Wednesday, May 02, 2012

What I learned in Seminary 3: Gospel and Culture

            Gospel and Culture was a week long intensive course that looked at how the gospel message is read in a pluralistic and global world. We read Paul Knitter’s book about inter-religious dialogue as well as books about how Christianity manifests itself in non-western cultures.
            In that class I interviewed Bishop Cosmo Moenga of Botswana and his wife Jennifer. During that interview one of them said, “Understand that Christianity is not new to Africa, after all Jesus spent his Childhood in Africa.” Which seems an obvious statement now, but in the moment I was blown away, especially regarding the wider implications of this, that some social paradigms native to Africa fit Near Eastern culture much more closely than those of Europe.
            Additionally I interrogated the assumptions of famed Christian Historian Jaroslav Pelikan about the origins of Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s commitments to non-violence. Jaroslav claims King read Howard Thurman, who read Gandhi, who read Tolstoy. A non-gracious interpretation would be that two non-European civil rights leaders got their most coveted ideas about non-violence from a European, instead of from their own cultural/religious contexts and/or directly from Jesus’ messages about non-violence.
            Finally, I ended up writing a parable about loving God and neighbor while in this class—take from it what you will:
“There was once a naïve man and a huckster, they were driving across a bridge to a seminary, when an earthquake occurred. The bridge cracked underneath the car and the car was caught in such a way that there was only time for one man to climb out of the sunroof before the car fell into a watery chasm.
The huckster told the naïve man, “I know the will of God, and he wants me to survive.”
The naïve man responded, “Well, my family always talked about pre-destination, so if I’m a Bible believing man I have to trust you.”
And with that the huckster wriggled out of the sunroof, and the naïve man plunged to his death. There was a Seminarian sitting in a grassy spot next to the bridge, she did not notice any of this, because she was reading about loving God and neighbor.”