Mission After Globalisation: The Problem of Race
There is gnawing silence in contemporary missiological conversations on the subject of race and its implications on mission – or missio Dei – in this twenty-first century. I believe this silence is very revealing, especially about the way the unfolding story of God’s mission will be told and interpreted in 21st century history. We are still not talking about the implications of race on mission even though it is becoming increasingly clear that this may be the single most important missilogical discourse of this century.
The emergence of non-Western non-Caucasian missionaries will force us to rethink most of our well-accepted understanding of mission. For instance, what does mission in the absence of empirialism and colonialism look like? In a world of unspoken hierarchies–of civilizations and of races, (horrible as that sounds, it is a reality that shapes most people’s worldviews and how they relate to other human beings)–what happens when non-Caucasians begin to numerically dominate missionary work? How about those non-Caucasian missionaries who have been called (by God) to reach Westerners with the Gospel? Of course, what will it mean for missions that in forty years from now, the majority of Christians in the world will know very little of Western missionaries?
We have to note that while Christianity has become a multi-ethnic religion – demographically speaking – it remains largely Caucasian, both in its ideology and theology. (Do I need to add missiology?)
The identification of Christianity with a particular race or ethnic group–as has been the case for the past 1500 years–will be history soon. The domination of that race over other races, sometimes using Christianity as a pacifying tool (in the name of mission but intent on colonialism) has brought us to a world where most of us are at loss when it comes to evangelizing the West. And as far as I can see, contemporary Western Christianity is too much a product of the Enlightenment (and modernity) that it will also find it really hard to successfully evangelize its own context. I am certain that non-Western missionaries will be of great help, only if they can figure out how to communicate with Westerners, because generally speaking, Westerners hardly listen to non-Westerners. And that is a big problem.