I wanted add my thoughts to the Gridblog started by Bob Carlton
on "what does the year 2107 look like from your vantage point." What to imagine? Should I be cynical or utopian? Will we be suffering from the environmental devastation of our planet or will we be on the road to sustainable living? What about war? Poverty? Religion? It was in looking back at what the world was like 100 years ago that helped me determine what to speculate about for the future.
Apparently, 100 years ago tomorrow New Zealand and Newfoundland became dominions of the British Empire (the step between being a colony and a Commonwealth). The word dominion dates back to at least the 17th century within the British Empire, referring generically to any British overseas possession. A country populated with indigenous people that another country has taken possession of and imposed their government, morals, and religion on. That's the exposure that other cultures were having to Christianity 100 years ago - a belief system forced upon them generally in ways that made them easy to control. It was the old mantra of "colonize, Christianize, and civilize." To be a Christian in those settings meant aligning oneself with the empire of oppression.
Not a whole lot has change in the past 100 years, but the past decade or so has seen the emergence of voices of those oppressed peoples. Voices that attempt to affirm the truth of Christianity apart from its marriage to colonial powers. And this Christianity in its attempts to set itself up as a countercultural alternative to Empire (gee, does that sound familiar?) is flourishing. So I wonder how this will play out 100 years from now. As Christianity assumes a local flavor in these autonomous countries briefly held as colonies and dominions, how will that change the global face of Christianity? Will the Western philosophies and theologies so central to our debates and arguments (Calvin anyone?) be usurped by local ethnic theologies? Will the numbers game naturally shift the power of Christianity from the Global North to the Global South?
For all the talk the emerging church does about rediscovering the fuller Gospel of the Kingdom (a good thing imho), I wonder if it is just setting the stage for the rise of the (soon to be?) formally marginalized voices. In this imagined future, the Church might actually have the potential to be a truly communal gathering of every tongue, tribe, and nation. A gathering that isn't built on patronizing attempts at domination, but mutual respect and love. That is the optimistic view of the future I want to see.
Labels: Church, History, Theology