Liberative Service: A Comparative Theological Reflection on Dalit Theology's Service and Swami Vivekananda's Seva
Conway, Christopher Robert. “Liberative Service”, Boston College, 2014. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:103548.
This dissertation offers a comparative theological reflection on Dalit Christian theology--a contextual, liberation theology rooted in the Dalit communities' experiences of caste-based oppression--and Swami Vivekananda--the late 19th c. Neo-Vedantin and founder of the Ramkrishna Math and Mission. It seeks to provide a model of Dalit liberative service that attends to the theology's objectives--identity affirmation and a liberative social vision--works to foster liberative partnerships beyond the Dalit Christian community, and responds to the critical, but constructive assessment of Dalit theology offered by its present generation of theologians. As a work in comparative theology, it does so through a close, reflective reading of Swami Vivekananda, his Practical Vedanta, and his own reworking of seva (devotional service). The intent is not to present Vivekananda as a corrective, but rather to see newly and understand differently the dimensions of liberative service that are made manifest by seeing and understanding how seva performs in Vivekananda's thought and how it there leads to spiritual and social liberation. These dimensions include recovering by uncovering the imago Dei in Dalit theology, re-presenting liberative service as representing the Kingdom of God, and service understood as doubly and mutually liberating. While Chapter Five presents the fruits of this comparative theological reflection on Dalit Christian theology and Swami Vivekananda, the preceding four chapters provide the necessary foundation for this engagement. The first and second chapters address the historical and theological development of Dalit Christian theology presenting its origins in the Modern Maharashtran Dalit Movement and the Indian Christian context, respectively. The third and fourth examine Vivekananda's development of Practical Vedanta and seva. Together they provide the content from which and through which this comparative theological reflection occurs.