This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jenkins Continued....

One last thing from Jenkins' book.  Christianity seems to have fared best in places where believers were not members of a single class or social group.  Rather, where the faith is spread broadly throughout the population, it remains strongest.

The example here is north Africa.  In Egypt, Christianity became identified with the whole people, originally the Copts.  Thus it was harder to stamp out; the faith remains relatively strong in Egypt today, compared with other countries in the region.  But in the rest of north Africa, Christianity was wiped out early and completely.  This is because the faith never got out of the cities and into the countryside, and it was identified with a particular class of people, and didn't take root in the general population.

There is no automatic and easy application of Jenkins' insights to our situation.  Presbyterians and "main-line" Protestants have experienced breathtaking declines over the past 40 years.  (It may be argued that this "decline" is only after an anomalous period of growth in the 1950's, and that we are now resuming the longer and more gradual decline that had already been happening earlier in the century.)  

Be that as it may,  we face some of the same dynamics that other Christian groups have had to deal with in other parts of the world.  

We experience no overt persecution, but do have to face a tempting alternative ideology/philosophy (secularism/Modernism) which subtly and not-so-subtly overwhelms the integrity of churches.  

We do have a persistent identification of the church with a particular class, generation, race, or social group.  

We do have in the minds of many the identification of the church with a particular nation and often its policies and interests.  

This interestingly cuts both ways.  Christianity seems to flourish more when it is thoroughly indigenized, as in Egypt.  But there is a danger of becoming a "national church," which was the downfall of European Christianity over the disgrace of World War I, with "Christian" nations slaughtering each other at a ghastly rate.  And: is the nominal Christianity identified with a particular people or nation really faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, or is it just a religious prop to a national self-identity? 


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