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“Beginnings”. The Copernican turn in human history

How a new frame story changes everything. Towards a postcolonial reading of reality. NuPerspective on Trans Christianity.

This article explains thoroughly and in detail (3900 words, 21 minutes reading time), Why we are looking for a trans-Christianity theology be must. Our previous world has been in shambles for two David's Davids redefined for us the beginnings of human. In addition, people on the margins of the old colonies have uncovered the colonialism not conscious of our culture that we were not aware of and have triggered the search for a post-colonial world. Now, of necessity, we have to reconfigure all the narratives we are so familiar with. Let's get to work!

We owe our Western culture to a narrative of advancement in which we (Germans and the white race) are supposedly the appointed teachers of human civilisation. The exuberant wealth of Europe (and subsequently the USA) and the technological achievements of the last 300 years seem to suffice as justification. The fact that the same global "West" is the cause of the climate catastrophe thanks to its wealth and industrialisation is then readily suppressed.

An alternative narrative is needed to generate humility and deep shock at our European guilt. David Graeber and David Wengrow unfold this story in their book Beginnings” a new history of humanity2022 on 672 pages. They open our eyes to a new picture of human history, so that rethink and connect Beginnings of our civilization over 150,000 years ago with the future of humanity rethink and connect.

Your observation: For thousands of years (long before the Enlightenment!), every conceivable form of social organization was invented and people strived for freedom, knowledge and happiness. Lively and convincingly, the authors encourage us to be more courageous and decisive to enter and get through different future of humanity to enter and get through it and to change our actions.

As director of the Berlin House of World Cultures, Bernd Scherer has promoted a postcolonial turn as one of the most actively in German cultural institutions. For Scherer and Franke, the book “Beginnings” represents a Copernican turn, and, they hope, it becomes a contribute to Self-enlightenment of the arrogant West .

  1. The western enlightenment from 1750, as it turns out in this book, owes much to the conversation that monks, clerics and other travelers have with indigenous peoples, especially in America: These would have given them through their radical criticism of property and hierarchy the idea of the Enlightenment was actually implanted. It was indigenous criticism that led to the "revolutionary realisation of civil liberties in Europe", according to Scherer and Franke.
    But the Enlightenment thinkers took revenge for this emancipatory impulse by discursively returning the indigenous people to the “state of nature” to stylise themselves as the last link in the evolutionary chain. to stylize.1
  2. Another reviewer, Eike Gebhardt, takes up the cause of the deceased anthropologist David Graeber and his co-author David Wengrow. Her concern — to write a “new history of humanity” — is anything but modest, but modesty may not be appropriate in this case. After all, the aim is to definitively question the logic of progress that has prevailed for centuries in the history of the development of human civilisation, and to do so without offering an alternative. to offer!
    Because that is the key point,, the thesis that the authors prove very clearly: there is no uniform logic of development, no straight path that has been or must be followed by all civilisations. This means that the current state our of societies, which are characterised by inequality, is anything but without alternative,Gebhardt concludes.
  3. No wonder, then, that the authors are being attacked from all sides, says the critic. They are accused of ignoring historical facts.Yet it is obviously those supporters of the belief in progress, we read, who ignore the facts or dismiss them as unimportant exceptions, as Graeber and Wengrow make clear with numerous examples. Who benefits from the dominant model of history? Everyone can answer this question for themselves after reading "Beginnings"...2

The emergence of the modern division of time into epochs of humanity

It was only in the age of the decade of Darwinism 1859-1871 that “the ground (of the previous representation) of human history broke” (96),

  • the biblical worldview of 6,000 years of world history dissolved
  • our “prehistory” emerged from new discoveries and interpretations…3

We owe this formulation to Thomas Trautmann's presentation of this “time revolution” (Trautmann 1992). Although the subject of anthropology arose in the so-called “Darwin Decade” (i.e. between the publication of “The Origin of Species” in 1859 and “The Descent of Man” in 1871), the current time scale of human prehistory was not established through Darwinism , but through archaeological excavations. The geology paved the way and replaced that biblically inspired image, according to which the Earth was formed through a series of rapid, gigantic upheavals, through a more mechanistic and decelerated picture of the formation of our planet.4

With today's nations and historical hunter-gatherers, there is an enormous range of possibilities,

  • from pronounced egalitarian groups such as the Ju'hoansi of the Klahari, the Mbendjele BaYaka of the Congo or the Agta in the Philippines
  • up to highly hierarchical such as the populations on the Canadian northwest coast, the Calusa of the Florida Keys or the forest-dwelling Guaicurú of Paraguay. (The latter groups are anything but egalitarian. We know that they traditionally held slaves and lived in societies with strict hierarchy.)
  • Anyone specializing in anything special Population of today's foragers (formerly so-called “hunters and gatherers”) as representatives of “early human society” are called upon to operate Cherry picking. 5

In other words, the search for such “originality” means that there was also an “original” form of human society... — But the first humans lived in diverse natural environments that researchers only assume were exceptional been diverse.

