Thursday, September 28, 2006

machismo made me do it

...those who, after hitting their wives, insist that,
'The machismo culture made me do it.'
(Matthew C Gutmann, "Real Mexican machos are born to die." 1996:164)

In yesterday's Theology and Gender we discussed masculine identities in Latin America.

Juan, a fellow student from Ecuador, told us about his work in Quito with men who hit their partners and children. Six women out of ten suffer from domestic violence in Ecuador; in Argentina the figure is 54%.

The progamme explored what kinds of society promote violence understandings of what it is to be male, and asked how the connection between men and aggression can be broken. It challenged understandings of abusers as simply sick individuals, or just following their 'natural' insistincts; instead encouraging both individuals and wider society to take reponsibility.

Juan commented that is unusual in Ecuador for men to meet up, outside of the bar to watch the football. However, those men that had stuck with the programme had found it helpful to have a space to share their feelings and talk through their actions.

R.W. Connell's article, 'The Social Organization of Masculinity' (Berkley: Uni. of California Press, 1995) suggests alongside the dominant model of masculinity, man live out a number of different masculinities. Other factors such as etnicity, class and sexuality dramatically affect a man's power and identity. While few men live up to the 'ideal male' of patriarchal thought, Connell suggests that the majority are willing to accept the dividends of patriarchy.

Víctor Hugo Robles, the 'Che' of the Gays in a demonstration in front of La Moneda
, Santiago de Chile, September 2004, by Javier Godoy

This picture was part of an exhibition of images of Chile that I saw in the seaside town of La Serena earlier this year. I was struck by how prominent human rights campaigner Víctor Hugo Robles constructs his identity, employing and subverting one of the dominant images of maleness in Latin America, that of Che Guevara.

Within the church, traditional teaching on the Trinity sets up conflicting types of masculinities: God the Father demands the death of his son, the efeminate victim. We have to learn how to subvert these violent ideals of maleness, or else be content to live with a God who excuses his lust for sacrifice saying:
machismo made me do it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

feliz primavera

Yesterday officially marked the arrival of spring. I celebrated with flip-flops, and a delicious few hours reading in Mark's Deli, Palermo.

The trees are turning green and other bright colours. The Palermo well to do are drinking smoothies while checking their wi-fi connections. The day skies are bluer and the evening ones lighter.

The rapid advance of October also means that in less than two weeks Mum and Dad will be here, so I am busy getting ahead with papers and sorting out the little things than need doing around the house. Who knows, it may even be time for a spring clean!

Barth and Bonino

Over the past few weeks, our theological methods class has been reading Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, and Dogmatics in Outline. As well as considering Barth's influences and political context, we've also discussed Barth's impact on liberation theologians such as Emilio Castro, Julio de Santa Ana, Gustavo Guiérrez and José Míguez Bonino.

In her book, The Praxis of Suffering Rebecca S. Chopp comments:
Latin American liberation theologians, trained in twentieth-century theology, retrieve the notions of freedom, grace, sin, obedience, and redemption as a way to interpret Christian praxis. In this hermeneutics of retrieval within modern theology, theological concepts are often radically transformed. For instance, Karl Barth's stress on obedience to the revelation of God comes to the surface in Jose Miguez Bonino's vision of theology as the discernment of God's actions in concrete situations...Latin American liberation theology continues modern theology's concern for the subject, the representation of freedom by Christianity, and the experience of faith in history but, in a radical reformulation, defines the subject as the poor, reinterprets freedom to include political self-determination, and envisions history as the arena for both liberation and redemption
(Chopp 1986: 45-6, Orbis Books Avaliable on Religion-Online)

As a native English speaker and European, it's easy to forget that readers in many countries wait years for editions to be published in their country or language (This month ISEDET is launching a translation of some of the texts of Swiss Reformer Zwingli from the 15th century; now that's a long wait!). The Spanish translation of Barth's Evangelical Theology: An Introduction was published in 1986 in Argentina (although many pastors and theologians would have been familar with the original German version published 1963).

The translation includes an Introduction by José Míguez Bonino, a Methodist theologian from Argentina. In his retirement, Bonino continues his association with ISEDET, and can often be seen chatting with students in the corridors or popping into a class. I have especially appreciated his interest in feminist studies, for example he attended most of the recent course on feminist theological anthropology. I note also that Marcella Althaus-Reid, includes him in her thanks in the preface to her book Indecent Theology (more on Marcella and her work in future blogs).

Bonino's introduction to Barth draws out Barth's social engagement, noting for example his early ministry amongst industrial workers and trade unions.
His social lens through which to view Barth is unsurprising considering the translation was published the same year as the military dictatorship ended (1976 - 1983, the so called Dirty War) following a period of great risk for the churches who committed themselves to the human rights struggle.

Bonino reflects Barth would have probably had some 'grave hesitations' with liberation theology but nevertheless, like Gutiérrez, sees 'fertile ground' within Barth's ideas. He offers three reminders for liberation theologians from Barth's work:

1.A call for modesty
That we do not take ourselves too seriously as 'liberation theologians'. As if we were the 'liberators'...As if the future of the poor depended on us. The only Liberator, Jesus Christ has the first word..He is the one who brings good news to the poor..The second word is the response of the community of faith. (21)

But, Bonino asks, does Barth's emphasis on the primary action of God disable human action? Not if we consider Barth's lifelong social action, culminating in the Barmen Declaration.

2.A call for committment
While God's will can never be directly identified with a political movement or group, Bonino reminds his readers that God's word and work can only be encountered in history. He points out Barth's focus on the covenant between God and humanity, our response to God's word.

3.A call from and for the poor
Bonino quotes Barth as saying God is always and unconditionally to be found alongside the humble (Dogmatics II/1, p.434). The word from heaven in the face of hell on earth (citing Gutiérrez).

4.A call to newness
Barth challenges us to be constantly open to the newness of God rather than stuck in our own system of theology.
The living Word of God, that points always to the new and the condition of the poor, that is known incompletely, broken and inaccessible in humanity...leaving open space for the creation of possibilities and projects - certainly human and therefore ambiguous and imperfect, but by such things, freely the power of the Spirit returns, forever and ever, to renew the face of the earth.(25)

(Introducción a la Teología Evangélica, (trad. E. de Delmonte) Buenos Aires: La Aurora 1983, my translations)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

iona once more

It's a year ago since I was on Iona yet the island lingers unexpectedly and with persistence.

April Szuch's poem Iona: One-Year Anniversary (click to read) expresses surprise at the depth of her remembering.

With joy I remember who we were: two kind friends from Scarborough; a chaplaincy group mischief-making, singing and running; a beautiful couple newly-wed; ministers old and new, ordained and otherwise called; four women from Iowa (and Joe!), full of years, life and courage. Many of us had planned to visit years before arriving. We were many at times of change or contemplation.

With thanks I remember the space and sanctuary of structure and simplicity. Toast duty, breakfast, morning prayers at the abbey, chats over coffee and the paper, walking down to the beach, wholesome food followed by fiercely contested giant Connect 4, discussion, rich soup and warm baked bread, sunset, evening prayers, stumbling back in the dark, listening to Mark Radcliffe before falling asleep.

With longing I remember the sea, calling me persistently from where I sat on the white sands until I was part of it, a moment of such peace; a gift of blue-green depths to clarify, refresh and sustain me.