Ubuntu, Jesus, and Earth: Integrating African Religion and Christianity in Ecological Ethics
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Africa faces problems of ecological devastation caused by economic exploitation, rapid population growth, and poverty. Capitalism, residual colonialism, and corruption undermine Africa's efforts to forge a better future. The dissertation describes how in Africa the mounting ecological crisis has religious, political, and economic roots that enable and promote social and environmental harm. It presents the thesis that religious traditions, including their ethical expressions, can effectively address the crisis, ameliorate its impacts, and advocate for social and environmental betterment, now and in the future. First, it examines African traditional religion and Christian teaching, which together provide the foundation for African Christianity. Critical examination of both religious worldviews uncovers their complementary emphases on human responsibility toward planet Earth and future generations. Second, an analysis of the Gwembe Tonga of Chief Simamba explores the interconnectedness of all elements of the universe in African cosmologies. In Africa, an interdependent, participatory relationship exists between the world of animals, the world of humans, and the Creator. In discussing the annual lwiindi (rain calling) ceremony of Simamba, the study explores ecological overtones of African religions. Such rituals illustrate the involvement of ancestors and high gods in maintaining ecological integrity. Third, the foundation of the African morality of abundant life is explored. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, ancestors' teachings are the foundation of morality; ancestors are guardians of the land. A complementary teaching that Christ is the ecological ancestor of all life can direct ethical responses to the ecological crisis. Fourth, the eco-social implications of ubuntu (what it means to be fully human) are examined. Some aspects of ubuntu are criticized in light of economic inequalities and corruption in Africa. However, ubuntu can be transformed to advocate for eco-social liberation. Fifth, the study recognizes that in some cases conflicts exist between ecological values and religious teachings. This conflict is examined in terms of the contrast between awareness of socioeconomic problems caused by population growth, on the one hand, and advocacy of a traditional African morality of abundant children, on the other hand. A change in the latter religious view is needed since overpopulation threatens sustainable living and the future of Earth. The dissertation concludes that the identification of Jesus with African ancestors and theological recognition of Jesus as the ecological ancestor, woven together with ubuntu, an ethic of interconnectedness, should characterize African consciousness and promote resolution of the socio-ecological crisis.