BOOKS AND CULTURE reviews
Carl Raschke’s GloboChrist:
The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn
We roam the global village as Alice roamed the chessboard in Through the Looking-Glass: pawns bewildered at every turn. The word “postmodernism” appears backwards, like the poem “Jabberwocky.” Even when we hold it up to a mirror, the concept remains slippery. Alice responds to the poem in the same way we respond to postmodernism: “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate.” Modernity, we surmise, was killed, and its murderers are still fugitives.
Carl Raschke is our Humpty Dumpty, perspicaciously interpreting the “postmodern moment” in GloboChrist, the third volume in Baker Academic’s series, The Church and Postmodern Culture. Whereas the first two books in the series, James K. A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and John D. Caputo’s What Would Jesus Deconstruct?, offered textual exegesis of postmodern thinkers to correct stubborn misunderstandings and to show resonance with the Christian tradition, Raschke’s book offers cultural exegesis to clarify the church’s missional task in a global age. An early explorer of the intersection between Continental philosophy and theology, author of The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity, Raschke serves as chair of religious studies at the University of Denver.
While too many Christians are tiresomely proclaiming that they are pro- or anti-postmodernism, crudely defining the heterogeneous concept, Raschke steps out of the impasse by announcing what should be obvious: “a dramatic global metamorphosis.” Instead of wrangling over the “uncounted usages and syntactical peculiarities” of a word, he rightly claims: “Becoming postmodern means that we all, whether we like it or not, are now going global, which is what that obscure first-century sect leader from Palestine truly had in mind.”
This book is directed to American evangelicals with the purpose of awakening them to “a pivot in world history that seems as unprecedented as the transformation of Caesar’s realm during the first three centuries of the common era. That change came through the strange and distinctly un-Roman cult from Palestine centering on the crucifixion and resurrection of a mysterious nobody now known to history as Jesus of Nazareth.”
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FROM EVE TO DAWN: A HISTORY OF WOMEN
Reviewed in the NY Review of Books
There was once a woman who never smiled. Her name was Bao Si and she was a concubine to a king of the Zhou dynasty, which flourished in China after 1000 BCE. The king wanted so much to see her smile that he scoured the kingdom for entertainers and performing animals; not a flicker of amusement crossed her face. Then one day a bonfire was ignited, a signal of emergency. Troops poured into the capital in battle array, only to be stopped short and told that the fire had been lit by accident. At this Bao Si smiled; in fact, she began to laugh. Keen to repeat his success, the king had bonfires lit over and over again. His troops stopped paying attention to the signals; so when the invaders came, the king was driven out, and the dynasty was at an end.
It’s a story emblematic of so much else in Marilyn French’s vast four-volume history of women. A twitch of a woman’s lip causes the fall of a nation. On the one hand she is sickeningly, destructively powerful. One the other hand she is a chattel, a beast, a commodity, she and her sisters are “human incubators.” In the Assyrian empire, which flourished from 1300 BCE, she could be impaled for aborting the child she is carrying. For lesser offenses she could be beaten or disfigured behind closed doors, but if her master wanted to mutilate her permanently—cut off her ears or nose, or tear out her breasts—he had to do it in public; though whether for the sake of example or for the general enjoyment, French does not say. She could be punished at various times and places for going veiled, or not going veiled. She could be sold, pawned, or prostituted.
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FROM EVE TO DAWN: A HISTORY OF WOMEN (4 Volumes)
Paperback: Feminist Press, 2009.
For Your Consideration.
A NY Times article on African missions
in the United States
PASTOR DANIEL AJAYI-ADENIRAN is coming for your soul. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, rich or poor, speak English or Spanish or Cantonese. He is on a mission to save you from eternal damnation. He realizes you may be skeptical, put off by his exotic name — he’s from Nigeria — or confused by his accent, the way he stretches his vowels and trills his R’s, giving his sermons a certain chain-saw rhythm. He suspects you may have some unfortunate preconceptions about Nigerians. But he is not deterred. He believes the Holy Spirit is working through him — aided by the awesome earthly power of demographics.
Africa is the world’s fastest-growing continent, and Ajayi-Adeniran belongs to one of its most vigorously expansionary religious movements, a homegrown Pentecostal denomination that is crusading to become a global faith. In the course of just a few decades, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, founded in a Lagos shantytown, has won millions of adherents in Nigeria while building a vast missionary network that stretches into more than 100 nations. “The rate of growth,” Ajayi-Adeniran says, “is becoming exponential.” As the man coordinating the Redeemed Church’s expansion in North America, the pastor spends his days shuttling from his home base, a storefront church in the Bronx, to the denomination’s continental headquarters, a 550-acre compound in Texas, and to mission outposts scattered from Vermont to Belize. This places him at the vanguard of a revolution in worldwide Christianity, one that it is quite literally changing its face, as a faith that was once exported by white missionaries from Europe and America comes to draw its strength from the peoples of the Southern Hemisphere.
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