Tag Archives: C.S. Song

INTRAfaith Relationship: It’s Complicated

 

its-complicatedOne of the options on Facebook for announcing your relationship status is “it’s complicated.” And for some people, entering into interfaith relationships can be complicated, if not downright threatening. Then add in the need for intrafaith conversation  and things can get really challenging. For this reason, I love this poem/prayer by C.S. Song.unknown-2

Choan-Seng Song is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology and Asian Cultures at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. I had the privilege of being part of a theological discussion group during my doctoral studies there. Professor Song opened my eyes to other ways of looking at Christianity, specifically through an Asian lens. Once I realized how thoroughly western my theology and Christology was, a new way into interfaith thology opened up before me.

51matoyngwl-_sx331_bo1204203200_But Dr. Song is not just an academic. He’s also a pastor. And, in my opinion, nothing expresses this more than this poem/prayer, which was published in the PSR newsletter. I’ve used it innumerable times in workshops as a way to reassure people just entering into interfaith and intrafaith relationships that discomfort is to be expected, in fact it’s perfectly normal.

A PRAYER: It Is Difficult, O God

It is difficult, O God
it was much easier before
we lived in our own world
we took that world for the entire world
we believed we were your chosen people
with special privileges and advantages
we thought we had nothing to learn
from people who were different from us
in what they believed and how they lived
but suddenly all these people are all over the place
they come to live in our midst
they speak all sorts of languages
they practice different faiths
they even dress differently.

It is complicated, O God
it was much simpler in the past
we lived among like-minded people
we used to understand each other
we ate the same food
we shared the common thoughts
we even acquired the same habits
we seldom ventured out of our compound
we were contented with what we knew
but all of a sudden the walls that separated us from other people crumbled
we have lost control of our life
we are afraid we are no longer master of our own destiny.

But it has never been easy for you, O God
it has never been simple for You
You have always dealt with a world of wonderful plurality
with many people and many nations
with many cultures and religions
with women as well as men
with children as well as men and women.

But instead of complaining, You enjoy it
instead of becoming upset, You delight in it.
Though it is still difficult for us
help us, O God, to enjoy it with all its multiplicity
though it is still too complicated for us
enable us, O God, to cope with it
with the spirit of gratitude and wonder
and inspire us to know ever more deeply
the mystery that is Yours
the truth You alone can disclose to us.

 

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Are the Days of Doing Evangelism Over?

I read an interesting blog post the other day called Why Progressive Christians Can’t Evangelize, which critiques the accompaniment model adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In Global Mission for the 21st Century, the ELCA defines accompaniment as:
walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. The basis for this accompaniment, or what the New Testament calls koinonia, is found in the God-human relationship in which God accompanies us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

The blog author, however questions whether most of us have seriously reflected on the who, what, why, and whether of Christian mission. In other words: why do we think it’s a good thing to share the gospel in the first place? And while he doesn’t disagree with the need to be sensitive to our history of colonialism, he does warn that “our fear of colonialism is performed daily in our tepid to non-existent faith-sharing.”

It was an interesting post. But what followed made it even more so. In the “Comments,” a reader confessed to his or her own struggle with the issue:
 I firmly base my life on the death and resurrection of Jesus (or try to), and believe that through my baptism into Christ’s death, I will share in a resurrection like his. HOWEVER, I am not convinced that everyone needs to be a Christian . . . if I meet, say, a Buddhist, who has found meaning, and a spiritual path, and is exhibiting “good fruits,” why should I attempt to “evangelize” her?

And that is the INTRAfaith question!

As Asian theologian C. S. Song has written: “The 

problem of Christian mission is the problem of Christian theology. Reconstruction of 

Christian theology must then precede reconstruction of Christian mission.”

Documents such as “Global Mission for the 21st Century” and “Accompaniment” that are available from my denomination (and I am sure from others) are important teaching tools. But I don’t know how many of our congregations are using them.

The conversation needs to happen at the grass roots. And a fine place to start is with the experiences that most of us have had with people of other religions and cultures. The question is no longer “if I meet a Buddhist (or a Jew or a Muslim, etc.),” but when I do . . . then how am I to think about evangelism?

When you go out with your evangelism team to knock on doors on your neighborhood and a man in a turban answers – or a woman in a hijab – or a man in a yarmulke – or a monk in saffron robe, what are you going to say?

There are, of course, several theological options. And you’ll probably find a variety in your own church. It’s not only an interesting question for pastors to ponder, it’s a necessary one for the whole church as we ponder together the place of Christianity in a multi-religious world.