Unreached Network

rio, rio de janeiro, south america


Enjoy this extended quotation from Philip Jenkins in his book The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South:

“Read Ruth, for instance, and imagine what it has to say in a hungry society threatened by war and social disruption. Understand the exultant release that awaits a reader in a society weighed down by ideas of ancestral curses, a reader who discovers the liberating texts about individual responsibility in the book of Ezekiel.”

“Read Psalm 23 as a political tract, a rejection of unjust secular authority. Imagine a society terrorized by a dictatorial regime dedicated to suppressing the church, and read Revelation: understand the core message that whatever evils the world may produce, God will triumph. Or again, read Revelation with the eyes of rural believers in a rapidly modernizing society, trying to comprehend the inchoate brutality of the megalopolis.”

“Read Hebrews, and think of its doctrines of priesthood and atonement as they might be understood in a country with a living tradition of animal sacrifice. Apply the Bible’s many passages about the suffering of children to the real-world horrors facing the youth of the Congo, Uganda, Brazil or other countries that before too long will be among the world’s largest Christian countries.”

“Read in this way, the letter of James is eye-opening. Imagine reading it in a world in which your life is so short and perilous that it truly seems like a passing mist: what implications does that transience hold for everyday behaviour? See the letter as a manual for a society in which Christianity is new and people are seeking practical rules for Christian living. And in that text, and many others, understand the references to widows not as the ancient history of social welfare systems but as radical responses to present-day problems affecting millions of women world-wide.”

“As a difficult test for Northern-world Christians, try reading two almost adjacent passages in James, one condemning the rich, the other prescribing anointing and prayer for healing, and see both texts, ‘radical’ and ‘charismatic’, as integral portions of a common liberating message. Think of the numerous forms of captivity entrapping a poor inhabitant of a Third World nation – economic, social, environmental, spiritual – and appreciate the promise of liberation and loosing presented in Jesus’ inaugural sermon in the Nazareth synagogue. Understand the appeal of this message in a society in which ‘the frustration of being alive… is excruciating.’”

“When reading almost any part of the gospels, think how Jesus’ actions might strike a community that cares deeply about caste and ritual purity, and where violating such laws might cost you your life. Think of them in the context of India. Read the accounts of Jesus interacting so warmly with the multiply rejected – in many societies worldwide, the story of the Samaritan woman at the well can still startle. Or go the eighth chapter of Luke as a template for Christian healing and reaffirmation of the power of good over evil. Or take one verse, namely John 10:10, in which Jesus promises abundant life, and think of the bewildering implications for a desperately poor society so obviously lacking in any prospect of abundance, or indeed, of any certainty of life.”

“Now recognize that these kinds of readings, adapted to local circumstances, are quite characteristic for millions of Christians around the world. Arguably, in terms of raw numbers, such readings represent the normal way in which Christians read the Bible in the early twenty-first century.”