Archives For June 2011

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The past couple of posts I've written have dealt with books that attempt to look to the global South for the source of the next big era in Christianity. Citing explosive conversion rates and growing populations, Thomas Oden, Philip Jenkins, and Jehu Hanciles all assure us that the shifting tide of global Christianity is already pulling toward the South and that revitalization of the faith in the North and West will, most likely, come from there as well. But even the amateur student of history knows that these kinds of global shifts do not happen in isolation. While there may be chicken-egg debates among historians, theologians, anthropologists, economists, and others about which gave rise to which, there is no denying that global shifts in religion have nearly always correlated with other world-changing movements.

Even a brief, leapfrogging look at Christianity highlights a few of these synchronizations. The first century spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire could not have happened without the innovation of the Roman road system also being near its zenith. The Protestant Reformation and its emphasis on a return to the scrutiny of Scripture would not have been possible without the advent of the moveable type printing press. Nonconformists in England may have been quelled altogether had there not been a newly discovered land separated by a vast expanse of ocean to use as haven. Evangelicalism's roots in early American history could not have found soil more fertile than the seedbed of a country founded on an ideology which upholds individual liberty and prosperity. Therefore it is inadequate to discuss what might happen in Christianity globally without also paying some attention to what else may also be happening during the same time and on the same scale.
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Beyond Christendom

June 18, 2011 — 5 Comments

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Jehu Hanclies' Beyond Christendom is an important book for anyone concerned about the future of global Christianity. Divided into three parts, Hanclies deals in turn with globalization, international migration, and the effects both of those have on the spread of Christianity. Central to his thesis is the notion that "every Christian migrant is a potential missionary" (8, 378) and that it is the steadily increasing migration from the global South to the global North that will have a radical impact on Christianity in the North in the years to come.

Hanclies does not envision a new Christendom with a Southern bent. On the contrary, he goes to great lengths to expose the lingering concept of "Christendom" as an unhelpful Western construct of secular humanism which has diverted focus toward a fantastic notion a once-and-future Christian utopia, and away from the very real post-1965 migratory spread of Christianity from Africa to destinations north (133, 383). At one point in the book, he takes Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom (which I reviewed a few weeks ago) to task. That argument was of particular interest to me.
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Relationship Road Maps

June 10, 2011 — 10 Comments

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In a couple of months I will travel with my doctoral cohort to Kenya and Ethiopia. I’ve been to North Africa before, but never sub-Saharan Africa. I’m excited for the experience. I’m also trying to prepare for the difference in cultures. I fancy myself a fairly culturally aware person. I understand to a large degree how my worldview is shaped by the culture in which I have been formed. The direction my doctoral work is taking me has me exploring how a particular facet of my culture, namely consumerism, forms families and shapes their commitments. I will argue that the formative nature of consumerism, while unseen by most, have a greater effect in shaping “Christian” families than their professed faith does. This leads to conflict between what a family says it values and the commitments they actually make. But I digress. Back to Africa. Continue Reading…