“Doing Reconciliation” by Alexander Venter

Written out of the pain and the horror of the South African apartheid, this book was one of the hardest and most challenging books I have ever read.

As I sit here are write, it is hard to really put into words the depth into which the message of this book went.

I think the best thing to do is to share with two paragraphs from Venter’s book that shows the heart behind it:

“I want to mention a phrase that I learnt in the boiling pot of Soweto [the black township outside of Johannesburg] in the mid-1980s. It struck deep into my consciousness and has been part of the formation of my life. It was “doing theology.” We did not study theology, we did theology by engaging in the struggle for justice. Many pastors and academics were challenged by young black people to stop their theoretical theologizing and eloquent sermonizing about justice and reconciliation. They were challenged to get out of their ivory towers and protected places, and come down to the place of pain and struggle and “do theology” in the streets with the poor and oppressed. Doing theology in this way, and debating the contextual theological issues, was my bread and butter in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In Joweto [a place of reconciliation started by Venter within Soweto], doing theology meant that you got your hands dirty, that you learnt (authentic ) theology by coming to know God as you engaged in the praxis of identification with the poor and oppressed. In so doing, you did God’s praxis: in Jesus God stripped himself of power and glory, humbled himself by coming down from heaven to earth, to identify with human pain and suffering, and to seek and save that which was lost. There was a favorite quote of the contextual-doing-theologians that I mixed with in Soweto: “For as much as you did it to these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).”

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