When George W. Bush spoke of the war on terrorism as a “crusade,” he was roundly criticized for the perceived suggestion that it was a war of Christianity against Islam. His aides apologized, saying that the president had only used the term in its sense of a campaign, but in the Middle East, the remark was thought to confirm a popular assessment of Americans and Europeans as “crusaders.” This is a hard lesson for the West, which long ago relegated religious beliefs to personal preferences and celebrates religious diversity — at least a Western understanding of diversity.
We often confuse diversity with the Western idea of multiculturalism, which I would argue, is intrinsically racist, since is posits a single (Western) perspective for seeing all other cultures. Diversity seen through “our” eyes and “our” perspective is also a diversity that fits “our own” needs and interests. Or even worse, we see others as means for achieving our desired ends.
The same could be said of the “Western” Gospel. McKnight’s dialectic shows how theology (atonement theology in our discussion) actually does shape the mission of the local church:
The gospel we preach shapes the kind of churches we create.
The kind of church we have shapes the gospel we preach.
Given our history, we should ask ourselves, what’s in our Gospel?
About Corey Sharpe
Where do we get our beliefs?
Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology.
From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ.
Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles.
I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.