Thursday, May 07, 2009

post-C W and post-W C

In Disciples of All Nations (OUP, 2008), Lamin Sanneh refers to the "flagging fortunes of a post-Christian West" and the "robust potential of a post-Western Christianity." (51)

I like that contrast - but I need to read it carefully!

For 25 years I've read the books, attended the seminars and even taught the courses on the challenge of a post-Christian West. Now it is my hope that, God-willing, I am able to spend the next 25 years engaging a post-Western Christianity.

But my prayer is that it won't be a sequential reality, first one and then the other. I hope I can keep a conversation between the two going on in my head. In this shrunken globalised world of ours it should not be difficult to do and it may be a conversation that is as relevant as it is urgent.

Why is it that those writing about the "flagging fortunes" are often so slow to sit humbly at the feet of those with "robust potential" and learn from them? Why can't we see that it might be post-Western Christianity that can help those mired in a post-Christian West the most? I wonder what this help might look like?

One of the things that enthuses me about starting with Langham Partnership International is that it is ideally placed to advance this conversation usefully.

nice chatting


Paul

5 comments:

Dale Campbell said...

whoa - love those terms - it's always good when labels summarise what they're referring to whilst not mis-representing... cool.

((btw, see any good Robin Hood DVD's lately?))

-d-

Rhett said...

Good post! ...And well, I don't have much to add, but I did want to mention that I noticed that you link to Mark Driscoll's blog :-). Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

Paul,
i'd like to place this post alongside your post on high school musical revisted.

i'd like to ask what narratives the post-West aspires too, where there TV programmes are sourced from.

most of my trips through post-Western slums finds a fascination with Western culture, which suggests that the missiological challenges facing the West might yet the missiological challenges the post-W Christianity has yet to fully face.

and to then wonder what that means for the movement between the two poles?

steve
www.emergentkiwi.org.nz

Heather said...

Hi Steve,

When I was an international student in Pittsburgh in the US, my flatmate was a Kenyan Christian from a very affluent part of Nairobi. She was fascinated by the TV in America and how different the programmes were from those back home, where the entertainment TV appeared to be dominated by dubbed versions of 30-year-old South American soaps that I had never heard of. I have no idea why this was so (although it could well be price - I'm sure they were heaps cheaper for the station to buy than up to date US content), or whether a similar situation exists elsewhere in the non-Western world. But if it is a common situation then, no matter how 'cool' western media are, the very poverty of much of the post-West may spare them from some of the insidious influence of constant exposure.

On a completely different note, I've been enjoying dipping into your and Lynne's blogs recently over the last few years. Don't know if you remember me - I used to be Heather Wansbrough (now Roberts) from the Tab over the years you were involved there and with the establishment of Graceway.

--Heather :-)

Paul said...

Good questions, Steve. I've been pondering them for a few days!

I always remember my first trip back to South Asia (after growing up there) and arriving at Karachi airport and on the walk to immigration watching Pakistani MTV - and it looked very familiar. I was stunned.

Never again would I doubt that there is a global tide seeping into the world's local, and tribal, bays.

BUT they are still 'local bays'. I doubt that the clash between the global and the local/tribal will ever cease. While there is a fascination with the West it may not always materialise into anything of substance - just hopes and dreams.

In terms of the stories of the post-West, I'd head in a few directions:

(a) a study of Bollywood and the continuties and discontinuities with Hollywood at the level of plotlines might be interesting.

(b) I pulled a book on African Christian Ethics off the shelf (I've posted on this before) and the contrast with a post-Christian book on ethics is sobering. No matter how much the West may fascinate them, there are still stories relating to war, poverty, corruption, immigration, polygamy, sex trafficking, female circumcision, HIV/AIDS, infanticide, witchcraft (as I scan the table of contents!) that just cannot be ignored by them and lived with an intensity unknown by us.

Like when I was in Zambia speaking at pastors' conferences. You quickly experience their longings to study in the West etc - but then you chat a bit further and discover that most of them spent most of their time preparing for, conducting, and following up HIV/AIDS funerals.

(c) In terms of the Christian presence in the post-Western Christianity numerous stories can emerge. One of our greatest failings may be our competence, our resources, our independence. We can usurp God a bit. Their stories tend to have them throwing themselves on God more naturally and instinctively.
I was in Acts 8 recently - the 'ordinary Philip' (next to Peter and Paul) and the 'marginal Ethiopian' in a chapter that is the entire book of Acts in microcosm. I think the stories from the 'post-West' inhabit the marginal and the ordinary stories more readily and this chapter illustrates what God can do with them.

not sure if this is aligned to your comments, Steve - but this what they sparked for me.