Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization


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Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization

Join me in a bird's flight over Gauteng, and explore with me the sights and textures of a rampantly growing metropole, situated in the age-old quartzite ridges and shale valleys of the Witwatersrand and Magaliesberg. Imagine the rocks underneath the surface of Johannesburg and the East and West Rand where gold deposits are mined and brought to the surface through extended systems of shafts and tunnels. Follow the rivers and underground aquifers which flow through Gauteng and see how the water systems are affected by human settlements' pollution and discharges from mines and industry.

See how suburbs, city centres, business areas, mines and mine dumps, townships, rapidly developing new settlements, squatter areas and rapidly developing road systems fit into, but mostly superimpose themselves on the grassland, Bankenveld and bushveld biomes. Gauteng: Some facts and statistics. According to the census results the province of Gauteng is the place of residence of 12 people.

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Johannesburg is the historic centre of the mining industry and is the financial and business powerhouse of the country. It is also the provincial capital of Gauteng. Various municipalities in Gauteng accommodate many local and small businesses and industries. To the south of the province, Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark are the industrial centre for Sasol and the diesel manufacturing industry Statistics SA n.

Although the discovery of gold, diamonds and coal led to the tremendous economic growth and the urbanisation of what became Gauteng, this is no longer the case. The mining industry is still active, but it is in decline and its contribution to the economic growth of Gauteng is becoming less - especially in the western municipalities such as Mogale City and Merafong District.

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On the other hand, the gross domestic product GDP growth in Johannesburg and Ekhurhuleni is growing as a result of business and manufacturing activities Statistics SA n. Gauteng is also the 'Cradle of Humankind' where paleontological discoveries of prehistoric human remains were found. The legacy of white rule and apartheid economic, social and spatial engineering still dominates the province despite the national, provincial and local democratic governments' concerted efforts to turn this around.

Predominantly black townships are to be found on the outskirts of what were the white city centres and suburbs of cities that were built for white privilege, wealth and ownership of the driving engines of the economy. The early mining industry drew predominantly black men from rural areas to become the labour force on which the mining industry was built. The notorious pass system and group areas act ruled the movement of black labour and the settlement of black people in townships around the major cities in Gauteng.

Under apartheid, black people were moved into peri-urban Bantustan settlements to the north and west of Pretoria. Democracy made it possible for black people to move to city centres and neighbourhoods, closer to the economic hub of the province. But, again, new spatial divides between rich and poor emerged with the 'flight' of white people out of city centres Murray and the unfettered urban sprawl and development of new business centres and security estates for the middle and upper classes.

At least, the national, provincial and municipal governments are developing some successful new urban settlements for the lower middle classes and the poor, such as Cosmo City and Olievenhoutbosch. Another demographic feature of the province is the influx of many rural people as well as 'foreign nationals' from other African countries, who come here in search of the wealth and employment that Gauteng meaning 'The Place of Gold' supposedly offers. They quite often end up living in city centres from which capital and business have, to a large extent, fled or in squatter camps - often in-between townships and richer neighbourhoods or on the outskirts of such areas.

An ecofeminist and systems understanding of the relationship between space, place and the body of God. How does one understand the concepts 'space' and 'place' in this flux of natural and human reality which gave form to the Gauteng metropole? I can only concur with Tuan's simple yet timeless explanation: space requires movement from a place to another place. Similarly, a place requires a space to be a place. Hence, the two notions are co-dependent. He also relates space to having temporal insinuations and places having physical insinuations, which further clarifies the difference and co-dependency between the two concepts.

I would add to this that space is multidimensional, while place is topical. For our exploration, it is important to understand the co-dependency of the two notions in the 'flow' of a process and ecological approach. Our flight over Gauteng leads to a process and relational understanding of space, place and environment.

Space and place cannot be divorced from its environment as it is formed by the processes of time, matter and energy, evolution and history. Moltmann in Gorringe proposes an ecological concept of space in which every created reality has its own proper environment, its own inexistentia. Space exists, according to Aquinas, because God is in everything, in body, in space Gorrindge Space and place can, furthermore, be explained in terms of Sallie McFague's understanding of the earth as the Body of God, as it is informed by the 'common creation story' of the evolving earth.

This scientific 'story' is 'told' by scientists' new understandings and theories about the origins and the evolvement of earth and universe. The Body of God is the web of interrelated and interconnected subjects and living beings which constitute the earth with its various ecosystems. It is within this web that space and place is situated. Anne Primavesi reminds us that spaces and places are a reflection of the relationship between matter and energy, organism, activity and environment. No organism exists without an environment, no environment without an organism. Environments, spaces and places are forged through the processes of nature and the activities of living beings.

