Wednesday, December 08, 2004

What I'm reading.

On Monday I completed Christianity Rediscovered, by Vincent J. Donovan, C.S.Sp. A neat and thoughtful quick read, Christianity Rediscovered tells the story of Spiritan priest Donovan's experiences as a missionary among the Masai in Tanzania. Donovan began his missionary career content with the traditional approach of evangelizing the Masai from the security of mission stations replete with hospitals, schools and the like. Over time, however, the American cleric came to realize that conversions obtained through time-honored mission approach were superficial and tenuous, and that most Masai remained indifferent to the Christian message. Donovan thus decided to take a radically different approach, traveling alone from village to village in his Land Rover to directly engage Masai audiences with the simple, unvarnished teaching of the Gospel, unencumbered by European and American cultural baggage and expressed in terms that the Masai could understand and appreciate. Though some Masai villages rejected Donovan's message outright, many more accepted it and began the work of building their own Christian communities. Donovan offers a very inspiring story, but he also left this reader wanting more. He raises intriguing questions about evangelization, inculturation and the nature of ministry, but he merely hints at the larger implications of such questions. Donovan suggests that his experience in Tanzania contains lessons for the Church in America, but he doesn't go into as much detail as he could about how those lessons could be applied. Even so, the fact that Donovan didn't take Christianity Rediscovered as far as he could have is not necessarily a shortcoming. In some sense, his approach in this regard mirrors the approach he took with the Masai, giving the American reader the kernel of the message and inviting the reader to do the rest. At the end of the day, Christianity Rediscovered is a wonderful little book, well worth reading and reflecting upon at length. AMDG.


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