Case Studies (LOP 65 F)

Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of a paper delivered at the Consultation of the Lausanne Theology Working Group in partnership with the WEA Theological Commission, ‘The Whole World’, held in Beirut, Lebanon 2010. © Lausanne Theology Working Group. Download the full PDF


Other Papers in this Series

The Whole World – Statement of the Lausanne Theology Working Group (Beirut 2010) (LOP 65 A)
The World in the Bible (LOP 65 B)
Towards a Missiology of Caring for Creation (LOP 65 C)
The Global Public Square (LOP 65 D)
Can Christians Belong to More than One Religious Tradition? (LOP 65 E)


CONTENT

Peacemaking amidst urban violence in Brazil – C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell (Brazil)
The gospel amidst ethnic violence in Burundi – Emmanuel Ndikumana (Burundi)
The world threat of nuclear weapons, and the church’s role – Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (USA)
eVangelism: The gospel and the world of the internet- Rob Haskell (USA)
The separation of beliefs and religion in Europe – Birger Nygaard (Denmark)


Peacemaking amidst urban violence in Brazil – C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell (Brazil)

It all started with a flirt between two teenagers on a dusty street of Londrina, Brazil. It ended with one person dead, another death-listed and an entire family on the run.

Londrina is the third largest city of the southern part of Brazil and ranks first in its state (Paraná) for quality of life. It is so well organized that if you arrive at our airport and take a taxi to a hotel across town, you will not even see a slum. The poor shanty towns are well hidden and kept at the outskirts of town so that you must ‘want’ to see them in order to get there.

Violence in Brazil at the dawn of this new century is different from what it was 35 years ago. Drug trade and drug-related violence have taken over the cities, even the most developed ones. It is a violence that affects all social and economic levels of society, adding death and fear to the already impoverished and destitute within Latin America and around the globe.

In order for the church to be the church in the 21st century, it must learn ways to be good news amidst such violence. At the local level, what do peacemaking and conflict-resolution between drug lords look like? What alternatives do individual Christians and Christian communities have in urban or mountainous regions such as those governed by the drug traffic? How do we read the biblical texts within these contexts?

Three very different voices come to play in this reflection on the Christian witness to the world of violence: the Warner Brothers film, ‘The Matrix’; John Alexander, founder of Church of the Sojourner, San Francisco, USA; and Willie James Jennings, African-American theologian.

‘The Matrix’ can be a very useful tool to use when working with youth involved with gangs and drug cartels. The themes of ‘what is really real’ and ‘being on the winning team’ open the door for discussions about belonging, about family and people-hood, and about Jesus.

In our context, the world of violence is so apparent, so real in every aspect of life that it poses as ultimate reality. Such a world suggests that there are primarily two ways to deal with the violence. Borrowing from Jennings, we can either try to escape this world of violence or we can try to eradicate it.

In Latin America we have tried both, sometimes offering ‘spiritual’ benefits as a way of escape, or literally running from the violence, such as the family mentioned at the very beginning of this study. According to Amnesty International, Colombia has the highest number of displaced people in the western hemisphere (nearly five million) and is quickly rising to the top of the global ranks as well. These are people who have had to flee their homes due to the drug wars and violence against basic human rights. Most are extremely poor campesinos, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous groups.

There have also been many attempts at eradication, ranging from macro-level US bombing of entire mountain slopes, to local level police raids, to the shooting of a teenager. Such attempts might try to eradicate drugs, but rarely do they not involve other forms of violence. Some churches also work at eradication, either preaching a ‘just say no’ policy and sponsoring retreats and workshops on the evils of drugs. Most Christians are illequipped and do not know what to do when faced with this world of violence. In the New Testament texts, the gospel imperatives of peacemaking and reconciliation have one very essential requirement: being joined to Jesus. It is only because we have been called by Jesus and reconciled to the Father, through Jesus, that we are enabled to seek out a third way, an alternative to the world’s options of escape and eradication. Jennings calls Jesus’ way that of encounter.

Jesus breaks into the false realities that the world of violence has set up. He does not simply draw us a picture or point us toward what he wants, toward a new heaven and a new earth. Rather, Jesus enacts this in his life, making it possible for us to be joined to this living in what is really real, to living in the kingdom of God.

In Luke chapter 5 Jesus calls Simon Peter, James, John and Levi, the taxcollector. At the end of each narrative it says, ‘They left everything and followed him’. The twelve apostles are named in chapter 6 and we read about their mission in chapter 9. The twelve and their master do not conform to any one mould within society at that time. They will not be zealots or Pharisees, leaders or peasants. Jesus refuses to have himself or his followers’ identities determined by the world around them. Leaving everything and following, that is, being joined to Jesus meant having Jesus reset the agenda, the tactics and the strategies for encounter with the world. Peacemaking and reconciliation also demand that Jesus set the agenda and the strategies, with the understanding that he has also given his disciples the power and the authority to live this encounter (Lk. 9:1-2, 24:49).

In the world of violence how we understand ourselves and our community is usually determined along national, political or economic lines. In the drug trade one’s belonging is determined by whether a person is aligned with one cartel or another. In Londrina, rival gangs vie for control of different regions of the city and young teenagers are offered a sense of belonging, security, and hope if they agree to join one group or another. They have few alternatives.

There is an amazing change that takes place in the apostles’ lives in the first four chapters of the book of Acts. The stories narrate, if you will, a conversion of the disciples to this way of encountering the world of violence. Even after they had been called, seen and witnessed all that Jesus had done, they ask, upon seeing the resurrected Christ, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6). Jesus’ reply seems calm and collected on the printed page, but actually, he probably took Peter by the shoulders and shook him strongly saying something like ‘Man, don’t you get it? Our rules are different! You’re part of a new gang now!’

Yet, by the time we get to Acts chapter 4 the disciples have understood— they ‘got it’. It is clear from their sermons, from their words before the Council and their life in community that being called and joined to Jesus inaugurates a new type of self-understanding, both for the person and the gathered community. If once they were zealots, tax collectors, Pharisees or peasants, now in Jesus, they encounter that world with the words of Jesus, ‘Peace be with you’.

Peacemaking as encounter is anything but passive. It demands presence in the world, discipline and boldness. In one of the most beautiful prayers in the New Testament (Acts 4:24ff.) the transformation of the apostles is made evident. In their prayer for boldness it is clear that they no longer belong to the categories of this world but are members of a new gang, who with boldness and the power of the Holy Spirit are enabled to encounter the world with the reconciliation of God.

