- Decolonizing Theology:Panentheist Spiritualities and Proposals from the Ecofeminist Epistemologies of the South
decolonizing theology, ecofeminist, epistemic and corporal diversity, panentheist spirituality
In order to understand the importance of decolonizing theology, we must first understand that much of Christian theology came to us from the West and [End Page 92] was a primary source for justifying the domination of the indigenous peoples of the Latin American continent. Christianity is thus an accomplice to this violent colonization. In addition to Christianity's complicity in exterminating not only indigenous people but also indigenous notions of sacrality, the concept and image of the Biblical Christian God was distorted by Christian colonization. A religion of guilt and shame was created, especially with regards to the body, sexuality, eroticism, and desire. Christian monotheism destroyed the richness of sacred plurality, the closeness of everyday transcendence, and the immanence of the divinities that had coexisted in the imaginary and cosmogony of the inhabitants of the Mesoamerican and Caribbean lands. Christian monotheism also concentrated power over life and all aspects of life in a single person and single deity.
The colonization of spiritual wealth went hand in hand with the destruction of ancestral knowledge, which the original colonizer and current neocolonizers have categorized as "superstitions." For this reason, decolonizing epistemologies and the theologies that underlie them is urgent and necessary in the Global South—here, we focus on Latin America. To do so, we draw from ecofeminist theology, particularly its embrace of panentheism.
According to panentheistic cosmogonies, God is more desire than will, desiring the existence of creation and making creation out of this desire. Divine desire, however, is not individualistic but rather a common desire, because in the Bible we find the expression, "Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness" (Gen 1:26). From the beginning of the text we see the plurality of transcendence, or what we call God. At the origin of the creationist myth is the common desire for relationships of love and mutuality. Rui Gracio articulates what she refers to as "the holographic principle," which I understand as the basis of an ecosophy or philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium.1 Ecosophy is the wisdom of the commons, that is, of all beings living together on Earth. This principle holds that the whole is always present in each of the parts—what distinguishes panentheism from pantheism—which entails the affirmation that the totality of everything is God. Panentheism maintains that God or divinity is incarnate and immanent in all beings that make up the cosmos and in each of its elements. According to Leonardo Boff, "panentheism is partly distinguishing, although always relating, God and creatures. One is not the other. Each one has its relative autonomy, though they are always related. Everything is not God, but God is in everything. It is what the etymology of the word panentheism suggests: God is present in everything. God makes a temple [End Page 93] of every reality."2 From this perspective, each creature shows the face of divinity in its entire splendor.
Within this panentheistic framework, "theology" is not limited solely to the Christian God but also refers to the experiences of the indigenous peoples of the Latin American continent in relation to their divinities. Here, I agree with Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza's understanding of Wisdom-Sophia. She writes, "The Divine Wisdom-Sophia, the Presence of God, the creator and liberator, does not exclude other religious traditions, but rather is active amongst all peoples, cultures, and religions. She teaches justice, prudence, and well-being. She is present as the clever trickster, the guide of the people, and the wise woman of long ago and of the indigenous peoples."3 The relationality of the panentheistic divinity is understood from the experience of mutuality in both human-human relations and human-nature relations. Divinity is thus essentially relational, but it is a relationality that neither imposes itself nor is distant, otherworldly, or far from reality. It is an immanent reality. This affirmation arises from experiencing the relational divinity in women's daily lives, in women's struggles for the survival of their sons and daughters, in women...