Global Christianties: Perspectives, Methods, and Challenges Conference: Session 2

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afternoon, everybody. I think we couldn’t
have hoped for a better start of the conference. I learned a great deal
from this morning’s papers and our conversations, so thanks
from my side for that as well. My name is Karin Krause, and
I am an assistant professor of Byzantine theology
and visual culture here at the Divinity School. And it’s my pleasure to chair
session two of this conference on the idea of the global. It’s my pleasure to
introduce to you Adam Becker. Professor Becker’s
research interests include Christian martyr
texts in Sasanian Iran, Jewish-Christian relations
in late antiquity, the social and intellectual
history of the Syriac Christian Aramaic tradition, and
the missionary encounter in 19th century. His book Fear of God
and the Beginning of Wisdom The School of
Nisibis and the Development of Christian Scholastic Culture
in Late Antique Mesopotamia was published by the University
of Pennsylvania Press in 2006. The book grounds
the reception of Greek philosophical and
patristic literature in the social life of Christian
schools in the Sasanian Empire. In 2015 was published his book
Revival and Awakening American Evangelical Missionaries
in Iran and the Origins of Assyrian Nationalism by the
University of Chicago Press. In it, Becker links
the development of secular nationalism
among Christians in the 19th century Middle East
to American Protestant ideas of religious reform. Adam Becker is currently editing
some of the works attributed to Isaac of Antioch, a
Syriac poet of the fifth to sixth century. Professor Becker’s
editorial work forms part of a larger
project on ethical exortation and the perceived moral
failure of Christianization in late antique Syria. I look forward to
his paper that has a nice title “The Pre-Global
Global Going Global.” Please join me in
welcoming Adam Becker. [APPLAUSE] ADAM BECKER: Thank you
for the introduction and thank you for the
hospitality that I’ve received. I have to apologize
for the title. It was– my first thought with– in response to the question we
were asked in the invitation to this event was a
question about the rubric of global Christianity,
so how useful is it? And I thought, well, obviously
the Church of the East, the church that I’ve
done a lot of work on– the Church of the East
was global in a way. It had spread across Asia by
the late first millennium CE and so it’s long been global in
the simple sense of the term. But, on the other hand,
there is something different about the Church of
the East in the modern period. And so it was already global,
but then it also went global. So that was my pre-global
global going global. What is the exact meaning of
global and global Christianity? I know there are more nuanced
and ideas about this, people have actually thought
about this a lot more. And so, in a way, I’m– it’s daunting to speak
after Professor Robert because she just gave us whole
history of the development of world Christianity, global
Christianity, these categories, and I’m approaching this
as someone who never really thought about it before and
then she said, OK, well, what does global Christianity
do for me as a historian and whatever I work on, so these
are my thoughts about that. And I was aware that there was
an other another conversation, but I wasn’t going to
get too involved in that. So I hope that my own
ignorance about the history is refreshing. [CROWD LAUGHS] For me, at least, the
expression improves upon world Christianity
which seems to– this implied the global
south and perhaps also Asia, but it’s somehow implies,
to me, non-European. Rather global Christianity
suggests to me a self-consciousness about
Christianity’s global movement, including via modern
Western missions, and the complex
dynamic of Christianity in the contemporary world. However, again, was
the Church of the East not engaged in global
movement long before all this? Global could mean
universalizing or open to translation in various
senses of the word translation, but, in that case,
Christianity was already global during the Roman Empire. Similarly, if global means
de-territorialized or dis-embedded,
Christianity has always been de-territorialized
even within its various localizations and even
dis-embedded in as much as the emergence of Christianity
was an important step in the process of the
development of the category of religion itself. Or, is global an
analytical term that emphasizes a certain
characteristic of Christianity that has always been there,
but which has been sped up within the modern period. And this would fit with the
idea that modernity should not be characterized by its
content, but by its pace. Yet is there something more
global about contemporary Christianity– something faster,
more “globaler,” or “globaler,” or whatever– if
that’s even a word– what with this being– so I’m going to leave these
questions about the global and then returned
to them in the end. In my paper, I’d like to
address the modern history of the Church of the East
and then bring us back later to the question of the global. Now I work on the Syriac
Christian tradition. I work on this tradition
in late antiquity and the early Islamic
period, so fourth into the eighth centuries,
but also in the 19th and early 20th century. My 2015 book Revival and
Awakening American Missionaries in Iran and the Origins
of Assyrian Nationalism was a study, as
the name suggests, of how the missionary
encounter between members of the Church of the East and
American evangelical Christians resulted in the
unintended consequence of a Syrian nationalism. Whereas my mission book focused
on the effects of mission, especially evangelical missions,
on a Middle Eastern church and what I– I use the expression “missionary
modernity” in the book– what I want to focus on today
is how in the mission encounters certain characteristics the East
Syrian tradition had in common with American missionary
Christianity because of their distantly
shared Christian heritage were articulated in a new
way in this encounter. And this may point to one way
of thinking about the global. So I should give
you some background. The Assyrians are in
ethno-religious community who in the early 20th
century lived primarily in the region of what
is now southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq,
and northwestern Iran. They’re part of a broader
Syriac Christian tradition which includes other churches
such as the Syrian orthodox and the Maronites. Syriac is a dialect of
Aramaic attested first in the second centuries CE and
in Odessa, modern [INAUDIBLE],, and in Turkey. It came to function as Latin
did for the Catholic church as a language of liturgy
and intellectual engagement even while members of
the Syriac churches increasingly became speakers
of Arabic, neo-Aramaic, and various other languages. Living today in Iran
and Iraq as well as scattered in a
worldwide diaspora– there’s a large
community, in fact, in Chicago– an old
community going back to the late 19th
century of Assyrians. The Assyrians are part of a
larger Syriac or Christian Aramaic community that numbers
perhaps as many as 3 million and this does not include
the large Syriac Christian communities in South India. Historically, the
Assyrians belong to the Church of the East, a
separate ecclesiastical entity deriving from the Christological