The “Sapience” paradox is food for thought

According to the classic interpretation, on the one hand, we humans have had this for many millennia(!) modern Brains, but have out inexplicable reasons nevertheless decided to live like monkeys. Unlike monkeys, we would have developed the ability to efficiently overcome our instincts and organize ourselves in infinitely diverse ways. But what a similarly obscure reason would we have chosen to live our lives always in the same way to design? (111f).

Seasonality principle: climate as the shaping context

The answer is probably quite simple: the seasons and their life phases. The one based on it Seasonality was confusing. In fact, she is something of a wild card.

  • The Societies of the Great Plains created structures of coercive authority throughout Hunting season and the rituals that followed them and disappeared again when those gathered broke up again into smaller groups.
  • On the other hand, they divided Companies in Central Brazil in Hordes of foragers in which political authority was exercised in the setting of village was ineffective.
  • Both Inuit ruled in Summer the fathers; but with hers wintry Gatherings saw patriarchal authority and even norms of sexual propriety challenged, undermined or simply dissolved.
  • The Kwakiutl were in both seasons organized hierarchically, but each had one other form of hierarchy. At the celebrations | (134) on the winter solstice they gave the performers (“bear dancers”) effective police power, which, however, could only be exercised during and for the performance of the ritual. 135 |

In other words, there is no consistent pattern. The only consistent phenomenon is this fact of change itself with the resulting awareness of different social opportunities.

All of this is confirmation of the thesis that modern search according to the »Origins of social inequality« in fact about the wrong question acts.

If we humans have moved fluently back and forth between different social orders for most of our history, if we have regularly built up and dismantled hierarchies, then the right questions maybe something like this:

»How did we get stuck? How did we end up with a single order? How have we lost the political consciousness that was once so typical of our species? How come we high reputation and Submissiveness as inescapable elements of human existence and nothing more than temporary emergency solutions or even as the splendor and splendor of a great seasonal Theater performance? If at first we were just playing, when did we forget we were playing?

The authors add 600+ pages to this archaeological and anthropological research countless the traditional colonial, Enlightenment Western narrative corrective details and new facts from archaeological research of the last 30 years. This collection of the latest research and hypothesis formation is revolutionary (also different from... Yuval Harari constructs the world) — also for questions about theological development.

Why is this alternative narrative so important for theological education?

Postcolonialism and theology

Large frame stories shape (similar to the “prime“) subconsciously the many smaller stories, as we were able to show with the question described above. We traditionally told the cultural and spiritual development story of humanity in a Eurocentric (mostly) way from the 6,000-year horizon since the beginning of humanity's written phase as a story of rise to which Western-style Christianity allegedly contributed fundamentally, even though it became an accomplice in the colonial subjugation of the world. Unfortunately, it played along rather than clearly contradicted it. The more recent postcolonial research only reached us in Germany in the mid-2000s and is beginning to sensitize us to our unconscious preconceptions in social and theological terms. You may be wondering why certain topics such as “gender”, Black Lives Matter, diversity or nationalism are currently being discussed so controversially. It's about a paradigm shift: colonial-racist thinking or egalitarian values.

Postcolonialism is an intellectual movement that began in the middle of the 20th century in a conscious confrontation with “our” Eurocentric view of history and critically deals with Eurocentric global colonialism and imperialism.

By the way, as of 2014, the seat of postcolonial research in a German university is the University of Kassel, where the first political science chair in Germany dedicated to postcolonial studies was established. It is occupied by Aram Ziai.14

In summary, the key thesis of postcolonial research:

In the process of colonization, a violent cultural contact took place: one culture conquered the other, reshaped it in its own image, changed and destroyed it in order to dominate it. This change occurred not only through military force, but also through the power of language and knowledge. In the course of penetrating the world, European science defined what e.g. B. Oriental or Asian, but in the self-description also what is Western and European. Despite its neutral claim, it applies Eurocentric standards: the name of all continents comes from ancient Rome (with the exception of the name of America).

