom
  • Peace
    • Truth Responsible government should
      • Be accountable to God and God’s people
      • Respect the value of each person, and create conditions in which they can flourish
      • Listen to what people are saying, and provide opportunities for them to have their opinion taken seriously
      • Recognise that no group of people is perfect, and therefore ensure that rulers are held accountable
      • Itself be just towards all its citizens, and should protect all against injustice
      • Enhance the ability for people to discover, share and hear the truth
    • Provide for freedom in which human life and livelihood can flourish.

When we affirm democracy in this way, we remind ourselves that this does not mean only one model of democracy can be supported by Christians, such as American democracy, European democracy etc. All forms of democracy are accountable to the 8 key values.

In this way we can contribute to building a democratic society.

Grace and peace Rev H Moyo

[1] Adopted from a presentation by Prof Steve de Gruchy in 2004 in a Theology and Democracy workshop at Epworth school in Pietermaritzburg.

[2] De Gruchy, S. 2001. Critically analyse, from a Christian perspective, Freire’s understanding of the process of humanisation. http://hs.unp.ac.za Accessed on 02/03/04.

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Theological Aspects of HIV and AIDS in the Context of Human Sexuality

Theological Aspects of HIV and AIDS in the Context of Human Sexuality, Use of Condoms and Prevention: An Ethical Reflection – A Prolegomenon

26 January 2009

Dr M L Ngoetjana

Introduction: Please let us theologise. Somehow, Christian theology that is worth the label must refer to Biblical texts. Otherwise we confine systematic theology to mere philosophizing and reduction of faith is disregard of the Bible. We need to be encouraged that there is a backing from other human disciplines which testify to the unfathomable wisdom and foreknowledge sincerely found in Christian scriptures. This means that theology is not a lone voice of irrational people who believe without reason and scientific evidence as our world requires today. This rudimentary paper attempts to sincerely support the scriptures on health which have been scientifically authenticated.

Executive Summary: The challenge of HIV and AIDS, in inference is related to the texts of disease and healing in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is not the virus nor the syndrome found in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is our modern challenge. We can only relate the virus and the syndrome in inference to the scriptures. But the principles of health and healing found in the scriptures hold and are relevant to both our contextual theologisation and evidential findings of empirical scientific inquiry. In summary, clean living, clean behaviour, clean environment, clean water, clean food, clean sex, clean relationships, clean hands, clean clothes an clean habits are an answer to the combat of HIV and AIDS.

Ancient Cultures, Prevention, Sex and Medicine

”Most ancient cultures had extensive lists of medicines and procedures for treating disease. The health laws that God gave to Moses, however, did not focus on treating disease, but instead focused on preventing disease and promoting health! This is why medical historian Ralph Major describes Moses as “the greatest sanitary engineer that the world has ever seen” because “Moses recognized the great principle that the prevention of disease is usually simpler and invariably more far reaching than the cure of disease… His doctrines [in the book of Leviticus] could be summed up by the objects of sanitation today—pure food, pure water, pure air, pure bodies and pure dwellings” (A History of Medicine, vol. 1, pp. 62–64)”.

“The biblical health laws are timeless! They were valid in the days of Moses, and they are just as valid—and applicable—today. The Bible reveals that when Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth, the laws of God will be proclaimed to the world from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2–4). As human beings around the globe learn to live by these simple yet fundamentally important laws, their health will improve—and the plague of disease will begin to disappear (Isaiah 35:5–7). This is part of the gospel! You can play a vital role in this incredible transformation (Isaiah 30:20–21)—if you learn the value of applying these biblical health laws in your own life today!”

Faced with HIV and AIDS is another challenge than communicable diseases of the Biblical times. The virus is sophisticated, complex, dynamic, ever changing, myriad, regional, perplexing, changing, and smart. The virus uses the very body defenses, emulates it, copies it and unfortunately works against it. The challenge confronts us with incisive ethical dilemmas. Should like it was in Biblical times confine people living with HIV and AIDS in seclude and separate places? Did not the seclusion of people living with dreaded Biblical diseases help contain the incurable diseases of the Biblical times. If we were to apply the Bible literally, we should be having seclusion areas for people living with HIV and AIDS. Will that be ethically acceptable?

