Sunday, June 28, 2009

World Christianity

The dark wood floors gleam with polish, and the soft grey walls cool the cottage. I'm studying in a friend's place over the weekend, a home filled with lace, hand-hooked rugs, and pillows.

Yesterday I plowed through five or six books on my way through thirty for Friday's second exam. The information (contextualizing the Christian faith across cultures) is fascinating. I love the history of missionaries, their interaction with and love for people groups, and the missionary observations that informed the science of anthropology in the West. They pioneered, explorered, and adventured in surroundings completely strange to them.

Tracing the ongoing transformation of cultures is interesting. As missionaries sought to understand their fields of service, they translated works by world religions. By giving the text to the people, Buddhist, Shinto, Islamic, and Hindu systems resurfaced among their populations, morphing to shape and regulate their own cultures more strongly. Where Western culture was imposed along with the gospel, the Church separated from the indigenous culture within a generation or two. The gulf is almost insurmountable in some places today, with parallel cultures that can hardly identify with each other.

The feeling that Christianity is Western is unfounded: the faith is Middle Eastern in origin. Christians were in India from the first century, if Indian historians are accurate. A Chinese emperor erected a monument to Christians in his court in the seventh century. Buddhism reached Japan about the same time as Christianity - and it is not sidelined as a foreign system. (In the next generations, as Muslims have big families in Europe and migrate out, will Islam be called a Western religion?)

As I go through today's books, I am excited to read how Good News is good news everywhere. That God should send Jesus to give us abundant life, to let us be fully human in the moment, to reconcile us into the open friendship he made us for... how thrilling is that? It's time for a pause to say thank you. I'm happy to be part of world Christianity.

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. May your [peaceful and loving] kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven..."

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