Christianity that lasts

I’ve recently been reading Philip Jenkins’ The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia – and How It Died. A very eye-opening work, with all sorts of contemporary relevance.

To illustrate, here’s a history lesson the church today would do well to ponder: Jenkins asks why the Christian church in North Africa simply disappeared in the wake of the Muslim invasions of the seventh and eighth centuries, while the Christian church in Egypt has survived to this day and even flourished under Muslim rule. He offers this telling proposal (p. 35):

“The key difference making for survival is . . . how deep a church planted its roots in a particular community, and how far the religion became part of the air that ordinary people breathed [emphasis mine]. The Egyptian church succeeded wonderfully in this regard, while the Africans failed to make much impact beyond the towns. While the Egyptians put the Christian faith in the language of the ordinary people, from city dwellers through peasants, the Africans concentrated only on certain categories, certain races. Egyptian Christianity became native; its African counterpart was colonial. This difference became crucial when a faith that was formed in one set of social and political arrangements had to adapt to a new world. When society changed, when cities crumbled, when persecution came, the faith would continue in one region but not another.”

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