In Primavesi's understanding, it is within the spaces embedded in evolving ecological systems that one needs to 'place' and to read the Christian narrative. This ecofeminist and systemic understanding of space and places belies our established notion of space as created mostly through the activity and the mastery of people, as anthropocentric and as fixed.

Ken Burns & Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in conversation with Michel Martin

In a process and ecological understanding of space and place in Gauteng, these two concepts, namely, 'space' and 'place' are both geologically and historically connected and interactive. In a concrete manner, the underground rock layers and surface topography of the Witwatersrand, which was formed over billions of years , defines the 'place' which became significant when gold was discovered in It is here that the 'spaces' of the early Johannesburg mining town were built by all the people who streamed to Place of Gold - gold diggers, labourers, rich investors, merchants, prostitutes.

There is enough reason to observe cynically that the Johannesburg of is still a rampantly growing mining town. Of course, the early Nguni- and Sotho-speaking tribes found in the ridges, valleys and grasslands of what became Gauteng the place for constructing their significant spaces, their villages and kraals for themselves and their cattle, places to bury and revere their ancestors, and shelter against enemy tribes.

The Voortrekkers found in the Fountains Valley a lovely place to 'outspan', to make a living from the bounty of nature and eventually to build Pretoria, their own capital and their own space, around The interaction and conflict between black tribes, Voortrekkers and 'outlanders' and the ensuing history of what became Gauteng happened spatially and interactively with the geography and topography of this region. Human space-making and claiming of place plays out in interaction with the body of the ecology, the Body of God, which holds place and space together.

What was interaction between human space and activity and ecology eventually became an exploitative relationship between human spatial settlement and ecology. Yet, the relationships between matter and energy, organisms, activities and ecology in the Body of God continue to unfold in the evolvement of human and natural history. McFague , goes further to say that Christian theology has not traditionally been concerned with, or interested in spatial matters; but it is precisely time and space, as the new cosmology and new physics remind us, that must now enter our consciousness so that we can make sense of our particular setting, our place, on this earth, in the province of Gauteng, within the body of the Cosmic Christ.

Salvation, therefore has to be understood as spatial - salvation occurs in specific spaces and locations within creation. For our topic, salvation happens in specific spaces within the Gauteng metropole. How do we understand city, and urban space, within an ecological and systemic ontology of space and place? And what does this mean for what can be either a limited or a comprehensive understanding of God's salvation within an urban context?

The dialectics of the city.

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Tim Gorringe speaks about the dialectics of the city. This is reflected in the deep ambivalence towards the city in the Christian tradition. Civitas and oikos. On the one side, 'city' is a place of civilisation, of civitas, human endeavour, creativity and culture, the dynamic meeting place of people.

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It can be a place of rich and deep humanity which may bring together different communities of people. It is the paradigm of the human home, of the dwelling place, where human beings can come home when they experience their environment as meaningful. When this happens, space becomes place in the sense that space is filled with meaning. This sense of being placed, of coming from a specific and a very special dwelling place in a specific space and environment, is central to the human experience Gorringe The oikos [home] theme in ecological and ecumenical theology is well-known.

The city can be home, dwelling place, household, oikos, within the larger oikos of creation. The city of Jerusalem is the place where God dwells, the sign of God's presence, the place where humanity will be finally redeemed and where humankind finds peace Gorringe A city can be a garden city, with parks and green open spaces, nature reserves and natural features, where humans can come home to nature, and where the ecology plays a role in place making.

On the other hand, the city is understood as a focus of violence and human hubris. We are reminded of Jesus' description of Jerusalem, the city of peace, as the city where the prophets are stoned Lk The city is also Babylon, the place of oppression, alienation, exile, estrangement and violence Gorringe In our globalised world many cities are places of rampant capitalism where the market and consumerism reigns above all and where everyone - rich and poor - are trapped in the aspirations of consumerism and the accumulation of wealth.

This is typical of Gauteng, the richest of all the South African provinces, where all of us - whether we are 'old rich', established white middle class, 'black diamonds', or youngsters with no chance of making it in the systems and who therefore resort to crime, are caught up in the capitalist dream of economic growth at all costs. The positive side of growth is the recognition of the need to provide the best possible standard of living for a society's people.

The downside is that it invariably becomes an end in itself, a compulsion. This is what drives the urban and rural poor increasingly into the squatter settlements of cities. Above all, it alienates us from the planet, chokes her atmosphere and ravages her resources. It refuses to recognise the limits of the earth's resources and, as a result, threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of the world's poorest people through global warming, and it destroys the biodiversity and the ecosystems of the earth.