At the local, street level, the gospel imperative of peacemaking in the world of drugs is most evident among those Christians who see their ministry and their community as being joined to a new gang. John Alexander used the language of ‘new gang’ early in the 1970s in San Francisco as he worked to rescue people from street violence and to bring them to Jesus’ kingdom. In order to reach out to youth who are threatened by the violence of the streets, various ministries today also use the language of gangs and belonging to bring these youth to a new gang. Often this is done through sports or art or music. The children in Londrina, especially those in the world of poverty and injustice, have very few alternatives. They have to be given a sense of belonging and worth, thus having their identities transformed by the good news of the gospel.

My friend, Marcio, does this by opening his home to those on the street. His garage is now a workshop for teaching different arts, sports, even soap-making. It is through these regular, daily activities that peacemaking takes place; it is in these ways that the world of violence is stripped of its façade and its falseness is overcome by the truth of the gospel.

Our church has a girls’ choir in that same part of town from which the family had to flee. The teenager who flirted with the brother of a drug lord was friends with the girls in our choir. Two years ago, within a matter of hours, three members of the church had to load up a small truck with the meagre belongings of an entire family (elderly grandmother, mother, aunt, uncle and five children, ages 2-17) and move them to another place for fear they would be murdered if they stayed. It was our hope and prayer that at this new place they would be brought into a new community and begin to learn a new sense of peace and of belonging. The girls’ choir is a new gang for about 40 children between ages 7 and 19. It is peacemaking in practice, giving them tools not only for music, but for a new life with one another and with God.

In Romans 5:1ff. Paul talks about the peace we have with God through Jesus Christ. Through this peace we stand in grace and are given the hope of sharing in God’s glory. This grace in which we stand is our new gang. It is the peace given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ and with which we are called to encounter the world of violence. It is a sense of belonging to a new people, a new gang, that is different and takes precedence above any other loyalty, whether of family or country, gang or cartel.

 


The gospel amidst ethnic violence in Burundi – Emmanuel Ndikumana (Burundi)

1 . Burundi: Beautiful but in pain

Burundi is known as the ‘Heart of Africa’, not only because of its location near the centre of Africa, but also because the country itself is shaped like a heart. It has been described as the Switzerland of Africa because of its beautiful lakes and Mountains. Together with Rwanda and Uganda, it is known in the history of Christian missions as the locus of the historic East African Revival of the 1930s and 1940s. Together with its ‘twin’, Rwanda, Burundi was considered one of the world’s most evangelized countries; the very model of successful evangelism with more than ninetythree percent of its population considering themselves to be Christians.

Despite the apparent successful evangelism, however, the country has been experiencing recurring bloody ethnic violence for decades, resulting in widespread poverty, the spread of HIV-AIDS, and other problems. This case study illustrates, through the writer’s personal story and experience in the context of ethnic violence and social injustices, the limits of a gospel that tries to address spiritual and individual needs without paying equal attention to political, social and economic structures.

2 Ethnic Violence

May and June 1972 are dark months in the collective memory of many Burundians. A revolt—some talk about a coup attempt—by Hutu insurgents was crushed in blood by Tutsis and followed by massive killings that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly among the Hutus. My own father, grandfather and all my adult uncles were victims of these pogroms. Deeply seated fear, hatred, mistrust and feelings of revenge characterized the relationship between Hutus and Tutsis and have been shaping Burundi political, social and economic structures ever since.

Even though everyone knew that things were wrong, people did not want to talk about it. Any reference to Hutu or Tutsi was considered divisive and subversive and, therefore, a serious and reprehensible offence. People were not allowed to mourn for their beloved ones. No one ever told me who killed my siblings or why. My mother and grandmother would not talk about it in anyone’s hearing. The imposed silence controlled by fear was very destructive. Fearing the truth might be known one day, perpetrators did everything in their power to cover it up. Although the survivors would have wished to know the truth about their killed relatives, they had to remain silent as long as the perpetrators controlled the state machine.

Consequently, hundreds of thousands of orphans grew up knowing their fathers had been killed but incapable of knowing who killed them, for what reason or even where they were buried. When experiencing ill treatment or in the village, they were told that they were ‘traitors’’ children. Unequal and unfair treatment at school (for those who were lucky enough to attend one) and unequal job opportunities for equal or even higher qualifications were daily unquestionable realities, a constant reminder that some were Hutus and others Tutsis.

3 A Thriving Church Despite Injustice

Faith is very important in the midst of such despair. It is to believers an anchor that stabilizes the lives shipwrecking in the storm of uncertainties. It gives hope for a better life; if not in this life, at least in a better world— heaven. One can even hope to meet his or her beloved there.[1] Hope can be what a painkiller is to an aching body or a revitalizer to a weakened one. When badly administered however, hope can act as a sleeping drug; rare are the oppressive regimes that can forbid its use.

The church was already thriving before the 1972 massacres. Contrary to what one might have expected, these massacres did not stop churches from growing. If anything, they boosted them. My own denomination grew so quickly that it became the largest among all the Protestant denominations. It spread all over the country, drawing its membership from both Hutus and Tutsis. Interestingly, its makeup and structures mirrored those of the larger society. For example, although its membership was pre- dominantly Hutu, its leadership remained predominantly Tutsi[2] as it was in both politics and administration. Besides, not only was the church leadership predominantly Tutsi but also nearly all the senior leaders came from the southern region of the country (Bururi) as indeed did most senior political and administrative leaders.

Some of us did not notice such unbalanced roles and power distribution and those who did never dared to question it. To do so would have been interpreted as being inhabited by a spirit of rebellion and division. Given the politically explosive context, anyone believed to be possessed by such a spirit would have been dangerous not only to the church but also to the political establishment. Not many church authorities would therefore hesitate to collaborate with political authorities to ‘exorcise’ such demonic power. In the rare case of denominations whose leadership was predominantly Hutus, it was their duty to prove their innocence to anyone who might suspect them of harbouring pockets of ‘rebellion’.

To safeguard the sensitive relationship with the political and administrative authorities, church leaders were expected to be ‘neutral’ both in the content of their teaching and in their leadership. Meddling with politics would not be tolerated. Giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Mt. 22:21) was the expected norm for everyone. Unconditional obedience to government officials by their church members would be one of the proofs that their teachings were not subversive.

Although it was not easy to minister in such a context, many seemed to have adapted well. One was safe as long as one focused on personal salvation and sanctification and the afterlife with no reference to the implications of the gospel here and now, apart from ‘interceding for’ and submitting to ‘all those in authority’ (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Rom. 13:1- 2). Those who felt something was still missing (such as Pentecostals), could add ‘power encounter’. This was another gray and politically neutral area. People delivered from the fear of demonic powers improved their family well-being. They stopped drinking alcohol as well as practising witchcraft. Their economy increased and they could send their children to school if there was one in the area.

These indirect benefits from the gospel were enough to convince authorities about the social contribution of churches although they increased the alert level by offering equal chances to people from both ethnic groups. To minimize these side effects, denominational leaders needed to be wise in the way they appointed supervisors in every area of church life: those who raised no suspicion (essentially Tutsis). It was in the interest of both churches and Hutu Christians that the latter stay away from power.

