Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cultural Engagement:
Jerusalem Has To Do With Everything:

The delightfully brainy Mr. Bertrand has added a new and terrific post which I think you need to go read right now.

Who most needs to read it? Those who only read Christian books, who are wary of non-Christian--Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or Secular Humanist or Wiccan--literature. Those who wall themselves off in a coccoon of literary safety and dare not venture out for fear of contamination.

Yeah, if that's you, read the post. Read it anyway.

Paul set the example, not some apostate egghead. Well, okay, Paul was an egghead. I don't doubt that's a big reason why he was chosen--and dramatically so--to be Christ's theologian, the teacher of meaty doctrine. Paul on Mars Hill didn't simply rely on some tidy Old Testament quotes to do the trick. He spoke the language of the Greeks in order to speak the message of the true God, and as the apostolic "Christian thinker", he showed us how it can be done--taking a religious and literary heritage and finding the truth that shows the greater truth. But to do that, he had to know the poetry of the Greeks:

A Christian thinker should have no problem reading the work of non-Christian authors, finding the truth there, and putting it in the context of a larger truth. "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" It's a first century question that's still rattling around. To answer, you have to flip the question over. What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? From a Christian perspective, Jerusalem has everything to do with everywhere -- there is nowhere in the world with which Jerusalem has nothing to do. What Paul understood, and what we too often forget, is that the God of Jerusalem is the God of Athens, too. The idols of gold and silver signify nothing. The truth is suppressed everywhere but the truth has a weedy tenacity. It breaks through Achaean marble as easily as it does Judean sand.

Next time you or I wish to open dialogue and witness to one of our foreign neighbors and acquaintances, will we be able to quote Rabindranath Tagore to a Hindi and seque from religious to religious? Will we have the right snippet of poetry by Rumi to engage a Sufi? The American Indian chant to connect with a Navajo? How about a Zulu folk tale? A story from the Talmud? A haiku of Basho's? A saying from Confucius? A Russian fairy tale? A quote from Sartre or Camus? Some lyrics from a Woodstock performer?

And how about art, music, dance, film, theater?

God doesn't require we know all this, for God can use anyone at any time. But... down how many roads can you guide questing travelers toward Jerusalem?


Anonymous said...

Very well said. At the end though, I just wanted to add "...and visa versa."


Carmen Andres said...

words after my own heart. acts 17 has haunted and shaped me for years. blessings.

Vicki said...

Good post, Mir! I don't happen to think we *all* need to immerse ourselves into the culture or pagan works to share Christ, for the Holy Spirit has done more to help me in this regard than any book. But you raise a good point. Seems He leads/prepares us in particular areas as He plans to use us with people. My personal leading has been towards adherents of New Age, mysticism, and false doctrines within the church. There's plenty of folks who don't know the basic tenets of their own faith, much less anyone else's:-)

I do think foreign neighbors/friends are impressed when we have some kind of background knowledge, and this certainly opens a door for witness.