Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mistaken Missiology?

This should be my last blog post, seeing as we're leaving for the airport in about 30 minutes to head home. I have previously written that I could not decide whether the hospitality of the Egyptian people that we have encountered in our day-to-day travels is genuine or not. I had an experience today which furthered my thoughts on this. I caught a cab with 3 other students to head back to the Coptic part of Cairo, and the cab driver first told us that it would be 15 LE for the trip. When we arrived, he tried to say that he had said 50 LE for the price. As we sat there arguing, two Egyptian men who were standing by the road (and who spoke more English than the taxi driver) came over to ask what the problem was. We told him, he spoke to the cab driver in Arabic, and sent him on his way. I was very thankful for this man helping to sort out the problem, and attempted to give him a small tip (not uncommon). He refused, but then he tried to get us to commit to taking his taxi on our way back to the hotel. His friend also tried to get us to take a look in his store and buy something. I was so frustrated! I thought that someone had honestly tried to help us, but they were attempting to make a sale instead.

As I thought about this more and more, our trip earlier today to the Evangelical Theological Seminary, Cairo came to mind. I'm sure that I was not the only one that was a little surprised and even uncomfortable in hearing a more conservative and evangelical perspective of Christian life and education in a Muslim country. I wanted to know how they evangelized in a nation where it is illegal to do so openly and actively, and frowned upon even in response to interested seekers. They said that, in general, they teach the same missiology, but with sensitivity to their context. One person spoke of different "techniques" for evangelism, such as getting in a taxi with another Christian and discussing Christology so that the driver could overhear. Another spoke of building trust in a Muslim community so that it could lead to an openness to hear the Good News.

I cringed when I heard these "techniques." It seemed to me to be a bait-and-switch missiology, no different from my experience later that same day. To be kind to someone in hopes to sell them something, whether it is a taxi ride, a papyrus, or the gospel is no kindness at all. These kind of experiences with vendors and drivers have annoyed and frustrated many of us on the trip, so I can only imagine what the "conversion targets" might think of us Christians doing the evangelism.

But then I began to examine these feelings a little more. What is it about that evangelical rhetoric, that stance towards non-Christians that sees them as souls to be saved rather than people to be loved, that makes me cringe? So many of us on this trip are open to dialogue with Muslims and people from all sorts of faith traditions, so why not with Christians more conservative than ourselves? Is it so bad that they are educating others and sharing their faith, just because I don't agree with how they are doing it? This is the height of my self-righteousness. To deny open conversation with my own Christian brothers and sisters, simply because I don't see eye-to-eye on every issue, while claiming to be a person who is "open-minded" or "all-accepting" and is willing to dialogue with people from other faiths is pretty ridiculous. Until we can honestly confront our self-righteousness, we cannot claim the kind of love for others modeled by Jesus. If we do, we're just selling an image of ourselves that is not genuine and I, for one, am not buying it.

Still on the journey,

Dover

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kudos Greg. VERY well said!
-Shawn

Anonymous said...

Based on your comments, I think you might enjoy a book that came out recently called The Forgotten Gospel, at www.forgottengospel.com.

aaronandbrighid said...

I just came across this blog and thought this was a really interesting post. Bravo for the self-criticism at the end!