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Presenting the Beautiful Gospel: Ten Theses about Contemporary Christian International Mission and Cross-Cultural Evangelization

In former times, some missionary efforts were aligned with militaristic imperialism. Are the terrible expressions of colonialism being promoted by contemporary missionaries? Professor Celucien Joseph reminds us there is a better way.

 

For many years, I have been thinking about the interreligious conflict between Christianity and other religions in the world, and the work of Christian missionaries in international mission and cross-cultural evangelization. In the context of Haiti, for example, the conflict lies in the relationship between Vodou and Christianity, Christians and Vodouizan. As will be observed, the essay below reveals my values, ethics, theology, my understanding of human cultures and cross-cultural friendship, my understanding of the message of the Gospel and its demands upon people, and the infinite value of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice for the world. My target-audience is Christian missionaries who are investing in cross-cultural evangelization and international mission.

Image: Jose Martin

Historically, the practice of Christian mission and evangelization, both at the cross-cultural and international level, has been influenced by American-Western ideology of conquest and an attempt to deracinate the culture and traditions of the people being evangelized. Correspondingly, Christian mission and evangelization has been operating from the foundational philosophy of the superiority of American and European cultures and value-systems, and the belief in the triumphal achievements of Western countries in global history. Also, the rhetoric of Christian mission and evangelization has also been shaped by the rhetoric of dehumanization and demonization, as circulated in American-Western books, media, and news outlets, of non-white and Western people. In short, Christian international mission and cross-cultural evangelization has been detrimental to the values, cultures, and concerns of brown and non-Western people.

Unfortunately, many Christian missionaries originated from powerful Western countries and supported aggressive Western interventions such as wars, coups, economic sanctions and embargoes—often resulting in deaths, abject poverty, and underdevelopment. These Christians claimed they were called to serve as missionaries and evangelists, to the great dishonor of the Gospel of peace, interpreting these human-made tragedies, catastrophes, suffering, and pain as part of the divine plan for the Gospel to penetrate that foreign land. To continue to contribute to the (on-going) misery and suffering of the people one is called to reach is the very antithesis of the Gospel of peace and reconciliation. Such attitudes clearly indicates a grave misunderstanding of the task of the Christian missionary and the essence of biblical Christianity—as if one were to support a politics of human destruction and an ethics of death: social, existential, and physical.

In the same line of thought, the Christian missionary should never sustain international policies and diplomatic-immigration laws that will lead to the obliteration of (foreign) individuals, and the separation and dehumanization of the families of the people they are called to love and reach overseas. Because you are called to be a peacemaker and light of the world, God has also urged you to be on the side of the poor, the vulnerable, the economically-oppressed, and correspondingly, to defend their rights to exist and be free. The Gospel is about the activation of God’s justice and goodness in the world, and the application of divine justice in the social order; thus, the missionary-messenger should be a fierce bearer of human justice and a zealous promoter of God’s intended goal to harmonize everything and make all things right.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2018

About the Author: Celucien L. Joseph, Ph.D. (Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, University of Pretoria; Literary Studies, University of Texas at Dallas) is Professor of English at Indian River State College and Lead Pastor at Jesus Center Community Church. Google+ Twitter: @doctorlou1978. Blog: DrCelucienJoseph.com

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