De kerk als potentiële belichaming van sociale kritiek: Het voorbeeld van Emmanuel Katongole

Translated title of the contribution: The Church as Potential Embodiment of Social Critique: The Example of Emmanuel Katongole

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Guided by Gaudium et spes that speaks of a fundamental unity between the church and the world, this article seeks to offer an introduction into Emmanuel Katongole’s ecclesiology, with an emphasis on how Katongole understands the church as both part of society and potentially offering a social critique to that society.
First, his criticism of the relation between church and state in his The Sacrifice of Africa is discussed; in this book, Katongole argues that the church and the whole of African society still perform the political script from the colonial era, which seduces the church to too hastily urging the state how it should behave, thereby implicitly legitimizing the post-colonial state as political power. Katongole wants the church to be more critical of this social imagination.
Then, Katongole’s thought is related to that of Stanley Hauerwas, especially in the notion of community. Katongole like Hauerwas argues that the identity of a community consists of its memory, performance and social imagination, but Katongole is more critical of what the church as a community actually remembers, performs and imagines. As such, Katongole’s ecclesiology is more explicitly descriptive and critical, whereas Hauerwas often sounds more prescriptive.
Finally, Katongole’s examples from The Sacrifice of Africa and his more recent Born from Lament clarify how, according to him, a truly alternative social critique from the church can only come from practices that are rooted in lament: in the disciplined attempt to reject all false narratives of hope and optimism, in order to make room for truly new social imaginations. It is precisely this praxis of lament that should be rediscovered not only by the church in Africa, but also in the West.
As such, Katongole’s work offers an understanding of church praxis in which the church is fully engaged with the world without risking to lose her own alternative and sometimes radical perspective; an approach that is believed by the author to be especially helpful for the increasingly marginalized church in the Netherlands.
Translated title of the contributionThe Church as Potential Embodiment of Social Critique: The Example of Emmanuel Katongole
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)343-‌359
Number of pages16
JournalTijdschrift voor Theologie
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • gaudium et spes
  • katongole
  • lament


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