Finding God in the Wasteland: God is the God of life and the God of hope
“Thus would God have us walk through the valley of death and find ourselves, our voyage at an end, at the sunlit crossroads of life; so would God have us travel nightmarish highways of rain and gloom and murder only to pull into a carefree village at sunrise in our exhausted car with its four flat tires; so would God have us fight for life in battlefields of blood and entrails, and harvest life from fields of bone and ashes. There in the wasteland where you had not thought to find life, you will suddenly find the signs of God’s renewal, blooming and flowering and bursting forth from the dry earth with great energy, God’s energy. In the driest month, you will find on the branches’ tips new shoots of life. Under the rock in the desert will sprout a flower, a delicate bud of the new life.”–Jean-Bertrand Aristide, “In The Parish of the Poor,” p. 64.
* I make a sharp distinction between what I phrase the three existential Aristides–one single person who embodies a divided and troubling soul–who perform as a politician, literary genius or a rhetorician, and Aristide the theologian. I’m more interested in the “Theological Aristide” and the “Literary Aristide” for the sake of the current research’s emphasis I’m conducting on Jean-Bertrand Aristide the Theologian-President. I suppose there are/will be possible consequences –such as scholarly misapprehension and intellectual misjudgment-about my preferential option for the two Aristides, which may betray my scholarship as an intellectual historian, and a confessional christian theologian.
On the other hand, it does not mean I have overlooked/will overlook the shortcomings of Aristide the politician and the pitfalls of Aristide the theologian who has fallen from grace. While the practical life of a theologian may sometimes betray his theology, his theology should never be divorced from his personal life. This is exactly the problem with American evangelicalism today: the betrayal of a transformed christian life, which could be construed as the very predicament of doing genuine theological praxis and relational theology in both spheres: public and private.
To get a good understanding of my ideological choice, I direct your attention to an essay I published on Aristide two years ago: “Toward a Politico-Theology of Relationality: Justice as Solidarity and the Poor in Aristide’s Theological Imagination,” Toronto School of Theology 30: 2 (December 2014): 269-300.