Matheus Reis é um Brasileiro-Americano, estudante de PhD no Centro para o Estudo do Cristianismo Mundial, Universidade de Edimburgo. Sua pesquisa se concentra no Protestantismo Brasileiro nos Estados Unidos.
Quantas vezes fizemos a pergunta, mas e eu? Em uma conversa recente com meu sobrinho sobre os protestos do Black Lives Matter (As Vidas Negras Importam), que estão ocorrendo em resposta ao assassinato de George Floyd, conversamos sobre o quão difícil essa frase havia se tornado para algumas pessoas, e como a primeira reação delas ao ouvirem alguém dizer “Black lives matter” havia sido se perguntarem: mas e eu? A minha vida não importa? Mas todas as vidas não importam?
Matheus Reis is a Brazilian-American PhD student at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on Brazilian Protestantism in the United States.
How many times have we asked the question, but what about me? In a recent conversation with my nephew about the Black Lives Matter protests over the killing of George Floyd, we talked about how difficult this phrase had become to some people, and how their first reaction to hearing someone say Black lives matter was, what about me? Does my life not matter? Don’t all lives matter? I was reminded of a well-known Bible story about the prodigal son, who squandered his father’s inheritance on a life of mistakes, but who also came to his senses, returned home, and received his father’s forgiveness. This story tells us primarily about God’s amazing grace that is able to look past our mistakes, forgive us of our sins, and to restore our lives no matter what we have done. However, inside this story, we find another character whose outlook on life is very similar to many of us, the older brother, and whom we can learn from.
Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia, USA to discuss precisely that question. Invited by Jehu Hanciles and hosted by faculty and students of Emory University, 25 scholars grappled with the slippery entity we call ‘World Christianity’. Is it a field, or a lens or even a discipline? Who studies it and why? How did it emerge? Why is it found mainly in Europe and North America? Has it a Protestant bias? What is the relationship between the study of World Christianity and the Christians across the globe who are studied? How do our studies connect with other academic studies like missiology, area studies, demography and anthropology of Christianity? These questions have been asked many times before but I welcomed the opportunity to ruminate collectively with scholars who had carefully prepared and shared papers beforehand. Individual contributions were influenced by the primary discipline of contributors, the areas of the world with which they were most familiar, and how far their institution, post or programme deployed the term ‘World Christianity.’
The team at Emory will distil our papers and conversation for public consumption. In the meantime, I have attempted to articulate my description of the present state of World Christianity. I think that because we deliberately cross boundaries of other disciplines when we study World Christianity, it is similar to other emerging foci of study—Global History, intercultural theology etc. However, perhaps the combination of all the following elements does give World Christianity some distinctiveness beyond a useful ‘hold all’ term:
John Mbiti, a pioneer of both
modern African theology and the study of religion in Anglophone Africa has died
at the age of 88.
Mbiti was part of the pan-African
intellectual movement that influenced nationalist discourse as African
countries gained independence from colonial rule. His books, like African Religion and Philosophy (1969), New Testament Eschatology in an African Background (1971), Introduction of African Religion (1975)
and Bible and Theology (1986), became
best sellers. Mbiti critiqued the international disregard for African religion
and demonstrated the religious literacy of Africans. In his cross-continental
surveys and his classifications of proverbs and religious practice, Mbiti
identified a praeparatio evangelica of Christianity in the African past, with a universal deity at its
centre. For Mbiti the mingling of
Christianity and indigenous religion enriched the lives of African people. He
was not without his critics. Okot p’Bitek, his colleague at Makerere
University, Kampala, Uganda in the 1960s, railed against the making of African
spiritual beings into a God with Christian attributes. For Bitek this
diminished and destroyed indigenous practices. In later life, Mbiti continued to work from
his home in Switzerland – translating the NT from Greek into his native Kikamba
(Kenya). This project allowed him to reflect further on the intrusion of
western concepts into biblical translations. His thought continues to have a
profound influence on the work of African scholars and church leaders.