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Cultural Intelligence and Why it Matters to the Church

Eugene Cho, along with Helen Lee and Soong-Chan Rah, have written recently about the need for cultural sensitivity within society in general, but in the church specifically.  Prompted by the airing of a political campaign ad from Pete Hoelkstra presenting negative stereotypes of Asian-Americans, the trio discussed how this insensitivity permeates popular culture and the church as well.

They provide an example of a sermon illustration gone awry:

We recently witnessed a sermon video in which the pastor of a large, multi-site church in Minnesota brought an Asian man on stage representing a “samurai” and had him sit before the congregation, stone-faced and silent, while the pastor flailed his arms in a cartoonish imitation of karate moves while yelling random Asian-sounding gibberish, then banged a loud gong in an attempt to rattle the “samurai’s focus.” (more…)

Seeking Contributors

Mark Roncace is seeking contributors for two volumes, Global Perspectives on the Old Testament and Global Perspectives on the New Testament. Pearson Prentice Hall is publishing Global Perspectives on the Bible this year. Next, separate OT and NT volumes, also to be published by Prentice Hall, will be produced. Both books will feature much of the same material as the original Bible volume, but with added essays.

The books—designed as entry level college textbooks—gather four different essays around one biblical text. The essays are brief (about 1,000 words and need not be “scholarly”) and articulate insights from a particular geographical, social, cultural, economic, religious, or ideological context/location. Here is the list of texts/books for which he need essays.

  • Genesis 6-9
  • Numbers 22-24
  • Leviticus
  • Judges
  • 1-2 Kings
  • Jeremiah
  • Ezekiel 1-25
  • Esther
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Daniel
  • Crucifixion narratives
  • Acts (other than chapter 2)
  • Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • 1-2 Thessalonians
  • James
  • Pastorals (1-2 Timothy, Titus)
  • 1-3 John
  • 1-2 Peter

Please let Mark know if you are interested (mroncace@wingate.edu) in writing an essay on one (or two) of these texts and he will forward specific guidelines and a sample. In addition to scholars, Mark is particularly interested in gathering perspectives from non-professional readers. He is trying to run on a tight schedule: final OT essays are due April 1 and final NT essays are due June 1 (but remember they are only about 1,000 words).

Studying Chinese Christianity: From a Transplanted Foreign Religion to an Indigenous Chinese Religion

     “Numerical expansion in Chinese Christianity in the last couple of decades has occurred at an unprecedented rate. A rate which continues to surprise and alarm some of those observing it. It’s surprising partly because of the ambiguous history of Christianity in China, a history marked both by a high level of cultural and political engagement by the Jesuits in the 17th century, and by a very unashamed alliance with foreign interference and colonial power in the 19th century. In spite of that, China is moving towards having the largest Christian population in the world. A safe guess would be 50-80 million Protestants in China today.”*
     Contemporary China is experiencing a big revival of Christianity, despite strict governmental controls on religions. At its current pace of rapid growth, China could have the world’s largest population of Christians (more…)

Christmas Project

As we approach a well-known season in many churches liturgical calendars, we are starting a blog series focusing on different perspectives of characters in the Christmas story, holiday practices, and advent themes.

African Christmas: A Wise Man Sees a Star in the East

We are requesting submissions of pieces, 500-1500 words expressing the significance of Christmas or Advent within a distinct cultural perspective.

We request posts from primary sources serving in a Non-Western context as well as secondary sources with the ability to give voice to another perspective.

Some possible prompts:

Which characters of the story appear in your context? (shepherds, wise men, travelers, etc.)

What significant elements are present in your church to prepare for or celebrate the holiday?

Which scriptures are most meaningful for your community to understand the incarnation of Christ, and why?

What sermons are written in this time of year for your community?

By sharing together our perspectives of the holiday, we look forward to hearing a familiar story with fresh ears and seeing the advent of God in Christ with new eyes, initiating a kingdom that brings all people together as the children of God.

Please see our Write Page for information about contributing.

Questions or submissions can be directed by email to submissions.globaltheology@gmail.com

Tibetan Christian Thangka Storytelling

Jesus’ Life on Earth

One year ago I wrote a post about Tibetan thangkas and mentioned therein a Christian ministry that was selling Christian thangkas, though at the time I didn’t know anything more about how they were being used.  In today’s post, I am excited to provide some more information about them.

Back in 2001, some expatriate workers in the Himalayas puzzled over the repeated lack of effectiveness of more common approaches to reach Tibetan Buddhists for Christ, so they began to seek alternative ways of presenting the Gospel that would connect more directly with Tibetan Buddhists.  They formed a group called The Tibetan Storytelling Project (TSP) to address this concern.  The group eventually decided to produce an evangelistic DVD which would utilize traditional Tibetan art, songs, choreography and rhythmic speech in presenting the Gospel.
(more…)

Incarnation as Celestial Migration

Christmas is all about a migration story.  I am not referring to Santa’s Christmas Eve sleigh ride around the world—that’s travel, not migration—and it’s also not what Christmas is all about.

