Saturday, 28 January 2012

The church and the middle class

In passing, blogger "Archbishop Cranmer" says:
One of the Church of England’s fundamental weaknesses, in common with many churches in Europe, is its tendency to demand that people do not merely acknowledge the Lordship of Christ but also abandon their former way of life in favour of that of a peculiar middle-class sub-culture.
That's actually largely my experience of a lot of town churches in Kenya too.

I suspect that's not entirely an independent event, given that the missionary task force that has been seeking to teach Kenya what Christianity is, appears to be almost entirely Western.

Except we don't merely imply to them that they must adopt a peculiar middle-class sub-culture; we require them to adopt a peculiar middle-class and foreign sub-culture!

You probably don't need telling that that's a really bad idea.

A further unfortunate experience is that short-term Western visitors to Africa seem rarely to perceive how bad an idea this is. They visit, find that they can quickly associate with the churches they're visiting (because of the above), and then they return to the West and say how wonderful it was. How encouraging to see "our" kind of Christianity (which is probably the one true one) flourishing in a foreign land! And thus the money supply, to keep funding these enterprises, ensures their growth.

I'm not sure what a long-term route to solving this problem might look like, but maybe this short post will raise a little awareness.


Ned Kelly said...

Sounds like the laws of men that Jesus criticised. Paul's exhortation (1 Cor 7:17) to remain as when we are called meant more than just Jew or Gentile. To adopt some new sub-culture is to remove yourself from where you were put by God, and you can no longer preach the Gospel to those whom you have estranged.

David Anderson said...

Well, it's not like a "law" in the formal sense. It's just that the outsiders bring in their way of doing things - of holding meetings, discussing, making decisions, agendas, constitutions, minutes, etc. I suspect a lot of the foreigners either aren't really aware of the issue, or would say aren't "But isn't that the only way of doing things?" or "We're helping them by showing them a better way of organising themselves". But it's not so. The locals accept it at first because they think they're learning Christianity, but in reality they're learning a middle-class sub-culture that they'll never really get to grips with - or if they do, they'll also learn the attitude that their own previous sub-culture was inferior and needed replacing. Not helpful.