Christianity Today and Cultural Captivity

By Soong-Chan Rah 11-02-2009

Last month's Christianity Today featured an article on the state of evangelicalism by CT's managing editor, Mark Galli. In the middle of the article was the following:

Dealing with Cultural Captivity

Another wonderful development is our increased awareness of the variety of races and ethnicities that make up our world. We're still figuring out what a multiethnic evangelicalism looks like, but no one is arguing that we shouldn't figure it out! For this we can thank not only America's changing demographics but also the prophetic voices and examples of men like John Perkins and Rudy Carrasco.

Yet here too we see a constant horizontal temptation. A leading Asian evangelical has just released a book that seeks to "free the evangelical church from Western cultural captivity." He begins with what everyone recognizes as entrenched problems: our individualism, consumerism, materialism, racism, and cultural imperialism.

But while acknowledging how firmly enslaved we are, the author repeatedly says things like, "Lessons from the black church or lessons arising out of the theology of suffering can lead to freedom from the Western, white captivity of the church." And in an interview to publicize the book, he says, "In fact, the more diverse we become, Christianity will flourish."

As if the flourishing of church depends on our ability to make it diverse. As if liberation from the thick chains of cultural captivity is had by learning lessons from others. As if blacks, Asians, and Native Americans are not themselves captive to entrenched cultural ideologies. Missing here and in many such worthy efforts is an emphasis on God's power, not human example, to free us from the principalities and powers, and on the good news that it is not we who must build the shalom community but the ones who receive it as gift and promise.

As you may have guessed, the "Asian evangelical" referenced in the article was me. And in my opinion, the author took my quotes out of context. At the same time, not citing my name or the name of the book, the reader does not have the option of following up to check the source and refute the author's take on my book. On the online version, many readers responded to CT's approach to my book. Here are some excerpts:

I have read and reviewed Soong-Chan Rah's book "The Next Evangelicalism" (not listed in the book resources above), and feel Galli's comments demonstrate Rah's premise perfectly: that the western white church (read: we) has long dismissed the value of the perspectives of the global church by asserting that 'we' have the corner on truth.

I am surprised that the article references Soong-Chan Rah's book, The Next Evangelicalism, without naming Soong-Chan Rah nor listing the book among the other "books mentioned in this essay." . . . we can learn from others. This truly is the message of Soong-Chan Rah's book

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