Sunday, September 21, 2008

Unity amidst of Diversity or diversity as integral to unity ?

How does one deal with the reality that, whilst on the one hand people embrace the message from Angus Buchan, whilst on the other hand we find bitter critique from, amongst others Lina Spies, also claiming to be in love with the Bible ?

Is it really possible to overcome these different Christian identifications or should we simply dig in and shoot from our trenches. My impression is that multipolar christian identifications within the bible is nothing new, but there is more, the Christian faith was indeed changing the world and growing from and in terms of different urban centres, which in my mind may represent different Christian identitifications, yet, they remained one. In fact one could describe Paul faith in terms of the journey, pilgrimage (?) between these different poles. The leadership and personalities also nurtured and seems to celebrate this multipolarity and emerge from the evident tention between these. I call these in terms of the different urban centres, which seems prominent in the journey of Paul.

First there was Jerusalem, in the contemporary Middle East. Not surprisingly, a political- religious hotbed. Paul, here emerges as the ethnic (?) Jew, speaking in Aramaic; the religious person, following the tradition, the ancient paths and religious rituals forging an identity and he is consciously rooting his faith in his Jewish background.
The vow he make was in terms of the Jewish tradition and rituals (Acts 21:26; 39-40; 22:3; 23:6; He would always look for the synagogues and debated issues with the Jews, judaism; his journeys would led him to Ceasarea and Antioch, possibly to the church in Jerusalem, where he stayed for extended periods of time. This also relates to his testimonies in the face of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism ( also prosecution) to be found in Acts 24: 11; 14; 17; 26:4.

But then there is also Corinth and Ephesus (Europe), a place of religious pluralism and trade. Here he was also the cosmopolitan christian, pragmatic, speaking in the lingua franca of the time, koine Greek, being friends with Aquilla and Priscilla- the business people, travelling, the world crossing borders and making money, here is the encourager of beiingng a world christian, maybe a minority, away from the powerful structures, cross language and cultural boundaries encouraging the small groups, commuities of christians, encouraging believers. Here he had special relationships with people in various communities, peoples and friends in trade and industry, meetings in homes and debating issues fiercely, around the mealtables or on the factory floor.His identity was also more than his Jewish-ness, he was a cosmopolitan christian
This relates to his calling towards the people in Rome as well (Acts 23:11) and cand it is here that we also meet another face, the face of a 'native from Alexandria, Africa', what one could call, the cultural/Intellectual capital of the roman empire

Many times, we’ve heard of Christianity being a Western, a European religion. We’ve heard how people argue that the God of Jesus Christ came with the ships, who brought education, but also colonialism, slavery and also the missionaries. People would then continue to say that we had our religions and Gods, before the white man’s God came. What they fail to recognise is that God was here in Africa, before the European missionaries. God was here and his Spirit had been at work before that era of Western Missionary expansion. The witness of Appolis is evidence of this.

Whilst Paul remained Jewish in his follow-ship of Jesus- here we find evidence of an unique kind of African Christian. He could have been a converted Jew, but certainly he was born in Alexandria. The NIV speaks of a ‘native of Alexandria’

Alex had a proud tradition of intellectualism, one of the biggest libraries of the time, yet rooted in Africa. True to this tradition and context, Apollos was a highly educated man. He was reading the latest on culture, world politics, faith and he was a public debater, but also he represents a particular Christian identity, which remained open, open to the growth from a debate with Aquilla and Priscilla, open to grow in his understanding, in his faith.

Not all Christians are religious zealots, adhering to rituals and traditions; not all are cosmopolitans, travelling in their spirituality from Antioch to Corinth, not all are Alexandrian… yet Christ is all in all.

In the diversity, in sharing the different faces, identifications emerge a unique kind of unification.

This has something to say for us today

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mighty Men marching to Soweto ?

It seems as if the Mighty Men's Movement, is not just another emotional flash in the pan. Apparently the Cape of Storms was taken, by storm and Kimberley and Soweto seems to be the next stop. It would be very interesting to see how the message of Angus Buchan, former farmer, then filmstar (well not actually himself), now celebrity-evangelist, impact these cities.
Of course this depiction of Buchan, some would say is unfair. He sees himself as an ordinary man with a message from God. I think most South Africans should like his message of hope or at least be attracted by his positiveness, rooted in faith and in a simple obedience to the Bible. The questions about his evident patriarchal views of family and the role and place of women however remain and it seems prudent to listen to his message with a fair amount of circumspection. Ordinary men can also be taken for a ride by scrupulous gold diggers and charlatans. This could simply be another Love Southern Africa, Joshua Movement or Transformation Africa. And we had it and saw it coming and going- keeping new ministries afloat and remaining oblivious of the current public challenges. In many cases it served the needs of the band, the singers, the pastors, running behind the scenes (and a whole host of the gospel industry and empire) more then the needs of the nation.

Does this mean that we should reject this mighty movement? Of course not. Recent research amongst the various identifications in South Africa, as presented in the book, Overcoming Apartheid (2004) seems to suggest that a majority of South Africans, in particular those previously classified as white, now would find closer affinity to to a religious identity, instead of a racial identity: they would rather call themselves Christian, then anything else. For some, this is not a surprise, given the usual reference to the Christian majority in South Africa. For others however, the question would be where these would find themselves in a context of pessimism and seemingly hopelessness in the face of our current political transition. This is therefor the place where the Buchan movement plays a key role in calling these Christians to task- this is a call to stand up and stand out and be public in what you believe..