• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

We’re back to the festive period when communities and churches mount their crusades against principalities and powers. Many religious men and women, the Nietzschean merchants of illusion, will begin to run around our cities looking for disillusioned youths to recruit for their cults or poorly adapted traditional religions. We will start to hear prophesies and oracles proclaimed on how this deity or that demon is holding one family or the other down. They will wage war against Incubus and succubus and comically tear down imaginative demonic temples and dominions. Then, we will retire and wait for next year to repeat these comic pseudo-spiritual routines indefinitely.

Get me well, I believe in the existence of demons, for if God, Angels and Spirits exist, why wouldn’t demons exist? They’re everywhere except that it seems the poorer or hopeless a nation is, the stronger their demons. By the rate at which Nigerians embattle the devil, one might think that we’re the demon capital of the world. But when one understands that more Nigerians are getting frustrated daily; the economy is crashing here and there; and the rate of insecurity, almost on a chronic level, then one might if we diagnosed well the demons behind our piteous situation.

Gustavo Gutierrez once wrote:

This challenge [theological crisis] in a continent like Latin America doesn’t come primarily from the non-believer, but from the man who isn’t a man, who isn’t recognized as such by the existing social order; he’s in the ranks of the poor, the exploited, he’s the man who is systematically and legally deprived of his being as a man: who scarcely knows that he’s a man. His challenge isn’t aimed first at our religious world but at the political and cultural world; therefore, it’s an appeal for the revolutionary transformation of the very basis of a dehumanizing society. The question, therefore, isn’t how to speak of God in an adult world, but how to proclaim him as a Father in a world that isn’t human.”

Gutierrez is known as one of the fathers of Liberation theology. Liberation theology starts its reflection on God from the milieu of life of a given Christian community. It’s a type of theology “born out of a concrete encounter with the hard facts of history.” (J. Putti, Theology as Hermeneutics, Kristu Joyti, Bangalore, 1991, p. 61).

While European theologians were quarrelling over whether ideas about God are well presented, Gutierrez and many other Latino theologians knew that the problem of their people was neither about how God is theoretically presented nor mentally comprehended. They understood that their people have no proper means of articulating their faith in God if they keep on doubting that their life is worth living. They understood the French saying that “un ventre affamé n’a point d’oreille” — loosely translated as “a hungry man is an angry man” but means “a hungry man can’t hear anything”. They knew that for one to reason well, one needs to have the strength to stand on one’s feet. Gutierrez comprehended that the origin of the problem of their people was neither intellectual nor spiritual, but political and sociological.

Armed with these facts, he went down to the society not to speak to them about a mystical liberation but a deliverance from the hands of those who were holding their community hostage. He presented to them the Man of Nazareth who, when faced with the choice of praying for a spiritual liberation of his people, accepted to give up his life to send a strong message that for the kingdom to come, believers should be ready to die martyrs. And when on the third day, he conquered death, his followers understood that the principal enemy is within and not beyond. So, from one shore to the other, they went around defying every authority, even to the extent of being burned or crucified like their master.

Like Gutierrez, Sobrino and others followed suit, denouncing political leaders and religious sycophants who sit on the high places and who participate in the devouring of the destiny of their citizens. Like Bishop Oscar Romero, religious leaders followed this crusade, paying the ultimate price.

On the contrary, in our society, we chase rats while our house is on fire. We cast out demons, causing road accidents when the money allotted to constructing those roads is continuously diverted. Which demon do we think will accept to humiliate itself by causing an accident in our dilapidated roads? Which devil is controlling the reckless drivers on our roads? The principalities causing accidents in our roads are the people siphoning the money meant for our road constructions — let’s rebuke and fire them.

