Is Ubuntu is Jesus’ Worldview?
This will be the last of my columns for 2018, a journey that has attempted to “Catholicise” the concept of ubuntu.
At a conference early in the year I asked sodality members if ubuntu was Catholic. They were not sure. “Maybe, maybe not.” So I requested a retired black school teacher to explore it more deeply, and we concluded that ubuntu is a good way of describing Jesus’ worldview too.
I don’t believe it has been widely reflected on in the context of inculturation but I did find one Ugandan theologian’s writing that affirmed my gut feel and promotes ubuntu as an approach to evangelisation.
Closely linking faith and life in our own South African context has proved quite difficult for me over the years, partly because I am a white immigrant South African Catholic musician who enjoys mostly a Western way of worship.
For my late husband Chris and me in 1979, one of the most valuable gifts of Marriage Encounter was the fact that we could relate to couples and families of other race groups because marriage and family is what we had in common. I’ve spent nearly 40 years banging that drum (at times perhaps not loud enough, or is it the wrong drum?).
Another insight, from a discussion with a foreign priest, was that for the local Church to make progress on our spiritual journey we should be evangelising in the context in which we operate.
An African Family Reality
The Western sector of the Church, with a more individualistic approach, is diminishing even though it still has influence. The African family reality should be the basis for our pastoral care, dichotomous and confusing as the situation may seem.
Ubuntu means “I am a person through others”, and those others are family people living firstly in the same house, flat, shack or mansion, or the one next door or across the valley.
Marfam’s 2019 family theme “Every Family Matters!” is a progression from 2018 and ubuntu. Yes, marriage matters, so do parents in all situations, grandparents, widowed, divorced, youth — all from a perspective of family as well as in family units.
Pope Francis recognises that, although Amoris Laetitia is strongly about marriage. “Each of those who live with us merits our complete attention, since he or she possesses infinite dignity as an object of the Father’s immense love,” he wrote (323).
In every family, members experience love and learn and practise the necessary life skills while practising and sharing their faith. Family catechesis could be a new approach, not only through catechists talking about families, but by guiding those families to do what they should be doing themselves.
And when it comes to worship and prayer, why is it that we sing and dance so enthusiastically in our larger groups and not in our homes?
Lighting an Advent candle, singing Christmas carols, performing a little Christmas play or reading stories is a family-friendly way that can “Put Christ Back Into Christmas” — right where he belongs.