To hold everything together while avoiding the potential frustrations, Christians needed to focus on spiritual benefits of salvation and not on earthly material benefits. A promise of a place for everyone in heaven (Jn. 14:2-3), the certainty of another ‘citizenship’ in heaven from where we ‘eagerly await a Saviour’ (Philp. 3:20) and, most importantly, the imminence of his coming (Rev. 3:11) were sources of encouragement to be heavenly minded. When someone living in constant unexpressed fear of death compares the certainties of these promises with the uncertainties of this life, chances are high that he or she will do all it will take not to miss heaven.

4 The Limits of an Individualistic Gospel

As long as the social and political context remained unchallenged, the teaching based on individualistic salvation, personal sanctification and the life to come stood. However, this teaching quickly showed its limits as soon as that context was challenged by the wind of democracy to the disappointment, frustration and confusion of many among those of us who had put all our trust in it as the only gospel. Following the fall of the Berlin War in 1989 and the subsequent pressure from capitalistic Western countries on African nations to ‘democratize’ themselves, a new constitution that consecrated a multi-party democracy was adopted. The liberalization that ensued turned the world of both areas, that is, politics and church, upside down to such a point that many churches are yet to recover.

Once the possibilities of a better world, while waiting for the one to come, began to show up, ethnic communities began to take precedence over individuals. The old establishment (essentially Tutsi) tried to remake itself by preaching ‘change in continuity’ while the newly formed political opposition (essentially Hutu) advocated ‘a new Burundi’. Once restrictions on freedom of speech and association were lifted, people finally expressed their feelings freely. The promulgated freedom of association meant they were now able to organize themselves in the way they saw fit in either new churches or other political or civil associations. Christians began to split less on doctrinal and ways of Christian expression but more on political allegiances and convictions which in turn followed ethnic identities.

Accustomed to aligning its teaching and practices to the political and social establishment (as long as this was homogenous) the church establishment was trapped, victim of its own teaching and conduct. With Christians now going in different directions, the church not only had no message for them but it also lost its credibility and together with that, the possibility of being a prophetic voice. Some still tried in vain to advocate for political non- involvement based on 1 Peter 2:9; but they found themselves preaching in the wildness as they were accused of being mere advocates of the status quo.

In the end most church leaders conceded the impossibility and naiveté of the non-involvement policy. They realized that however they tried to shut politics out of church life, politics had inevitably involved itself in church life through the members of the churches who, logically, were also (official and unofficial) members of political parties.

In June 1993, we finally had presidential and parliamentary elections. A Hutu President was elected for the very first time in the history of the country. To many Hutus, this was a dream becoming a reality, but to many Tutsis it was simply a nightmare. To others still, this was something totally unacceptable. On October 21st, the newly elected president was assassinated in a military coup and the descent to hell began once again. Tens of thousands of Tutsi were killed by Hutus in revenge for the assassinated president. The then Tutsi-dominated army reacted by killing thousands of Hutus. A horrendous ethnic bloody war started and went on for nearly fifteen years.

The social and economic consequences were catastrophic. Hundreds of thousands of Hutus sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, joining those who had left in 1972. Others, mainly Tutsi, sought refuge in displaced camps under army protection. Orphans, widows, elderly and disabled people were in such numbers that the dislocated communities could not handle them. Basic social and economic infrastructures such as schools and health centres were destroyed. The fertile country used to produce enough food for its entire population, but now depended on humanitarian aid to feed the survivors as there were neither enough people nor security to grow food. The downfall was such that Burundi is now ranked the third poorest country on the planet.

5 Conclusion

This case clearly shows, one hopes, that a high number of converts should not be confused with successful evangelism. The blood of tribalism can still be running deeper than the waters of baptism even after there is a church in every corner. A gospel that limits its claims to individual salvation and personal sanctification with promises for the life to come while neglecting its implications in all the dimensions of this life is at best inefficient and at worst wrong and misleading. Those who, for whatsoever reason, do not allow the gospel of Christ to permeate and engage all the dimensions of life: spiritual, political, social and economic find themselves soon or later unable to live out the very gospel they preach.

The love of God and one’s neighbour in the context of violence, particularly ethnic violence, calls for an intentional confrontation with all forms of structural injustices. The gospel that has no power to confront them is not gospel, particularly for the victims of those injustices. The scandalous message of the cross sees wrongs in both the victims and their offenders before offering both of them the possibility to repent and to be reconciled with God and with one another. That is, the gospel which is relevant for countries such as Burundi deeply affected by violence is (and has to be) highly subversive politically, socially and ethnically. One can preach authentically biblical reconciliation in a context of ethnic violence of genocidal dimensions only if he or she is prepared to allow this message to go as far and as deep as the violence has gone: in all areas of life in all its dimensions. The Whole Gospel is for the Whole World.

 


The world threat of nuclear weapons, and the church’s role – Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (USA)

Though a generation has passed since the end of the Cold War, nine nations still possess a total of 23,000 nuclear weapons, 95% of which belong to the U.S. and Russia. The inherent instability of this situation in the geopolitics of the post-Cold War era, compounded by the rise of terrorism as a strategy of global war, radically elevates the likelihood of use of nuclear weapons in the decades to come, with profound consequences for the entire world. This case study explores the nature of the danger and the possible outcomes, with special attention to the explicit effect that nuclear disaster would have on global missions and world evangelism.

I Overview and Context

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive technology ever invented by humankind. Even a small nuclear fission weapon, such as the first 15 kiloton bomb dropped in 1945 by the United States onto Hiroshima, Japan, has the capacity to cause tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths. At the other end of the spectrum, there is no theoretical limit to the yield of a nuclear fusion weapon—it is bounded only by the ability of the planet to absorb the blast.

Since the dawn of the atomic age, Christians have sought to prevent the nearly unimaginable devastation that such weapons threaten. From a pacifist perspective, of course, the condemnation of nuclear weapons is not essentially different from that of any other weapon. But from a Just War perspective, the fact of nuclear weapons’ unavoidable indiscriminateness would seem to prohibit them categorically as instruments of war.

Nevertheless, despite a deep antipathy toward the use of nuclear weapons, the totalizing conflict of the Cold War led many Christians—especially in the West—to place their faith (however reluctantly) in the bargain of nuclear deterrence as the only realistic way to ensure global security. Others advocated disarmament, saying that nuclear weapons were simply too dangerous to exist. It is worth observing here that the two positions, though tactically antithetical to one another, are both aimed at a shared goal: preventing nuclear catastrophe.

