On this last, he tells the sad tale of a publisher of Vacation Bible School materials who themed one such set of materials "Rickshaw Rally", using all sorts of stereotypical and demeaning Asian stereotypes. When criticized, the publishers responded that the Asians shouldn't take themselves so seriously.
In particular, there is the presumption in all this of white privilege--the propensity of whites in organizations and churches to simply consult other whites and do things without consideration or consultation with other cultural groups. In the second part of this book, Soong-chan Rah explores how pervasive this captivity is as manifest in our church growth and megachurch strategies, the Emergent church, and in our cultural imperialism, our unthinking export of Western ways of doing things around the world.
He praises Bill Hybels for his recognition that the Willow Creek model had failed to produce fully-orbed Christian disciples of Christ. And he scathingly criticizes the Emergent church movement as young whites dissatisfied with boomer evangelicalism who are simply creating young white churches reacting against the worst of the previous generation without engaging a broader cultural mix. He goes on in the third part of the book to prescribe an alternative, which is that the white, culturally captive church needs to learn from and humble itself before the cultures from the Majority world and learn from them.
He proposes that we learn a theology of suffering from the African- and Native American churches. He believes the immigrant church can teach us approaches to holistic evangelism from their experience of addressing comprehensively the needs of their own immigrants coming to the west. And he believes second generation people can serve as "bridge" persons between the West and the rest as those who in some ways are in both, and neither, of these cultures--the culture of their parents, and Western culture. This is a challenging and blunt book which it needs to be.
When, in one of his examples, a dying congregation accepts a bid by a white congregation for half the price being offered by a Korean congregation, one recognizes that niceness just won't cut through the fog and the chains of the captivity he is describing. I believe Rah is spot on in his diagnosis of white evangelicalism and the way forward. My only question as I read this book is whether the author and those leading the vanguard of this "next evangelicalism" are aware of the dangers of new forms of cultural captivity and privilege to which they could fall prey?
Perhaps this is implicit in the incisive critique of these realities in white evangelicalism, but it was not stated. The truth is, these are human conditions present in every culture, not simply white conditions. Culture shapes every form of Christianity, either ordinately or inordinately. Ordinately, this is a thing of beauty as the mosaic of Christians from around the world come together to create a beautiful, God-composed work of art.
Similarly, positions of power and influence may be used to effect great good and great service, yet also may be warped to new forms of privilege. My own hope is to see the dawning of a multicultural evangelicalism where we learn from and humbly submit to each other beginning with the submission of white churches , and guard each other from hubris and the pitfalls of cultural captivities of every sort and the temptation to privilege in all its forms.
May we not simply exchange captivities but move to a greater freedom for all the children of God! Dec 06, sharon rated it liked it Shelves: It's strange to me how often I was warned away from this book by other Christians, given that the most radical aspect of Rah's book is probably the term "Western cultural captivity" as a descriptor for aspects of the contemporary American evangelical church that rightly deserve criticism.
Rah painstakingly sets out his own roots in and routes through Western theology and at no point demands a disavowal of the conservative evangelical tradition wholesale. It is unfortunate that his early critics It's strange to me how often I was warned away from this book by other Christians, given that the most radical aspect of Rah's book is probably the term "Western cultural captivity" as a descriptor for aspects of the contemporary American evangelical church that rightly deserve criticism.
It is unfortunate that his early critics painted him as a firebrand, since his words have proven quite prophetic in regards to the materialism, individualism, and colonialism of the Western church. The emergent church movement so heavily critiqued in one of the chapters has largely fizzled out perhaps in part because it was so dominated by the forces and figures Rah identifies.
Rah overall stays away from delving fully into white evangelicism's ties to the religious right and political conservatism, an omission that feels rather glaring these days. The two chapters on immigrant and second-generation churches were quite good -- it's clear that Rah feels most in his wheelhouse there -- but I thought it was a real loss that Rah doesn't grapple with any of the negative aspects of these churches.