disputes of the 5th century. In Western sources,
even up to the present, East Syrians, as members
of the Church of the East, are commonly referred
to as Nestorians after Nestorius, the
5th century supposed founder of their heresy. By the time of the Arab conquest
in the mid-seventh century, the church’s hierarchy
extended through central Iraq down into southern Iran,
and the Persian Gulf, and its successful proselytizing
was already aimed eastward into Central Asia
where Christianity would most famously prove
attractive to the Mongols centuries later. So, for example,
Kubla Khan’s mother was a Nestorians Christian. With the exception of
communities in South India, by the 19th century the
Church of the East had shrunk and the majority of those
members in northern Iraq, for example, around Mosul,
had joined the Uniate Catholic church, commonly known
today as the Chaldeans. Old church membership
persisted in the plains west of Lake Urmia today
in northwestern Iran, and in the mountains of
Hakkari in modern Turkey. When the American mission was
first established in Urmia in the 1830s, the Nestorians,
or the Syrians as they usually called themselves,
identified as members of the Church of the East as
well as with their local tribes and villages. Today, in contrast,
the East Syrians call themselves Assyrians. Within the context
of foreign missions, especially the
American mission– by the turn of the 20th century,
a national consciousness had developed whereby many
Assyrians understood themselves to be descendants of an
ancient Near Eastern nation even a separate race. In my book Revival
and Awakening, I demonstrate how the
presence American evangelical missionaries in the borderlands
between Qatar, Iran, and the Ottoman
Empire contributed to the development of
a secularized, but not de-sacralized, national identity
among the indigenous Christian population of the region. The Americans aimed
to reform and revive the ancient Church of the
East by establishing schools, publishing and distributing
literature in the vernacular, and preaching a
penitential return to biblical Christianity. However, their
intervention in the region helped rather to lay the
groundwork for a new identity and communal understanding
articulated by the East Syrians, many of
whom then started to call themselves Assyrians. And this begins– the focus
on the name Assyrian begins in the 1890s, but it really
takes off in the context of World War I when the
Assyrian genocide and then in the diaspora from
the 1920s onwards– so it actually goes global. The church membership,
in a sense, goes global and this Assyrian identity
is taken up further. One of the arguments
of my work is that it was only after
a national consciousness and national ways of relating
to one another and others had come into being that
the East Syrians then took up the name Assyrian. By the turn of the 20th century,
some East Syrian nationalists responded autoethnographically
to the orientalist and biblical archeological knowledge
which was disseminated by the missions in
vernacular publications by locating their
origins historically in the ancient Near East. They linked the
national consciousness that had been developing
through the 19th century to the name and history
of the Assyrians and this identification
persists in the community today. Briefly I’m going to give you
as just a sense of Assyrian nationalism by describing
some of its most obvious manifestations. In this way you can
better understand really how radically new it is
and this is where I regret I didn’t use images
because there is a fascinating visual archive
of Assyrianizing within the– from the 1920s
onwards, both the use of the images from
ancient Nineveh and things that are
marked as Assyrian, but also in church architecture. I– it just pictures– I end up sitting and looking
at them and then it gets– I get too distracted. Today some Assyrians
celebrate the first of Nisan as the Assyrian new year. And this has been
re-rendered by some as the revived ancient Assyrian
Akitu Festival at which some celebrants even dress and
faux ancient Assyrian garb, including fake long beards. At times Assyrian nationalists
even engage in esoteric readings of scripture, such as a
rather heterodox interpretation of God’s self-revelation at
Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am”– in Hebrew [SPEAKING HEBREW]. This line has taken to
be a hidden revelation of the ancient Assyrian
divinity [INAUDIBLE].. What people do is– because in
Semitic languages you can write without the vowels and
the relative pronoun “who” or “which” in Hebrew,
[SPEAKING HEBREW]—- if you change the vowels,
you can make it look like [INAUDIBLE],, like the
ancient Near Eastern god. And so Exodus 3:14 is taken
as a secret revelation that the god of the Assyrians is
actually in the biblical text. This is definitely not
Orthodox Christianity. This line has taken to
be a hidden rev– sorry, some Assyrian
nationalist literature even argues that the bible
is a biased document a piece of anti-Assyrian
propaganda, hence the description of the
Assyrians as warlike. A notable example of the
synthesis between the church and Assyrian identity is the
renaming of the church itself. It’s today called the
Assyrian Church of the East. Now this is
theologically problematic to name a church
ethnically like this. It can– it’s like saying– Roman Catholic is
theologically problematic because it’s not– makes
something not so Catholic. It’s like in the Mel Brooks film
To Be or Not to Be when Anne Bancroft’s character says about
her husband that he’s world famous in Poland, it’s– there’s a universalizing and
limiting at the same time. So what happens when
two Christianities meet? One issue that came up while
working on this project was finding a way to talk
about the encounter between two different Christianities. I never resolved this
question for myself. Whereas in my mission book I
focused on the direct effects of evangelicalism on the
East Syrian community, one related phenomenon
is how in this encounter with American missionaries
the East Syrians discovered certain parts
of their own tradition to be more useful
for communicating with the Americans, parts
of their own tradition that corresponded with the
missionaries own Christian idiom. In turn, the Americans drew
out these points of contact and in this back and
forth translations certain long
established tendencies within the East Syrian
tradition were activated, but with a new valence. And it’d be interesting
to take this and if any– I don’t know if any work has
been done really thinking about Christian-Christian mission
contact, so, for example, the– Mormonism and other
forms of Christianity and how Mormonism
spreads in certain ways among other Christians or with
this question for this morning of the Pentecostalization
of the church– that it’s really two different
Christianities meeting and how that works. Although in their scale
and practice missions are modern institutions,
the Christianity of the missionaries
clearly fit into the wide-ranging
Christian tradition which demonstrates a
number of characteristics common to most instantiations
of Christianity. Aside from the obvious
ones such as a focus on scripture or Jesus– most Christians like Jesus– included among these
characteristics are the idea of conversion. The problem with
acculturation, that is the relationship between
Christianity and culture. The notion of the