The theological task (e.g. for an understanding of mission or the interpretation of theological developments in former colonies) means a critical reflection on the questionable consequences of the founding of churches/theological developments:

Postcolonialism therefore describes the recourse of colonized subjects to seemingly their own traditions as questionable, since these traditions were shaped, transformed or even created by the Western power of definition. This does not diminish the authenticity of the tradition; However, their reproduction, in its articulation, fixes the historically based interpretative power of Western cultures. Postcolonial approaches, developed by immigrants in the USA and intellectuals from India, examine this paradoxical process of self-discovery by groups and individuals from the former colonies. Within the framework of the theory, the prefix post- is no longer understood as linear-historical, since the understanding of history has developed towards a view of complex, interwoven interactions.

The "New history of humanity” by David Graeber and David Wengrow ruthlessly deconstructs the idea of how civilizationally “logical” our colonial dominance in the global Western world would be by increasing the focus to over 150,000 years instead of 6,000 years of human history. This previously short 500-year phase of human history is still, as in most of the 6,000 years, characterized by autocratic ideologies and forms of royal rule. The correspondingly necessary subservience of the subjects was naturally supported by Christian theologies and created a patriarchal world of oppression. Of course, in all ages there were countercurrents or trends to outlaw despotism and tyranny. But the victorious story belonged to the small group of aristocrats, and later to the imperial winners, merchants, trading companies (e.g. East India Company from 1600). Even the Enlightenment-democratic awakening and its philosophical logic (e.g Humboldt, Rousseau, Kant) from 1750 in Europe is now reinterpreted by Graeber and Wengrow. In this phase, scientific theology was also developed as a critical, enlightened theology. But it always remained a child of the imperial zeitgeist. I will now show which topics theology as postcolonial (post-imperial) theology has to consider using six topic areas as examples:

1. History/Politics:

  • The Criticism of power structures: she is concerned with critical debate about the political, economic and cultural interdependencies, dependencies and power structures of our western world and how these have unconsciously shaped theological thinking.
  • The “representation of the deep connections in our speech about God, our way, Church to think or our idea of last things, who are often unreflected (because unconsciously) corrupted by the power relations of colonialism and how these should be decolonized.6
  • The thesis of Externalizing society: "Beside us the flood", 2017 introduced by the sociologist Stephan Lessenich. The logic and mechanisms of the neo-colonial neo-liberal economy and the resulting ethical demands and conclusions. What needs to be self-critically clarified here is where did theology play along instead of resisting? And why exactly did she (more often?) side with the rich, influential and powerful?
  • nationalism: The formation of nation-states in Europe after the collapse of theHoly Roman Empire of the German nation“, nationalism and nationalist demarcation logics. It is precisely these religious-political constructs that led to the greatest military catastrophes of modern times (World War I, World War II) with our German guilt. What role did Christian logic actually play in theology here?
  • So what were the reasons for the amazing Impotence of the German churches in the face of National Socialist ideology? At the same time, demarcation from democratic or communist-sociocratic worlds of ideas right up to the 1985 showed the state-supporting church in Germany (EKD) obvious blind spots in classical theology.

Identity discourses:

  • Diversity discourse: The task is to bring postmodern, plural perspective worlds into dialogue on an equal footing: Who is allowed to speak? Who will be excluded? Which taboos are upheld? What breaks with one's own traditions are permitted? Which own thinking assumptions/evaluations are checked? These are all quality criteria by which every theology must be measured!
  • Identity discourses: Gender, sex, identity determinations and Essentializations: Where are boundaries drawn between “us” and “the others”? What questions of power are involved? For this purpose, e.g. B. Renate Wind: Christianity in the Empire, 2016: Resistance to Roman rule ideology researched as a characteristic of early Christians. What are post-imperial theological contributions to today's debates about integration and dominant culture?
  • "White old men"-Memes (patriarchal structures, feminism). How is theology still shaped by this, which authors are read and quoted and which authors are not?7

Emancipation/liberation discourses:

