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A critique of discrimination on the basis of poverty in the Epistle of James : a case study of the Church of the Brethren Gavva Area.

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This thesis argues that the Epistle of James provides the resources that will address the problem of discrimination and exploitation in the Church of the Brethren in Gavva area. In order to argue this, I establish that Gavva area is a peasant society. I argue that the Epistle of James addresses the situation of the peasants in the first century Palestine. The peasants were discriminated against and exploited by the wealthy and the elites in James’ time. This prompts James to condemn the wealthy landowners and the merchants for their attitude toward the peasants. I examine the Epistle against the model of the moral economy developed by Sahlins and modified by Moxnes in The Economy of the Kingdom (1988). They delineate three categories of reciprocity: generalized, balanced and negative reciprocity. These are used as the basis of analysis of James and then extended also to an analysis of the moral economy of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Further empirical study reveals that the poor in Gavva area are living in poverty and are discriminated against because they did not have opportunity to receive early educational training that might have equipped them to hold positions in the church and society. The concepts of poverty of Klaus Nürnberger, Amartya Sen, Bryant Myer and Adarigho-Oriako have also assisted me in evaluating the problem of poverty of Gavva area. Since Gavva area is, like the community to which the Epistle of James is addressed, an analysis of peasants and their moral economy, clientage and patronage, honour and shame are vital to my research. In this respect, the work of James C. Scott in Domination and Art of Resistance: the Hidden Transcript (1990) has proved valuable in my analysis of the way the poor in Gavva area are dominated by the wealthy. The poor develop resistance to the church leadership and the wealthy in their “hidden transcript” developed “off stage.” In this research, I discovered that the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria has official documents on discrimination, poverty, the poor and how to take care of them, which should direct their economic policy. But the church leadership does not enforce the teachings in the documents because of contending socio-economic forces and personal interests. I also find that the problem originated in the circumstances of the merger¹ I have explained what the merger means in chapter 5. which was complicated by tribalism that is present in the church. The major tribes seem to dominate every aspect of the church leadership and its programmes and institutions. As a possible contribution to addressing the problems of discrimination, exploitation and tribalism in the church, I published Bible study material from my research findings with an emphasis on the Epistle of James. The church will use the Bible study outline to conduct Bible study in all the Local Church Councils (LCC) throughout Nigeria. My hope is that the Bible study will bring the wealthy, the poor, the pastors/church leaders and the different tribes together so that church members will come together as one and pastors and church leaders will nolonger give preferential treatment to the wealthy members but see themselves as members of one community and treating one another as equals. The pastors would not give preferential treatment to the wealthy and the wealthy would honour the poor. ¹ I have explained what the merger means in chapter 5.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2011.


Bible. N.T. James--Criticism, interpretation, etc., Bible. N.T. James--Social scientific criticism., Theses--Theology.