For example, he rightfully describes the immigrant church as a social hub for its community, but glosses over how insularity and the attitude of "providing for one's own" can curtail such groups from taking political action. Overall, for Christians who feel alienated from white evangelicalism, there won't be much that's new here.
Rather, this book primarily offers comfort and reassurance that their critiques are real and valid. For those still very much within the "cultural captivity" of the Western church, there will likely be much more discomfort as well as much more to be learned. May they who have ears hear and internalize Rah's words. Feb 27, Corey rated it really liked it. The church in America is indubitably controlled by white, western, evangelicals. The problem with this captivity, according to Rah, is that the American is more diverse and includes minority cultures who are quickly increasing in demographic size, yet are marginalized in the church: Even if we could justify the white captivity of the church in the early part of the twentieth century, there is no justification for it now.
And because privilege and perceived superiority secures cultural power, this captivity remains. Privilege, when it is unnamed, holds and even greater power.
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah
However, despite the higher bid of the Korean church, the host church chose to sell the building to the white congregation for less. Privilege for the white Christian community is the power to assume what is acceptable and appropriate behavior. After all, the demographics of the American church are changing rapidly, with immigrants and minority cultures becoming more prevalent: America will no longer be a Euro-centric, white nation.
On the flip side, he cites a positive example of a declining white congregation choosing to merge and release their name, power and resources over to a multi-ethnic church pastored by a Korean-American. Rah sees this as the way forward: In general, his chapter on racism was most eye-opening. The section on white privilege challenged my understanding of the nature of the church.
Specifically, the western captivity to theology was provocative. Because theology emerging from a Western, white context is considered normative, it places non-Western theology in an inferior position and elevates Western theology as the standard by which all other theological frameworks and points of view are measured. Another challenging point Rah makes is his critique of the Homogenous Unit Principle. In his view, the church ought to be multi-ethnic is a moral imperative. Until recently, I would have said the solution to racism and segregation is the gospel, not multi-ethnic church planting.
However, I think I was wrong. And while I still think understanding and preaching the gospel is key, we need to apply the gospel to our lives in ways that actually address segregation and structural racism. In fact, my previous way of thinking about the gospel reflects my own white western cultural bias toward seeing the gospel as only personal.
Further, it seems Rah envisions multi-ethnic churches solving more than personal prejudice, but solving the problem of the western cultural captivity of the church in America. I think if the American church is to move toward a future that is free from western cultural captivity, we need churches whose power, privilege, and leadership are shared with other ethnic groups. This cannot happen if we remain segregated. Multi-ethnic churches create space for white people to learn to value other cultures and the theologies, outreach strategies, and worship styles of minority cultures.
Jul 11, Andy Flintoff rated it it was amazing Shelves: A very good book. I would recommend it to every Christian on the earth today. Dec 03, Michael-David Sasson rated it really liked it. This is a very interesting and challenging book about how to face the reality of the changing racial composition of the Christian church and provide it ethical, effective, spirit-filled leadership. It's call for leadership of second-gen immigrants and bi-racial people in the next phase of the North American church is fascinating and at odds with other racial justice models that lean more heavily on the experience of the African American church and see that leadership continuing.
I'm not sure I bu This is a very interesting and challenging book about how to face the reality of the changing racial composition of the Christian church and provide it ethical, effective, spirit-filled leadership. I'm not sure I buy the author's sense that social justice is a gospel value and individualism is only a corruption brought on through western philosophy. My read is more that social justice and liberation theology reads of Christian faith have to lean on Hebrew testament stories like that of Exodus, in part, because the collective orientation of the Gospels is rather weak.
These numbers do not account for the fact that a majority of Christians in North America will be nonwhite. Worship is just between the individual and God, and the church service exists to help facilitate that individual communion. It is too easy to dismiss and disavow individual culpability for the sin of racism. But if we use the language of corporate sin, then we are all complicit. Anyone that has benefitted from America's original sin is guilt of that sin and bears the corporate shame of that sin. Segregation justified by a desire for church growth allows affluent white churches to remain separate.