The decades of theological and ethical debate around nuclear weapons can hardly be summarized or resolved in this space. For the purposes of discussion, however, the point of Christian consensus around the morality of nuclear weapons would seem to revolve around the imperative of their non-use—as opposed to, for example, an absolutist and hermetic commitment to any particular nuclear posture like abolition or a strong deterrent. In terms of policy prescription, then, those postures that contribute to the non-use of nuclear weapons can thus claim derivative moral authority.

In the present century nuclear weapons cannot be relied upon to do what they were asked to do in the last one—namely, prevent their use. In fact, there is a growing international consensus among security experts that the continued existence of nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century will virtually guarantee their use, whether by accident, terrorism, or state-based conflict.

The reason for this is that as long as some nations insist on the unique security benefits of nuclear weapons, other nations will seek to acquire them. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has constrained the spread of nuclear weapons since 1970, but the confidence of non-nuclear weapons states in this voluntary agreement is crumbling. Their treaty obligation to renounce nuclear programs was bought with the promise of nuclear powers to disarm multilaterally: in other words, global nonproliferation is held together by the telos of a nuclear weapons-free world. But the resulting two-tiered system of nuclear haves and have-nots increasingly appears to be a permanent discriminatory norm—a continuation of twentieth century geopolitics that disregards the rise of East Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and the broader concerns of the global South and Majority World. This is not an unreasonable concern: how many citizens of nuclear powers understand their arsenals as a temporary quirk of history— as our treaty obligations have it— rather than a permanent guarantee of military supremacy?

The simple and obvious unfairness of the situation is one thing. However, the practical crisis for our time is that there is no scenario in which the continued possession of nuclear weapons by some nations will not lead to their proliferation into the hands of many more nations, or non-state/terrorist actors, or both. This situation will in turn lead inexorably and inevitably toward their use.

As we consider this prognosis, the only historical precedent of nuclear attack—Hiroshima and Nagasaki— provides a poor basis for making future predictions. These bombs, however horrific, occurred within the context of a mid-twentieth century global conflagration. The same attacks in the midst of the relative peace of twenty-first century globalization—with the attendant advancements in technology and communication, and in which industrial war between major states is but a memory—defy imagination in terms of their extended consequences.

II Three Possible Futures

Based on our present context, the following is a representative—though far from exhaustive—set of possible future scenarios.

1 Nuclear Terrorism

Terrorist groups are presently attempting to acquire a nuclear weapon or the material to build one from poorly-secured nuclear stockpiles, especially in Russia, which are vulnerable to theft or the black market. Further proliferation of nuclear technologies would make such acquisition almost inevitable. Once a terrorist group has a nuclear weapon, there is no technologically reliable way to interdict the weapon or prevent its use. The effects of even a single bomb would be catastrophic almost beyond imagination. Consider a study of the effects of a single nuclear weapon smuggled by shipping container into the port of Long Beach in Southern California: 60,000 immediate deaths; 150,000 radiation victims, most of whom would die with injuries untreated; 320 square miles poisoned by fallout and rendered unlivable for a generation; 6 million evacuees from the surrounding area; one trillion US dollars in immediate damages.

The broader impact of such an attack would also probably include mass panic and exodus from urban centres in the United States and its allies, as well as the immediate cessation of all global commercial traffic in an effort to interdict any other weapons. The most significant consequence of this response would probably be the decimation of wealth-generating economies and the charitable sector alike. For this reason, a nuclear attack—even if the blast and fallout remain relatively localized—would leave no corner of the world untouched, and would probably have a disproportionate effect on the poorest of the poor.

2 Regional Nuclear War

The tension between India and Pakistan, exacerbated by the contested territory of Kashmir, brings the threat of rapid escalation of any conflict between these two nuclear powers, at any time. For example, an attack on Delhi from a terrorist group based in Pakistan, if significant enough, could provoke a retaliatory incursion from Indian forces onto Pakistani territory. Pakistan, utterly outmatched in terms of conventional forces, might well use a tactical nuclear weapon to prevent the invading Indian army from sweeping through the country. The resulting exchange could easily kill millions.

In addition to the immediate human costs, which would be unfathomable in countries with such densely populated urban areas, new weather modelling studies demonstrate that even a ‘limited’ exchange of fifty nuclear weapons would send massive amounts of soot into the stratosphere. This would initiate a rapid cooling that would shorten the growing season worldwide, resulting in global famine.

It is also worth stating simply here that in such a scenario, the extended effects are unimaginable: the global economic consequences of a devastated India; the reaction of the eastern neighbour, China; the effects on the poorer neighbours in Southeast Asia.

3 Global Zero

It is not possible to uninvent nuclear weapons, but because fissile (bombgrade) material can be made only through a massive industrial effort, it is possible to effect a verifiable ban on the development or possession of these weapons. Politically speaking, a narrowing window of opportunity presently exists to initiate the process of eliminating and abolishing all nuclear weapons worldwide—a state called ‘global zero’.

Three expert-level proposals currently exist for how to do this: one from four senior statesmen from the United States, with global endorsements; one from Global Zero, a worldwide initiative of security experts and civil society; and one from an international commission led by the governments of Australia and Japan.

Though there are certain differences between each proposal, the essential recommendations of each plan are the same. The immediate first steps would include cooperative, security-enhancing measures undertaken by the nuclear weapons states and nuclear-capable states, as well as a demonstrated leadership commitment from the United States and Russia, who possess the vast majority of the global nuclear stockpile. The subsequent process would require practical steps to enhance the security of all nations, a global ban on all nuclear testing, attention to inflammatory regional conflicts, the technological and diplomatic implementation of a verification regime

III Theological Framework

One does not need Christian faith to be morally horrified at the prospect of nuclear conflict. However, the Lausanne Movement’s concern for the ‘whole gospel’ bears significantly and particularly on any Christian considering the nuclear issue. Some key theological loci for further investigation include:

1 Global catholicity

The proliferation of nuclear weapons marks the first historical instance of human technology having a global capacity. In this sense they are the natural offspring of the second World War, and the parent of every complex global problem that looms on our horizon (e.g., climate change, economic globalization, mass human migration, pandemic disease, etc.). These crises are significant for Christians because they are at once familiar—being direct descendents of Cain’s fratricide—and unique, given that the rock that killed Abel is now clutched by billions of hands, and its shadow obscures the entire globe. Such crises also require new modes of thinking: each threatens the vital interests of each and all nations, but none can be addressed adequately with a twentieth-century, zero-sum vision of national welfare. Instead, they require the development of a broader understanding of cooperative security.

The pattern of this present age is characterized by the rise of transnational interests competing for political, economic, and social power. The implicit question to the church in this situation regards the meaning of our orthodox catholicity. What does it mean to be a global institution concerned with a not-yet kingdom in which humans flourish individually and corporately to the glory of God? As we seek to formulate a position and course of action regarding nuclear weapons, therefore, we might regard the issue not as an isolated evil, but rather as one manifestation of a multi-faceted phenomenon that represents the triumph of globalized human technique.

