Going Global & Christianization


Though Christianity today may seem dominated by Western culture, its reach is global and includes cultures that seem too foreign to relate to.

“Christianization” not only refers to attempt to lure people into worship places by assimilating to culture, but the conversion of individual or entire peoples to Christianity in general.  Christianity formed in the Middle East, but was embraced and spread mostly by Westerners.  From the 7th to 15th centuries, Christianity spread like wildfire through Europe.

In Christ & Empire: from Paul to Postcolonial Times, Joerg Rieger gives an explanation of “empire,” as the antithesis to Christ.  He says, “culture can no longer be conceived apart from issues of power.”  In other words, politics and culture each cannot exist without the other.  When Christianization becomes political, it is more about expanding influence and power over others.  When Christianity came to thrive in America, and from the day  Pope Pius X declared that the United States was no longer a missionary territory, and instead a missionary force in 1908, American Christians “colonized” other peoples with Christianity.  This, along with the efforts of other Western missionaries, is why more than half of the world’s Christians live in Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Pacific.


Besides obvious language, ethnicity, and economic status differences, culture differences abound between Western and African, Asian, Latin American, and Pacific Christians.  African believers have grown up learning ancient tribal folklore rather than  the Aesop’s fables American believers learned.  Asian believers are collective-minded when Westerners emphasize the individual.  Latin Americans live in more politically turbulent and crime-ridden environments.  Pacific Christians are more isolated on their small islands than Westerners whose culture and influence are more vast.

Andrew Walls says, “like the old Jerusalem Christians, Western Christians had long grown used to the idea that they were guardians of a ‘standard’ Christianity.”  When Western Christians attribute Christianization to their own effort and power, it’s easy to assume superiority over “conquered” peoples.

But the bible says, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” in 2 Corinthians 4:7.

No Christian culture should look down on another, even if one brings Christianity to another.  Instead, diversity should be embraced, for Jesus is “A Christ who blows the lid off conventional images of prophets, priests, and kings shows us a kind of love that is renouncing its paternalistic baggage by engaging in ever deeper encounters with those who are not like us,” according to Rieger.

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