This is savagery and sin on a scale which the earth has never seen before. Displaced nature and displaced people - Gauteng's case. This brings me to the theme of displacement - the displacement of nature but also the displacement of people. Jacklyn Cock argues in her book, The war against ourselves: Nature, power and justice, that people in our globalised and urbanising world - and specifically in South Africa - are alienated from nature to such an extent that we do not realise that we depend on nature on a very basic level for all areas of our lives.

Nature becomes hidden and displaced - especially in growing urban areas like Gauteng. We 'lobotomise' our brains to block any uncomfortable awareness about bodily wastes, or water consumption, or the killing of animals, because sewerage pipes run unseen underground and at least some of us can 'sanitise' our daily lives and not even think about that 'nasty' reality. Water is provided by Rand Water and we do not have to think about the costly water systems that link us to the Lesotho Highland Water Scheme, while many Lesotho citizens do not have the convenience to open a tap and to drink clean water - with the result that women have to walk long distances to fetch water.

This same Scheme, of which the second phase was completed in , was funded by the World Bank and other international investors. Their logic was to continue tapping the natural resources to build the infrastructure needed for the capitalist and profit-driven economic engine of Gauteng, thereby benefiting the lifestyle of middle- and upper classes, big businesses and industries, but not the poor in Lesotho and Gauteng. The development of this scheme took power 'over' the mountains, fragile grasslands systems, gorges and rivers of Lesotho, forgetting about the need for more access to water in the rural economy in Lesotho, displacing tens of thousands of Basotho peasants, inundating sacred land, threatening endangered species and endangering the Orange River's downstream ecosystem.

At the time of the building of the Scheme, the grass roots protests in Lesotho, Alexandra and Soweto demanded that over-consuming water users in mines, factories and mansions should pay higher tariffs in relation to their water wastage. They also demanded that the access to water by Basotho subsistence farmers, as well as decent access to water and minimum tariffs for the poor in townships must be prioritised.

These demands were not heard Bond In recent years, service delivery protests in townships like Alexandra, Diepsloot and Bekkersdal and many other places are often about problems with the delivery of water to these communities, the inability of poor households to pay water tarrifs, and sewerage problems Dlamini ; Grant Those in the middle classes do not even have to think about the water pollution in streams and rivers in Gauteng, which affect poor communities, such as the Jukskei River which runs through townships like Alexandra and Diepsloot and becomes badly polluted due to garbage and congested or non-existent sewerage systems.

The irony is that the Jukskei eventually flows into the Hartebeespoort Dam, around which various luxury housing complexes and 'eco-estates' are being built at a fast pace. Displacement and amnesia go together: we often forget that Gauteng's powerful economy was, and still is, based on mining and that mining has serious environmental consequences. When deep shaft mining on the Witwatersrand started in the early s, people had no idea what impact mining would have on those hidden spaces and hidden water sources beneath the earth's surface as well as water systems and land on the surface.

For example: the mining pollution of mines around Randfontein and Krugersdorp feeds into water systems like the Wonderfontein Spruit which again affects ecosystems, communities and agriculture all the way from Krugersdorp to Potchefstroom. In mining, gold is extracted from the ore, which is brought to the surface by literally 'rinsing' it with water and chemicals.

The waste rock is what we typically see on mine dumps. The waste water, chemicals and crushed rock are 'stored' in tailings dams. Polluted water seeps out of the tailings dams and enters rivers and groundwater systems Coetzee ; McCarthy The City of Johannesburg is continuing to thrive economically whilst the pollution problems created by mining are literally displaced in another area towards the southwest of Johannesburg.

Gauteng is located on a high-altitude watershed, which means that outflows of water waste from mines, industries and general usage pollute further downstream water resources as it flow into the Vaal River. Very expensive clean water from the upstream Vaal Dam and Lesotho Highland Scheme is then blended with polluted Vaal River water to dilute the pollution. Thus massive quantities of clean water are wasted in effect. In the meantime, to maintain the supply of good quality water for Gauteng, we depend on the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme.

The result is that after China, South Africa's water resources contain some of the highest toxin levels in the world. The same situation occurs with the mining of coal and the generating of electricity in Mpumalanga, which has disastrous environmental consequences for that area WWF-SA n.

The economic and political power of Gauteng is, literally and figuratively speaking, built upon these wastelands and tailings dams. Here, the entrenched power of the coal industry and the Eskom power stations displaces and destroys nature on a massive scale, whilst it exposes middle class and poor communities to pollution and environmental hazards. The extreme level of the exploitation of natural resources in South Africa, such as coal, minerals and water, serves the vested interests of the old and new captains of industry.