2 Fidelity in suffering

A nuclear incident would introduce massive suffering into the world, potentially disrupting the entire global order for any foreseeable future. And, despite our best efforts and fervent prayers, I believe that a prudential evaluation points to such an event being likelier to occur than not. The question of how the church might respond in this situation is far from answered, but it could be determinative for our global work and witness.

In the wake of catastrophe, the church must match our words with deeds by caring for the stricken, serving sacrificially to help restore order and build peace, and standing firmly against responses that violate Just War parameters. We must also be prepared for the fact that one of the most profound casualties of nuclear conflict will be foundational systems of order and meaning; in such an environment the church will be uniquely challenged to articulate the gospel, salvation history, or the sovereignty of God in a meaningful way. History is replete with sobering reminders—like the German National Church’s ready complicity with the Third Reich, with its devastating effect on the integrity of the faith in Germany—that nominal Christian faith is no reliable predictor of fidelity in the midst of crisis. This awareness should urge us toward preparation as best we can.

3 Just War and the foreseeable failure of nuclear deterrence

Assuming that the Just War tradition represents the most permissive framework for a Christian justification of force, a categorical prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons under Just War criteria (discrimination and macro-pro- portionality) arguably permits their possession only for the purpose of deterrence—a position similar to the ‘strictly-conditioned moral acceptance’ of deterrence arrived at by the US Catholic bishops in their 1983 pastoral letter, ‘The Challenge of Peace’. But this acceptance depends upon the viability of nuclear deterrence to prevent a greater evil of nuclear attack. If, as this case study suggests, the mechanism required to sustain deterrence (possession of nuclear weapons by some actors) will lead inevitably to the condition (proliferation) in which deterrence fails (possession of nuclear weapons by undeterrable non-state actors), what does this mean for the moral evaluation of this strategy? Should even the possession of nuclear weapons be denied Christian sanction? What should/would this mean in particular national and regional contexts?

4 The effects of nuclear weapons

As described above, even one nuclear bomb would result in massive human, environmental, and financial loss. This phenomenon begs for articulation in a framework concerned with the sanctity of life, stewardship of creation, and care for the poor. The elevated threat of nuclear terrorism also calls for a renunciation of nuclear apocalypticism—the biblically unjustifiable conviction that nuclear weapons are God’s ordained instruments for the eschaton—and a refocus on the theological ramifications of permitting/being complicit with the release of such sorrow and death into the world.

IV Role of the church

The nuclear issue has a profound ethical aspect, but because nuclear weapons are the exclusive province of nation-states, it is not one in which the church may take direct action—unlike, for example, development or relief. Nor can such weapons simply be moralized away. As we chart the faithful course, then, attention must be paid to the roles that the church should play in the nuclear arena. The following five areas might be pursued simultaneously as a framework for developing practical responses.

Prophetic: Witnessing to God’s sovereignty and salvific work in Jesus Christ through proclamation about nuclear weapons that is biblically faithful to the best of our discernment, regardless of its strategic political impact.

Judicial: Participating in public discussion and debate about nuclear weapons and analyzing policy proposals, as one stakeholder whose bottom line is the moral good and human flourishing to the glory of God, rather than any particular political, military, or economic interest.

Activist: Employing the unparalleled global infrastructure of churches to promote a position of Christian fidelity on the nuclear question, and disciple congregants as Christian citizens in this regard.

Pastoral: Caring pastorally for political and military leaders who exercise authority in nuclear matters, and helping them to exercise Christian faithfulness in their particular contexts.

Irenic: Facilitating ‘Track II’ diplomacy, whether: direct Christian engagement with state powers; opening space for discussions and relationship-building outside of national diplomatic restrictions; or peacebuilding in regional conflicts that are obstacles to nuclear security (e.g., Kashmir, the Middle East, etc.).

V Conclusion

Though the potential threat of nuclear weapons remains far from the lived realities of most Christians worldwide, even one nuclear incident would be a world-historical event, to which no-one could pretend indifference. It would have profound consequences for Christian work and witness worldwide.

Moreover, the best prudential analysis points to the fact that history is moving toward just such an event, though the details are of course unknowable. Regardless of the capacity in which Christians engage the nuclear issue, then, it is critical that engagement happen—lest we find ourselves unprepared and silent in the face of such disaster—so that in this segment of human affairs, like all others, we would seek faithfully to bring honour to the Lord.

 


eVangelism: The gospel and the world of the internet- Rob Haskell (USA)

Since we are exploring the meaning of ‘the world’ it seems appropriate to spend some time thinking about the gospel in the world of the Internet. I will discuss several aspects of interactivity related to this technology, such as social media and virtual reality, and argue that a Christian evaluation of them must be done from the standpoint of a biblical understanding of creation.

I What is Web 2.0?

When the Internet became popularly accessible in the 1990s it was essentially an information provider and the average Internet user was a reader of text. This was ‘Web 1.0’ and it can be categorized as static. But even in the 90s it was recognized that this was the first stage of something much more interactive.[3] This interactive Internet that we now experience is called ‘Web 2.0.’.

The first intimations of the interactivity that would soon dominate the web were seen in chat programs such as AOL, ICQ and later MSN Messenger. Next came blogs. These were important because they allowed anyone to have a presence on the web, they provided for interactivity through comments, and they were designed for immediate publication. Another development was collaborative content creation via the wiki platform, most spectacularly implemented by Wikipedia. com. Here content is created and edited by any number of people who have permission to log into a site and edit its text.

Social Networking is the newest and perhaps most important development of Web 2.0, beginning with Friendster.com around 2002, then MySpace, and the now ubiquitous Facebook, which, if it were a country, would be the 4th largest in the world.[4] There are many other social networking sites as well.[5] These usually include a user profile, a mechanism to meet ‘friends’ (fellow users) and ways of interacting with those other users, be it by chatting, live comments, or tools for sharing photos, videos, links, etc. Social networking is also growing on the mobile platform with such web applications as Twitter. These allow users to interact with each other, but they also interface with social networking websites.

There is no doubt that Web 2.0 is here and has transformed the way in which many use the Internet. There is still a great deal of ‘static’ information available, but making information available in a digital format is not the real revolution. The most significant innovation is related to interactivity, and especially social sites.

