The majority of preaching I listen to comes from white men.
This isn’t saying much. I’m a white male preacher myself. I’m not exactly an outlier when it comes to the church in the UK. I preach in English too, and my lack of language ability means that, when it comes to Christian teaching, I’m pretty monoglottal.
And that means my Christian experience is seriously limited. It’s informed by my experience as a white man living in the suburbs who mainly hears and reads teaching delivered by other white men. And I haven’t really acknowledged that up until now, just like I haven’t acknowledged that when I have sought other voices, they’ve mainly come from the UK or the US. I’ve never heard a preacher from, say Greenland; I’ve never read a blog by a Christian from, say, Kazakhstan. And this malnourished spiritual diet got me thinking: what insights am I missing because the voices I hear are so limited?
An example. Research was conducted into how we hear the parables. It turned out that, while western Christians focused on the reckless living of the Prodigal Son, Christians outside the West paid more attention to the famine he experienced, subtly changing how both sets of readers interpreted the story. I mean, how many affluent westerners have ever experienced a famine? Not their problem, right?
In an age when communication technology has fundamentally changed our societies, I’m not sure we’re doing a great job of curating stories of Christians from outside some very narrow confines. Heck, I suspect the use of the word ‘curating’ there is problematic in itself. But if we’re to learn from each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to find ways of sharing our insights, our theologies, or experiences.
And so I’m embarking upon a pilgrimage of sorts. I’m not in a position to travel the globe, so this will need to be a virtual, online pilgrimage (which immediately renders it suspect, because look at how many people aren’t online) to every country in the world. Because my world isn’t big enough, and I need to learn from people who don’t look like me and who see different things in the Bible. And I have no idea whether I’ll be able to finish this pilgrimage, or if it’s fundamentally condescending, or
But there are signs of hope out there. The Holy Spirit walks the world and spreads grace and mercy and inspiration and art with every footstep. And we need to follow, because otherwise we shrink God and fill the world with blond Jesuses, when the reality is so much bigger and more exciting than that.
There are other voices out there. But they’re still the Church.