imitation of Christ, which is best attested in martyrdom. And the regular
epistemological, experiential, and ontological distinction
between imminence and transcendence. The notion of reform which has
intensified in modern missions is another characteristic of
this discursive tradition. Multiple strains of
Christianity commonly posit the possibility of
transforming the human being– of recreating from
its fallen state– the human created in the
beginning in the image of God. Accordingly,
Christianization has always entailed a notion
of reform as well as the delimitation of
Christianity itself through creed and practices. And– because instrumental
to proselytism is the objectification
of Christianity because you have to define
what it is that you’re trying to convey to people. All encounters entail a
dialectical interaction in which certain practices,
ideas, and language are drawn out due to the
useful proximity is discovered in such interaction. All forms of contact and
communication result in a kind of self-discovery– this works, this doesn’t work,
try a little more of this. What I’m interested in here
is this reflexive negotiation and discovery of
commonalities, but specifically when two Christianities meet. So I’m going to provide
four examples of this from this encounter between the
Americans and the Assyrians. First, the Hebrew
Bible has built into it what we may call a
language of nations. Scholars of nationalism,
especially Anthony Smith, have emphasized that in the
development of nationalism in the modern period, the
language of peoplehood we find in the Bible was
especially productive. Israel was a great nation. It had enemies among
the various nations. The language of peoplehood
we find in the Hebrew Bible has long served
Christians as a source for thinking about community–
whether Christianity was a nation from among the many
nations in contrast to the one nation, the Jews, or the
Pauline emphasis on spreading the Gospel to the nations,
that is the Gentiles. Because the East Syrian
tradition had already employed this language
of biblical nationhood, they seemed to
recognize such language when American missionaries
brought with them a similar version of
it, albeit one inflected through American Protestantism
and republicanism. Furthermore, this
was an inflection that was more racialized than
anything the East Syrians had known before. A second related example. The East Syrians call themselves
eastern and placed themselves within a Christian geography. They were the
Church of the East. In this case, the
“east” originally meant east of the
Roman Empire, that is [INAUDIBLE] or
pre-Islamic Iran. It also meant east of Jerusalem
and the imagined homeland of monasticism, Egypt. The title “east”
also distinguish them from their historical
theological adversaries, the West Syrians, or the
Syrian Orthodox, who originally inhabited Roman Syria. This geographical easterness
took on a symbolic significance over time and contributed
to the development of a sacred geography. For example, the Gospel
of Matthew’s wise men from the east, the Magi, were
imagined by some East Syrians as being from their own land. The story of Jonah
and the Ninevites was particularly popular
among Syriac Christians. Jonah’s tomb, so it was
thought, was right there across the Tigris– across from Mosul. This self-consciousness
about the east would eventually be conducive
to the auto-orientalizing that the East Syrians
engaged in once they met foreign
missionaries who brought with them American and
European ideas of the Orient. And it’s noteworthy that
some of the missionaries, and later some of the
missionizing Syrians, were significant orientalist
scholars in their own day. From the late 19th
century on Syriac Christians traveled
in England and the US where they would speak
their native neo-Aramaic before crowds of
enthusiastic Protestants, introduced as museum
piece holdovers from the age of the patriarchs. They performed the
so-called language of Jesus and brought to life a Christian
fantasy of the Orient. Thus, it is not
surprising that it was in the context
of Western missions that the name
Assyrian took hold. All Christians knew Assyrians
and the name Assyrian was a retrieval with pedigree,
a third example of how the East Syrian tradition was drawn upon
within the missionary encounter due to a shared
heritage, and this is where it starts to get
kind of weird but interesting. From 1849, the American
mission printed the monthly periodical Rays
of Light, [SPEAKING SYRIAC].. This newspaper had several
sections including ones on science, education and news. The front section, which
was devoted to piety, was given the title fear
of God, [SPEAKING SYRIAC].. This focus on piety as
distinct from news or science reflects what will later
be the cellularity that emerges at the mission, that is,
religion is different from news and science. It’s noteworthy that this
newspaper was neo-Aramaic, Aramaic and [SPEAKING SYRIAC]. Is a classical
Syriac expression. Considering the general
absence of interest in the indigenous tradition
among the early American missionaries, it is
striking that they decided to
appropriate and employ this classical Syriac
expression so prominently. This expression has a long
history in classical Syriac, and fear at times functions
in Syriac not wholly unlike our own
category, religion. Obviously, the
expression, fear of God, is partly based upon biblical
usage, such as Proverbs 9:10, the fear of God is the
beginning of wisdom. But in Syriac literature,
fear, [SPEAKING SYRIAC],, has a vibrant life of its own. There are various fears. Most fears are false,
Judaism, paganism, heresy. But one, Christianity, is the
true fear, the fear of God. This expression
is used most often in classical Syriac literature
in the so called Persian Martyr Acts. The Persian Martyr
Acts are a large corpus of Syriac martyrological
texts composed from the fourth century
into the Islamic period. They detail the martyrdom
of a diversity of Christians at the hands of society
and kings, bureaucrats, and priests. Martyrdom is a productive genre
for the discourse of religion because martyrdom is
about communal and creedal boundaries, and the articulation
of the definitive difference that makes a
Christian a Christian. Martyrdom is also about
the false ultimate object of fear, death. Thus, it is not a
coincidence that this word, [SPEAKING SYRIAC],, fear, is used
in this literature most often as a technical term for
something approximating religion or piety. What is discussed in
the fear of gods section of the American
mission newspapers? This classical term was
taken up by the Americans. Interestingly, this opening
section of the paper, which was dedicated
to general calls for devotion and leading
a more pious life, disproportionately
focused on death. It borrowed the contemporary
American and British homiletic focus on death, especially
death before one’s time, to promote a distinctly
evangelical devotion. Often, and this is like
about a quarter of the time, this section of
the paper consisted of an obituary for someone
from the local community who had died young. That these long,
pathetic life narratives with extensive deathbed scenes
were published several years after the death
of their subjects demonstrates their ultimately
homiletic as opposed to informational value. So they were putting obituaries
at the front of the paper, but for people who had died like