  • Women's question, sexism debate (who is allowed to open their mouths, who is allowed to lead?). Essentializations, that is, the attribution of unchangeable characteristics (both positive and negative) to others.
  • Black lives matter as a current discourse in the USA. How does it affect us in Germany, what do German, white, middle-class churches need to know about it and how can they make themselves more inclusive?
  • Emancipation movements: The “political theology” of the 1960s: liberation theologies, feminism, emancipation movements including accusations against the “Neocolonization“. Where are religious actors?inside to accomplicesmade within colonialism? (e.g. Eurocentric perspectives and their impact on religious justification structures). See also the suspicious talk of “developing countries” as a logic Civilization narrative, which Graebe and Wengrow finally demystify.
  • Justice discourse: The post-colonial school of thought takes away the global power structures that still exist (Neocolonialism) critically and sees itself committed to the ideal of “transnational social justice”.11 It is used by minorities from all parts of the world to reflect on structures of oppression in a transformative way. The discourse critical of wealth or capitalism must also come into play here; the questions about the “right” monetary system seem to be a purely economic question, but have, for example, in the formula "the invisible hand" theological roots (“8“), which are no longer conscious and which need to be critically reflected.
  • The topic bundle: Migration, Europe and its borders (of the nations/Europe) demands current, new ethical post-imperial answers.
  • War and peace, Conflict research (Walter Winks “Myth of redemptive violence"): and what roles do the religious justifications, constructions of divinely legitimized power and permission to kill (in war), the "divine ban" etc. play, especially in the currently particularly present crises (Russian war, Hamas war).


  • Critical mission history as imperial colonial history (including the discrediting of the “mission” term, which can no longer be used innocently.) The ecumenical coexistence of the churches is currently experienced by interreligious ecumenism, at least at the local level Epoch break, rather unintentional, but passively suffered, which now forces everyone to act in the new globalization challenge.
    The development of specific ones is also exciting contextual theologies in much of southern Christianity, including evolving Pluralization of the methodical approaches to theological topics: “Isn’t ecumenical unity as a symbol of the Kingdom of God and eschatological hope now a vision that is theologically legitimate but no longer worth striving for in concrete terms”…? (P. 14: Postcolonial Theologies II). problematization of the “intercultural theology(This new framework of thought replaces the previous one Missiology): This framework of thought depends on a universalizing perspective that global imperialism has made possible... But what narratives are told in local theologies?
  • The discussion also concerns Evangelism debate in Germany (started in the middle of the 19th century as a “homeland mission” or “inner mission”), which is currently following the confrontation with US missionary efforts such as the “Billy Graham Mission”, “ProChrist” and others evangelical formats (Alpha course) transitions into the
  • Contextualization: A new missional The concept of mission emphasizes the need for “culturally sensitive dialogue” and the question of “the gospel” (e.g. through Moynagh's Fresh-X theology) is the corresponding follow-up discussion for the FreshX Church Development (also fed from the “Emergent movement“) including questions about the guiding motivations and intercultural competencies and how Inculturation and communication of the Gospel must be carried out in a millimeter-sensitive manner.
  • Interreligious Communication of the Gospel: The necessary discussions about a theory of religion (postcolonial theology of religions), which at the latest Abandonment of the so-called “claim to absoluteness” of Christianity to Christian theological education raises the question of what argumentation should be used to elevate the Christian perspective to the leading perspective. For example, problematic is how KP Jörns, who has one interreligious canon demands, but at the same time the “Jesusnor imperial as a “particularly clear” or “unique” representation of religions. The price of his logic is the abandonment of Jesus' Jewishness. What goes further here is the more “neutral” glasses of a “comparative theology“. It calls for a fair but (always) perspective (namely the view from the perspective of those involved) exploration of foreign religions.


  • Minority Church: The open questions that are currently developing Post-people's church minority EDK: How does the church understand itself in the coming “powerless” minority status with the perceived loss of old memories of imperial rule, e.g. B. the educational monopoly for religious education, entitlement to benefits for everyone (official acts), close cooperation with power... Which church in post-Christianity is desirable? The imperial restoration old Christian majority longings will reject a postcolonial theology.


  • Exegesis and Normative Bible Understandings: The battle is raging here for the final justification of any theological struggle, which interpretation can ultimately claim validity. Who defines hermeneutics? Who is then allowed to read within this framework of thinking? So what does decolonizing biblical studies mean? It is about nothing less than the critical reflection of the impact of the imperial-Christian narratives. How can “independent interpretations of the Bible from various interpretive communities” be brought into conversation? With postcolonial training, how do we view the empires and their theologies of Old Testament and New Testament times in their influence on the theologies of Israel? Hybridities are important there, to perceive hidden forms of resistance, but also the discovery of the social conditionality of all (certainly ours too!) reading(s). Compared to the 19th century, the perspectives of oriental and ancient studies changed. How can we integrate the new research theologically? We work with you Andrew Perrimans and his special path with a postcolonial perspective to make a post-Christian interpretation of the Holy Scriptures critically strong.
  • Jewish-Christian dialogue: This is superficially just about theological approaches. But from a postcolonial perspective, the picture expands when the theological justifications for 1,700 years of persecution of the Jews have to be reflected on and especially their history of impact through the "Enlightenment", which remained largely anti-Semitic, and which led to the SHOAH initiated by Germans.

