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Musings on Missions and Evangelism: Contextualizing the Gospel (part 2)

11/19/2012

“Culture is the outcome and product of social interaction.  Consequently, people are active creators, rather than passive receivers, of culture.”[1]

This idea is key to understanding how cultures function, and thus how contextualization occurs. Symbols (i.e., language, rituals, behaviors, etc.) within a particular context do not have fixed meanings nor do they merely “symbolize” some universal meaning. Cultural symbols and their meanings are constantly contested, nuanced, and diversified as particular communities within the culture employ them in various situations and contexts. For example, what does the word “bad” mean? Most people would answer “not good.” However, if you are a big Michael Jackson fan, you might answer “awesome.” The linguistic symbol “bad” changes its meaning depending on the particular context in which it is used. Therefore, it is not accurate to think of contextualization as finding equivalent symbols from two cultures that refer to the same universal meaning. Cultural symbols, forms, and practices are always being contested and recreated in light of new experiences and circumstances.

Furthermore, cultural symbols are latent with layers of meaning and associations that vary between particular communities and individuals. Imagine two people meet together to talk about “peace.” One of them spent years in the Middle East as a U. N. peacekeeper and the other spent the majority of his young adult life in the 70’s listening to Jimi Hendrix and driving around in a VW van. They both may be using the symbol “peace” in the their conversation, but there is no way, at least in the initial stages, they mean the exact same thing. Their particular experiences and contexts shape the meaning and significance of the word, and only after lots of interaction and shared experiences does the meaning for each of them converge.

The point is that the meanings of symbols within a culture are always being negotiated. Thus, contextualization is not an act of finding two equivalent symbols in the respective cultures that refer to the same meaning, or universal. The missionary does have to start somewhere, so it is important to find words and forms that resemble the same meaning. But, we are being naïve if we think that the symbol we employ means exactly the same thing we intend.

In order for this to be clearer, let me use an example from my context. In the past when missionaries arrived in Thailand, one of the first things they had to decide was what Thai word to use for “God.” This might seem odd, but Thai-Buddhist cosmology does not have a “god” in the same sense as that of a Christian or Jew. Thus, missionaries had some work to do. They tried a few variations over the years, but, eventually, prajaow became the most common term used. The issue for contextualization is that prajaow can be used in a variety of spheres in Thai culture. It is used in reference to Buddha, the king, and feudal lords to name a few. Therefore, when a missionary says in Thai, “God bless you,” it is unlikely a Thai person conceives of a divine figure like Yahweh, the Creator God. When Thai non-Christians hear the word prajaow, they are most likely drawing from various parts of their imaginations as they try to make sense of the way in which we are using it. The result is that the manner in which a Thai conceives and relates to God, even as they learn more about this God, is necessarily going to differ from that of the missionary. This is inevitable. This is contextualization.

The point of this example is to show that contextualization is not a one-time act of translation from one set of cultural symbols to another. It is, instead, an ongoing process undertaken by the community of faith as it struggles to differentiate itself from the larger community by its particular, gospel-shaped use of commonly shared symbols and practices. Contextual theology means that the church gives a nuanced meaning, in light of the gospel, to the cultural symbols used in the surrounding society.  This is not only true in theory, but it is the way theology and Christian practices have always developed.  Or as Kathryn Tanner explains, “Christian practices. . . create meaning through a process of consumption. . . A Christian way of life is, then, essentially parasitic; it has to establish relations with other ways of life, it has to take from them, in order to be one itself.”  In other words, “Christian practices are always the practices of others made odd.”[2]  Theological meaning, thus, develops when the gospel joins the contest of establishing the meaning of cultural symbols.

The task of the missionary, therefore, is to encourage, enable and empower local Christians to produce new and fresh meanings for common symbols and practices as their lives intersect with the narrative of God in scripture, the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the activity of the Holy Spirit in their midst. This implies that a primary responsibility of the missionary is to immerse one’s self into the cultural symbols and practices of those around him or her. And this means that the missionary must hold his or her own cultural assumptions and convictions about “right” forms and practices with a very loose grip. But, if carried out with humility and wisdom, the result will be, by the grace of God, communities of disciples who “own” the meanings of their symbols and practices because they have done the hard work of negotiating and contesting in light of their encounter with the living God.