However, this approach to economic growth does not contribute to a real solution for our society's present problems with poverty. Despite this, the power block of the mineral and energy sector - in a country which relies heavily on carbon-intensive energy and is bolstered by both foreign investment in this sector and large-scale mineral and coal export to emerging economies such as India and China- withholds the government from moving significantly towards a sustainable economy. Apart from polluting living conditions for thousands of people, this approach to economic growth and the generation of energy is also contributing to the changing climate patterns worldwide, but specifically in Southern Africa.

These range from desertification on the Western side of the sub-continent to devastating storms and floods on the eastern side. This adversely affects the food production and livelihoods of poor rural communities all over Africa. The ecological footprint of Gauteng is becoming bigger and bigger - not only within neighbouring provinces, but also all over the world.

And yet, we go on living as if the consequences do not matter. Ecological displacement and amnesia is at the order of the day. Ecological displacement is inextricably related to social displacement and poverty. Power displaces nature and people. Displaced communities - Edge City and 'squatter camps'. It is not only nature which is displaced and forgotten in big cities. It is also those who are marginalised by big capitalist developments and the lifestyles of the privileged. In Gauteng's rampantly capitalist economy, people are displaced, lost, pushed out of, and pushed into ghettos and squatter camps.

I consciously refer to 'squatter camps' instead of the more correct term 'informal settlements' because, in my opinion, one cannot take away the squalor of such settlements by using neat and politically correct language.

Meanwhile, luxurious security estates are built next to or close by such settlements. Often the highways and provincial roads crisscrossing Gauteng lead a motorist past informal settlements and wealthy housing estates, often quite close to each other. An squatter camp like Diepsloot, towards the west of the R, is in the process of being 'formalised'.

However, the poverty and human decay in the community is so devastating that five children were killed and found dead over a period of five months, from September to February eNCA 19 October ; Nzimande ;. When one drives on the R, one passes the luxury security estate, Dairnfern. A commercial and entertainment hub is positioned just a few kilometres further, on the crossing of Beyers Naude and Witkoppen Road, where Monte Casino offers fun-seekers a place to gamble, stay in a luxury hotel, shop, eat at sumptuous restaurants, and watch shows in state-of-the-art theatres - and simply to forget about the tensions and decay of the South African society.

Indeed, the consumerist and capitalist lifestyle and expansion of the city is so greedy and voracious that the city not only seems to hide away and forget its poor, but even to swallow and devour them. Then, the horrors are forgotten as the fast-paced life of a rampantly capitalist city continues. These are the movements and spatial patterns of Johannesburg, a city that Martin Murray in the title of his book aptly calls City of extremes.

These are the horrors and the extremes of Gauteng, the province which is the economic powerhouse of post democratic South Africa. Whereas the Reconstruction and Development Policy, the document that constituted the core of the Election Manifesto of the African National Congress ANC in the first democratic elections in , upheld the ideals of poverty eradication and the redistribution of wealth, social cohesion through community-centred political and economic decision-making and consultation, the implementation of this Policy soon failed.

This was as a result of pressure from investors and members of government to become 'globally competitive', business-orientated and to privatise services and infrastructure development projects. Neo-liberalist capitalist policies and practices took over. The strong focus on bottom-up community participation and social reconstruction dissipated. In my opinion, this meant the loss of a huge opportunity to build communities and strengthen the development of those people who were dehumanised by apartheid.

This slim book has four chapters, each followed by four discussion questions. It is suitable for an adult Christian education unit. This community, which relates to…. Living Stones describes a prayer walk that takes place weekly at a public housing complex in Harlem. The author, Lawrence Jennings, is a native New…. She shares her photographs in public….

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God works in mysterious ways to reveal…. Augustus was a wise ruler. He secured the borders of the empire and built roads. He reorganized the provinces to achieve a more just administration, instituted tax reform, developed a civil service, and engaged in many public works projects, especially in Rome. It was during his reign that Jesus of Nazareth was born. Tiberius C. Tiberius was followed by his grandnephew and the great-grandson of Augustus, Gaius Caligula C.

He also drained the treasury to pay for his dissolute life and reckless building activities, and he formented a crisis among the Jews by demanding that statues of himself be set up in the Temple at Jerusalem. The crisis was averted only when he was assassinated by his private Praetorian Guard. Fortunately, his uncle and successor, Claudius C. When Claudius was poisoned by his fourth wife Agrippina, Nero C. Though at first the empire ran smoothly under the direction of the philosopher Seneca, Nero took control and things began to deteriorate. There were other murders. In 64 C. Tradition has it that Peter and Paul were martyred by Nero.

