Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Why is religion so important?

Written by: on October 18, 2013

After reading Theology: A Very Short Introduction I noted a couple of crucial issues the author David Ford brilliantly discusses in relation to theology and religious studies. Throughout this book he emphasizes the need to think further and deeper to be able to engage with issues that are relevant to us in our ministry context. He encourages his readers ask questions and never take for granted that they know the answer.

His discussion on the importance of religion is so fascinating to me. I like Ford’s question, “Why is religion so controversial and so important to so many people that they will fight, suffer, and make enormous sacrifices when they see it at stake? ”[1]Religion shapes one’s whole life. Similar to our cultural identity, even more than that, religion can define who we are and how we should act in our relationship with God and others around us. It gives people a sense of belonging and defines their status quo. In Ethiopia people say, “ Religion is personal. County is for all.”  But that has not been true in practice. Often protestant Christians are persecuted. My parents come from different faith background. All my relatives on my father’s and some on my mother’s side are not Christians. When my father first embraced Christianity it felt to his family and relatives as if he abandoned them, though he tried to participate in all social events. The fact that he chose not to adhere to the same religion made them feel like they lost him. Community is very important and so is the religion that you were born into. How does one engage in discussion in a closed culture like mine?

My church encourages its members to share their faith with others but they do not teach how to communicate in a ways that value the experiences of others. If the sharing of our faith is so important to us I think it is important to remember that others we are reaching out to also have religion that is shaping their whole living. This issue also ties nicely with the idea of  “an ecology of responsibility ”[2] that Ford suggests for both academy and community of faith. He suggests both academy and faith community to be as good as possible in studying “ texts, history, norms and values.”[3] Ford says, “ Church and faith communities need to have high-quality studies and discussion of issues relevant to them and they also need members and others who are well educated and theologically literate.”[4] I think this is very important in any ministry context. We need to be knowledgeable about all the principles that Ford mentions so that we will know how to engage in dialogue with others. But let me pause and think for awhile about what resources are available in my context that my faith community can study and use to engage in discussion with others.  My community does not even have a Bible in their language. The few resources that are available need to be translated. Who needs to translate these? I do recognize our need for a community of interpreters.[5]
What Christian traditions and history are relevant to my specific community?  These questions help us to not ignore the need for theological education and engage in discussion relevant to us. The few of us who have been exposed to theological studies need to figure out how to engage our Christians in the current theological issues that the rest of Christian world are wrestling with.

[1]Ford, David (1999-03-25). Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (p. 4). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid.,18.



[5] Ibid., 139.

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

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