If lean on gospels vs Hebrew testament doesn't seem particularly unbiblical to me Liminality means that the bicultural, second-generation ethnic American has had the journeying experience that will prove helpful in the ongoing call to racial reconciliation and multiethnicity. Liminal Christians, therefore, should lead the next evangelicalism in addressing the challenges of multiethnicity. Instead of being captured or intimidated by Western, white cultural norms, the second-generation immigrant should be stepping up to take on the mantle of leadership.
Jul 19, Tim Lapetino rated it liked it. In the intervening years, his premise of thoughtful, sensitive racial awareness and reconciliation in the evangelical church has become much more accepted. That he sowed seeds of thought leadership in this is appreciated. His examples are often weak and lack the substantial detail I craved. Further depth would have been nice, but in its place is left an incredible amount of repetition of the same few points. Better editing would have eliminated some of this and I wished for more elaboration and granular, nuanced thinking.
While I really appreciated the main lessons of the book as challenging jumping-off points for me to seriously consider, the book succeeds at times despite itself. His critical tone sometimes crosses into obnoxious, almost mean-spirited critique. Rah sacrifices some of the prophetic high ground with an attitude that occasionally appears to lack forgiveness and humility. Sep 12, Jodie Pine rated it it was amazing. So many helpful insights into the Western, white captivity of the church with an emphasis on the need for whites to accept spiritual leadership from non-whites, to realize we have so much to learn from people of color--to recognize and let go of of our prevalent paternalistic thinking that privilege and power give whites the obligation to "help" the marginalized and minorities.
I thought this quote from one of Rah's talks at Wheaton was especially gripping: You will be a colonist.
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Instead of taking the gospel message into the world, you will take an Americanized version of the gospel. Sep 06, Jeff rated it liked it. There are a number of good, critical reviews of this book on Amazon. I'm not going to attempt another. I will say that I'm in agreement with much that is said in this book but the author probably does not do much to further his cause by the way that he says it. I'm not sure that whites and Westerners have necessarily cornered the market on ma There are a number of good, critical reviews of this book on Amazon. I'm not sure that whites and Westerners have necessarily cornered the market on materialism or racism, in fact, I'm quite sure they have not, or that individualism is in all ways and at all times an unquestionable curse but there is no denying that these are powerfully formative of most Americans and so most American churches.
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- The Next Evangelicalism.
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But is there really anything new in all this, though I guess some are still coming to the realization. He is particularly and specifically hard on the emerging church. That's an easy target but for some reason hmmmm he does not mention the So. Baptists by name though he makes quite a bit of a specific incident which is meant to illustrate racism. What is newer is his reflection on the white, Western cultural captivity of the evangelical church in light of the reality that it is the non-white, non-Western segment of the the evangelical church in the U.
If the present minority but soon to be majority churches are growing as robustly as said, given time, things may actually work out. But in a book of this tone it seems a bit of irony for the author to point to immigrant ethnic churches as the example of "how to" seeing as most are not at all the diverse bodies that he believes the majority churches should be.
When he goes off wringing his hands about how all the soon-to-be-empty church properties and buildings now held captive by white western Christians will be disposed of once they are defunct, that's the point I check out of the conversation. Jan 04, Jon rated it really liked it. Soong-Chan Rah may not be the voice white Evangelicals want right now, but he is certainly a voice we need. This book was written back in , but it's main points have only become more important and more relevant now in Rah's argument is essentially that American Evangelicalism is captive to white American culture.
That has led to significant problems in ecclesiology, theology, and missiology. Furthermore, non-white Christian communities have both a tremendous value to add to Christianity Soong-Chan Rah may not be the voice white Evangelicals want right now, but he is certainly a voice we need. Furthermore, non-white Christian communities have both a tremendous value to add to Christianity writ large and, in many cases, are far more vibrant than white churches. Rah's book is particularly poignant in our modern cultural moment, where the views of "white Evangelicals" dominate the news cycle and political headlines, obscuring the vibrant non-white congregations throughout our congregation.