In my next post I will address the ever-present concern about the “threat” of syncretism in contextualization.


[1] Stanley J. Grenz, and John R. Franke, Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 135.

[2] Kathryn Tanner, Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 112-3.

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Musings on Missions and Evangelism: Contextualizing the Gospel (part 1)

11/14/2012

One of the key areas of study in missions during the past few decades is the issue of contextualization. There are numerous books and articles which analyze and propose various models and methods for contextualizing the gospel, particularly in cross-cultural situations. While I am thankful for the efforts of many missionaries to engage in contextualization, particularly as a corrective to colonialism and ethnocentrism, I continue to read about and see that inadequate models and practices of contextualization are the norm. Although I am confident God does great things through these efforts, I hope that the conversation can continue in order to better understand and practice contextualization.

The root of the problem is a false perception of “culture” and the ways language, symbols and practices operate within a particular context. This is evident in the various models, such as “translation theory,” “bridge theory,” and “dynamic equivalence,” that continue to be the modus operandi in mission circles. The common factor between these methods is the notion that contextualization is the act of extracting “the gospel” or “truth” from one’s own cultural symbols and then utilizing symbols from the host culture that are “equivalent.” In other words, the job of the missionary is to find congruent symbols in the respective cultures that refer to the “supra-cultural” gospel. Thus, contextualization is fundamentally an attempt at good translation. (Though I am critiquing this view of contextualization, it is far better than missionaries depending on translators because they don’t feel the need to learn the local language, or other similar practices that reveal a lack of cultural sensitivity.)

These models are based on a particular understanding of “culture” comprised of the following characteristics. 1) Cultures are bounded, self-contained, and distinct systems. Thus, we can talk about “American” or “Thai” or “Mexican” cultures as if these are clearly defined and separate networks. 2) Cultures, and thus the symbols and practices within, are static realities. 3) Cultures are monolithic, thus a particular symbol has the same meaning for all people within that culture.

This modern view of culture has been sufficiently discounted by more recent developments in cultural anthropology. Cultures do not, in fact, function in these ways. Cultures are much more interconnected, fluid and diverse than these models allow for. (The implication of this is that even those who are doing “domestic” missions and ministry must be intentionally engaged in contextualization.)

Besides these inadequate understandings of culture, there are two other significant aspects to these models of contextualization that need to be revised. First, the assumption behind these models is that we have the ability to delineate what is a cultural form or symbol from its “universal” or “supra-cultural” referent. This presupposes a high level of objectivity with no regard for the subjective nature of knowledge. In other words, these models falsely presume that a missionary can access a “pure” or “supra-cultural” gospel independent of his or her own cultural vantage point. The reality is that the only way I can know of and speak about the gospel is intrinsically shaped by my own experience and interpreted through particular cultural symbols. (I realize there are apophatic ways to experience reality, but I can only do so much epistemology in one paragraph.) Therefore, contextualization methods that stem from the idea that a missionary can access and transport an objective view of the gospel are, in fact, misleading.

Second, the common understanding is that contextualization means appropriating cultural forms and symbols as long as they do not derive from the religious spheres of the local context. The fear is that utilizing “religious” symbols and practices will lead to syncretism. The problem is that it is impossible to completely or adequately delineate “religious” symbols from “cultural” symbols. This is a false distinction that developed during the modern period. The reality is that our lives and cultures are not bracketed into distinct spheres (i.e., religious, political, familial, etc.). We are holistic beings living in fluid and interwoven networks of cultural symbols, forms and practices.

In light of these criticisms, missionaries (and Christians in general) need to continue the pursuit of contextualized theology but find better ways to conceive of the process. And I think this pursuit holds great potential for the future of mission work, as well as for Christian theology and praxis in general.

While this post was primarily deconstructive, my next post will be a constructive proposal for how missionaries should perceive and engage in contextualizing the gospel.

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Musings on Missions and Evangelism: Setting Goals

11/07/2012

I am planning on writing a few posts about missions and evangelism on our blog. (No promises on frequency or follow through.) It will in no way be systematic or comprehensive. These are reflections in light of my own experience and my perceptions of trends in the larger Christian world. (Side note: I would rather read someone else’s thoughts on missions and evangelism, but these topics are rarely the subject matters of books these days. I hope that changes soon.)