Which demon is behind our generalized crisis? Which demon is causing the untimely death when our hospitals have no beds and strings? Which demon is causing the constant strikes that push half-baked graduates out of society? Which devil is responsible for the hardship in the nation? Which demon is bankrolling the unknown gunmen or arming the terrorist organizations in Nigeria? These are our principalities and powers, and we know where they are. If all our men of God could channel all the efforts they invest in fighting non-existing demons in Nigeria to our state capitals; if they stand up to condemn the ghostly 666 reigning in Aso Rock; the Queen of Sheba in Lion House; the Incubus and succubus in the Northern governors’ offices; or the dominions in the Southern Government houses; and all the principalities roaming around in white clothes in Eastern Nigerian governors’ lodges, Nigerians will have no cause to keep on casting out its pseudo-demons yearly.

Therefore, though you were told in the Bible (Ephesians 6:12):

“our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, but the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”; I tell you: “our struggle in this part of the world should be against flesh, blood and ego. So, yes, our fight is against the authorities, the powers of this dark country, and against the physical forces with evil plans who sit at Aso Rock, Lion House, Brick House, Creek House, Kashmir House, Douglas House, Alagbaka House, Lugard House, bishoprics, etc."

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary
Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (New York: Seabury, 1972), pp. 3-26, 125-145.

To better comprehend Bernard Lonergan, one must understand which principal question he wants theology to answer. As a Thomist, Lonergan is interested in Aquinas epistemological question: “how do we know what we know”? Put in Aquinas’s word, “Does the soul know material things through the intellect” (Summa Theologica,1a q84 a1). However, more than Aquinas, Lonergan’s interest is not only in knowing “how we know what we know” but also in “what we do when we know.” This particularity portrays the ingenuity of Lonergan’s thought. He wants the reader to go beyond how one knows things to discover what happens afterwards. In his Method in theology, he transcends the Thomistic epistemology. He calls it Introspection. According to him, Introspection is the objectification of the contents of consciousness. This process moves from the sense-data through inquiry, insight, reflection, and judgment to statements about sensible things. (Lonergan, 1972, 8–10)

Lonergan’s theology has its source in this epistemological process. However, before explaining this procedure, he proposes a cumulative process, different from set of rules, necessary in theological reflection, which he called Method.

According to Lonergan, when one applies Method in theology, it becomes “a set of related and recurrent operations cumulatively advancing towards an ideal goal” (125). However, owing to the specialization of knowledge, he states that we should not see method as a single set of related operations but a series of interdependent groups. Each specialization is independent, but its comprehension depends on the sum of their antecedence - “a series of interdependent sets.”

Furthermore, Lonergan continues to establish the possible relationship between different disciplines. He proposes that theological knowledge goes from compound data—texts, documents, through hypothesis—interpretation of and commentary on the tests and documents to constructing narratives from the gathered information (126). Finally, Lonergan explains that following these steps in Method, theology could be classified into eight functional specializations: research, interpretation, history, dialectic, foundation, doctrines/policies, systems/plans, and communication/implementations (127–132).

The division in Lonergan is not simply his way of showing different forms of theology but also an explanation of how the human mind works.[1] The first four divisions—research, interpretation, history, and dialectic are “the four levels of human transcendence—being attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsive” (ibid). Furthermore, as Lonergan sees theology in terms of praxis, the second part of the division shows how theologians should act once engaged in this quest. The first part of Lonergan’s theological specialization is in the past. The second, which is in the future, reminds the theologian to be involved in the transformation of society. Here, he proposes that theology should change the life of the theologian—through an act of conversion — “transformation of the subject and his world” (130) or “being a witness to it” (133)

Knowing that Lonergan’s Method works as an algorithm capable of linking different fields of knowledge, it is evident that his theology has not yet been exploited enough in our present-day society. People keep on regarding theology to be vague, disconnected, and unpopular. In contrast, Lonergan has proven that when theologies follow a transcendental method, it could save the society from itself by giving it directions for self-discovery and societal transformation.

All the same, the difficulties with Lonergan’s theology is and will for a long time be its complicated system. Looking for a way of building a system capable of interacting with one another, he seems to have constructed a complex structure reserved only for a few individuals.