three or four years earlier. Fear of God was
an expression that in the classical
Syriac tradition had meant correct
piety, especially as demonstrated by the
martyr in the moment of her or his impending death. Now, it meant a correct
everyman’s piety through an evangelical
acceptance of salvation by faith alone,
salvation that was performed through its
prefigurement on the deathbed. In both cases,
the identification of the correct object of fear,
that is, God instead of death, was employed to
demonstrate what piety is. A fourth and final example of
this meeting or commonality between the two churches,
the idea of reform. In my mission book, I
linked the idea of reform to missionary modernity. However, reform is also part
of Christianity’s long story. In his 1959 study,
The Idea of Reform, Gerhard Ladner provides
his well definition. He suggests reform is, quote,
“the idea of free, intentional, and ever perfectable, multiple,
prolonged and ever repeated efforts by man to
reassert and augment values pre-existent in the
spiritual-material compound of the world.” For Ladner, reform lies at
the heart of Christianity, and it entails a this worldly
restoration of something that is also not of this world. Ladner’s emphasis on reform
as an idea of mobilizing Christians across
history, and he seems to be like engaged
in a kind of old fashioned Marx-Weber debate, I think
it would be better rather to describe reform
as a characteristic of the Christian
discursive tradition, that is, part of an embodied
and given argument that develops through time. Ladner is useful because his
work suggests how reform is not simply what occurred in the
Reformation, or before this, in the high Middle Ages. Rather, some form
of it seems always to be part of the tradition. Certainly, in Western churches
in the post-Reformation period, reform became a
focus, motivating many and playing itself out
in the missionary field. In fact, the competing Western
missions of 19th century may be understood as
divergent versions of reform. However, ideas about reform
were already prevalent among the East Syrians. As we’ve seen already with
the ideas about nation and Christian geography, and
the linkage between death and piety, missionaries and
indigenous Christians at times spoke a similar Christian idiom. Missionaries’ calls
for renewal would have been familiar to
East Syrians, whose own tradition held that human
beings received a renewal– [SPEAKING SYRIAC] is the
Syriac classical term– by the coming of Christ. The Church of the East
had long emphasized the idea of restoring that image
of God which was diminished by Adam’s transgression,
penitence, [SPEAKING SYRIAC],, literally return, was a part
of the east Syrian devotion. The abundant East
Syrian literature of monastic spirituality
of the early Islamic period demonstrates that a particular
tradition of care for the self had developed within the church. In one episode early at
the American mission, a local bishop in response
to lectures about temperance from American teetotalers– I can never say this
word, teetotalers. So this bishop was annoyed
because the Americans were going like, oh,
you shouldn’t drink. He indignantly brought
out a manuscript of an East Syrian monastic
writer who condemned the misuse of alcohol. The East Syrians had their
own tradition of moral reform. However, eventually,
American ideals of renewal resonated with the
local tradition in a new and secular way. By the early 20th
century, East Syrians were regularly calling
for the moral reform, but of their nation. So bringing these
genealogical lines together, and this is where I tried
to use a linguistic model and decided it didn’t work,
the distant genealogical links between American and I’ll
say European Christianity, and that of the
Church of the East, resulted in a new articulation
of ancient tendencies within East Syrian Christianity. Ideas of nationality
in [INAUDIBLE] sphere as a category of piety,
ideas of renewal and reform, all these were part of
the indigenous east Syrian tradition. These tendencies
were articulated in a new way in response to
the missionary encounter, and contributed
to the development of a Syrian
nationalism, which went truly global in the aftermath
of the Assyrian genocide. Now, I originally thought,
and this was in my abstract, actually, I would bring in
an analogy from linguistics to think about the meeting
of American and East Syrian Christians. It is the case that
genetically related languages allow for intralinguistic
transfer more easily. For example, like Spanish
and Italian speakers, or Akkadian and
Aramaic speakers, are more likely to influence
one another linguistically because of the proximity of
their respective languages. So using a linguistic model
for thinking about culture, this wouldn’t be new, and
it also has its problems. This is common, in fact. We use a linguistic model
in talking about translation all the time in the
missionary encounter. Borrowing between
cognate languages, or among dialects of
the same language, that is, internal
borrowing, is more difficult to identify
than contacts between distinct languages
because the borrowing may be seamlessly intertwined
with existing paradigms. How do we identify what comes
from where when the two are so similar? So this is just the
question of endogenous versus exogenous change. If we treat the Christianity
of American evangelicals and that of the East Syrians as
cognate languages or distantly related dialects of
the same language, would this help us think
about their encounter? These two distantly
related languages have a shared heritage
that is multilayered. They both have derivations
from the ancient Near East through the Hebrew
Bible and early Judaism, from the New Testament and
early Christian tradition, and from late antique
Hellenism and patristics. One, however, then
followed its course through the Latin West, Medieval
Europe, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and further
developed in North America. The other developed
its own tradition while interacting with other
Eastern Christians, prospered under the Abbasids, persisted
with and within a [INAUDIBLE] and the Islamisation
of the Middle East, and had already been
engaging with Catholicism since the 16th century. A problem one hits
upon when trying to use a linguistic
analogy for how these two forms of Christianity
interacted is that the result of
the mission encounter was a new entity, a
kind of third language, Assyrian nationalism. To be more explicit
in my analogy, this is why I think it
doesn’t really work, because what if German
and English speakers lived next to one another, and
some aspects of English that it shared with German
were drawn out in such a way that it was no longer English
at all, perhaps not even a language at all, but some kind
of new mode of communication, a language turned inside out. Oh, OK, yeah. The linguistic
analogy is awkward. What is the nationalism
that emerges from two Christianities, a
third language or something just totally different? And maybe this reconfiguration
into a new structure has something to do with what
is distinctive about the global. And so now I’m going to return
to the global for a moment. Briefly, to return to
the question of a global, this no doubt reflects
my own limited engagement with this problem, because
I hide behind saying I’m an ancient historian. But at first glance, I did not
see how global Christianity is a particularly beneficial
