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José y Maria: Still No Room

In the United States, it is typical to rent a room temporarily while traveling. Mary and Joseph were not looking for a room for the weekend, as we are accustomed to doing around the holidays. They were looking for temporary lodging, to fulfill whatever obligations of the census and to be ready in case Mary went into labor. In a town that would have been filled with Joseph’s kin, none were willing to make room for him and his pregnant fiancee. Think less about a “No Vacancy” neon sign and more of being told that there are no guest rooms, no rollaways, no couches, no air mattresses, no floors that you are welcome to. “That girl” is not welcome in our town.

Illustrator Everett Patterson has an image that strikes this chord in scene preceding the nativity we are accustomed to decorating our homes, lawns, and churches.

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

In his commentary on the piece, he writes, (more…)

Ecumenical Progress: 5 Thoughts on Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration - AP

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration – AP

Leaders of two major branches of world Christianity joined together on November 30, 2014 to issue a joint statement about the need for shared theological reflection, commitment to common purposes, and dialogue with other religious groups to establish understanding and justice. Special consideration was also given to Christians living in war zones in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, are pictured here signing the resolution. Below are excerpts from the text (inset), with comments following major sections.

For more on these perspectives, see past posts The Impact of Pope Francis and How the East Sees the West.

1. There is a common lineage and history, even if they have been estranged for centuries. By establishing these models at the outset, the statement invites an atmosphere of familial ties.

We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

(more…)

How the East Sees the West

The presence of multiple perspectives within the Christian faith is not a new invention of the 20th century. The split between the Western (Roman Catholic, then Protestant) church and the Eastern Orthodox church is well traveled by Christian historians, yet an understanding of the churches which grew from this cultural differentiation is not as common. In the infograph below, several theologians who are considered to be pillars of Western Christian thought are examined through an Eastern Orthodox perspective. (One of these three pillars is so esteemed, he even garnered an entry in our recent World Cup of Theologians – Augustine of Hippo!)UnsungInTheEast1-514x1024This infographic originally appeared at www.russianchristianclassics.org, a blog exploring Russian church history, the relationship between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, and introducing Russian Christian leaders to an English-speaking audience.

For more information about a leader in the Orthodox church, see our post on an interview with Thelophilus III, the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine.

Misusing Christianity to Change Cultures

In his article, 10 Ways Christians Misuse Christianity, by Stephen Mattson (Author’s Blog@mikta) describes areas that have been inappropriately conflated with a “Christian” identity. To value and celebrate (not simply reluctantly accept) cultural identity is an area that is difficult to succinctly communicate to people who do not already have a frame of reference for diversity appreciation. Readers of this blog are probably already on board with this concept, but it is refreshing to see it expressed in the larger, Christian media and targeted to a rising generation of church leaders and engaged Christians. (Relevant is an online platform that engages 20-30somethings around issues of “faith, culture, and intentional living”.)

10. To Change Cultures

Christianity isn’t meant to erase or change a cultural identity. Christianity is amazingly complex and diverse, and it was never intended to be a uniform religion of ethnocentric beliefs.

Many mistakenly perceive that a “correct” Christianity will exactly mirror all their own traditions, beliefs and lifestyles. Thus, instead of introducing people to Jesus, they attempt to change and conform people to their own cultural preferences. When people inevitably don’t conform, they’re often unfairly accused of being sinners—condemned to hell.

Questions to go deeper:
Historically, we see examples of a cultural imprint tied to Christianity actively erasing culture (colonialism, conversion to European cultural expression), but how does contemporary Christianity change cultures today?
What does it look like to celebrate cultural diversity within a local church?

A New Voice in Our Household

ImageOur first child, Josiah Shepherd, was born in August so my spare time, attention, and energy have been fittingly diverted from this site for the past few months. I have not given up the effort, however, as I am now getting back into the rhythm of research and writing about the intersections of faith and culture. I hope that this project can be used in ways to bring an appreciation and application of diversity to the foreground so that the faith that surrounds my son welcomes his unique voice in a multi-cultural world.

If you are interested in joining me on this project or have any notes or suggestions for the site, please contact me!

-Michael Shepherd, MA, MSM

Editor, GlobalTheology.org

Macrina: The Woman Responsible for the Trinity?

macrinaMacrina was born in 327 to a wealthy family living in Turkey. She was named after her grandmother, who had studied theology and been persecuted in the third-century. Macrina was the oldest of 10 siblings and responsible for educating her younger brothers and sisters. She was arranged to be married but he died before the wedding, at which point Macrina dedicated herself to assisting her mother before entering the monastic life.

Convincing her mother to relinquish her estate among her siblings after the death of her husband, the two women began a convent consisting of freed slaves. Their religious devotion would leave a greater impact than they could have imagined. (more…)

World Day for Cultural Diversity

doonethingMay 21 is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, an international holiday originated by the United Nations and UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in 2001/2.

At GlobalTheology.org, we recognize the value in cultural diversity in the different perspectives that develop within Biblical interpretation and theology, believing that the presence of these voices gives us greater insight into ourselves, our communities, and our world.

Celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity with us! (Click to Tweet)

We have a list of 10 Things to Do for World Day for Cultural Diversity. As you celebrate, share with the tag #DoOneThing

1. Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures. (more…)