by John Cheong and Eloise Hiebert Meneses, eds.
William Carey Library, 2015.
—Reviewed by Eva M. Pascal, PhD candidate, Religious Studies, Boston University; full-time instructor at Saint Michael’s College, Vermont.
Christian mission not only participates in economic systems through ministry and development activities, but does so in different and sometimes competing economic and cultural contexts. Mission practitioners and scholars have often failed to fully analyze the ways that mission is directly or indirectly enmeshed in economic systems. This refreshing volume begins a serious engagement between cross-cultural missions and the larger economies in which they operate.
The volume brings together a variety of scholars and experienced practitioners in the field. It is well integrated and the authors build on each other’s work. The Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2 set Christian missionary activity within the economic realities of Western capitalism, and provide the groundwork for a biblical-based critique. These chapters expose missionary participation in economies, and challenge an uncritical attachment to the ‘gospel of capitalism.’
The stakes are high for Christian missions: without a biblical response, missionaries might be blamed for the ill-effects of capitalism just as missionaries of the past were blamed for acquiescing to colonialism. In terms of cross-cultural interactions, both an awareness of, and scriptural approach to, ethical and cultural differences help to avoid imposing neocolonial economic models on missionary partners. These and subsequent chapters gesture towards a Christian response to, and provide practical suggestions to curb, unjust elements of free market and finance capitalism.
Chapters 3-7 tackle the question of mission and economies through analysis and comparison of intercultural and interreligious case studies, from countries such as the Philippines, Mali, Malawi, and Indonesia. Mission practitioners are often at the forefront of an encounter with differing economic systems. These chapters bring to light Western economic assumptions by viewing alternative systems of economy, trade, and exchanges, such as collectivist economies and patron systems that prioritize community well-being.
The final chapter pertains to mission activities with perhaps the most heightened participation in economic exchange: faith-based development and relief non-governmental organizations (NGOs). David Bronkema assesses how many organizations are ‘flying blind’ as how their work participates in, but also can transform, macro-economies, local (micro) economies, and advocate for change in the arena of political economy.
One purpose of this volume is to provide economic literacy—included is a glossary of basic vocabulary and concepts to have meaningful and informed conversations about mission and economies. Another aim is a Christian response to the quagmire of economic systems. In Chapter 4 on Islamic banking in Malaysia, John Cheong shows how some Muslims are creating religiously inspired economic alternatives that compete with if not replace capitalist financing. As Jonathan Bonk alludes to in his thoughtful forward to the volume, there is yet to be a robust Christian critique and few practical alternatives to the more nefarious dimensions of capitalism.
Even if the volume does not lay out a coherent model for Christian economic activity, it begins a conversation between Evangelical mission and economies. It is a must-read for practitioners, scholars, churches, and institutions to understand any cross-cultural mission venture, and to move towards critically assessing impact, minimizing harm, and enhancing cross-cultural partnerships.
Check these titles:
Auvinen-Pöntinen, Mari-Anna and Jonas Adelin Jørgensen, eds. 2016. Mission and Money: Christian Mission in the Context of Global Inequalities. Leiden; Boston: BRILL.
Bonk, Jonathan J. 2007. Missions and Money: Affluence as a Western Missionary Problem—Revisited. New Haven, Conn.: Overseas Ministries Study Center.
Wuthnow, Robert. 2009. Boundless Faith the Global Outreach of American Churches. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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EMQ, Vol. 53, No. 4. Copyright © 2017 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.