II Social Networks and Face to Face Reality

It has been common in recent years to express concern about the anonymity of Internet interaction and the possibility of reinventing one’s identity online. For example, in 2000 Veith and Stamper worried that,

An individuals’ presence on the Internet consists only of a screen name, which need not have any connection with one’s real name. The screen name—unlike an actual name—has no social context, presenting no family, with no community ties or obligations. In cyberspace one can function apart from any fixed identity, surfing in total anonymity, where no one knows who you really are.[6]

This can still be an issue today. But social media has introduced new dynamics that may in fact reduce the problem of ‘flexible identity’. Social networking sites are expressly built on existing face to face relationships. Their goal is to connect us to our current and past friends, relatives and acquaintances. Along the way, users are also introduced to friends of friends and may build ‘merely virtual’ relationships with them. But the nature of the medium dictates that even these virtual relationships will not be anonymous, for they come about in a web of relationships that is firmly anchored in the face to face world. As more and more people go online to find friends and acquaintances, anonymity in relationships may become less of an issue. The trend to social networking shows that Internet users are less interested in anonymity than was thought.

Some may want to insist that pornography is still a large issue related to anonymity, and this is correct. But even this area has felt the impact of social networking. As Internet search guru Bill Tancer explains, there has been a direct relationship between the rise of social media sites and the decrease of web searches for sex. His explanation, quoting a candid if crass college student, is, ‘who needs porn when Facebook gives you the opportunity to hook up in the flesh?’[7] While this is itself no doubt problematic, it does illustrate my contention that there is a significant trend away from the Internet as a place of decontextualized interaction towards the Internet as another dimension of our real world social life. Even if this young man does ‘hook up’ with someone through Facebook, he will know that person and their mutual friends.

III Virtual Reality

An important exception to this trend is online communities such as secondlife.com that create virtual worlds. These are graphically intensive sites where one can create an identity and use an ‘avatar’ (a graphically generated character) to move around in the world, interact with others and perform ‘virtually’ most of the common tasks that humans perform in the face to face world. The trend here is definitely to disconnect from the face to face world and immerse one’s self in another, or second, life. This raises the question of the status of the virtual world, and the place the church might play in it. In what follows I will use ‘virtual reality’ to refer to a range of more graphically complex systems of digital simulation, but it is worth noting that many Web 2.0 applications share enough features with virtual reality that my conclusions also apply to ‘the regular Internet’.

In his recent book, SimChurch, Douglas Estes affirms that virtual communities such as Secondlife.com are the way of the future: ‘For many people, the virtual world will be the world where they carry on more interactions and conduct more transactions than in the real world. It will be the place where they find love, soothe their feelings, make deals, and worship.’[8]

Estes argues that Christians must move into the virtual world, create virtual churches and establish a virtual Christian presence. The interesting point for our discussion is that Estes seems happy to allow the virtual world t o be its own universe without reference to the face to face environment.

While some might want to critique Estes’ agenda by arguing that the virtual realm is not real enough to support meaningful relationships, recent experiments by the EU-funded Precencia project have made a good case for the psychological reality of virtual input. It appears that at some level the human mind does not distinguish between ‘real’ and virtual, even when a subject is aware that the input is artificial. So, for example, people in a virtual room that is on fire may panic and bolt for the door, or a young man may feel fear when he experiences standing on the edge of a pit.[9] Various experiments showed that, ‘people’s responses are similar regardless of whether what they are experiencing is real or virtual. The plausibility of the events enhances the sense that what is happening is real.’[10] This is so, even when the quality of the virtual reproduction is not very high. Perhaps none of this should surprise those of us who are accustomed to having emotional reactions to vicarious experiences like reading and television watching, but certainly in virtual reality vicariousness has been taken to a new level.

This insight into the psychological reality of virtual input dovetails with the modern Kantian emphasis on reality as perception, and the possibilities manipulating experience via artificial input that was latent in that worldview. Modern science may have been driven by the attainment of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but in the postmodern world the goal and impetus of science seems to be moving towards improving human experience. If it turns out that experience is nothing more than perception, science will inevitably turn in that direction.[11] Indeed, a parallel trend is already underway in neurobiology, where the big money pharmaceuticals are shifting more and more to mood alteration drugs.[12] Why spend the energy required to change the world when we can simply change the brain?

But while many embrace virtual reality, there is also significant discomfort with these trends at some levels, as two recent Hollywood science fiction films illustrate. In Gamer (2009) a genius has created a technology that allows one individual to experience the sensory input of another and also control them. Thus, a physically unattractive man can enjoy sexual experiences through the body of a live hired woman, and a wealthy teenager can control a live death row inmate in a real death match. The film’s message is unambiguously negative, suggesting that un-incarnated experience tends to break down normal constraints and quickly become abusive, coercive and dehumanizing. In another film, Surrogates (2009), the world is populated by realistic androids that are controlled by their human users from the safety of their homes. In this way people can enjoy the real world at a distance without any personal danger or significant consequences to their actions. One of the subplots involves a man’s frustration with his estranged wife, who refuses to meet him in the flesh but only interacts with him through her surrogate.

IV God’s World and Human Worlds

Since virtuality raises questions regarding the nature of reality, the best place to begin a theological response is creation. Our biblical story tells us that the problem with the world is that God’s good creation (so called seven times in Genesis 1) was spoiled because of human sin, that is, the breaking of trust between humans and God and between each other. It also tells us that God’s goal (his mission, if you will) in salvation is the restoration of that good creational intention. The biblical vision climaxes with the new, redeemed world in which God and humans once again enjoy intimate fellowship. The Christian worldview, then, is intimately tied to the given world because the biblical goal is the reconciliation of human experience within God’s creational ideal.

This provides a stark if ironic contrast to rational scientism’s agenda of the endless improvement of human experience. Though it is in one sense completely this-worldly, rational scientism also proceeds from the Gnostic premise that the physical world is defective and inadequate and that physical constraints are a hindrance to human expression. If the human project of world-making beginning with Babel and ending with Babylon the great in Revelation, has been to build a reality in which sin may flourish, we would expect virtual worlds, then, to follow this same trend and create spaces where created giveness is set aside in favour of self-focused human fulfillment. It comes as no surprise, then, when we see that in Secondlife.com everyone is young and beautiful, there are no boring lives, and as we might expect, sex is very prominent. The created order itself embodies love, but worlds of human creation tend to embody human rebellion and selfishness. This virtual world creation is what N. T. Wright has called ‘feeding the Gnostic dream’.[13]

Of course, virtuality may also serve any number of good ends. But I am attempting here to establish a basis from which to evaluate the Christian involvement in this new world. The root question we must keep returning to is whether any kinds of virtualities, be they as light as chatting and emailing or as intense as wearing virtual reality headgear, will cooperate towards the restoration of God’s creational vision: the reconciliation of all things under Jesus Christ and the restoration of God’s loving purposes in his creation.

