Original Research

Religion in the public sphere and the well-being of the poor: A practical theological perspective

Hennie J.C. Pieterse
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 2 | a852 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i2.852 | © 2014 Hennie J.C. Pieterse | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 March 2013 | Published: 06 August 2014

About the author(s)

Hennie J.C. Pieterse, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, University of South Africa, South Africa


This article forms part of my research participation at the University of South Africa in the project Religion, health and well-being in Southern Africa: Practical theological perspectives. All the themes we are addressing in this project are public issues. Therefore the basic question in this project pertains to where and how religion, in this case Christian religion, is involved in public discourses and actions regarding problems in public life in South Africa. The specific research question in this article is: what effects do congregational projects by church members, directed to the poor, have on their experience of well-being? Congregational projects by church members directed to the poor are public actions by people with religious motivation addressing a public problem in South Africa. Therefore, these projects and their effects on the experience of well-being by the poor are religious actions in the public sphere. Firstly, I have conceptualised religion as well as the well-being of the poor in South Africa. The relationship between religion and well-being amongst the poor is then addressed. The conceptualisation has directed the formulation of half-structured interview questions in a qualitative empirical research in a sample from a population of pastors and their congregations who are practicing congregational projects directed at the poor in their vicinities. From the analysis of the contents of the interview, data categories have been formulated, which could then be phrased into a conceptual framework of the effects of these projects on the well-being of the poor. This research is an exercise in public practical theological research.


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