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From Misery to Hope

Encountering God in the Abyss of Suffering


Joseph Egan

How can one believe in a God of love amid all the evil and suffering found in the world? How does one do theology ‘after Auschwitz’, while vast numbers of people still have to endure violent oppression every day? This book seeks to address such questions from a standpoint informed by life in Africa, which in the face of extraordinary difficulties bears witness to Gospel hope by demonstrating forgiveness in action and promoting reconciliation.
The work unfolds in two parts. In the first part, a description of the misery that characterises much of life in Africa in the recent past opens up to a theological consideration of the underlying causes and of God’s response to them. In the second part, the joy which is so characteristic of life in Africa even in places of immense suffering sets the scene for detailed reflections on liturgy, memory, forgiveness and hope.


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Introduction ix Part I Absence 1 Chapter 1 An Abyss of Human Misery 3 I. A Catalogue of Horrors from A to Z 5 II. Uncovering Some of the Causes Underlying the Catastrophe 15 Chapter 2 The Policeman with Tear Gas and the Ambiguity of the Human Condition 41 I. The Dynamics of Human Violence 43 II. Scriptural and Traditional Considerations on the Anthropology of Evil 48 III. The Drama of Human Freedom 60 Chapter 3 “Lord, Where Are You?” In Search of the Absent God 81 I. Humanity in Search of God, God in Search of Humanity 82 II. Israel’s Suffering and the Absence of God 87 III. From Innocent to Redemptive Suffering 99 Chapter 4 God in the Experience of Godforsakenness 121 I. The Suffering, Rejection and Abandonment of Jesus 122 II. Suffering, Rejection and Abandonment Transformed 130 III. The Mystery of the Divine Presence in the Divine Absence 142 viii Part II Presence 157 Chapter 5 Feasting with God in the Abyss 159 I. Celebration as Theological Act 161 II. The Liturgical Enactment of Redemption 181 Chapter 6 Liturgy as a Power for Emancipation in an Unjust World 199 I. Memory Shaped by Violence 200 II. The Dangerous Memory and Rituals of Jesus Christ 206 III. The Formation of a Just and Emancipative Memory in Jesus Christ 223 Chapter 7 Forgiveness on the Way to Justice and Reconciliation 239 I. Towards an Anthropology of Forgiveness 242 II. Forgiveness and the Politics of Reconciliation 265 Chapter 8 Abyss...

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