Posts Tagged ‘multi-cultural’

Emerging Voices: Vince Campbell

Don’t mean to detract from all the other stuff going on, but this post has been in the works for awhile.

Vince has previously contributed an article to this blog.  Here are three youtube clips of a workshop he and I led at CCDA.  Vince is currently a PhD student at Catholic University, studying the early African church.  I believe he is the only African-American academic studying the early African church.  Watch the clips.

PART I:

PART II:

PART III:

You can see more video clips from CCDA at http://www.youtube.com/profrah

From time to time, I want to feature some emerging young voices that need to be heard. Today’s emerging voice is Vince Campbell. I first met Vince when he was an undergrad at Wheaton College. I invited him and his wife, Diana Mojica (another important emerging voice) to come to Boston to intern at CCFC while attending Gordon-Conwell. Vince and Diana finished up at GCTS, then Vince completed his ThM at Princeton and is now beginning PhD studies in early church history (with a focus on the early African church) at Catholic University. You will be hearing from Vince in the years to come. I thought it’d be good to introduce him to you here.

Christianity’s African Roots by Vince Campbell

While the contemporary re-centering of Christianity from the Global North to the Asian, African, and South American continents has garnered the attention of many a missiologist, witnesses to the multi-cultural Kingdom of God as revealed in Jesus Christ must remember that Christianity’s presence in black and brown nations is anything but a modern phenomenon. Ancient communities of Jesus-followers in India, China, the Middle East, and Africa stretching back to the time of the apostles tell the story of a global Christian faith free of Western cultural captivity. If we take an African theologian, preacher, and monk of the fifth century named Shenoute as a starting point, we see that not only was Christianity an indigenously African religion in its beginning stages but that it was used as a social mechanism to construct Egyptian identity in conjunction with belief in Jesus over against a pagan Western (Greek) religious and cultural hegemony.

Father Shenoute was an Egyptian monk who, during his 118 year life led a monastic community of some 2,200 monks and 1,800 nuns in the Upper Nile Valley area of Sohag. His aggressive literary campaign filled with theological treatises and sermons found in the library of his monastery is unparalleled in fifth-century Coptic Egypt. Shenoute’s writings (as well as his personality) were renowned for their empowerment of the poor, defense of orthodoxy, and attack on heresy and paganism. While these themes were not uncommon among monks in the early church, the Egyptian contextualization of the Gospel in response to oppressive Western pagan influences are a feature unique to Shenoute. In the case of his sermon entitled “Not Because the Fox Barks,” he encourages his African peasant congregation while rebuking the oppression of a local wealthy landlord. Shenoute identifies this landlord, Gesios’ oppressions as forcing the poor African Christians to perform ritual baths (an ancient Greek pagan ritual) while hindering them from celebrating the Pascha (Easter). Shenoute encourages his African congregation by claiming that “Not because the fox barks- which is you servant of Mammon- should the lion be afraid- which is the servant of Christ.”

While the Roman Empire of the fifth century was predominately a safer place for Christians due to the acceptance of Christianity as a state religion, this didn’t change the reality of the majority of land-owning aristocrats in Upper Egypt being predominately pagan and hostile to Christianity. However, in his defense of the poor against Western pagan oppression, Shenoute points to the growing reality that the Christians are growing fast in number and retain a power greater than that of the wealthy who put their faith in pagan gods. The Coptic Christians of Egypt worshipped Jesus while resisting the cultural, economic, and political subjugation of the Western world which, was still predominately pagan. Similar stories that take place in Nubia, Ethiopia, Carthage, Syria, and other nations prove powerful examples of Christianity’s deep roots among people of color and dispel the myth that Christianity is or ever has been a Western religion.

For further reading:
Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never
Knew. Oxford University Press. 2003.

Emmel, Stephen. “From the Other Side of the Nile: Shenoute and Panopolis” in A.
Egberts, B.P. Muhs, and J. van der Vliet. Perspectives on Panopolis: An Egyptian
Town from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest. Leiden: Brill. 2002.

Frankfurter, David. Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance. Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press. 1998.

Keener, Craig & Usry, Glenn. Black Man’s Religion: Can Christianity be Afrocentric?
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1996.

Goehring, James E. & Pearson, Birger A. The Roots of Egyptian Christianity.
Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press. 1986.

Meinardus, Otto F.A. Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity. Cairo, Egypt: The
American University in Cairo Press. 1999.

Schroeder, Caroline T. Monastic Bodies: Discipline and Salvation in Shenoute of Atripe.
Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2007.

One of my favorite TV shows is LOST.  I love almost every facet of the show.  I love that the cast is very multi-cultural (very Next Evangelicalism).  I love that questions are constantly being raised and not always being answered (very post-modern).  I love that the development of the back story and character development is more central than simply moving the plot along (very good story telling).  But most of all, I love that for the last year I have not seen a single episode at its regular time via broadcast television.  Formerly at the whim and mercy of the networks, the advent of web streaming allows me to take back control and assert power over the medium of television.

Many decades ago, there were actually people who were confounded by the new medium known as television – a magic box that showed moving pictures. In recent years, there were many who were confounded by the advent of the internet.  Some were so confounded that they thought they themselves had actually invented the internet.  (I’m looking at you Al Gore).  Any new technology creates uncertainty, but strangely it also creates opportunities for the redistribution of power.

Eric Law has written extensively on the topic of multi-cultural leadership.  In his landmark work, The Wolf Shall Lie Down with the Lamb, Law asserts that one of the major obstacles to healthy cross-cultural leadership is the difference in how power is perceived by different ethno-cultural groups.  These differences lead to an unequal distribution of power when different ethnic groups attempt to live church life together.

For example, Law finds that the high level of exclusively verbal communication that most Western and American cultures employ, leads to an unfair and imbalanced power dynamic.  As Law explains, “most church leaders use verbal communication exclusively to conduct church affairs. . . .Verbal communication alone is a biased means of communication, favoring people who have a strong sense of individual power and verbal ability – the majority of whom are whites.”  I can remember being in a number of multi-ethnic settings where whites dominated the conversation while many ethnic minorities are left out of the conversation.  Verbal communication is assumed to be the most effective means of communication leading to an imbalanced power distribution.

Law continues by stating that: “in order to enable people of a multicultural community to communicate with each other, we must move beyond using verbal communication exclusively.”  Law asserts that multi-media and group media provides a form of two-way communication that levels the playing field for effective cross-cultural communication.  If media is used effectively and judiciously, we have the opportunity to correct imbalanced power distribution created by American evangelicalism’s cultural captivity.

On this website, we explore not only the meaning of justice in various forms but we must also explore the medium we employ to discuss justice.  “Media, both print and electronic, have always been associated with power distribution.”  The use of multi-media, group media, two-way communication, multi-layered conversation, multi-sensory expression, and alternative expressions becomes an important aspect of power redistribution and a more just form of communication.  We can seek restorative justice by seeking the potential redemptive uses of media and alternative means of communication.

Take back the power.  Go ahead express yourself.