I have to admit I have conflicting reactions when I hear about a church, or missions organization, setting a numerical goal for conversions/church growth. One part of me is excited and grateful that these churches want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and are intentional about leading others into the life of God. A desire to connect people to the God of love, mercy and justice is praiseworthy. So, I want to encourage churches to proclaim the good news of Jesus and invite others into the good life that is found in him.

However, there is also a big part of me that cringes when I hear this rhetoric, specifically the idea of setting a numerical goal. I want to suggest that this practice, while possibly derived from good intentions, is unhealthy for a variety of reasons.

First, the notion of setting goals implies that the objective is attainable and the person setting the goal has the ability or means to achieve it. Thus, this is the crux of the problem. The ability to convict someone’s heart and draw her/him into the life of Jesus Christ belongs solely to the Holy Spirit. This is at the heart of the Christian tradition. Therefore, we place ourselves in the wrong part of the equation when we set goals for ourselves that only the Spirit can accomplish.

Second, the practice of setting goals is indicative of the larger concern that churches often function more like businesses than communities. I am not saying that churches shouldn’t adopt some business practices that are helpful for fulfilling their purpose, but the scale is often tipped way too far on that side. A business necessarily has to have goals, methods for achieving those goals, and mechanisms in place to measure its success. On the other hand, success for the church is not decided by its degree of productivity but by its faithfulness to the way of Christ. Thus, the only “goal” the church has is to be like Christ and glorify God.

Third, a potential pitfall in setting goals is that people often make achievement of those goals the ultimate good. The church has set the goal, so we must make sure it happens. And the temptation at this point, often in subtle ways, is to use manipulative methods to ensure success. The end becomes more important than the means. But, for the church, the end (being like Christ and glorifying God) is the means.

Fourth, the situation can easily arise where visitors and new Christians begin to feel like stats in the church’s agenda. While this is not the intention when setting goals, the reality is that our language makes this a likely outcome.

Finally, setting goals for church growth fails to give proper weight to the fact that, as Bonhoeffer wrote, when Jesus calls us, he calls us to “come and die.” This is not a very marketable idea. This isn’t trendy. The reality is that, in certain contexts, the more we evangelize, the more the gospel will be rejected. We can have a desire to proclaim the gospel to more and more people and a hope that they will give their lives to Christ, but it is the Spirit who will enable them to take up their crosses and follow him.

In conclusion, I want to encourage churches and missions organizations towards passionate and intentional evangelism. I hope that we can be bold in how we proclaim and embody the gospel for the sake of friends and strangers. However, I think it is critical to put the emphasis in the right place. Our role is to proclaim the kingdom of God and invite people into the way of Jesus. May we be faithful in that call and pray that the Spirit will, as only she can, draw people into the life of the triune God.

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The Gospel and Political Conversations

10/19/2012

These days I typically refrain from engaging in political conversations. This is because, in the past, those discussions have felt like the other party and I were speaking different languages. The irony is that I do not think the differences are fundamentally political. (I am using the word “political” in its truest sense. I do not mean partisan politics. I am referring to the way societies function and organize themselves, along with how they engage the wider world.) The trouble is not due to partisan allegiances or varying opinions about the role of government. The root of the problem, specifically in conversations within the church, is theological.

The issue, at least in my experience, stems from differing conceptions of the gospel. I would argue, and this trend is changing slightly, that most people think of the gospel as primarily about how Jesus’ death secures our standing after we die. The core of the gospel is that those who believe in Jesus will be saved and go to heaven. In other words, the most fundamental aspect of the Christian faith deals with what happens after you die. This is first order stuff; everything else, including politics, is secondary. And if that is what one believes about the gospel, then it is logical and consistent to be consumed with getting people into heaven and to not be so concerned about the things of this world. But, this is exactly why I am puzzled. I hear and see lots of people who hold this view of the gospel while also being extremely passionate (dare I say, dogmatic) about their “Christian” stances on politics. They are free to do this, but I am confused because there is no clear connection between their beliefs about the gospel and their political views. (This disconnect has its roots in, among other things, the influence of Luther’s theology and Enlightenment philosophy, but that is for another day.) Politics are about the here and now and the gospel is apparently about the afterlife, so how could the gospel be the primary influencer of one’s political views?