Finally, matters got so bad that military commanders seized several provinces and Nero fled the royal palace. Widespread unrest in the empire and chaos at home led to a quick succession of emperors: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, each military commanders vying for power as the next Emperor.

In 69 C. Vespasian provided a decade of peace and prosperity for the empire C. But a second son of Vespasian, Domitian C. He relied on informers, had his enemies murdered, and laid a heavy tax on the people of the empire, especially the Jews. Enamored with his own divinity, he also persecuted the Christians, and it is his reign that provides the backdrop for the most anti-Roman book in the New Testament, the book of Revelation. This brief sketch of the Roman emperors cannot offer a detailed understanding of the period; it can, however, depict the general flavor and tenor of the times, and especially some of the difficulties faced by Jews and Christians.

We have noted that Hellenization was primarily an urban phenomenon. In the cities of the Greco-Roman period, Greek ideas were disseminated, Greek dress was fashionable, and the externals of Greek civilization—baths, theaters, amphitheaters, hippodromes, fountains, aqueducts, arches, and the like—were highly visible. A new cosmopolitanism emerged in which any city might become a center for the interchange of ideas from all over the world.

This was extremely important for the rise of early Christianity. Though it emerged from the Galilean countryside and perpetuated many ideas from its rural and Jewish origins, it moved quickly to the cities of the empire where its beliefs were gradually recast with the mold of Hellenistic thought. In such places its ranks were filled largely, though not exclusively, with believers of low status who nonetheless produced a substantial literature in the Greek language.

What was daily life in the Greco-Roman world like? Generally speaking, safe travel became possible as it had never been possible before, but with it came the spread of disease. Physicians and healers of all sorts were in great demand. There were many advantages of city life, but at the same time the problem of feeding the increasing urban populations was never adequately solved and famine was an ever-recurring possibility. War was prevalent until the Augustan peace in 27 B. The practice of enslaving conquered populations was common, and slaves made up a sizable proportion of the population, especially in Rome.

It should be realized that though slaves were often abused on some of the plantations, loyal slaves were sometimes given their freedom while those who became secretaries, domestics, tutors, or financial overseers could occasionally accumulate enough money to purchase freedom. Still, slaves were chattel and their legal rights were limited. There were no great political movements to abolish the institution. It is not surprising, then, that the image of the master and the slave occurs frequently in the New Testament.

Below the slave on the social ladder were the free poor who could barely subsist from day to day. The vast wealth of the empire was controlled by a few aristocrats, who often gained honor and status with their public works and philanthropic deeds, but the gap between rich and poor remained great. Finally, the shift from older, established, local cultures to new, changing, international environments meant for the urban dweller social dislocation.

The loss of a sense of belonging to a natural and continuing community must have been a common experience. It is clear that for the vast majority of people the traditional religious systems of ancient Greece and Rome held little meaning. These religions were formalistic and unemotional, and their function had become largely political. The people longed for some form of physical or spiritual healing, some pertinent philosophy of life, some religious peace and harmony within.

It is no surprise that with the revitalization of the East much of the populace was attracted to the somewhat more exotic and emotional religious movements of the orient, as well as popular religious philosophies and local religions which shared some of the same features. We will now briefly review some of these intellectual currents and religious movements, as far as possible calling attention to matters that are important for understanding particular parts of the New Testament. There were a number of philosophies of the Hellenistic Age that were quite popular and that functioned as religions for many who held them.

Plato also believed that the transient, material body was a prison of the divine, immortal soul, and that the good and just man disciplines the body and its emotions, allowing the reasonable side of the soul to achieve virtue, which is knowledge. This philosophical dualism—especially its view that this world is transient—is reflected at points in the New Testament, especially when the earthly realm is described as a shadow of the heavenly realm for example in the letter to the Hebrews.

It also influenced such religious movements which stressed that human origins and destinies lie in a higher world, or that this world is evil, for example, Gnosticism see below. Early forms of such religious movements provide some of the environment of early Christian writings, especially the gospel of John and the writings of Paul. Another popular philosophy of the period was Stoicism. This orientation tended toward world affirmation and the denial of evil; all is according to Reason.


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The Stoic philosophy sought to teach a person to attain happiness by maintaining inner peace and contentment in a world full of troubles. The ethical orientation of Stoicism emphasized the importance of the will and a certain detachment from property, wealth, suffering, and sickness.

This led to a cosmopolitan egalitarianism, a focus on the natural and innate rights of all people, including slaves and women, and Stoics often formed brotherhoods stressing these great ethical themes.

Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization
Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization
Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization
Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization
Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization
Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization
Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization Healing God’s Earth: Rural Community in the Context of Urban Civilization

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