Wednesday, February 15, 2006

opening our own document

Here goes ... let cyberspacian conversation begin!

But where to begin? Maybe with something that is uppermost on my mind! I have a different kind of background. Sometimes I introduce myself as a 30:30:30:10 person.
30% Indian (as that is where I spent all my childhood); 30% Kiwi (as I am a New Zealander); 30% American (the boarding school in India was American, I did my theological training in the USA, and my Barby's family is in the USA and so we go back now and then); 10% Southland (in NZ - where I had that hugely shaping early pastoral experience).

Given this understanding (from the inside) of these cultural contexts, what interests me is that NZ and the USA are just so different. The christian community and its leaders have a much higher profile in the States. I wonder whether it is linked way back to the fact that the early European imkigration to the USA was by people wanting to be freed FOR religion, while here in NZ that early immigration was more by those wanting to be freed FROM religion ... and that something of that difference remains with us, making this cultural context far more challenging. What do you think? Has this shaped us ever since?

Then I look at my time back in New Zealand ... John Wimber dominated our church life in 1980s just as Bill Hybels did in the 1990s and Rick Warren has done in the 2000s. I have valued each of these people's contributions and read their material avidly ... but I still do wonder if we have too many missiological eggs in that cultural basket. Might not the greater hostility and cynicism towards things 'christian' in NZ mean that we have to be far more subtle about how we incorporate this, or any, inspiration from the States? It can't be 'cut and paste' - we realise that. But could it be 'open our own document and begin writing' just a little bit more? What would it take to do so?

Nice chatting
Paul

8 comments:

Andrew said...

Eeekkk there's no turning back now! Great to see you've taken the plunge.

Your comments about the difference between NZ and USA reminded me of a question Allan Davidson asks in his Christianity in Aotearoa class "Did immigrants to NZ pack their Bibles at the top or the bottom of their luggage? Was it the first thing they packed or the last?"

Ian said...

Andrew you will have to unpack the 'Bibles at the top or at the bottom of their luggage' a bit more for it to make much sense to me. I assume it has something to do with the importance of their faith. The greater or lesser faith if it's packed at the top of the bottom? Hmmmm. I wonder if we haven't brought much of the hostility and cynacism on ourselves with the way we christians sometimes act today. I hope, Paul that by having "to be far more subtle" in terms of translating stateside evangelicalism to a nz context you don't mean 'sneaky'. I contend that enough sneaky stuff has been happened already but then we nzers seem to be suckers for any new wave of whatever's going at the moment! Now somehow that seems vaguely familiar...

Paul Windsor said...

Agreed Ian - 'sneaky' would not be the connotation I'd want to convey. UGH! I am thinking of something other than 'cut and paste' - that unthinking slotting in of stateside ideas that assumes they will work here. I'd like to see us grow deep and grow up in our own land more (what will that take?) - while still recognising that globalisation will bring many good ideas our way. That will take a more subtle, a more discerning, engagement with our world.

sandy said...

If by ‘subtle’ you mean be more ‘strategic’ in our efforts to spread the gospel in the resistant New Zealand context…then I agree. The American message (marvellous as it is) works well in a culture that still largely believes that the separation of religious beliefs and politics is as impossible as people trying to separate the Christian from secular parts of themselves. In New Zealand, even we Christians often struggle to believe that we have a right to be politically involved and overt about how our Christian beliefs influence our politics…and this is a result of our historical legacy, as you say Paul, in a country with a strongly held belief in the separation of church and state.

To be relevant here we need to sustain a dialogue about this stuff with the Lord and each other. It seems to me, that we are constantly opening our own documents and starting dialogues about this… but we are also admonished to think big and as we genuinely want to see the church grow in New Zealand this all too often leads to emulating the latest big thing from the States in the hope that we will get the same big results. We get busy running the latest biggest thing from the States, which generally comes as a package deal with books, lessons, ministry materials, structures for services and church administration and even for the prayers that we should pray. Just a cut and paste with a little tweak here and there in the name of contextualisation is all that is required, and in many instances, all that is allowed by the American parent ministry… and amidst the big American dreams the local dialogue dwindles to nothing...

(I think I'll end my rant there!)

servant said...

There are a few things I find helpful coming out of the States. Mostly from leaders and authors who are doing their best to address the more secular side of their own country - Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Philip Yancey etc.

I think the problem that we have is that many Christians in NZ see the "power" the Christian church has in the states economically and politically and we secretly envy it... we crave that same power.... we want to be heard like they are. Thus, many here ignore our secularised context and fill their bookshelves with the latest and greatest from the glitzy U.S. In so doing we end up seeing a transference amongst churches towards those who adopt the same glitzy approach, those who talk of taking dominion and overcoming the political sphere.

I like Bonhoeffers approach in Letters and Papers from prison where he states that if the church cannot interpret Christian faith in language meaningful for the ordinary person in our secular world, then it must limit itself to two things: prayer and righteous action. Out of that it might be born again and discover a new language that would impress the world with its freshness and power.

We need to start looking at the teachers within our own borders. We had Brian Hathaway, we have Mark Strom, we have you Paul, we have Brian Winslade, we have Reality Magazine, we have the Rhema Broadcasting Group, and the list goes on.

We need to create a culture where people stop worshipping celebrity in the Christian world, looking for the brightest and the best and we start listening to those in our own context who are reinterpreting the faith for OUR secular world. They're there, we just need to stop and listen to them.

BJ said...

Maybe we should be footnoting rather than cutting and pasting? Acknowledging the sources of some of our ideas, but working hard to produce a piece of work that is independently authored?

Some of the discussion should involve a clear distinction between principles and practices. One of the bigger problems with the wholesale downloading of US ideas is that we assimilate practices without understanding the principles. A critique of the principles behind a practice will help us understand whether it can be applied and in what ways to the NZ context.

Welcome to the blogosphere Paul...

servant said...

Much like the Bible BJ

new zealand backpacker said...

the 30:30:30:10 ratio makes me realise that the world we live in developing with such high pace that the distance between countries are getting shorter and their boundries disappearing.

Soon we will be in an era where the person will be a global citizen, that is what i consider myself who has lived in different countries