Hope for Outcastes
As Christianity's demographic center of gravity shifts from the West to Asia and Africa, Third World Christians increasingly regard the secular West as a field for mission and ministry. A Nigerian nun passes out evangelistic literature in Harvard Square. An Indian (Telugu) Methodist minister delivers the opening benediction at a Fourth of July parade in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, a typical American suburb. London's largest church, Kingsway United Christian Center, is mainly Nigerian rather than British. Third World Christians are having a significant, although still insufficiently understood, impact on the West. As various Third World cultures and religious practices meet and interact over time within different strata of Western culture, history predicts that the outcome will be determined as much by indigenous as by imported cultural and religious preferences.
As we have seen in previous articles, the history of Christianity in India was not a simple tale of one-way Western impact upon a heathen culture. Instead, Indian Christians were highly selective in what they chose to adopt from American and European missionaries. They were also discriminating in choosing which cultural elements to retain from their pre-Christian heritage, much to the dismay of many Western missionaries who were promoting greater "indigenization." The resulting Indian Christian cultural and religious idioms emerged not only from interactions between missionaries and Indian converts, but also between Indian castes (jatis), language/regional groups, and non-Christian religions. Indian Christianity is now as complex as the subcontinent into which this already varied and multi-denominational religion was introduced.
Roughly 80% of all Indian Christians hailed ...