heuristic tool, except to designate the conversation
in which we are all engaged here today, and similar
conversations. What I mean is
that it seems to be more useful as a
disciplinary reification than as a term of analysis. Is there something
distinctly global about global Christianity,
or is it not rather a form of analysis that
interdisciplinarily takes into account the movements
and flows of modernity? The global has always
been part of Christianity since the Great Commission. Christians are asked to go
forth and seek disciples and to bear witness, even
to the ends of the earth. That sounds global. Moreover, as I already
stated, the long history of the Church of the East
challenges the notion that global in the
simple sense is a useful term for identifying
something distinctive about Christianity
in our own time. However, the process of
contact and drawing out of specific features shared
between American evangelicals and the east Syrians, and the
resultant secular nationalism, and how this nationalism has
affected Christianity itself of the Church of the East,
this is something new. Nationalism, the unintended
consequence of the mission encounter, emerged along with
the religion-secular binary within the east
Syrian community, and this was part of the modern
process of religionization, that is, the emergence of
religion as a discourse and then the proliferation
of religion and religions all over the world
through missions, colonies and capitalism. To be sure, already in
Christianity in the Roman Empire, we witnessed
a new type of entity, one that would eventually in the
modern period become religion. This entity, a portable
set of creedal statements that is more easily disembedded
than the ethnoreligiosity of ancient religions,
was further constituted in modernity when the secular
became its binary other. Secularization and
religionization were concomitant with one
another, and then out of this comes the idea of
world religions also. So I end now with the
speculative suggestion that something distinctive
about global Christianity is its complex [INAUDIBLE]
within global secularism, or better, to be more precise,
within global secularity, in its various configurations
and contestations. So this is the question
I’d like to end with. How is global Christianity,
if it’s not just a label for a discipline,
related to global secularism? Or in other words, to be
more precise, would it be useful to ask how the
global in global Christianity may in fact reflect something
of the modern binary of religion and the secular, and the
ways the conditions of belief have shifted in
the modern world? Thank you. KARIN KRAUSE: Thanks very
much, professor Becker, for this very interesting
and engaging paper. Our next speaker
is Heather Sharkey. Heather Sharkey is
professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies in
the Department of Near Eastern Languages and
Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author
of several books. One published in
2003 is entitled, Living With Colonialism,
Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Her second book was published
in 2008 by Princeton University Press, and is titled, American
Evangelicals in Egypt– Missionary Encounters
in an Age of Empire. Professor Sharkey
has also edited two volumes, one with the
title Cultural Conversions– Unexpected Consequences of
Christian Missionary Encounters in the Middle East,
Africa and South Asia, which was published in 2013. With Mehmed Ali [INAUDIBLE]
she coedited in 2011, American Missionaries in
the Modern Middle East– Foundational Encounters. She has also recently coedited
a bilingual special issue in French and English
of the Canadian Journal of African
Studies on the theme of rethinking Sudan studies. Her newest book
that she authored is A History of
Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the
Middle East, which was published by Cambridge
University Press in 2017. The title of her paper is
Middle Eastern Christianity Between the Local
and the Global. Please join me in welcoming
Professor Sharkey. HEATHER SHARKEY: OK. Hello, everybody, again,
and I have to say, it’s a great honor and
a privilege to be here. Thank you so much
for inviting me. I’ve been enjoying the
other speeches tremendously, and talking to people,
but again, it really is a privilege. 10 years ago, I decided
to write a chapter. I agreed to write a
chapter about the Middle East for a volume that a
colleague, Charles [INAUDIBLE],, was developing with
college students in mind. The book was called
Introducing World Christianity, and it aimed to provide
snapshots of Christianity in different parts of the
world while explaining historical developments
and present trends. To get a sense of how others
had approached the subject so that I could figure out what
contribution I was going to make, I decided to
look at previous surveys of modern and contemporary
global Christianity. And one of the
surveys I examined was called the Christian world,
and its author Martin Marty came from this institution. Professor Marty used
a phrase in that book that has stuck in
my mind ever since. He described the
Middle East as a place where Christianity in
modern times was hanging on. Many others have described the
precarious footing of Middle Eastern Christianity,
yet he described it with particular clarity by
using just these two words. Hanging on. The Middle East is the place
where Jesus lived and died. The place where
Christianity began. And yet, Christianity
contracted in this very region during the Islamic era. In contrast regions,
like what we heard about this morning,
places like sub-Saharan Africa where Christianity was booming
as the early 21st century opened, Christianity
in the Middle East offered lessons
about persistence in the face of
difficult conditions. The US invasion of Iraq in
2003 prompted large refugee movements with Christians
as many observers observed at the time
disproportionately represented among them. We could say the same
about displacements that occurred more recently in
the wake of the Syrian Civil War. As more Christians also
emigrate voluntarily, trickling out of
countries like Egypt, the description of hanging
on has seemed ever more apt. In my talk today, I propose
to take a long historical view of this subject before
assessing where we are now. I will briefly discuss
why and how Christianity went from a state of being
politically and demographically dominant religion in
the Mediterranean zones of what is now the
Middle East and North Africa to being what we call
today a minority religion I will then consider some of the
changes that began to press in on the Middle East
in the modern era of the 19th and
20th centuries when foreign Christian
missionaries introduced new opportunities but
also new pressures and when substantial Christian
emigration from the region began. I will also briefly
consider Secular Nationalism as a challenge that it
posed to Christians, and I’m going to argue in
the process two things. First is that the study of
Christianity in the Middle East can illustrate how the
mechanics of Muslim-Christian but also Christian-Christian
or intra-Christian relations have worked and
affected each other. And second regarding
the wider world, I will argue that Middle
Eastern Christianity can help us to understand global
Christianity singular or global or world Christianity’s plural