Even Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’s escape as refugees to Egypt just after the visit of the Magi—while certainly a formative experience in young Jesus’ life and an experience upon which we would do well to reflect upon—is not at the very center of the Christmas story. (more…)

Japanese Theology: What Can Be Learned (Part 2)

JAPANESE THEOLOGY

(You can find part one of this essay here)

Christianity is often presented as the religion of the superpowers, and it has become a visibly dominant religion in many leading nations. From the 4th century onwards, Christianity became the religion of the Greco-Romano world, with the consequence that Greek and Latin became the “language” of God. Thus Hellenic views on Christianity overruled other forms of Christianity elsewhere. Continuing into the 15th / 16th century, the rise of the Spanish and Portuguese nations expanded Roman Catholicism across the entire colonized world, and thus Spanish/Portuguese Christianity became visibly dominant on the surface of the planet. The emergence of the reformation in the 16th century, and its collaboration with the Western and Northern European governments, caused a reformed and protestant theology to dominate certain parts of the world.

For the past two hundred years or more, Anglo-American Christianity and its relationship to the expansion of British and American territorial interest has had important results. English became the language of evangelical religion. Christianity took a commercial course and dominated the worship and literature industry worldwide. Today, anyone who wants to study theology anywhere in the world cannot bypass American and English Christian literature and writers. Church history means reformation history; theology means Anglo American Evangelical or Dutch Reformed theology. This dominant manifestation of Western Christianity has caused two different major reactions in the non-western world; 1) Almost total acceptance and implementation of this Western Theology with slightly native cultural influences. For instance, Evangelical Christianity in the Philippines is simply an American-influenced Christianity, and the Korean Protestant Christianity is based on Reformed Theology; in Africa, American prosperity teaching preached by the satellite TV stations inspires the Pentecostalism. 2) Instead of total surrender to imported Christianity, the second reaction is the creation of Christianity with an indigenous theology. There are relatively few countries that have created their own Christian theology. Japan tried to belong to the second group. In his book Japanese contribution to Christian Theology published in 1960, Carl Michelson indicated that even though Protestant Christianity was relatively young in Japan, Japan was apparently the first country to develop its own significant theology (more…)

Christian Tirthankara: Ford Finders

This morning I was having a great conversation at Starbucks with Pastor Chris Coffman, the associate pastor of outreach at our church.  We were talking about pastoral sin. (now THERE’S a fun topic for you!)

We talked about the tension between the need/desire for church members to know that their pastors are human, but their fear that they will be “too human”.  Historically when pastors have been shown to be “too human” they are figuratively crucified and drummed out of ministry.   The burden of proof in finding this balance does not lie on the lay person, however. The burden of proof (as it were) lies on the leader.  He or she has the responsibility to make an effort to make the fact of his weaknesses known, without destroying her credibility among the people of the congregation.

I don’t exactly know why, but the concept of tirthankara came to my mind.  (Of course, I’m sure the same thing came to YOUR mind!) Winking smile (more…)

Japanese Theology: What Can Be Learned? (Part 1)

Prior to understanding Japanese Christian theology, it is important to know how the Japanese view religion in general. In Japan there are basically two distinctions when it comes to religion: the revealed and the natural religions. Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and some new religions are considered to be revealed religions, because they have specific books and scriptures to live by and upon which religious life is practiced. In contrary to revealed religions, the natural religions are more tradition and folklore-based religions, followed with few or no specific books or scriptures. Even though Shintoism does have texts and scriptures to a degree, it is considered more as a natural religion.

It is important to emphasize that in Japan, when people talk about religion, they generally mean the revealed religions, and in particular Christianity. When Japanese people mention that they are nonreligious, it means they do not commit themselves to a revealed religion or religious organization. Japanese people often see all the religions as one entity, and not separate from one another. It is often said that the Japanese are born Shinto, marry in a Christian (western) style and die Buddhist, as many Japanese are buried in the Buddhist way. Japanese do not have the urge to be committed to any particular organized religion. In Japanese, this mindset is called mushukyo, meaning “non-religion” or even “non-religious.” (more…)

KARAI KASANG: Rebirthing the Non-Patriarchal Image of God in Kachin Culture

Throughout our Feminist Ethics class, I have been thinking about Mary Daly’s concept of “Goddess” in her Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism.  I don’t believe that there is any sound theological argument that the term “God” itself represents patriarchy. Theologically speaking, if we study the Bible systematically, particularly Genesis 1:27, it is unquestionable that God is associated with both feminine and masculine imagery.  God is imaged as both mother and father. In contrast to this nature, Mary Daly does not merely seek to erase masculine imagery from the term “God,” but the word “God” itself.  However, “Goddess” without the masculine imagery can no longer be the Perfect Goddess, just as “God” without the image of the feminine also remains imperfect.

As I see it, the problem lies not with using the term “God” itself, but how we understand and interpret God with our knowledge and languages. In short, we need not eliminate the word “God”—we need only change our traditional understanding of God.

(more…)

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