The whole Kony-video thing seems to be over. Most of the
millions of viewers watched the half-hour film about Joseph
Kony right after Invisible Children released it. The group's action
kits are sold out. Lots of thoughtful criticism has been written and widely shared.
Yet I keep coming back to it, because these
conversations have revolved around questions I wrestle with regularly as a
missionary in Nicaragua.
In modern imperialism, race, colonization and Christianity have historically been so intrinsically embedded with one another that the connections between them have seemed natural, and Christian theologians have participated in the geographical and geopolitical construction of this imperialism. Willie James Jennings's book is a genealogy of their participation.
I'd like to see this award-winning journalist's book read by
all Christians--from evangelicals who believe that their life's calling is to save
souls to those Christians who, while denouncing proselytizing, feel called to offer
compassionate, practical aid to those who need help. For either of the above
missionary types, Griswold dispels illusions. She is fearless in following a story
into the most remote village, and wise in her understanding of how religions
collide and inflame and exacerbate volatile situations.
On a recent trip to Jordan, no one directing my tour group objected to my meeting with Christian evangelicals. But the evangelicals were nervous. They are carefully conforming to the role that Jordan has given them: providing social services and avoiding activities that could invite government suspicion—like preaching or distributing Bibles. Publicly they state, “We’re not here to change anyone’s religion, we’re here to help people.”“Still,” one of them added later, “If I get five minutes with someone I’m going to share the gospel.” There are few stories of Jordanian Muslims converting to Christianity. Evangelical missionaries explain that it takes time, but they also seem frustrated that the Jordanian government hasn’t recognized their efforts to moderate their language and behavior.
Jason Byassee’s article on Christians in Jordan reminded me of some conversations I had early in my ministry with a fellow pastor in Indiana who had served many years as a missionary in Iran. This was before the revolution that transformed Iran into an Islamic state.
After a trustee investigation produced a scathing report of numerous examples of poor management, Bob Reccord has resigned as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.
Forty years ago, when my kind and I were still young enough to be licensed to write crabby books (they got reviewed as “prophetic”) about American religion, the focus often fell on the public face of congregations as reflected in newspapers.
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