in terms of long distance linkages born from movements,
ruptures, and contacts. Islam emerged in the seventh
century and fostered what many Muslims came to think
of as a [NON-ENGLISH],, meaning both a
religion and a state. The earliest Muslims
developed an army, staged conquests, and
established an empire formed from lands
that had belonged to the late Roman
or Byzantine Empire and thus the Sasanian
or Persian Empire. In this new territory,
leaders devised policies while consulting with experts in
Muslim scripture– the Quran– and bodies of emergent law
practice and tradition. Some of these policies
ended up restricting the growth of
Christian communities while either assimilating
people into Muslim communities or giving others
incentives to join them. And in a nutshell, early
Muslim rulers recognized that Christians– like Jews– as people of the book,
meaning monotheistic who had scriptural traditions,
could have protection if they surrendered
upon conquest. Muslim rulers granted conquered
peoples’ freedom of worship and livelihood as
long as they remained loyal to the Muslim state,
recognized Muslim dominance, and paid a special tax
to the central treasury. This tax was called the
jizya, and Christians and Jews paid it on top of
anything else that they paid to support charity
within their own respective communities. Muslim authorities called
Christians and Jews dhimmis, meaning people who lived
under the Muslim state’s pact of protection. The conquest agreements of
the early Islamic empire established customs that
persisted with variations for centuries. Christians could not
repair or build churches without acquiring special
permission from Muslim rulers. They could not
disturb the soundscape by ringing church bells. Christians could not
bear arms, ride horses, or serve in Islamic armies. They were supposed to wear
special clothes to set themselves apart and so on. And many of these restrictions
lasted in their broad contours into the 19th century,
while some restrictions on church building persist
in certain places even today. An Islamic system
of jurisprudence took clearer shape, too,
and with it, Islamic states recognized courts
of law that asserted for example that non-Muslims
could not inherit from Muslims. Thus, Christian
wives of Muslim men or Christian relatives of
recent converts to Islam lost rights of inheritance
unless they also joined the Muslim community. Islamic laws and policies
regarding conversion, which are still
largely in place too had a serious effect
on Christians. Islamic law held that
anyone could join Islam, but that no Muslim could leave
it once converted or born to the faith. Leaving Islam amounted to
apostasy, a crime theoretically punishable by death. So while Christians and
Jews could join Islam, they could not switch
to other religions. Likewise, Jews could
not become Christians just as Christians
could not become Jews. Conversion could only
go in one direction. Islamic law also defined the
children of Muslim fathers as Muslim regardless of
their mother’s religions, and at the same time Islamic
law allowed Muslim men to marry Christian
or Jewish women as fellow believers in God even
while Christian and Jewish men could not reciprocally
marry Muslim females. These policies facilitated
conversions to Islam, confirmed the attrition
or demographic contraction of Christians, and sharply
restricted Christians from evangelizing. Today, many scholars
disagree over how to assess the rates
of Christian attrition, but they don’t disagree
about Christian attrition. They concur also that
by the 19th century, Christians had become a small
and politically marginal segment of Middle Eastern
populations in most places. Or to use a term that only
became common after World War I, that Christians had
become definite minorities. Historically, Christian groups
living under Islamic rule could only grow in two ways. Through natural increase
or at each other’s expense. By switching churches
or changing sects. Starting in the 18th century
when Catholic missionaries arrived from
countries like France and in the 19th century when
Protestant missionaries arrived from the United States, Great
Britain, Sweden and elsewhere. Foreign missions did just that. They tried to grow
at the expense of eastern Christian groups
by attracting members from those communities. Against the historical
context of Christian attrition in Islamic domains, memories
of this kind of poaching by foreign Christians– as some people perceived
it at the time– led to resentments that linger
among Christians even today. Christian-Muslim relations
were tense in certain places and periods, but relations among
different kinds of Christians were sometimes politically
fraught as well, and in ways that
also had consequences for Christian-Muslim relations. So to take one
example, historians have long suggested that
in the seventh century, the early Muslims were able
to conquer Byzantine Egypt so easily because local
subject Christians, the Copts, on the one hand and
Byzantine Christian imperial authorities on the
other, their relations were so strained with
their different opinions regarding the nature of Christ,
adding a theological dimension to animosities that
were already in place. Many have said that
some Copts even found Muslim rule
in the beginning to be more congenial than life
under Byzantine authorities. In other words, that Muslim
rule marked an improvement. Jack Tannous at
Princeton whose book on the making of the medieval
Middle East came out last year expressed this idea about
intra-Christian dynamics very clearly. “If we want to understand
how Arab conquerors related to the traditions
of the populations they conquered,” he wrote,
“and more specifically how Christians and Muslims
interacted with one another, we must first understand
Christian-Christian interactions in light of
the irreparable fracturing of Christians into rival
and competing churches.” Jumping in any case
to the modern era in the 19th and
20th centuries, we can see how Catholic and
Protestant missionaries complicated Christian-Christian
relations, even as their efforts energized and
enriched Christian communities. Thanks largely to
missionary schools, Christians in the
Middle East became increasingly well-educated
in the 19th century. Increasingly well-educated
relative to Muslim populations. And with education came
greater prosperity, economic mobility, for example
in networks of global trade, and confidence. During the mid to
late 19th century, many Middle Eastern
Christian thinkers also began to embrace
ideas of nationalism and with it hopes of achieving
social and political parity relative to Muslims
in the region. In ways that I discussed
at length in my book that came out a
couple of years ago, a variety of social pressures
in the 19th century. Among them, this rise of
Christian missionary activity convinced Muslim leaders
in the Ottoman Middle East to promote reforms that
theoretically dismantled the old system of treating
Christians and Jews as dhimmis or protected
subordinates, while moving towards a model of
political inclusion that resembled something
like citizenship. And it was this sultan
here Abdullah the second who it was during his reign
that the bulk of these reforms occurred. Meanwhile, starting in
the 1880’s, Middle Eastern Christians began to
migrate to the Americas. It helped that
steamships were making by this time transoceanic travel
fast, cheap, and convenient. Most of the migrants
