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Friday, April 14, 2006

Christianity as a Preserver of Indigenous Cultures

Well, after a dizzying week of meeting with people, sharing our vision for the Missoula Project, and renewing a lot of old relationships (as well as beginning a lot of new ones), I'm finally getting a chance to catch my breath and start responding to emails, blogging a bit, etc. It's a good thing to be doing on Good Friday.

Since I have a moment, I thought I'd point you to Daniel Nairn's recent post over at Some Strange Ideas, where he has some interesting reflection on how mission might actually help preserve indigenous culture (rather than simply destroy it, which is usally taken as a given).
...despite a rocky history between Christian missions and European colonialism, the gospel of Jesus Christ may actually be the only hope for preserving indigenous cultures in an already globalized world. Through modern technological advancement in transportation and communication, the geographical barriers that created cultural differentiation in the first places are quickly eroding. Isolation is no longer possible, so the question shifts from whether to transmit a message at all to what kind of message should be transmitted.
He continues, quoting African missiologist Lamin Sanneh:
Christianity has not so much been divided by the languages of the world as been enriched by them, and enriching them in turn. The overwhelming majority of the world's languages have a dictionary and a grammar at all because of the modern missionary movement. With such systematic documentation the affected cultures could promote themselves in unprecedented and unsuspecting ways. More people pray and worship in more languages in Christianity than in any other religion.
And then he goes on to compare how Islam and Christianity differ deeply on the issue of translation. It's definitely worth reading the whole thing (it's short)...


At 6:42 AM, April 15, 2006, Blogger Kyuboem said...

Lamin Sanneh's book has encouraged me a great deal in reaffirming the gospel's power to heal cultural identities. So much hurt, confusion, tension, presumptions and conflict exist in the world over the relationship between Christianity and cultures.

Many Westerners would take up the "Star Trek Prime Directive" as the Golden Rule of engaging cultures--observe and don't interfere with the evolutionary process that the people groups are in--and condemn Christianity for "proselytizing" and messing up the indigenous culture. There has surely been a lot of injustice and oppression that got perpetuated because of Christians misusing and misinterpreting the gospel (usually because of syncretism within the Western church that remained hidden from the Western Christians themselves), but it is sure good to hear a non-Westerner identifying the great good to the indigenous culture that came about because of the Christian message. It's refreshing to read clear-headed (as opposed to blind) affirmations of the good things that went on because of the Christian mission.

I'm glad you are introducing this work to others. And welcome back to Philly.

At 10:00 AM, April 15, 2006, Blogger Kyuboem said...

Oh, and I meant to mention the name of Lamin Sanneh's book, "Whose Religion is Christianity?: The Gospel Beyond the West"--an elegantly written, little yet powerful, book.


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