Granted, it is convincing that laws of quarantine – of keeping people locked in separate camps, like those with Extreme Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR), should not be imposed on people living with HIV and AIDS, but why?

Laws of Quarantine/ Keeping People Secluded

“[Besides and including Biblical times a] plague which prevailed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Europe was leprosy. England, Sweden, Iceland and Norway showed alarming gains in the numbers of leprosy cases in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But when the authorities began to institute the quarantine, in the form of segregation of leprosy cases, the plague was again brought under control.

In Norway rigid national quarantine was introduced in 1856 because of the widespread severity of leprosy. “Ninety years later the health authorities were able to report that Norway had only five percent of the number of lepers that were there before segregation. Similarly favorable reports come to us from Finland and Sweden, where enforced segregation of lepers had also been instituted,” writes D.T. Atkinson (Magic, Myth and Medicine, p. 64)”.

Shall we propose the same seclusion legislation for the prevention of the virus and the syndrome? Where did these quarantine laws come from? This same author tells us, “It is most singular that a description of leprosy, as found in the thirteenth chapter of Leviticus, could have been written so long before our time. It is to be noticed that such an accurate description of this dread malady as it appears in the Biblical narrative is not to be found in the literature of any nation for the next seventeen hundred years” (ibid; p. 25-26).

Astounding, amazing, astonishing, and confounding the case is. Why should it be, since

the Bible was divinely inspired by God who created mankind and knows and has prescribed how to deal with incurable diseases? Why can’t we simply follow what God has approved? For instance, the solution for leprosy was to seclude the infected? Why can’t seclude the HIV and AIDS infected? Why do we do it with XTB and not with HIV infected people? Is it because we are now living in a culture of relativism, human rights, democracy, and freedom? Is it because issues depend on how you look at them, that humans must not be confined or secluded, and that the majority determines the will of the people?

Isn’t it that the majority say people living with HIV must live among us, and they must not be secluded. Is it not argued that it is unethical to discriminate against people infected with HIV. So what about those who are affected by HIV and AIDS? Must we seclude them. So, let it be. We must all, each one of us be secluded. Ultimately not a single one of us must move. Impossible!

Speaking of the Biblical laws regarding leprosy, Atkinson states: “The laws of health laid down in Leviticus are the BASIS OF MODERN SANITARY SCIENCE. Moses ordered that cases of leprosy should be segregated, that dwellings from which infected Jews had gone should be inspected before again being occupied, and that persons recovering from contagious disease were not to be allowed to go abroad until examined. The modern quarantine harks back to these sanitary regulations of the Old Testament” (p. 58).

Similarly, Arturo Castiglioni in A History of Medicine tells us, “The laws against leprosy in Leviticus 13 may be regarded as the first model of a sanitary legislation” (p. 71)” (Dankenbring, 1972 ). In simple terms, let all of us without secluding other, live positively in the context of HIV and AIDS. Let all of us know our status and live positively in the world of HIV and AIDS.

The Bible Versus Venereal Disease

“The fastest spreading contagious disease in the Western world today is venereal disease. In the United States, someone contracts venereal disease every 12 seconds! Dr. Geoffrey Simmons of the Los Angeles County Health Department predict[ed] that by 1975 the present two million annual cases of V.D. in the United States will rise to five million. But why? What is the cause?

Medical authorities frankly admit that V.D. is spread through sexual contact. Homosexuals account for nearly one fifth of the reported cases! As long as there is promiscuity, free sex, and homosexuality, there is bound to be venereal disease”.

“But the solution to this terrible worldwide curse is as simple as it is ancient: “Shun immorality! Any other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (I Cor. 6:18, Moffatt translation).

What does the Bible say will happen to those who devote themselves to sexual vice, who dishonour their own bodies? God says: “… their women have exchanged the natural function of sex for what is unnatural, and in the same way the males have abandoned the natural use of women and flamed out in lust for one another, men perpetrating shameless acts with their own sex and getting in their own persons the due recompense of their perversity” (Rom. 1:26-27, Moffatt).

