DLGP

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

With No Regard for the Ancient Nations They Cleaved Apart

Written by: on February 24, 2022

In his book, “The Map That Changed the World,” Winchester gives an in-depth geological and historical survey of William Smith’s strata map.

Smith, an 18th and 19th century English geologist, began his career as a surveyor. Throughout his career of surveying canals, he begins to observe the depth of the strata or layers of sentiment and rock, calling into question what was known up to this time about the effects of soil, water run-off, and waterway systems. Eventually, this helped him develop the first strata map of an entire country, England, Scotland, and Wales. 

Winchester argues that Smith’s digging and uncovering of pre-historic fossils led to even more significant scientific theory and discovery advancements. Moreover, such findings questioned the theological understanding and accepted beliefs around creation. In the author’s eyes, Smith’s developments influenced the work of Charles Darwin. 

“The inevitable collision between the new rationally based world of science and the old ecclesiastical, faith-directed world of belief was about to occur—and in the vanguard of the new movement, both symbolically and actually, was the great map,” argued Winchester. [1] 

The author also lays out the utter injustices and rejection that Smith faced as he presented these discoveries and innovative maps, only to have much of his work stolen by members of the Geological Society of London, who also rejected his membership. Smith joins the throngs of innovative minds that were not understood in their time and received ill-treatment only to be praised for their significance after their death. 

Winchester is writing about a time in the height of European Colonialism. Then, the maps quite literally changed as sovereign countries were invaded, overthrown, and supplanted with European overlords. As I am reading this book, I cannot help but feel the overshadowing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The Kenyan UN Ambassador, Martin Kimani, probably put it best in a speech to the UN Security Council this week, “This situation echoes our history. Kenya and almost every African country was birthed by the ending of empire. Our borders were not of our own drawing. They were drawn in the distant colonial metropoles of London, Paris, and Lisbon, with no regard for the ancient nations that they cleaved apart.”[2]

The “development of foreign nations,” shifting borders, and the subversion of less aggressive people groups are nothing new. Yet, we are where we are today because we have not had a proper reckoning of our past. 

And the church is not immune. We have come from and where we are today directly from the church’s unholy marriage with European monarchs, emperors, and elected officials. Maybe the church can be forward-thinking, not finding itself once again caught behind the times as they did when Darwin put forth ideas that radically shifted our understanding of how God did and does function in our world. 

[1] Winchester, Simon. The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009), 35.  

[2] CNN, Amy Woodyatt. n.d. “Kenya’s UN Ambassador Slams Russia and Compares Ukraine Crisis to Africa’s Colonial Past.” https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/23/europe/kenya-ukraine-russia-colonialism-intl/index.html

 

About the Author

mm

Andy Hale

CBF Podcast Creator and Host, Senior Pastor of University Baptist Church (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), & Professional Coach

12 responses to “With No Regard for the Ancient Nations They Cleaved Apart”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Andy, on my trip to Lebanon, I got to visit the remnants of a Crusader castle that is within sight of Mt. Hermon, the Mount of Transfiguration. What a contrast that created between Jesus’ glory and mistakes of the church’s use of power. You state, “we are where we are today because we have not had a proper reckoning of our past.” I know this is a big question, but what do you think a proper reckoning of our past would include? And, if that were to happen, what positive outcomes do you envision for the church?

    • mm Andy Hale says:

      That is a big question but an important one.

      Let me tackle one example. In the American South, historically, churches were often built or funded by slave labor or plantation owners’ income.

      One nsigning reckoning is restitution. The churches that have this legacy to slavery should give at least 10% of their resources to fund HBCUs or fund underprivileged school systems or contribute to locally black-owned businesses.

      And if this leads to a financial struggle for the church, what better testimony to the reconciliation of Christ. If we truly believe in the leadership of God, then God will provide a way for their recognition and repentance for their past, making way for a better future.

      • mm Roy Gruber says:

        Andy, thanks for that example. I really like the idea of restitution but I struggle with how works practically. Using your example, do all churches across the country contribute the same amount? I grew up in the NYC area and many churches were mixed with lots of honor to all regardless of culture or color. Do you see restitution as a corporate church responsibility or more specific to the places and the ways the the abuses occurred?