The pending self-liberation from our own oppressive identity as victims of the Germanic mission:

It is interesting to observe colonization through religion if we focus it on our own mission history (sometimes violent Germanic mission) in Germany: which theological plausibilities unconsciously still reflect the after-effects of our own colonial history (subjugation to the Roman Empire), which is closely related interlinked with the narrative of Christian history, led to the emergence of Christian theological education (“entangled history” see below).

Postcolonial approaches postulate an option for modifying these entrenched structures. They see transformation potential in the process of appropriation of constructed knowledge by the colonized, which enables resistance against the power structure. With the reformulation of historical experience in public discourse, the content of knowledge changes.

This concept ultimately gave rise to the awareness that colonization not only left its mark on the colonized, but also on the colonizers. Under the heading of entangled history9 Postcolonial approaches attempt to uncover these traces of colonialism and to show how much colonialism influenced the self-image of the colonial powers through the discourse between all parties involved.

This evidence is theologically interesting:

Due to the dominance of the colonial power in various areas of life, especially jurisdiction and religion (introduction of European law, missionary work), the culture of the colonized area was destroyed. Examples include the murder of black shamans and voodoo houngans in the course of the slave trade or the burning of pagan images and writings by Christian missionaries in South America, but also the destruction of pagan-Germanic identities and the subsequent persecution and burning, for example. B. from “witches” in Germany.

What does this mean for a theology of trans Christianity?

The implications for our theology to be developed for trans-Christianity are far-reaching and represent a paradigm shift that will be controversial:

  1. Which imperial elements of previous Christology and ecclesiology do we have to reconstruct postcolonially? First hints of what will be left Christology and ecclesiology can be found in the blog.
  2. How does the historical-critical approach to the narrative of a colonized deviant religious group (Judaism of the 1st century AD) help before it diffused into the logic and subjugation of the Roman Empire. The historical-narrative interpretation of Perriman is our first attempt at a paradigm shift from universal to contextual reading of the Holy Scriptures.
  3. What theologies developed the so-called “Old Church” (era 150-380 AD)? How must these theologies of the “Church Fathers” be re-read and critically questioned in a postcolonial reading based on traces of this history of oppression? The meme so far has been: this phase was the “Hellenization of Christianity.” In postcolonial terms, it's not just about one thing communicative adaptation to Hellenistic language games, i.e. “translation of the Gospel” into another cultural area. But about them submission under one anti-Jewish configuration of Christian theology with the adoption of the mindset of the imperial rulers and highly consequential hybrid formation, which shapes us to this day (anti-Jewish) and appears as the norm theology.

Introductory literature on postcolonial theologies:

Postcolonial Theologies II: Perspectives from German-speaking countries, 2018 by Andreas Nehring (editor, contributors), Simon Wiesgickl (editor, contributors), Ulrike Auga (contributors), Lukas Bormann (contributors), Ciprian Burlacioiu (contributors), Marion Grau (contributors), Judith Gruber (Contributors), Klaus Hock (Contributors), Claudia Jahnel (Contributors), Sabine Jarosch (Contributors), Michael Nausner (Contributors), Sigrid Rettenbacher (Contributors), Bertram Schirr (Contributors), Stefan Scholz (Contributors), Henrik Simojoki (Contributors ), Florian Tatschner (contributor), Irena Zeltner Pavlovic (contributor)

Prof. Dr. Andreas Nehring teaches religious and missiology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Simon Wiesgickl was an assistant at the Chair of Religious and Missiology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg from 2013 to 2016.

  1. Review note for Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, January 22, 2022 in seen December 31, 2023
  2. Review note on Deutschlandfunk Kultur, February 4th, 2022 in seen December 31, 2023
  3. See Note 2: 607
  4. More detailed studies of the early development of scientific prehistory and how fossil evidence and stone tools were first placed into this expanded chronology of life on Earth can be found in Schnapp 1993 and Trigger 2006.
  5. See p. 99
  6. See p. 10, Postcolonial Theologies II,
  7. See the stimulating collection “unlearn Patriarchy” by Lisa Jaspers, Naomi Ryland, Silvia Horch (ed.), Ullstein 2023
  8. Term for the self-control of the economy via supply and demand on the market, which is based on the English economist Adam Smith ( 1723, † 1790) goes back. According to this basic concept of the classical school of economics, market activity is an ordering and regulating force that encourages individuals to pursue their economic interests in order to best satisfy their needs and at the same time serve society's interest in providing the best possible supply of goods. Smith based this idea theologically!


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