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Rethinking Power in Africa: Theological Perspectives

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In this article I reflect on theological, perspectives on power and argue that the telos of power is to work for greater freedom and the empowerment of the society. This is an appropriate subject to raise in the context of an exploration of the dialectics of agony, because religion plays a major role in all African societies. I contend that in creating or reconstructing a road map for dealing with the socio-economic and political crisis, we need to tackle the question of power before we question whetlter religious communities can become the sites where we can kindle a spark of hope, healing, and possibilities of restoration. I begin with a review of recent theological perspectives that have called for reconstruction, follow that with a brief reflection on Mbembe's suggestive discussion on the erotics of power, and argue that God's phallus should be seen as a redemptive symbol and a marker of freedom. I next discuss religious and theological, perspectives on power, reflecting on Yoruba conceptions of power and Paul Tillich's ontological anchoring of power. In the last part of the article I reflect on the implications of the ideas explored and offer preliminary proposals for a theological understanding of power in light of the contemporary crisis in Africa. In a brief conclusion I suggest that religious communities in Africa ought to rethink the lessons learned in fighting apartheid in South Africa and return to a more activist role in society.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies Rice University MS-15, P O. Box 1892 6100 Main Street Houston, TX 77005-1892 United States of America


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