DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Christians are not redemptive.

Written by: on April 4, 2014

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“Can Bone Save The World?” Another way to ask the question might be; is Bono redemptive? I have my hunch, but I have another story to share about my introduction to Bono. Now, I had listened to the music of the band U2 here and there, but a number of years before I came to the United States, a group of my friends and I in Kampala (the capital city of Uganda) were working with a group of American missionaries who had flown in for a brief mission trip. After a long day’ work, we thought everyone was dead tired, but we were about to find out as the day coiled. One of our American friends received a conformation that Bono had arrived in Uganda and was lodging at one of the high end hotels. You would think a spirit of revival went through our missionary friends’ to call them to a “come to Jesus meeting”! with Bono.

To my friends’ credit, they were audacious enough to get to Bono’s hotel where the met him and got his autograph really late in the night. They were banana for the rest of their time in Uganda about meeting Bono as one can imagine. Did Bono change their world? A redemptive moment one might say? 🙂 You might have come across the notion of Christians “doing redemptive work” in the sense that it is salvific. James Davison Hunter proposes a different argument in his book “To Change the World:  the irony, tragedy & possibility of Christianity in the late modern world”. Hunter prefaces the book by mentioning the three essays aimed at tackling the questions that animate this book, which inquiries are both broadly academic and deeply personal[1]

Right from the start, Hunter had my attention. Even though he is writing as a sociologist, I was eager to engage with the material from both an academically theological and personal level.  Indeed, mine was a quest of “faith seeking understanding” as McGrath puts it and a draw to grasp some more about that which is personal like the story of my missionary friends’ meeting Bono.

Hunter’s intellectual concerns on the other hand, take into consideration the historical purpose of a range of Christians’ existence on earth and their worldviews that inform their desire to change and transform the world. He also calls into question the reason as to why Christians think and act in certain ways. Hunter notes:

It is fair to say that in each organization and all the people they represent, differences notwithstanding, the idealism about fulfilling the mandate of creation is sincere, the efforts are earnest, and the intentions are undoubtedly honorable. But is that enough? … I consider the ways in which Christians in much of their diversity actually think about the creation mandate today, examining the implicit theory and explicit practices that operate within this complex and often conflicted religious and cultural movement. Let me emphasize that I am not just talking about Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, in spite of the fact that they have been the loudest, most energetic, and most demanding of all Christians in recent decades. [2]

But are Christians of different strands changing the world? If so, how? After investing the various approaches in Christianity, Hunter writes:

I contend that the dominant ways of thinking about culture and cultural change are flawed, for they are based on both specious social science and problematic theology. In brief, the model on which various strategies are based not only does not work, but it cannot work. On the basis of this working theory, Christians cannot “change the world” in a way that they, even in their diversity, desire.[3]

It appears then, that Christians need to take another look into the face of culture and labor to resolve the dissonances between, church, faith and culture. This might happen if Christian leaders and their followers take seriously what might be learned from a genuine study of other historical disciplines. Otherwise Church will easily fall prey to what Hunter calls “unqualified idealism”[4]

Is it idealistic to think and hope that Bono who is a cultural symbol of high celebrity status could change and save the world? Some might say yes and others no. Personalities like Bono do good works and have helped many people through music and other advocacy attempts. Yet, Bono and his band are also an astute business empire which operates from the center. How can an individual concerned with show business at its most powerful zenith effectively change and save the world? Hunter affirms “The individuals, networks and institutions most critically involved in the production of a culture operate in the “center” where prestige is the highest, not on the periphery, where status is low.”[5] It seems difficult to “create space”[6] for people on the periphery, if the so called world changer flies so high and mighty.

For space to be created, the people who desire to see change, must be among people, in consistent relationships and live within the communities they seek to influence. It here that I should declare, I like Bono and his artistry, but I do not believe he can save or change the world. No human being is as powerful as God to change the world, perhaps his or her world, but even then, we need to be realistic and truthful about what that means. I agree with Hunter’s call for followers of Christ to “abandon altogether talk of ‘redeeming the culture,’ ‘advancing the kingdom,’ ‘building the kingdom,’ ‘transforming the culture,’ ‘reclaiming the culture,’ ‘reforming the culture,’ and ‘changing the world’”[7]

The phrases, “Change”, “save”, “redemptive” and so forth are used interchangeably in society today. Such utterances if not applied correctly and in context can be misleading and bend towards hubris at best. The Psalmist writes, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”[8]  Hunter also reminds the reader that:

…. Christians, at their best, will neither create a perfect world nor one that is altogether new; but by enacting shalom and seeking it on behalf of all others through the practice of faithful presence, it is possible, just possible, that they will help to make the world a little bit better.[9]

Christians are NOT redemptive, only the Triune God is. In fact, Jesus Christ is the perfect source of redemptive powerful and real change we can and ought to believe in.  When He left His throne in heaven to come and dwell among us, He presented to the world the best academically theological and personal understanding of what it means to have a “faithful presence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] James Davison Hunter. To Change the World: The irony, tragedy, & possibility of Christianity in the late modern world. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Preface

[2] Ibid., 5.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid., 25.

[5] Ibid., 37

[6] Ibid., 78.

[7] Ibid.,280.

[8] Psalms 146:3

[9] Ibid.,286.

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Michael Badriaki

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