I’ve finished reading The Next Evangelicalism (InterVarsity Press, 2009), authored by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah. As an Asian Christian reading a book written by another Asian Christian, I can say that I’ve been having a very tough time digesting it. I was almost scared to keep reading because Rah goes direct and head-on, no holds-barred, with the issue that drives the thesis of his book. Yep, there’s no beating around the bush with him. By the time I got to chapter five, things got so warm I had to remove my sweater, unbutton my shirt, and turn on the fan.
As I read, I have wondered if Rah’s methodology might be considered racist by some, and if he is using the race card in order to compensate for injustices? Or is he making a legitimate argument about the injustices that the evangelical church needs to deal with? If his arguments are legitimate, it may be a difficult pill to swallow for many evangelicals because we tend to think that we hold the moral high ground. This is a book that brings out tough controversial issues concerning the greater evangelical church and it is extremely challenging. In chapter 5, Rah also addresses the emerging church, in stating:
“I personally find the use of the term “emerging church” to be offensive. I believe that the real emerging church is the church in Africa, Asia and Latin America that continues to grow by leaps and bounds. I believe that the real emerging church is the hip-hop church, the English-speaking Latino congregation, the second-generation Asian American church, the Haitian immigrant church, the Spanish-speaking store-front churches and so forth. For the small group of white Americans to usurp the term “emerging” reflects the significant arrogance. Is there recognition of the reality of the changing demographics of American Christianity? Is there a willingness to move beyond the Western, white captivity of the church to a more multiethnic leadership?” (p. 124)
Wait, but there’s more. Rah states:
“The Babylon that must fall is not merely modernity (as the “emerging” church might contend), but rather, the Babylon that must fall is white cultural captivity. The fall of Babylon, therefore, requires the tearing down of the white dominance of American evangelicalism.”
Ouch!! This may sound demeaning to white evangelicals but it’s actually not as harsh as it sounds…I hope. Upon reading this, one’s first inclination might be to label him as an angry liberal but the thing is that I don’t think he is a liberal, just fed up… that’s all. He hold conservative theology and knows the greater evangelical church very well. I believe he is a well-meaning evangelical who desires to see change within the church. I don’t think Rah’s arguments are based only on subjective feelings, but he does offer some examples of the state of the evangelical church’s spiritual condition. If what he says is correct, then what may be on the line is the unity of the evangelical church. Rah asks a potentially and very poignant question:
“Is the white dominant emergent community willing to lay down their power for the sake of unity that needs to emerge out of the diversity in the next evangelicalism?”
Here are some questions that we could address:
A loaded question here: Rah feels that the evangelical church in the west need to be set free from western cultural captivity? Does Rah’s question itself imply there is racism in the evangelical church?
Should the evangelical church be dealing with social justice issues, or is that just political activism? Are the two terms “social justice” and “evangelicals” misnomers, or can they go together?
Is the entire evangelical church united, or in disunity?