Oh East is East, and West is West, and never the two shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth.”
-Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of East and West”
Dear readers, from all around:
Christianity is Not a Western Religion. It is not Eastern either. But Western and Eastern peoples are called to this kingdom.
Above all reasons, Christ predated the West and East. Embedded in the very teachings of Christ is the notion that the God of Abraham and of the Jewish religion, long ago planned for his Son to be sent to mankind as a “Messiah”, as an anointed one, to bring light to the world, to save it. If this be true, then we are speaking of a religion whose centerpiece, whose focus, whose major gift did not come from earth at all, did not come from either of its hemispheres, but came from “the heavens”.
As said previously, this is important for two reasons. The first is that many Christians believe the Western world to be an ordained ally of Christianity. The second is that many Eastern non-Christians reject Christianity because they perceive it to be Western.
- Some enemies of Christ will claim that Christianity is a Western religion, and s a philosophical development of the Western World that only belongs to the Western World, and therefore is not meant for all men—some even going as far to say that Western religion is actually inferior to Eastern spirituality because, among other things, its “closed-minded” insistence on monotheism and reliance on certainty of doctrine. In this way many people who either belong to or fall in love with Eastern cultures have clung to the excuse that “Western religion” is not for them, therefore Christianity is not for them.
- Some Christians will claim that Christianity is a Western religion, and therefore the West is superior to the East, that the West should rule the East, and/or that in general the West is inherently good and the East is inherently evil—some also assume that therefore what is Western is therefore what is Christian, and blend the values of their Western surroundings into their own concept of Christianity. In this way many people assume that Western imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, and/or militarism are necessary to further the Gospel, and to be a good Christian.
Not only is it misleading to refer to Christianity as a “Western” religion, it is also foolish. Christianity does not “belong” to the West any more than it does to the East. Westerners have no right to claim the privilege of Christ by virtue of being Westerners (and vice versa for Easterners). Easterners have no grounds for rejecting the Gospel of Christ by virtue of it being Western (and vice versa for Westerners). Christ is for all and he is not a respecter of persons.
Christianity is transnational because it is pre-national. It is trans-political because it is pre and post-political. It is global because it is the religion of the one who formed the very globe. It stretches from East to West, and came from above.
Jesus once told a Centurion, a figure of Western empire, that one day many would come from the east and the west, and have a place at a great feast with the faithful, those who lived before the Western empire and would also live after it (Matt. 8:5-13). The Centurion’s Western mind was able, on the one hand, to grasp the notion of Christ having authority. On the other hand, he did not yet grasp the nature of the kingdom, supposing that Christ was merely a great authority figure. As long as he chose to remain merely a subject of the West, that man would be thrown outside the gates of Christ’s kingdom. He was a man of great faith, and his story leaves him with the decision to either embrace his Western cultural heritage or embrace the culture of Christ.
We Westerners are given this same choice.
Christianity—not a Western religion. Is the West Christian, then? To some extent, but not in any substantial sense. The West still remains its own animal, for now, ultimately a culture that, like the East, has not fully embraced the Gospel on the terms of the Father of all mankind.
If there is such thing as “the west,” it is nothing more than half the world, and the kingdom of God is not of either half of the world. Rather, it calls people from both hemispheres to come together and transcend their own cultures by uniting in a kingdom that has no borders or boundaries, but can cover all the earth.
West or east, east or west, I hope you are a part of this kingdom.