Therefore, it stands to reason, that it is other priorities, aims, and desires that inform people’s political positions. I am not saying that as an indictment. I am trying to argue that it is necessary and inevitable when viewing the gospel in this way. How can the gospel shape one’s political imagination when the gospel seems to focus on heaven more than earth? People are obviously doing their best to align their positions with their faith, but, when push comes to shove, something else (i.e., patriotic fervor, ideology, self-interest, etc.) shapes their engagement. For example, “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” have little to say about one’s views on international relations. It is often said that this is because those ideas are “not practical” for nations. I agree. If one’s aim is the security and prosperity of a particular nation, then it is impractical. But, why should that be one’s aim?

On the other hand, a gospel that is about the kingdom of God coming on earth through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection enables and encourages a robust political imagination. The good news of Jesus is that he is Lord and, through the power of the Spirit, God’s people join him in renewing creation when they trust and follow his ways. This view of the gospel obviously connects to one’s engagement in the political structures of the world for its central claim is that Jesus is Lord—not Caesar, nor anyone else. Therefore, all of Jesus’ life and teachings become the primary catalyst for one’s political imagination. If someone believes that the enemy-loving ethic of Jesus is the way to renew creation, then her political positions will promote peacemaking and reconciliation. If someone believes that the reign of God is manifest when a person with two cloaks shares one with the person who has none, then his political stance will be to promote economic justice for all human beings, not just for his own people. So, “turning the other cheek” might be impractical when your aim is the security of a nation. But, when your aim is the kingdom of God coming on earth, it might be the most practical thing to do.

The question then becomes how our political efforts and positions can be avenues through which the kingdom of God comes more fully. At times it might mean aligning ourselves with a particular party’s stance on a policy or issue. It could mean we choose to distance ourselves from the present political structures. And other times it means standing in stark opposition and protest to the political forces surrounding us. This calls for lots of prayer and wisdom. But, regardless, it always means that the church seeks to live out kingdom politics for herself despite what else is happening around her.

I do not think that sharing this view of the gospel will produce consensus and agreement in future conversations. I actually would hope not. The disagreements could produce new and creative ways to engage the pertinent issue. However, I do think this theological shift will help us to at least speak the same language while also reconnecting the aim of the gospel with the aim of our political engagement.

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My Sister and My Son

10/13/2012

On October 10th, 41 years ago, my sister Jennifer was born. On October 10th, 41 years ago, she passed away. My family has never been the same.

To be honest, throughout my years, October 10th has come and gone without too much fuss. I’ve never known how I’m supposed to feel about the loss of a sibling I never had the privilege to play board games against, or exchange Christmas presents with, or get tickled by, or fall asleep next to on road trips. There are times when I have tried to imagine what life would have been like with her around, but it’s hard to get my head around. I do have a feeling we would have been kindred spirits. And it does sadden me to think of what could have been. But, the significance of October 10th mostly seems surreal, and my feelings and emotions remain vague and disheveled.

However, despite my own confusion, I have always been keenly aware how, as a family, the fog of loss and pain thickens around the 10th of October. Even when the date passed without being spoken of, we all knew how the tragedy of losing our family’s firstborn forever shaped who we are. While I personally have a sense of temporal and emotional distance from the event which that date marks, I have experienced the pain of watching my mother and father suffer with the deep loss of which only parents can know. And thus, October 10th has always been a day for mourning, for grief, for lament, for “why?”–that is, until a year ago today.

Dax Arthur Reese was born on October 10th, and we celebrated his 1-year old birthday today. It was a day of great joy and thanksgiving. I have smiled all day thinking about the fun we have had during this past year. And I have also been thinking how the feelings associated with this date have forever changed. In a sense, October 10th has been redeemed in my family’s history. I don’t mean that the loss of my sister has somehow been negated. The pain is still around. The void is still felt. But, tragedy does not have a definitive claim on this day. The celebration of Dax’s life reminds me that death does not have the final word. We will never forget what was lost on this date, but we also now praise God for what was found. We thank God that October 10th has been redeemed for our family. We can thank God because we believe that, on THAT day, Jennifer and Dax will celebrate together. And what a party it will be.

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Following a Lamb in a World Addicted to Power

09/17/2012

I can’t think of two other verses that are more jolting than these two in chapter 5 of Revelation.

5) Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6)Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne…(Revelation 5:5, 6 NIV)

I think, in general, we buy into the claim made in verse 5. We believe that Jesus has triumphed and thus orient our lives around that good news. We do not shy away from proclaiming that Jesus, the Lion, has conquered the world and then seek to live accordingly.

I like these sentiments. I agree wholeheartedly. However, I am concerned that too often we stop reading after verse 5, thus not letting the ridiculousness of verse 6 capture our hearts and minds. Let me explain.

The uniqueness of the Christian faith is not that our God has conquered the world. There are lots of people, throughout history, who have believed that their particular god or ruler sits on the throne. The uniqueness, the radical claim, of the Christian faith is that the world has been saved, conquered and renewed by a slain Lamb. This is what is so startling about John’s vision. He, along with so many others, was waiting for the Lion of Judah to rise up and take the throne. And for a brief moment it appeared that a lion was the one who had indeed conquered. But, when John looked to see the conqueror sitting on the throne, he did not see a powerful lion. John saw a little Lamb, looking as if it had been slaughtered. An innocent Lamb ruled the cosmos. There was no lion around. This must have sent John reeling. It surely shocked his readers. And I hope it jolts us a bit as well.

I hope it jolts us because we need verse 6 to remind us that, while the Lion of Judah is our king, the lion is actually a slain Lamb. We need to be reminded because we are much more attracted to the power of a lion than the love of a Lamb. And when we forget verse 6, we begin to look a lot like every other group out there trying to conquer the world. When we forget verse 6, we start to think that we are to utilize any power we can get a hold of, whether political, social, financial, or physical to reach our ends. When we forget verse 6, the cross becomes something that we paint on our shields, not something that we take up and carry. May we not shy away from claiming that Jesus, the Lamb, has conquered the world and then seek to live accordingly.

I wonder what would happen to our churches if we let our imaginations run wild with verse 6. For our churches are most beautiful when they act less like lions and more like lambs.

This is what John is calling the seven churches to do. He recognizes how easy it is to be seduced by the political, economic, military and social power of the Roman Empire. This kind of power seemed to be winning the day. And, at times, it seems that it is still winning today. But, in reality, when you have eyes to see, it is a slain Lamb who has won. And the church is called to be a faithful witness to Jesus Christ, the slain Lamb, in the midst of a world addicted to power. Or, as Michael Gorman puts it:

“Christian resistance to empire and idolatry conforms to the pattern of Jesus Christ and of his apostles, saints, prophets (like John), and martyrs: faithful, true courageous, just, and nonviolent. It is not passive but active, consisting of the formation of communities and individuals who pledge allegiance to God alone, who live in nonviolent love toward friends and enemies alike, who leave vengeance to God, and who, by God’s Spirit, create mini-cultures of life as alternatives to empire’s culture of death. This is a Lamb-shaped or cross-shaped (cruciform) understanding of discipleship and mission.”

I like that description of the church: mini-cultures of life. That is what, by the grace of God, we are trying to nurture in Phayao. The challenge before us, though, is daunting. For it is difficult to show someone there is a Creator God when none existed for them beforehand. And it is even more difficult to help others see that that God sent His Son to earth to save and renew creation. But, it is almost unbelievable to think that we can get people to surrender their lives to a God who was crucified, to a king who looks like a slain Lamb. But, we trust that there will be some, by the power of the Spirit, who catch a glimpse of the beauty that comes from following a God who lays down His life for the ones He loves. And when a few begin to follow the way of this slain Lamb, we will be witnesses to the kingdom of God bursting forth in Phayao. May it be so where you are as well.

The slain Lamb sits on the throne; may we live accordingly.

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Evangelism as Anti-Propaganda

09/14/2012

“The function of propaganda is to make evil look good, the demonic divine, violence like peacemaking, tyranny and oppression like liberation. It makes blind, unquestioning allegiance appear to be freely chosen, religiously appropriate devotion. The grand lie does not appear to start as deception, but only as rhetorical exaggeration. The exaggeration deepens, lengthens, and broadens in an almost organic act of self-distortion. Eventually the rhetoric becomes a blatant falsehood, but now people have not only come to believe the lie, they also live the lie; over time they have been narrated into it. At that point, the exaggeration-turned falsehood becomes uncontested and uncontestable truth, and its effects highly dangerous. Evil in the name of good and of God is now nearly inevitable, as the lie functions as an apocalypse, a religious revelation that only a true Apocalypse can unveil.”

