New Awakening To Distinctive Identities And Fresh Theological Insights

'Is Christianity the teaching of Christ or the teaching of a certain body of men?'56 The learned (pandita) Ramabai asked this question. We have already noted her association with Goreh and Sen. As a convert and social activist, particularly committed to the emancipation of hapless widows, she was reacting to sophisticated translations of the Bible with misleading Hindu terms, grand ceremonies and dogmas produced by men using their

53 See T. Thangaraj, The Crucified Guru — An Experiment in Cross-Cultural Christology (Nashville:

54 Abingdon Press, 1994).

See S. Amirtham, 'Some New Emphases in Theological Education in Arasaradi' in R. S. Sugirtharajah and C. Hargreaves (eds.), Readings in Indian Christian Theology, vol. 1 (London:

56 See I. Selvanayagam, Samuel Amirtham's Living Theology (Bangalore: BTESSC/BTTBPSA, 2007). Quoted in R S. Sugirtharajah, The Bible and the Third World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 99.

authority in the church. She asked for a simple translation of the words of Jesus, which had the power of enchanting the people's hearts. She herself translated the whole Bible from the originals into Marathi. She enjoyed the freedom of interpreting biblical passages (including miracles) in such a way that they prompted liberating action.

After a break in the historical link with Ramabai, in the early 1980s a group of women theologians started to remember her and continue to present a feminist perspective to fundamental aspects of life. There are several groups with apparent splintering based on class and ideological differences. While drawing heavily on the feminist theologians of the west, they try to give an Indian flavour by taking metaphors like power (sakti), mother earth and the revenge of the goddess. The Hindu image of the androgynous God Siva has given them insights to conceptualize God as both male and female. On the whole, they are holistic in their vision and 'eco-feminism' has increasingly become a catch-word.

Gabriele Dietrich (b. 1943), of German origin, based in Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, started her process of immersion into Indian reality at CISRS under the leadership of M. M. Thomas. Her main concern is to see the relationship between capitalism, patriarchy, the destruction of the nature, violence and power. She is associated with a number of women's groups and finds in their revolt against oppression the expression of resurrection. In a few overt theological reflections she identifies the leadership of women in the Bible, highlights the feminine quality of compassion, describes sexuality as 'an equal relationship of love, tenderness and mutual enchantment', and calls for a theological language that transcends sex-stereotypes and a feminine perspective for inter-faith dialogue. As a historian of religions too, she points out how 'depa-triarchalising the Christian faith opens up new horizons' with reference to how 'historians of religion have drawn parallels between Hindu Shakti, the God of energy, Sophia, the ''Wisdom'' of God and the Jewish Shechina, the dwelling of God among people' and how feminist theologians have pointed out that 'Ruach, the Spirit of God is feminine'. 'Yet', she insists, 'all such exercises have to stand the test of how they contribute to the liberation of women in day to day life.'57 She finds the metaphor of the world as God's body, expounded by Ramanuja and recognized by women writers in the west, helpful in seeing the integral relationship between matter and the spirit, the mutual sustainability of life and a scorporate movement towards wholeness. Aruna Gnanadason (b. 1949),

G. Dietrich, A New Thing on Earth (Delhi: ISPCK-Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, 2001), p. 82.

based in the WCC, has guided several women in sharing their stories in forums and groups and in using insights that can inform a new approach of feminist theology in the Indian context.58

Dalits ('split' or 'broken' people) are the worst victims of the evil and divisive caste system in India. They have been treated as untouchable and they form about seventeen per cent of the Indian population. They are spread all over the country and are known by different names, while the government continues to use the term introduced by the British, 'Scheduled Caste'. Their awakening is attributed to champions of their liberation, particularly B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), whose mantra was 'unite, educate and agitate'. Dalit theologians use historical and sociological studies to show the magnitude of the age-long suffering and pain of the dalit people. They start with the observation that what is known as Indian Christian theology in the past has been produced by those coming from the Brahmin and non-Brahmin high-caste communities.

Sporadic reflections and initial explorations into the theological significance of the dalit experience found a tangible expression in a consultation on 'Towards a Dalit Theology' held in Chennai (Madras) in December 1986.59 Since then theological consultations and the resultant literature on dalit theology have established a stable place for one of the most authentic expressions of the Indian liberation theology, which is distinctive because the caste system is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Arvind Nirmal (1936-95), one of the distinguished pioneers of dalit theology, in his seminal essay, defines it as a theology about, for and from the dalits.60 For him it is a counter-theology, calling for 'a methodological exclusivism'. 'What this exclusivism implies', he says, 'is the affirmation that the Triune God - the Father, the Son and Spirit - is on the side of the dalits and not of the non-dalits who are the oppressors.' He writes that the unparalleled depth of pathos and misery of the dalits should inform dalit theology, and that those who have experienced that misery are the dalit theologians proper, though non-dalits who can empathize and sympathize with them can contribute.

According to Nirmal, the exodus experience of the dalits, which was even more traumatic than Israel's, is from a non-people to people, to a realization of a humanness, the image of God, and the goal is 'the glorious

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