For a while I've been thinking about the effect individualism has had on western culture - e.g. we have becomes a rights based culture rather than a responsibility based one - and particularly the impact it has had on Western Christianity - e.g. the singular focus on "personal salvation" and the loss of a trinitarian and "kingdom" theology. Sunday I was lying in bed feeling crap and I found myself watching an interview with ++Desmond Tutu (by Fearn Britten!?) and very good it was too! The Archbishop spent some time talking about Ubuntu theology...
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.Or as he put it on the programme...
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
I am a human because I belong. I participate. I share.
I am because you areI found myself thinking how fundamentally Trinitarian this idea is and how radical, even revolutionary this seems to Western culture... and specifically western Christianity! It rocks the foundations of the Existentialism and Individualism, indeed the Modernism which still forms the foundation on which our evaluation and culture is built. In Politics it seems the measure is still "how does it affect my wallet" or "my choices" , no doubt with a budget looming we will see a panel made up of different social groups assessing whether it is a "good" budget for them based on what difference it will make to their take home pay. In the Church we find the same tools being used, we talk about "fitting in", we talk about "my Church", we measure our "success" not by impact on culture and communities but on statistics and attendance at our meetings, on the quality of our meetings - the music, the sermons etc... on how many individuals are "saved" out of the world.
As Bill Clinton put it,
If we were the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most wealthy, the most powerful person - and then found all of a sudden that we were alone on the planet, it wouldn't amount to a hill of beans.Ubuntu was born in a culture of hospitality. Nelson Mandela said,
A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?Can we reshape Western Christianity along the principles of Ubuntu - of community transformation, of real community and of hospitality? I hope we can, but it does seem it means being counter cultural in 3 dimensions - world AND church!