Failure to think biblically will lead to one of two common fallacies. First, the pragmatic option of saying ‘we can reach more people this way!’ and rushing in headlong to new methodologies without considering whether they might be consistent with our root principles. We have to remember that ‘reaching’ people within the context of humanly created worlds can come at a very high price. The second fallacy is the obscurantist option of rejecting anything that is new, and masking our personal discomfort in the face of change with pious traditionalism. Here we risk missing great opportunities to expand the kingdom and legitimate new ways to express our humanness.

V Church Website as Evangelistic Tool

In light of the creational basis for evaluating virtuality, the fact that in some respects the Internet is moving towards an integration of online life with face to face reality is welcome. It is the extreme immersion in Internet or virtual reality that will most tend to devalue creational reality.

Many commentators point also to the inadequacy of electronic communication as it stands today vis-à-vis face to face communication. Emotion and intention are communicated in myriad ways which a listener picks up both consciously and subconsciously.[14] Further, we as interlocutors cannot hide our reactions or feelings as easily in face to face interaction, leading to greater vulnerability, which is healthy. This all points to using the Internet as a dimension of our face to face interactions, not as a replacement of them. This principle may be fruitfully applied to the use of a church website for outreach.

Most church sites appear to be designed for the church member or the Christian looking for a congregation, but in societies that use the Internet a church web site is arguably the congregation’s most public presence. It is also a non-threatening venue in which to explore church. Thus a church website should be geared primarily to the outsider. It should be a digital dimension of the face to face reality of the church community, and should inform and invite the non-believer to join that face to face community.

Ceri Longville agrees that Internet relationships need grounding in the face to face world, but sees the ‘virtual community as a fantastic opportunity and tool to encourage initial contact’.[15] She also notes the importance of the quest for community in the postmodern environment, which also tends to assign value to face to face interaction. What follows are some of her important recommendations for creating effective outreach church websites which also use the Internet in a manner that is also consistent with the principles established above:[16]

  • They must follow best practices for design: be succinct, avoid clutter, have clear navigation, etc.
  • Church websites should be an authentic reflection of the church, not an ideal. To be dishonest here would mean to fall into the temptation of using virtuality to create our own world.
  • Church sites should inform and thus reassure the outsider about the church experience. This can be done by showing pictures of people in the worship service, explaining the events as to outsiders and including a prominent list of Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQs.
  • People are key. More than a lengthy textual explanation of the gospel content (which would be a web 1.0 approach), personal testimonies and pictures of real people will effectively communicate the sense of church community and the difference our faith can make to the website user. This is an example of the positive power of the Internet to communicate on a level previously inaccessible.
  • It will be important to have prominent contact information and prompt responses to enquiries. However, other forms of interaction may also be considered—for example, a pastoral blog.
  • Creative gospel presentations. In the web 2.0 environment there are many graphically intensive presentations of the gospel that can be incorporated into a church site free of charge. We should also consider the pastor’s sermon under this category. It is especially important for the pastor to consider that if his sermons are online, he is speaking not only to his congregation on Sunday morning.

Many churches now also participate in social networking sites such as Facebook and the current level of Internet technology provides many different tools for this.

VI Conclusion

Although the Internet and virtual reality can feed the ‘Gnostic dream’ of individual self-satisfaction, there are also many opportunities to expand healthy relationships and do evangelism in this new virtual world. The church would do well to take hold of this opportunity without forgetting that Internet and Virtual Reality are also part of the human urge to create alternative worlds which facilitate sin.

 


The separation of beliefs and religion in Europe – Birger Nygaard (Denmark)

“My beliefs have nothing to do with what is happening in Church”

One of the amazing features of our time is the way in which religions themselves are undergoing transformation in our fast changing globalized cultures. We used to think that religion was a pretty static feature in society and that the beliefs of any specific religion were only marginally adjusted. Today we see massive changes taking place, both in the area of radicalization through religious fundamentalism and through secularization of religion in affluent (Western) societies, where religion seems to change contents, character and role in the minds of believers and societies. We are still in the middle of this transition, the outcome of which is not yet clear.

Christian mission has not been good at reaching people of high religious heritage (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, etc.), whereas we have been very successful in reaching people of animistic/folk religious heritage. We still need to focus much more on reaching the high religions. Similarly, however, we need to pay keen attention to the change in the very perception of religion—including our own faith, Christianity—due to globalization/pluralism/secularization. These globalizing forces are likely to affect people from disparate religious backgrounds because they are characterized by the same subjective turn and individualization, which is such a strong feature of secular, often affluent societies.

The following case study focuses on how this change is influencing religious life in Denmark, a society that is in an advanced secularized state. It is based on a recent PhD study.[17] In this study the researcher did a number of focus group interviews with ‘ordinary’ Danes, undertaken in work-place situations, not in religious settings. The point of departure for the study was the general statistics from the European Value Studies: 70 percent of Danes claim to be ‘believers’, and 50 percent take moments of prayer and meditation. Church going in Denmark is low (less than two percent on a normal Sunday) and 67 percent will attend a religious service once per year or less. Through the interviews with the twelve focus groups, representing a broad spectrum of vocations, it emerges that there seems to be a common, clear separation of on the one hand:

belief—what I feel deep down, on a highly personal level. Belief is not part of a religious system, but in forming my religious beliefs, I am making use of whatever is at hand for what feels right and meaningful in the given situation (= bricolage)

and on the other hand:

routinized religion—religion as it is ‘performed’ in religious institutions (worship services, etc)

religion-as-heritage—religious practice as it is part of our culture (having babies baptized and teenagers confirmed, etc.)

practice—e.g. prayer

tradition—e.g. weddings and burials at church.

The respondents have clear distinctions between the two parts: belief is in one category while the institution of religion, religious practice and traditions are in another category, which is separated from what they understand as belief and faith.

Faith/beliefs are constructed individually in line with the individualized bent, which is prevalent in Western society (from consumer choices, to pupil focused education, to patient focused hospitals, etc.). Individualism is the water in which we swim. Therefore it is alien to us that there should be a religious system that is not determined by an individualized approach and it seems only natural to separate beliefs from religion and religious practice.

Such practices are regarded more in the category of consumer products, which you can buy if they are helpful. Or it may be a given heritage, which you respect as the best way to uphold society and tradition in our given culture (baptism, weddings, burials, etc.)—without any faith connotations. In this particular study even the focus group respondents, who went to church regularly, claimed that their beliefs were not formed through the church activity, but were formed privately as a result of their ongoing life processes. Another study has expressed that to most Danes going to church is like going to the hospital: ‘You only go if you are sick. Going to the hospital without being sick would indeed be a weird thing to do.’

This leads the researcher to develop the thesis of packed and unpacked religion. What we have before us is not a system of well-ordered religious systems (packed religion), but eclectic making use of religious and cultural elements in whatever meanings the individual look for or need in a given moment. Thus in order that beliefs can stay in sync with life, they are likely to change as life situations are changing. In Britain sociologist Paul Heelas has termed this approach ‘Spirituality of Life’.[18] The focus is on life management, not on ultimate concerns, and other similar matters.

