Two More Posts Elsewhere

Yet another post for the National Post, this one reflecting on the recent Maclean’s article suggesting Canadians are racists. (I have to gulp, though, at the headline the Post decided to put on it. “Religion Supports Violence” is hardly the main point. But that’s the sort of thing one must endure to write for such media, alas.)

And here’s one on the University of Chicago’s Sightings regarding the continuing responsibility of theologians in the global North-West to serve the world out of the accumulated resources of centuries.

0 Responses to “Two More Posts Elsewhere”

  1. Thomas

    I really don’t find this latest NP article to be helpful. You are basically claiming that every religion approaches violence in the same way and that is simply not true. The only way that people are going to become less suspicious of each other’s religions is if they are portrayed in less than their full light.
    The only religions I have studied in great detail are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. All three religions speak of violence but in different ways. The more I study the Jewish man Jesus the more I realise that violence was antithetical to everything he stood for. The more I study Christianity the more I realise that it is the reason we live in such a peaceful society today. The more I study Islam the more concerned I am. I have read the Qur’an, the Sunna, and many haddith. The more I read, the more I realise that Mohammad was a man of violence living among a people of violence. It should not surprise us that those who know the Qur’an and Muslim traditions the best are the most violent while those living in Canada with only a vestige of Islam are the most peaceful.
    The secularist agenda is de-education and the quicker that happens with regard to Islam the safer we will all be. We need to submit all religions to the same critique that Judeo-Christian values have been under for the last 300+ years. In our current society to criticise others is anathema but it is the only way we can continue to live in a peaceful liberal society.

  2. John Stackhouse

    No, I’m not claiming that. I claim what I claim, in a quite limited sociological sense, that a religion can function for large populations of humanity only as it makes some allowance for violence as a way to respond to certain perennial challenges.

    I also disagree with your characterization of Jesus and of the Christian religion as against violence of any sort. The God of the Bible sometimes resorts to violence to advance his purposes, and in both Testaments. I wrote Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World partly because I think a totally non-violent understanding of God or of Jesus is both untrue to the Biblical testimony and deficient as a resource to live in this troubled world as God wants us to live.

    Finally, you’re simply wrong about Muslims and particularly about your correlation of knowledge and violence. I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most expert Islamic scholars in the world and they simply are not among the most violent people in the world. Quite the contrary.

  3. Angie Van De Merwe

    I do not believe that religion should be a guise to hide behind to “make violence” on someone else. But, the real world is violent, and we must choose to act with or against the rationale that these “views” make upon us. Each position have their rationale and are useful for “good”. But, none of us will agree as to what is “best”, that is the “call conscience”. Relgious freedom in our country could be a form of “laundering” other reasons for “doing” or “being” a Christian and have a tax exemption, as well as an access to the childfren of unsuspecting parents!

  4. Alex

    Dear Dr. Stackhouse,

    I enjoyed reading the second article in which you shared your comments on global Christianity and the role of NW theological institutions. When I first read it through, however, I couldn’t help but feel as though you were being a bit imperialistic. Yes, you do provide the possibility of NW theologians from benefiting from those in other communities. But, correct me if I am wrong, but your basic thrust was to champion what us (I include myself) in the NW can give to “nascent theological institutions,” theologically, monetarily, and perhaps in other means.

    My concern is mainly a matter of perspective. You have many cases in which Christian thinkers from the South and East do not wanted anything to do with the NW. R. S. Sugirtharajah of the U of Birmingham, from whom I audited a class (and disagree to a large extent with), is highly critical with most missionary hermeneutic as wielding the sword of colonial power. Then there is the “Back to Jerusalem” movement in China that largely believes the centre of Christianity (and God’s hand) has shifted to China – in order that it may go full circle and bring it back to the promised land. The implication being that God’s blessings have left the NW and, perhaps, comes out of the 19th century legacy of missionaries entering China onboard opium warships.

    Just yesterday, I sat before a panel of half a dozen Chinese scholars critiquing and evaluating my PhD proposal that deals with Christianity in China. In my third theological degree now, I was greatly humbled by what I could learn from these scholars. I was also pleased to hear that my proposal seemed welcomed by them all.

    So, whereas I agree with your sentiments in general, it may perhaps be beneficial to temper your statements a bit. Yes, there is a need theological projects in which the NW “aids” the SE, but likewise the opposite. Perhaps Christianity in the NW can see a resurrection — much like Christianity in China after the debacle of the Cultural Revolution. But, I believe, this requires humility and, even more so, a real sense of one’s own depravity for the gospel to flourish.

    Your former student,

  5. John Stackhouse

    Thanks for writing, Alex–it’s good to hear from you again!

    I don’t think I’ll back off very far from what I wrote. I do acknowledge the points you make in the original post. All I’m trying to do is point out that in at least this one instance, namely, theological scholarship, the relatively recent upsurge of Christians elsewhere is not sweeping everything down to the global South, as some writers have been arguing.

    Indeed, I might have pointed out that even though the United Kingdom has had much lower religious vitality than the United States for some time, there is something about the amassed resources of the great British universities that still makes it eminently worthwhile for Americans to study there.

    So I don’t argue with any of the points you make. I just don’t see them militating against the point I’m making, namely, that each Christian community has its part to play in God’s global economy and those of us in the North-West need to be cognizant and diligent about ours, which will include being good stewards of the theological resources with which God has blessed us–on behalf of the world.

    And the observation you made about Professor Sugitharajah underscores the foolishness (I don’t think that’s too strong a word) of people from outside the North-West turning up their noses at scholarship from those centers just because of colonialism. That would be like Indians refusing to use British roads or railways or bureaucratic systems or schools–which Indians instead wisely use.

    I’m glad to hear your proposal was welcomed by the Chinese scholars–although not surprised! Onward, my friend!


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