This book is now eight years old, which means that there are parts of it that could be considered dated. For example, Rah dedicates an entire chapter to critiquing the white-centric emerging church movement. That movement has largely flamed out, and a chapter today might focus on the media attention given to white Protestant political leaders particularly in the Trump Age. This is not a book that lays out a plan for building multi-ethnic congregations so much as it is a prophetic voice calling for repentance.
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Rah doesn't pull punches, and while some might be turned off by a tone that sometimes comes across as angry, few reading his book would come away un-convicted. Indeed, Rah's book reveals real truths that Evangelicals white and non-white alike need to hear. Nowhere in the book does Rah deviate from historical Christianity, and nowhere in the book does he descend into unhelpful criticism.
For that reason, Rah needs to be read and understood, and this book provides an excellent place to start. Dec 09, Benjamin Alexander rated it did not like it Shelves: This book was incredibly hypocritically racist. The fiercest racism I've seen in my life has not come from whites. The repeated use of the phrase "white cultural captivity" was obnoxious. The very same things the author attacked in whites he himself committed throughout the book. At the same time, I'm glad I read it. Aside from author's poor immaturity and victimization complex it helped -even still- to open my eyes to see the world from a non-white perspective.
Many interesting stories and goo This book was incredibly hypocritically racist. Many interesting stories and good points in the book.. Aug 06, Jim Herrington rated it it was amazing. This is a powerful read by a third generation Korean immigrant who offers a prophetic critique of the church in America. Jun 28, Adam Ross rated it really liked it Shelves: In this he is not without his allies, and his book The Next Evangelicalism joins a growing body of literature arguing this case.
It is in many ways a convincing and convicting treatment. Following Phillip Jenkins' now-regarded classic, The Next Christendom , in which the Harvard prof reveals that by , white Christians will come to be an ethnic minority in the faith, Soong-Chan argues that this effect can already be seen on American shores.
Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity
He reveals that generally white, suburban, middle class churches are slowly dying out - while ethnic churches are exploding. And, he notes, we have a hidden assumption that "white" churches are the only churches that matter and thus they are the only churches we pay attention to. Yet, in his example, Boston had churches in In other words, we're so caught up in our assumptions that the church in America is shrinking, we have missed that it is only really the American churches that decline, while immigrant and ethnic churches are vibrant, growing - and totally off our radar.
The central thesis of the book is that the Church has so completely identified itself with Western culture that it is no longer relevant. It is an appealing premise because it is, frankly, true, but Soong-Chan is hardly the first person to notice this fact. Yet what makes his book important are not the parts that are common with other books of its kind I think of the superior The Great Giveaway by David Fitch but in its entire approach. The requisite criticisms of consumerism, individualism, materialism, and the Church Growth movement all appear, yet Soong-Chan deals with them differently than others.
Fellow evangelicals like Fitch or Driscoll treat these things as cultural issues, where Soong-Chan's unique take is that these are not just cultural, but ethnic constructs. He approaches the entire subject with his eye directed to race and ethnicity, not merely culture and this casts his whole project in new lights.
As the book progresses, we are treated to other subjects not typically covered in books focused on the cultural captivity of the Church.
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It was refreshing to read, in what may be one of the book's highlight chapters, a hard and serious critique of the Emergent Church movement as nothing more than another expression of white cultural forms. Soong-Chan then resets our thinking helpfully here - statistically, the only true emerging church is the ethnic, Global South, bi-lingual church.
He paints for us the picture of what it is like to be an ethnic minority in America, and pulls back the veil on our hidden assumptions of superiority. White churches are simply "churches," whereas ethnic churches are always identified primarily by their own racial moniker: You pastor "Church of the Rock Evangelical," but he pastors a "black Baptist" church. The point is that in our way of naming, white churches are just churches, but attention is drawn to the ethnic or immigrant nature of minority churches, making them nothing more than charming sub-sets of the "real" church.