came from Mount Lebanon, but there were also
Armenian and Coptic Egyptian Christians and
others among them, and some Muslims migrated too. Although the great
majority of those who left the Middle East in
this period were Christians. Largely again because of
mission school educations which offered fluency in
European languages and culture in ways that gave
them confidence to venture out into the world. In the long run, most of
the Christian migrants settled permanently in
the Americas, not just the United States, but
Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and elsewhere, where they
formed diasporic communities. Scattered, but still
connected to each other, and to people in the lands
from which they came. And I’m going to
return to this issue about the significance of the
diaspora in a few minutes. Missionary activity
in the Middle East had an unintended
negative consequence too, which is that it
sometimes exposed Middle Eastern Christians
to suspicion or hostility on the part of
Muslim neighbors who feared the prospect of
Christian disloyalty. In a period when Western
intervention in the region was growing with heavy
political, cultural, and economic consequences,
some Muslims saw local Christians as
potentially subversive agents as a result of their links
to foreign Christians. It did not help that Britain,
France, and Russia, the three great foreign powers
of the Middle East, often claimed to be acting on
behalf of beleaguered Middle Eastern Christians or on
behalf of mission societies. And then too, there
were occasions when foreign Christians drew
Muslims into their conflicts with each other. And I’m going to
point here to disputes like those that broke out
in the mid 19th century between French and
Russian diplomats and between Catholic and
Orthodox Christians over access to the Church of the Holy
Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The church which is built on the
site of Christ’s crucifixion. This conflict contributed
to the outbreak of the Crimean War, which
sucked in the Ottoman Empire and led to the deaths of Tens
of thousands of Muslim soldiers. The late historian
Bernard Lewis incidentally cited the Crimean
War and the dispute among Christian powers over the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher and access to
Jerusalem as one factor behind growing Muslim
interest in the Crusades as an episode of
Christian belligerence. And this interest
in Crusades arguably stimulated reciprocal
modern Muslim interest in jihadis and jihadism. Foreign connections gave
Ottoman Muslim authorities other headaches, too. So for example, in the 1890’s,
some Armenian intellectuals who had emigrated
to the United States used their safe distance
from places like New York to lobby for
international intervention on behalf of Armenian
Christians who lived in the Ottoman Empire. This kind of political
lobbying coming from a historically subordinate
but now increasingly outspoken Christian group stoked tensions
among Muslims in Anatolia in what is now Turkey, and these
tensions simmered and erupted in the mid 1890’s in a series
of massacres against Armenians which anticipated the
genocides that later occurred during World War I. The 20th century
brought new challenges to Middle Eastern Christians,
and one was simply the challenge of being
members of minorities relative to dominant majorities
in the nation state system. Even or perhaps
especially in places where Secular Nationalist
government prevailed. There are two
anthropologists who’ve written major contributions
on this subject the late Sabah Mahmood of the University
of California at Berkeley and Hussein Ali Agramah
from right here in Chicago. They published books considering
what Secular Nationalism did and how it worked in late 20th
and early 21st century Egypt. For me, one of the big takeaways
from their books is that– and I think this take away
goes way beyond Egypt– is that Secular
Nationalism may have seemed to rest on principles
of religious neutrality and egalitarianism,
but in fact, it really just made the workings
of religion and power less visible as managed by
regimes or dominant groups. Pointing again to
Egypt, Saba Mahmood argued that the policies
of secular regimes contributed to what she
called the hardening of interfaith boundaries
and polarizing of religious differences
between Christians and Muslims in the country. Another way of saying this
is that despite or precisely because of the government’s
secular rhetoric, religious bias became
unofficial and harder to see even as state
authorities insisted that citizenship and everything
and the sharing of resources was equal. Regardless of how we
theorize what happened, the bottom line is that many
Middle Eastern Christians in the mid to late
20th century opted to emigrate, if they could,
leaving especially for North America and Australia. There were push factors that
compelled them to leave, including political conflicts
in some places and chronic low-grade or entrenched
discrimination in others. There were also
important to pull factors that drew
them abroad, including educational and
professional opportunities, as well as the appeal
of living in countries that had historically
Christian majorities. In countries where their
religion would not leave them automatically sidelined. Now to be clear,
patterns of migration were not even and smooth. In the United States, as in
countries like Canada, Mexico, and Australia immigration
policies grew very restrictive during the interwar period. In the United States, the door
shut with the Immigration Act of 1924, an act
motivated largely by xenophobic anti-Asian and
specifically anti-Chinese sentiment, and only reopened
with the Heart Seller Act of 1965, which you can
see President Lyndon B. Johnson signing here. Following the 40 year hiatus
between 1924 and 1965, Middle Eastern
Christians began to head in large numbers again for
North America in the 1960s joining other Asian
and African immigrants. Many of the migrants from this
late 20th century, post 1965 period, were highly
educated people who came for advanced educations
and who settled as members of the professional classes. As this generation ages, three
trends are becoming apparent. First, Middle Eastern
diasporic church congregations have been growing in
size, number, but also internal diversity. In some cases by
attracting members from non Middle Eastern backgrounds. Second, some immigrants
who prospered and succeeded are becoming philanthropists
and are supporting the study of Middle
Eastern Christian history, especially in US colleges
and universities. And third, the maturing
children of these immigrants are now beginning to
study Middle Eastern Christian history as
well with the result that they are injecting
vitality into the academic study of the subject, and this trend
is very visible for example, if you go to the annual meetings
of the Middle East Studies Association or MESA, which
is the major international conference in Middle
Eastern studies. And there are panels on themes
relating to Christian studies or tagged with the label
Christian studies have become much more common in
the past 10 or so years. So to conclude, let me start
by saying something obvious. Regardless of the churches
to which they have belonged or the cultures from
which they have come, Christians have shared important
things in common and above all devotion to Christ. That said, they have