[1] Tad Dune, https://iep.utm.edu/lonergan/ (26/11/2021)

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Les autres étoiles, même si elles brillent très fort, n'estomperont jamais l'étoile polaire

Un jour, j’ai eu la visite de ma famille de Malio. J’étais à Ekuanitshit. Timak venait juste de m’apprendre à faire la pizza. Je voulais donc les impressionner. Ça ne faisait pas encore longtemps depuis mon arrivée dans la communauté. Je suis donc allé acheter des peppéronis au dépanneur de la communauté. Et comme il n’y avait pas de peppéroni là-bas, j’ai acheté du Baloney. J’étais bien fier d’avoir réussi ma pizza. Et puis, ils se sont mis à manger avec appétit. Je me réjouissais intérieurement car Timak semblait aimer ma pizza. Et tout d’un coup, il me demande ce que j’avais mis dans la pizza. Je ne connaissais pas encore bien la différence entre le Baloney, le peppéroni, et le salami. Je sors donc le reste, et c’était bien du Baloney. Il riait toute la soirée de ma pizza au Baloney. « C’était du jamais vu, qu’il me disait ! »

J’aurais beaucoup d’autres histoires à raconter sur Timak, mais je sais que tous ceux et toutes celles qui l’ont connu ou côtoyé auraient aussi tant de choses à dire sur ses histoires qui ne finissent jamais. Tout le monde sait que Timak avait toujours une histoire à raconter.

Si vous l’avez croisé dans sa cantine (Cantine TIMAK), ou encore lors de ses moments de paparazzi, dans une activité culturelle, ou une rencontre spirituelle, etc., vous aurez déjà eu l’honneur d’écouter ce grand conteur. Il avait une histoire pour chaque événement.

Depuis que je l’ai connu, on a toujours été content de se voir. Et il avait toujours une nouvelle recette à me faire goûter, et surtout une histoire à me conter. Maintenant, je suis presque sûr qu’il est en train de raconter des histoires aux gens qui ont tout le temps pour l’écouter.

Timak, je joins ma voix à celle de toute la famille Vollant pour te remercier pour tout ce que tu as été pour eux, pour moi, et pour toute la communauté. Ta porte était toujours grandement ouverte pour moi, et toute ta famille est devenue la mienne depuis que j’ai été (quasiment) adoptée par ta famille. Ton départ est difficile à comprendre, mais qui a dit qu’on peut comprendre la mort ? Une chose est, toutefois, claire : tu mérites ce repos que le Créateur vient de t’accorder.

L’hiver te sera désormais agréable, et le Nord, la terre sacrée de tes ancêtres, près de ton cœur nomade. Cette cinquième saison dans laquelle tu viens juste d’entrer, le chemin rouge te l’a aussi préparée d’avance. Regarde en avant, et tu verras l’étoile du Nord. Il te guidera vers d’autres gens qui t’ont précédé. Écoute bien, et tu entendras atikut, uapushat, mashkut, maikana, etc., te dire Kuei, Timak, bon retour au Nuitshimit, où tu as toujours été attendu depuis ta naissance. Tu peux sembler presque absent, aujourd’hui, mais quand une étoile s’éteint, elle laisse toujours la trace de son existence.

Les nombreux voyages que tu as organisés pour les jeunes, ainsi que tous les temps que tu as investis pour ta famille, ta communauté, ta culture et la spiritualité, te serviront de mot de passe pour entrer dans ton nouveau chez toi. Et, pour nous, la trace de ton passage dans cette partie de Nitassinan.

Je t’ai écouté parler, une centaine de fois, de ta foi en humanité ; de ton profond respect pour le sacré et la diversité de voies menant à Dieu, de ton respect pour les valeurs de ton peuple ; et ton respect pour le sacré se faisait régulièrement ressentir.

Que les ancêtres t’accueillent avec beaucoup de joie dans ce territoire céleste et nordique. Et que le visage du Grand Esprit t’illumine le chemin.

Vas-y, Marc, repose-toi auprès de ton Créateur, mais n’oublie pas de nous envoyer tes photos de temps à autre.

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