At the very least, he says, this is rather patronizing and means that we are incredibly ill-equipped for the great changes to come. How will we speak of our churches when worship in the majority of churches in the United States are delivered in a language other than English, or has only a minority of white people in them? Soong-Chan is desirous for ethnic leadership in the church, and wants Western churches to step out of the way and let minorities take greater roles of leadership, not just individually, but as entire local bodies.
This is a fine thing, and ought to be encouraged, because we whites do hog the spotlight. But there is a danger in speaking in terms of ethnicities when it comes to the church, and it appears as though Soong-Chan falls into it. One can easily get the perception from the book that all white culture is bad, and all minority culture is good.
We should just get out of the way because we're a bunch of useless lumps, hopelessly compromised with Western culture. First, my brother has shown the danger in thinking culturally or ethnically about the Church. Secondly, Soong-Chan is as equally compromised by Western culture as any of the issues he points to. Who came up with the idea of diversity or valuing multiethnic cultures?
White, middle class Anglo-Saxons teaching at universities, or otherwise people educated in the West. By and large, who tends to push diversity? White people in the media, government and universities. This is not to say that is a bad thing, but lets all be honest about our sources here. Who, incidentally, sent missionaries to all these other countries to bring them the Gospel? We're not playing a "Who converted who, anyway? How free of Western culture is the Christianity over in other parts of the world.
South American evangelicals are notoriously legalistic, which they got from white legalistic fundamentalist white Christians a hundred years ago. Thirdly, in possibly the book's greatest weakness, Soong-Chan ignores completely the fact that if Westerners are captured by Western culture, so too are non-Westerners captured by non-Western cultures.
We're not escaping from Western civilization into the great cultural vacuum of happy nothingness and rainbows. We leave one cultural expression into another cultural expression. So into what are we moving? This then draws into the discussion the fact that the Gospel has suffused Western culture for years, whereas the Gospel has not been present in the same way in Korea, for instance, for anything close to that time. Western Christians have theological and cultural insights, especially concerning compromise with the world and the temptations of power, that the next evangelicalism will need as their influence grows rapidly in the next few decades.
The danger here is that in our rush to let non-Western Christians contribute, both they and we may reject the genuine insights provided by Western Christians over the centuries. The sense one is tempted to get from Soong-Chan's book is that Western Christianity has little to contribute to the conversation.
Sure, we have our own individual quirks as a culture, but does that mean that we must toss out the great theological gains of the past two millennia and start over? I hardly think so. Soong-Chan also ignores the fact that the gospel is transformative. It doesn't just sit in a culture and do nothing; it tears cultures apart and puts them back together again not, it should be noted, in the image of the West, but in the image of Scripture.
But the implication of the book is that Western culture is bad, so therefore we should take ethnic cultures as they are, and rejoice in this.
God doesn't really work that way. I am excited to see how He will transform these other cultures as the West continues to circle the drain. God's only been seriously working His Gospel in these cultures for a few hundred years at most. Many, many people in India are still first, second or third generation Christians. Great transformation is coming in those cultures too, and that is, I think, what we ought to celebrate.
Finally, Soong-Chan paints the dichotemy as between Western cultural captivity on the one hand and non-Western cultural freedom on the other. He uses the example of the Korean and white students at Gorden-Conwell Seminary. Rah flies squarely in the face of Evangelical practice and belief by calling for Evangelicals to give up their cherished emphasis on individual sin and salvation and to embrace an understanding that the churchs responsibility is to eliminate corporate sin.
Focusing on individual sin to the exclusion of the systemic sins of racism and classism is to be complicit in these corporate sins. Rah doesnt let megachurches or the emergent church off the hook either, but points to them as simply some of the most recent examples of the churchs captivity to Western, white culture. Rah exhorts North American churches to recognize their captivity, to confess corporately the sins of racism and white privilege, to submit humbly to the spiritual authority of non-whites, and to unleash the gospel that preaches the self-sacrificial life of the followers of Jesus.
Although many Evangelicals might consider Rahs message to be too confrontational, his book bores right to the heart of the issues at the center of a vibrant twenty-first-century Christianity. Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan April 14, This article is not an endorsement, but a review.
The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer.