When memory battles death: 7-18-14
Many models of marriage: 7-21-14

'World Christianity' and America: 7-19/20-14

Manchester, N.H. -- I am feeling a bit ahead of my time. Why?

Theology-todayWell, for at least a decade I've been giving talks and writing about how immigration has been changing the American religious landscape.

Especially since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed immigration reform into law in 1965, lots of people from Asia and the Southern Hemisphere have come to the U.S., bringing with them their Islam, Hunduism, Buddhism and other faith traditions.

One of those other traditions has been what is now called "world Christianity." It is changing the face of Christianity in the U.S.

Recently the quarterly journal Theology Today devoted an entire issue to world Christianity and to how it is causing historians and others to re-evaluate and redefine Christian history. And I just finished reading the issue as I landed here in New Hampshire on my way to Vermont for a family wedding.

As theologian Joy Ann McDougall wrote in the opening essay, one result of this growing emphasis on grasping the breadth and depth of world Christianity is that "the traditional Western version of the history of Christianity gave way to a more complex and indeed 'polycentric' understanding of Christianity's origins and developments."

World Christianity, she says, now is a "rapidly emerging field" of interest and study.

And in the U.S., she writes (and I've been saying), "A startling diversity of Christian traditions is already present in our classrooms, pews and neighborhoods, and this diversity is rapidly transforming the contemporary landscape of North American Christianity."

But, she says, it's important to note that "plurality reaches all the way down to the earliest roots of the Christian witness."

In some way, writes Paul Kollman, who teaches theology at Notre Dame, "social and cultural differences generate new Christianities." These new Christianities, of course, are deeply connected to the Christianities that emerged from Judaism (well, to be more accurate, the various Judaisms) in the First Century and after, but they bear marks of local histories and traditions.

What all of this says to me is that we would do well to broaden our vision of not just Christianity but of all faith traditions in a time of rapid travel and communication, for just one perspective of any faith will be inevitably distorted, while a faith informed by wider experiences will inevitably be richer.

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Todd Akin, infamous for his "legitimate rape" quote in a Senate race in Missouri, now is making news because he says he felt he was in the midst of spiritual warfare at the time. Oh, my. Why does anyone think anything he says is worth repeating?


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