However, individualized beliefs do not emerge from nowhere. They are formed by what you hear and learn in ‘social spaces’. As Danes do not normally not go to church, traditional church activities have only little influence on the beliefs of the masses. Work place conversations, family and friends, not to forget the media, are playing major roles as social spaces, where you adopt eclectically whatever you can use in your personal and ongoing meaning building project.

Based on this research, the researcher concludes that in our given situation, it would be fair to regard religion as a ‘zombie category’—a living dead because religion as we used to know it has gone. But we still talk about religion as if it existed in its systematized forms. Religion in its ‘unpacked’ forms is of such a dissimilar nature that it is not meaningful to categorize it as religion.

It is important to note that secular people do not stop ‘believing’. That has often been the notion when we see that people stop going to church. In fact the 70 per cent figures has been stable to growing in Denmark over the last thirty years. The reason may be that more than before people today need to work on their belief and meaning systems in a society which does not provide these automatically.

The very big question is how we as church in mission and mission organizations can relate the gospel in this environment? We are used to thinking of the Christian faith as ‘packed religion’. It is indeed possible to ‘sell’ packed religion even today, where 83 percent of Danes are members of the national church. However, is our mission to have church members? Or is our mission to see believers become true followers of Christ?

It is important to note that the features described above do not apply only to ‘un-churched’ and ‘non-Christians’. We are also talking about new generations of Christians, who are highly influenced by the subjective turn. A recent American study[19] demonstrates that the de facto religion of American teenagers of all religious traditions— Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu etc. heritage—is a ‘moralistic therapeutic deism’, i.e.: ‘be good to one another— and we don’t expect God to be part of our lives except when we need him for some personal therapeutic needs.’ This resonates well with the Danish study.

This case study raises a number of questions. How are we to respond to such a new reality? Are we talking about a passing phenomenon? Or is this a permanent, vast and ever-growing secular world, which has ‘come of age’ (Bonhoeffer) and in which the gospel will find new ways to incarnate? In conclusion a couple of reflections:

1) It is not that secular people are opposed to the gospel—the gospel is indeed good news—and consumers are likely to buy good news, but only if it provides meaning in the given situation. That means that the gospel mostly needs to be expressed in non-dogmatic ways that are a real challenge to our traditional theological perceptions and schooling. How can the gospel with its holistic nature be contextualised in such a setting where individuals ask only for one piece of the puzzle that will fit their search at this given moment?

2) Is it possible to operate meaningfully with a distinction between faith/beliefs and religion as the 20th century dialectic theologians attempted? Do we need to revisit and discover their reflections for our time?

3) What will Christian faith communities look like, where seekers can ruminate over a long period of time as they gradually come to an understanding and reception of a Christian worldview? And what will it take for our normal either-or Evangelical church and mission cultures and systems to adapt to such new reality?

4) Traditional religious settings are not the primary social spaces, where beliefs are likely to be adopted. Thus neither church Sunday morning, nor evangelistic stadium campaigns seem to be the way forward for these people. Yet, this is often where we put our efforts and resources in church and mission. What are the alternatives?

  • The market-place/work-place is of huge importance to the identity and meaning building for individuals in secular societies. A well-developed theology and missiology for the market-place is a must. If the gospel does not deal with the ‘real world’ it is less than a gospel.
  • ‘Mediatized religion’ is gaining importance. For example, movies touching on religious themes have a huge impact at a popular level. Christian influence in this area is crucial (like Walden Media with their focus on Christian worldview movies like Narnia, etc.). Is the next generation of ‘missionaries’ to train for jobs in the entertainment industry?
  • The Internet with the steady flow of new features on the net is increasingly becoming an important social space for belief exchange and formation. Danish Facebook users (half the population) now spend more than eight hours per month on this social medium site alone, and it has for them become a ordinary space for interactivity of all kinds.

5) To a systematic theologian the challenges from ‘unpacked’ religion in secular societies cannot be adequately addressed without a strong theology of and faith in the work of the Holy Spirit. It seems unlikely that the churches in secular societies will regain the privileged positions, where they provide significant input to formation of proper, well-ordered theologically based beliefs in the life of secular people. We need to trust the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals.

Endnotes

  1. The last word for some of those who were lucky enough to say goodbye to their beloved ones before going to be slaughtered was: ‘see you in heaven’.
  2. It is believed that Hutus make up 85% and Tutsis 14% of the population of Burundi. The remaining 1% is made up of the Twas.
  3. D. DiNucci, ‘Fragmented Future’, Print 53 no. 4 (1999): 32. Digital edition: <http://www. cdinucci.com/Darcy2/articles/Print/Print article7.html> accessed March 24, 2010.
  4. Digital Evangelism Issues Contributor, ‘Web Trends in 2010’, Digital Evangelism Issues, <http://www.internetevangelismday. com/blog/archives/1112> accessed March 24, 2010
  5. For a list of social media sites by region of the world see, Wikipedia contributors, ‘Social network service’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Social_network_service&oldid=33464 0674> accessed March 24, 2010
  6. Gene Veith and Christopher Stamper, Christians in a.Com World, Focal Point Series (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2000), 128
  7. Bill Tancer, Click (New York: Hyperion, 2008), 26.
  8. Douglas Estes, SimChurch (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 20.
  9. Interaction with virtual worlds is accomplished by means of VR gear, such as goggles, gloves and even full body suits, which are programmed to cooperate with the simulation.
  10. ScienceDaily, http://www.sciencedaily. com/releases/2009/05/090511091727.htm> accessed March 24, 2010.
  11. Of course, for Kant knowledge of the world was perception plus transcendental categories. But I think my point still stands.
  12. See Charles Barber, Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation (New York: Pantheon Books, 2008).
  13. N. T. Wright, perf., NT Wright on Blogging/Social Media, prod. Bill Kinnon, July 2009: <http://vimeo.com/5682808> accessed March 23, 2010.
  14. David Pullinger, Information Technology and Cyberspace (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2001), 79-80.
  15. Ceri Longville, ‘Reaching the Community with Church Websites,’ (MA diss., Redcliffe College, 2008), 22. Available online: <http:// www.internetevangelismday.com/docs/ churchsite_dissertation.pdf> accessed March 24, 2010.
  16. See chapters 4 and 5 of Longville, ‘Reaching the Community with Church Websites’.
  17. Ina Rosen, ‘I’m a Believer—but I’ll be damned if I’m religious’, Lund Studies in Sociology of Religion 2009: 8.
  18. Paul Heelas, Spiritualities of Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008).
  19. Christian Smith, Soul Searching—The Religious and Spiritual Life of American Teenagers(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

 

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