-Michael Gorman in Reading Revelation Responsibly.

 

The powers and principalities of this world are very clever. They are able to propagate seemingly innocuous ideas and use them for their own benefit and to the detriment of those who swallow the bait. This happens in multiple arenas (i.e., corporations, nation-states, etc.) and in a variety of ways (i.e., marketing, patriotic creeds, etc.). Obvious examples would be the propaganda of the Roman Empire (which is the context of the quote above), Nazi Germany or present-day North Korea. We look at those situations and tell ourselves that we would never allow ourselves to be deceived like that. This is probably true. However, it is the less obvious types of propaganda that often penetrate our minds and seduce us into thinking and behaving in unhealthy ways. How else would we end up thinking that we are bonded to one person more than another based purely on the color of our passports? Or, how else could we get to the point of spending millions trying to emulate Justin Bieber and Jennifer Lopez when imitating heroes like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. is rather inexpensive? (I actually googled “top celebrities” in order to find out who is cool these days—such a missionary move.) Or, how else did we get to a point where a 3-bedroom house can be referred to as a “starter home” and the most materialistic day of the year immediately follows the day we are to be thankful for what we have already received?

The powers and principalities are clever, indeed.

But, this is where evangelism comes in. I believe that evangelism is critical to the life of the church. The sad thing is that the “e-word” is used less and less in our churches today when it is needed more than ever. This is due, in large part, to a deficient understanding of evangelism. The term has often been reduced to the idea of telling a person that belief in Jesus will save them. Or, put another way, it has referred to tactics that will get someone to convert to Christianity. I think evangelism is much richer and more robust than that.

Evangelism, simply put, is proclaiming the good news that Jesus is Lord and inviting people to live as such. While simple, the implications of this good news are far-reaching. Because, when Jesus is Lord, people will no longer treat people differently because of their nationality (or race, or gender, or socio-economic level). When Jesus is Lord, people will no longer seek power and fame but will choose the way of humility and service for the sake of others. When Jesus is Lord, people will live more simply and give more generously. Ultimately, when Jesus is Lord, people will love others to the point of laying down their lives for them.

And this is, in fact, what we see Jesus doing in his own life. For example, a large percentage of the people around him were seeking violent revolution against Roman occupation. The propaganda from the zealots was strong (though they were a minority group), and some people were drawn into their narrative. On the other hand, some, particularly local tax collectors, were tapping into the propaganda and power of Rome and abusing their own neighbors. Jesus arrived and undercut the narratives of both parties. He brought a Zealot and a tax collector together in his community of disciples. So, while propaganda creates dividing walls of hostility between people, Jesus breaks it down in order to bring peace. (Eph. 2)

This means the church is called to speak and embody a message, a narrative, which stands in stark opposition to the propaganda bombarding us from every side. Thus, an essential component of evangelism is seeing and exposing propaganda and the destructive behaviors it produces. We are called to be like John, the author of Revelation, by helping others see (be apocalyptic) that the “beast of the sea” (the propaganda machine) is pointing them to the way of destruction. We then can call them to follow the slain lamb. This is hard work, though, because the propaganda has become normative to us.

So, how are we to discern what is not healthy? The first step might be to see the fruit of the dominant ideas and myths that we often take for granted. If we are not becoming a more loving and peaceful person, then we might want to reexamine the formative narratives in our lives. For propaganda leads the world towards selfishness, discontentment, division and violence. Evangelism leads people to rest in the peace and love of God. So, though exposing the lies of the propaganda might be difficult and unpopular, it is one of the most loving things we can do. And when we evangelize like this, the church will become a place where loving others is not determined by your citizenship, where the poor and marginalized are treated as heroes, and where people more highly anticipate giving away their possessions than getting more of their own. I know I need to be evangelized like this. I need to hear good news like this.

*Our team has been studying Revelation together, so a lot of my reflection lately has dealt with related themes. This post grew out of my struggle to connect the gospel, particularly as it is presented in Revelation, to my current context. While my examples come more from the American context, in order for it to connect to the three of you reading this, I am actually more focused on my immediate context.