Friday, June 20, 2008

Quote from "The New Faces of Christianity"

This is kind of a long excerpt, but I really like it, so I'm going to type in the whole thing (minus one paragraph in the middle); it's from Philip Jenkins' The New Face of Christianity:


To illustrate the extent of the global divide within Christianity, I offer an exercise in cross-cultural understanding. For a North-American Christian, it can be a surprising and humbling experience to read parts of the Bible and to try to understand how they might be read in communities elsewhere in the world. Throughout, we need to think communally rather than individually. We must also abandon, however temporarily, familiar distinctions between secular and supernatural dimensions. And often, we must adjust our attitudes to the relationship between Old and New Testaments.

Any number of texts, then, offer surprises. Read Ruth, for instance, and imagine what it has to say in a hungry society threatened by war and social disruption. Understand the exultant release that awaits a reader in a society weighed down by ideas of ancestral curses, a reader who discovers the liberating texts about individual responsibility in the book of Ezekiel. Read Psalm 23 as a political tract, a rejection of unjust secular authority. Imagine a society terrorized by a dictatorial regime dedicated to suppressing the church, and read Revelation: understand the core message that whatever evils the world may produce, God will triumph. Or again, read Revelation with the eyes of rural believers in a rapidly modernizing society, trying to comprehend the inchoate brutality of the megalopolis. Read Hebrews, and think of its doctrines of priesthood and atonement as they might be understood in a country with a living tradition of animal sacrifice. Apply the Bible’s many passages about the suffering of children to the real-world horrors facing the youth of the Congo, Uganda, Brazil, or other countries that before too long will be among the world’s largest Christian communities.


When reading almost any parts of the gospels, think how Jesus’ actions might strike a community that cares deeply about caste and ritual purity, and where violating such laws might cost you your life. Think of them n the context of India. Read the accounts of Jesus interacting so warmly with the multiply rejected – in many societies worldwide, the story of he Samaritan woman at the well can startle. Or go to the eighth chapter of Luke as a template for Christian healing and a reaffirmation of the power of good over evil. Or take one verse, namely John 10:10, in which Jesus promises abundant life, and think of the bewildering implications for a desperately poor society so obviously lacking in any prospect of abundance, or indeed, of any certainty of life.

Now recognize that these kinds of readings, adapted to local circumstances, are quite characteristic for millions of Christians around the world. Arguably, in terms of raw numbers, such readings represent the normal way in which Christians read the Bible in the twenty-first century.

Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity182-4

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Imagine that you can't read the Bible -- the plight of at least 50% of the world. All the promises and relativity of God's truths in His Word are off limits, inaccessible and unknown. Now imagine God's Word in audio, a format that you can understand, contemplate and repeat to others. Check out an audio bible ministry called Faith Comes By Hearing at Get involved, spread the Gospel and share His love.