The growing incidence of this ancient plague speaks eloquently that the solution is prevention! Thousands of years ago the Biblical standards of morality safeguarded against this plague which blights the lives of as yet unborn generations. There is no safe, reliable “cure” for this disease — except prevention. Why do millions insist on hiding their eyes from this obvious truth?

When God created mankind He said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). If this one basic, scriptural principle were obeyed, today, the world would see the end of venereal disease. It would be totally stamped out!

The Bible, clearly, is a remarkable book. Its various portions, written from 4,000 to 2,000 years ago, speak authoritatively regarding health and disease prevention. The Bible not only gave laws of sanitation and hygiene thousands of years before the world in general stumbled across those laws by “accident,” but it also gave other fundamental principles of prevention of disease which the world still refuses to face!”

The Great Paradox

“Paradoxically, the world has come to acknowledge many of the health principles outlined in the Bible, but still refuses to acknowledge the Source. When will men cease to overlook the Source Book for good health? God’s laws were designed to PREVENT illness — to maintain vibrant good health. But the world only gives lip service to them and ignores their source. What a paradox!

It is time we admitted that thousands of years ago when pagan, Gentile nations — steeped in idolatry and superstition — were propounding all kinds of weird remedies and quack cures for illness, there was a nation free from idolatrous superstition, which was taught principles of health and disease prevention which are still valid today! What does this momentous fact mean? Just this: The Bible is no mere book of men — its authorship is divine! Biblical health laws prove — along with the proofs of Biblical prophecy — that the Bible was divinely inspired by the Eternal God!

There is a Creator God. He “manufactured” the human race. And He wrote an “Instruction Book” that goes along with His product, and tells how it is best operated. Just as any automobile manufacturer sends an instruction book along with each new automobile, so God gave us an Instruction Book — the Bible — which tells us how to live, and how to have robust, radiant health and vitality!

There is a Creator God. He “manufactured” the human race. And He wrote an “Instruction Book” that goes along with His product, and tells how it is best operated. Just as any automobile manufacturer sends an instruction book along with each new automobile, so God gave us an Instruction Book — the Bible — which tells us how to live, and how to have robust, radiant health and vitality! The Bible is the foundation of all knowledge, including the knowledge of health. If society will build on its fundamental precepts wisely and soundly, we can avoid the tragedy of increasing sickness and disease. We can begin to eliminate the terrible scourges of modern disease. Biblical laws are the keys to abundant health. They were devised for your protection and well-being. But if you break them, they will break you. Will you begin to obey those laws? Your future health — physically, mentally and emotionally — will depend in large measure on how you answer that question!”

Dialogue, Stigma and HIV Prevention: Engaging the Notion of Dialogue

It is often useful to contrast Dialogue with a more familiar form of communication, discussion. Discussion has the same Greek root as percussion and concussion, discus, meaning to throw, fragment, shatter. David Bohm likened discussion to an activity where we throw our opinions back and forth in an attempt to convince each other of the rightness of a particular point of view. In this process, the whole view is often fragmented and shattered into many pieces. The intentions of dialogue and discussion are quite different and are contrasted below.

Bible, Evil and Disease

The notion of the problem of disease correlates with the problem of evil.

AIDS in a skolopsychichal perspective (a thorn in the flesh) – the sufficiency of God’s grace

AIDS and manifestation of God’s Glory (gloriae reveletus)

On the Condom

Condom – Pleasure – Infection – aim not reached

Condom – legal and illegal use

Condom and carnal impulses – extra marital

Condom and Palliative/ soothing nature of human sexual passion

Interpretation of the Gospel in AIDS Perspective

Seeking help coming from behind and at night (Mk 5: 25 – 34, Jn. 3: 1 – 13)


References

Speicer S and J. Wilson. 2007. Exploring Solutions: How to Talk About HIV Prevention in the Church. Switzerland: Ecumenical Alliance.

Dankenbring, William F. 1972. Bible Laws — The Foundation of Good Health

Edelston, K. 1988. Countdown to Doomsday: AIDS. Johannesburg: Media House Publications

Toya, Jeran-Samuel, H. AIDS: African Perspective