Should political communities feel threatened by the residency of Christians? To threaten is to some extent, give a good reason for an individual or community to fear an individual, a community, an idea, or an object. Many religious persons take a religion-with-society approach that suggests cooperation with a prevailing order is the correct approach religious adherents should ideally take. For example, the editors of The Church as Counterculture identify one pastor in China, Reverend Argue, as someone who stresses to the Chinese government that Christians are good citizens, patriots who will serve in the military, and good workers (3). Argue’s case against Chinese persecution (as well as all other cases for Christians conforming to national cultures) is problematic because he is in essence saying that Christians need to reject their Christian identity at the expense of receiving the benefits of full participation in Chinese society. This idea presupposes that being Chinese (or North American or African, etc.), needs to be the starting point in framing one’s identity; but as Namsoon Kang suggests, we all have multiple identities. Kang says, “[Whether] based on race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, citizenship, or nationality, or religion, can be a point of departure but not a permanently frozen (my emphasis) point of one’s “epistemological dwelling” in the discourse of world Christianity (Kang, “Whose/Which World in World Christianity: Toward World Christianity as Christianity of Worldly Responsibility”?, 2010, 14).
Growing up as an African-American Christian in the mid-1990s, I noticed there was a trend towards Afro-centrism in black churches, with congregants choosing to dress themselves up in traditional African garb such as dashikis and caftans. Today, I recognize Afrocentist practice as fundamentally essentialist, an Orientalist habit where a false notion of a universal ideal of Africa as well as the tendency to make the “non-West” the center, and place the West on the margins (Kang, “Envisioning Postcolonial Theological Education: Dilemmas and Possibilities”, 2010, 5). We are not obligated to accept the categories of African and American. These are constructs that were created in the imaginations of the powerful, those that control discourses, to their own benefit. I do not know what it means to be authentically black; I have been referred to as “white” so many times because I prefer to spend my time reading books and writing reflections.
In the same many, because I am located in multiple identities, I am a citizen of the US but do not practice my patriotism in the same way that others do. Just as there is heterogeneous ways of participating in African-American culture, there are also many ways of being patriotic. Practitioners of world Christianities must not concern themselves with the politics-of-identity if they are to participate in the decolonization process. Rather, Christians, at all times, should be aware of the binaries that are constructed for us, whether it is white or black, indigenous or Western, Orient or Occident. Recently, I have come across a phenomenon I would like to call paxophobia. Paxophobia is the fear of human beings living in peace and harmony together. What drives paxophobia in US churches is the call by ecclesial leadership for church members to not challenge the establishment, to submit to authorities, and to be good patriotic North Americans. The US American flag plays a bigger role in most churches than the cross.
Coinciding with the rejection of a Christianity that supported resistance of a political system is the ideal of Christian masculinity. Aggression and violence serve as identity markers of Christian male human beings. Supporting war, watching sports, joining the military, and enjoying Ultimate Fighting Championships are just some of the habits in which Christian men look to distinguish themselves from Christian women. If one’s identity is defined by violence and aggression, any person, male or female, who challenges essentialist notions of Christian masculinity, is deemed as a threat. Even this weekend my masculinity was called into question because I am dedicated to nonviolence. So, in addition to believing that the radical Christian tradition threatens, as Budde and Brimlow argue, nationalism; I also believe that nonviolent Christianity disrupts notions of masculinity embedded in our culture.
The Anabaptists had to die because the Reformers and Catholics were more manly than them.
Truth and Peace,