Faith, Hope and the Poor: The Theological Ideas and Moral Vision of Jean-Bertrand Aristide

This present study considers Aristide’s democratic and social justice projects and theological reflections and theological intersections in the disciplines of theological anthropology, theological ethics, and political theology, as he himself engages all four simultaneously. The doctoral thesis locates Aristide’s thought and writings within Black intellectual tradition both in continental Africa and the African Diaspora. It establishes shared intellectual ideas and strong ideological connections between Aristide and his contemporary interlocutors such as African American thinkers James H. Cone, Anthony Pinn, Dwight Hopkins, Emile Townes; Caribbean thinkers Leo Neol Erskine, Idris Hamid, Kortright Davis; African theologians Laurenti Magesa, John S. Mbiti, Benezet Bujo, and Desmond Tutu; and finally, with African philosophers D.A. Masolo, Ifeanyi A. Menkiti, and Kwame Gyekye. On one hand, Aristide’s intellectual ideas and political activism should be understood in the context of the struggle for democracy in Haiti; on the other hand, it is suggested the intellectual articulations and propositions of these Black and African thinkers aim at a common vision: the project to make our world new toward the common good.

While we do not undermine the problem of violence in Aristide’s theology and political program in the context of Haitian history, the doctoral thesis argues that Aristide’s theological anthropology is a theology of reciprocity and mutuality, and correspondingly, his theological ethics is grounded in the theory of radical interactionality, interconnectedness, and interdependence, and the South African humanism of Ubuntu. It also contends that Aristide’s promotion of a theology of popular violence and aggression in the Haitian society should be understood as a cathartic mechanism and defensive violence aimed at defending the Haitian masses against the Duvalier regime and their oppressors.

Keywords:  Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Theological Ethics, Theological Anthropology, The Poor, Liberation Theology, Violence, Ubuntu

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