Everyday Theology and the Wider Culture

This post at Real Hope for Haiti is part of a larger series, but I think it stands on its own.  The topic is: How do (rural) Haitians view God and the spirit world in general, and how does this impact their lives?  It matters to Christian missionaries, because it turns out [I am told] that if you show up in Haiti expecting to evangelize the same way you did back home, there are going to be a few misunderstandings.

I like the article most of all because it makes me think about American Christianity.  What are our spiritual assumptions?  What is it, when we turn to God, that we are seeking?  Or when we don’t turn to God, what keeps us away?

–> As I mentally run through the hypothetical scenario, How would I explain Christianity in a way that is meaningful to a rural Haitian?, it turns on a part of my brain that I need to use more.  Because the people I actually know (none of whom are rural Haitians, as it happens), they have problems and assumptions and experiences that matter.  Eternally matter.  If I am to be of any use, I need to meet them with the Gospel where they need it most.  And that’s probably a different place than where I am myself, or ever was.


The funny thing is that you can get a little nervous.  We explain God this way ________.  If I change how I explain God to someone else, am I changing the Gospel?

Always a risk, of course.  But there is also this: God is immense.

–>  I’ve never had anyone ask me, “I’m trying to figure out how to deal with the spirit world, because this Christianity thing is interesting, but there are these spirits I need to placate, and I need to make sure I’m not going to end up in more trouble rather than less.  Can you help me out here?”  So I suspect that conversation might go a little differently than my usual 5th grade CCD class.

But it would be the same God.  An unchanging, logically coherent, morally watertight God.  No relativistic your-truth-is-different-from-my-truth wishwash about it.  The answers aren’t different because God is any different to a suburban American 5th grader and a rural Haitian farm.  The answers are only different because the questions are different.

[And no, neither of them are allowed to remarry if they murder their spouse.  Bet that question comes up both places.  Sheesh.  People.]





4 thoughts on “Everyday Theology and the Wider Culture

  1. Fascinating article.

    I had a good friend who was Mormon and we had the good kind of relationship, in that we could talk about our religions without trying to convert or getting angry. I’d had only a cursory knowledge of the LDS and I didn’t realize at first that what she meant by “angels” and “child of God” were not AT. ALL. what I meant by them. We had to back up to the beginning and define almost everything so we could quit talking past each other.

    1. That’s interesting — I didn’t realize the Mormon concepts were so different. Good to know.

      (You get this a lot in protestant/catholic conversations about what words like ‘salvation’ and ‘sanctification’ mean. But usually you get agreement on the basics of who’s who in Heaven. More or less.)

      1. “Do you believe you are a child of God?” We both answered yes to that but where my answer is “I am an adopted child of God” she believes that she is a literal child of God; that Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father (God has a physical body–flesh and bones but no blood) had spirit babies (“angels”) that get to choose whether or not they come to earth and that Jesus is the first of those spirit babies, hence, first-born son.

        Who’s who in heaven for mormons is not at all like us. They’re not trinitarian. They believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all separate physical beings but share the same will.

        That’s the nutshell version.

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