        • mm Andy Hale says:

          That’s an excellent question. One could easily argue that if a church or denomination directly benefited from chattel slavery, then restitutions should be forthcoming.

          I realize this is somewhat of a tenuous topic, considering the Southern Baptist Convention will split over racial reconciliation. Well-intentioned white people do not think they hold responsibility for their ancestors’ actions, economic choices, and inhumane practices. And yet, there is no doubt that churches financially benefited from these unjust practices.

          If Jesus was so serious about anyone causing one of these little ones to stumble that they ought to tie a millstone around their neck and throw themselves into the sea, I think the ancestral blood of slavery on white churches is a conversation we can no longer avoid.

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Andy: You are clearly a forward-thinking leader in a pastoral context. How do you see your interactions, sermons, etc. differ from those that are not? How do you encourage & empower your congregation, especially those that may be more steeped in their ways, to think differently?

    • mm Andy Hale says:

      Kayli,

      That’s a great question. I’ll be the first to admit that it is a learning process, and I’m far from the finish line.

      The answer is not prophetic preaching. But unfortunately, too many of my colleagues who graduated from progressive schools think they can just preach one-off sermons or complex prophetic messages every week to change people’s minds.

      If you cannot be pastoral, you have no business being prophetic in the local church. I learned that mistake in the past. If people do not believe you value and love them, despite having different perspectives than you, they will never trust or listen to you.

      I invest a lot of time in relationships with my people, getting to know them and letting them get to know me. The great Henri Nouwen has an influential book on relational ministry that has been integral to my pastoral development. But, again, I have learned this lesson by experience.

      I find that the Gospels open themselves up to talking about difficult things in our communities and world, using stories to help raise questions, rather than sometimes just calling a spade a spade.

      I also do not believe the pulpit is the end-all be-all. I think equally crucial spiritual formation occurs in small group conversations, intentional study, and the informality of living life with people.

      • Kayli Hillebrand says:

        Please tell me the book is “In the Name of Jesus” because it is absolutely one of my favorite books — I use it as my core leadership book with my student interns each year.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Nice connection with the UN quote about Colonial Africa’s borders not being their own. They have all had maps that changed their own worlds. I thought of Augustine and his ideas with the City of Man and the map of the City of God. The City of Man is a map of how this world functions. Often there is injustice and stealing. Smith experienced that in his lifetime. But then there is the City of God, and we in the church have to do better than the world to bring about justice, peace, and fairplay.

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Thanks Andy. When you talk about being “forward-thinking,” can you unpack what this means to you? In this day in age it would be easy to take that in a variety of directions.

    Also, as to the “past,”, knowing that you are a history buff, as it relates to the church and Christianity, in your opinion, what can be gleaned and applied for the Church today?

    • mm Andy Hale says:

      In many ways, the church has a beautiful legacy of predicting, or at least not reacting way too late, to what is happening in the world and culture. We have seen the church take radical shifts as the institution has become more informed, filled with prudence, and guided by the Holy Spirit.

      At the same time, it feels like the church has been in a spiral of unreactivity in the last two decades, as we see people abandoning mainline denominations for either unaffiliated church start movements or seeking spirituality outside of the institutional church. What will it take for the church to get ahead of the curb? Do we have the holy imagination necessary to be innovative for the present and future?

  5. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Andy,
    You are so right about the influence of resources and the greed of political powers to take what they want at the expense of the people. In the recent years I have come to wonder if the perceived enemies are but a smoke screen for a greater evil. I agree that the church and particularly the US church has been eager to stick its head in the ground and claim separation of church and state. I am not saying pick up a gun but do your research, include people you maybe would not agree with. Speak the truth, call for righteousness and transparency from our leaders. Ask hard questions and follow them up. We need to be people of that understand the signs of the times so that we can be an answer. This requires divine insight, and foresight not so we are reactionary but proactive. Sorry I’m on a bit of a rant.

  6. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Andy, As you are defining Eric’s word of choice, I would love to hear your definition of prophetic. I have discovered people have different interpretations/definitions.

    How does your definition of prophetic inform you understanding of what the authors of “An Everyone Culture” argue for?

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