not been monolithic, and they have often
disagreed and often fought with each other. In the Middle East,
historic tensions among Christians,
what we can think of as Christian-Christian
or intra-Christian relations have been critical
to shaping Middle Eastern Christian communities. But for better or for worse– and here I think is a point that
is not immediately obvious– relations among Christians
have critically informed Muslim-Christian
relations as well. For example, the tendency
of foreign powers, nowadays more the United
States than Great Britain, as well as still
Russia and France, to intervene and advocate
for Middle Eastern Christians whether in the name of
Christian solidarity or in terms of international
religious freedom has sometimes backfired
by seeding resentments among Muslims who wonder about
double standards in issues of religious human rights and
about patterns of Islamophobia in Christian
majoritarian countries. And to illustrate, I
have a historic slide which I think is kind of
a poignant picture here that reminds us of
this theme of how Christian-Christian
relations involve Muslims. These are the Muslim guards
at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, taken
around the 1890’s by a famous photographer named
[INAUDIBLE] in the Middle East. And historically,
there were always Muslim guards, usually
from the same families who would stay outside the church
and protect and maintain order inside to prevent the
Christians from attacking one another, and fighting
with each other, and trying to keep the peace. This is a perfect
example I think of Muslims having a stake in
it and also being involved. And now for another
set of conclusions. Since the 1960’s, the movement
of Christians out of the Middle East has had a
striking result. It has produced diasporas that now
flourish from Toronto and Los Angeles to Melbourne. These communities represent
forms of Christianity that are neither Western
nor Eastern, but both. They are global not
because of where they are or how many people they
claim, but because of the way they cross and
transcend borders. Here is where Middle
Eastern Christianity can help us to think about global
or world Christianity’s in the plural, as
something that combines the universal and the specific,
the local and the far flung, and that has the capacity to
be one thing and to be many. Middle Eastern global
Christianity, like all global Christianity’s is
hybrid, too, changing as it moves to new landscapes
and adapts to new times. To give you a sense
of what I mean with a couple of very
concrete examples, I’ll end with a couple of
cases from the Coptic Orthodox Church. Copts began to emigrate
from Egypt increasingly in the 1960’s so
that today there are something like
500 congregations outside of the church’s
historic center in Egypt. One scholar in
Toronto for example, has established a Coptic
Canadian history project. An oral and public
history project to trace the
community’s development in Canada and to some extent
next door in the United States. His project in other
words aims to tell Canadian and more broadly
North American stories of a community, many
of whose members are anchored by churches. And this one up here was
a digital mapping exercise to show how immigrants arrived
in Toronto and one parish and how they moved over time. In Australia, meanwhile, a
Coptic Theological Seminary which started in the year
2000 established a new campus a couple of years ago in
a purpose built 44 story tower in downtown Melbourne. The campus building
and the skyscraper not only contains
worship spaces, but also community activity
centers, classrooms, condos, and serviced apartments, and
even shops on the ground floor. And this is it. It’s a sapporo tower. These are some of
the apartments. I was looking at it. The next one is on,
you can book a hotel room, and they built a cross into
the architectural design of the skyscraper as you can
see from this image here. What is clear is that
the church in Australia is feeling and acting
expansive and confident. With its soaring tower acting
as a metaphor for a community that is not just hanging on,
but that is actively thriving. It is possible, in other
words, that as Middle Eastern Christianity goes global,
it may find its primary home outside the Middle East. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] KARIN KRAUSE: Thank you
so much, Professor Sharkey for that wonderful paper. So we’ve got a historical
perspective here also on the long term implications
of missionizing and politics. We have about 25
minutes for questions, so I’m happy to
make a list if you would like to ask a question,
just raise your hand please. AUDIENCE: Question
for Professor Becker. I’ve seen that after in the
’20s and central period time, you’re talking about
some Syrians or Lebanese call themselves Phoenicians. Now, I thought that was
a historical nationalist phenomenon, but fairly
recently some Syrian refugees in the Boston area have taken to
calling themselves Phoenicians. I asked them about
this, he said, because they don’t want
us where we’re from. In other words, it’s
like a new nationalism but in another country now. Would you say
something about that? ADAM BECKER: I think
especially because of the way the Middle East is imagined as
this place that’s really old, I mean this place is really
old, but the way it’s imagined in the 19th century
as this cradle of civilization, all these kinds of [INAUDIBLE]. As nationalism
developed, there was, and this was an
attempt to actually get beyond religious difference
by going before Islam, certain historical
ethnic identities were retrieved and articulated. It seems as Coptic
nationalism, [INAUDIBLE],, you could see also
Greek nationalism. You can see it in some
of the strange things in the early Republican
period of Turkey and Turkish nationalism. But I think part of this
nationalism in general [INAUDIBLE] long
story, but it’s a way of getting beyond religious
difference with regard to recent people, they
also may be something like not wanting to identify
themselves as Arabs, because of Islamophobia and the
linkages of Arab and Muslim. So I think you can see
this in the early ’80s with the declining population
of the United States. Iranians often called themselves
Persians as a way to avoid– like I’m not there,
because there’s so much anti-Islamic sentiments. But yeah, it’s interesting
that they’re doing this now. Phoenicianism– it
links to a prior one, or is it something new? AUDIENCE: That’s
why I was surprised by it, because I knew about
it from the 19-teens and ’20s. Also Syrians, but now,
that’s what surprised me. ADAM BECKER: It’s still there. Somewhere in Lebanon
today, there’s a kind of people
will talk about being Phoenician I think in that way. It’s a way to say you know,
let’s not talk about religion, we’re all the same
group of people. It could end up
creating more problems. You could say, for example,
the Syrian identity created all the problems
of the Syrian community and also doesn’t connect
with Arab nationalism. So it ends up creating new
social differences [INAUDIBLE].. HEATHER SHARKEY:
[INAUDIBLE] jump in with a couple of
[INAUDIBLE] to follow up actually on something
that Professor [INAUDIBLE] said earlier. You raised the question. Some people have
asked you, to what do we know Assyrian refugees
in the name of solidarity? And I think one of
the things we have to be aware of is the dangers
of seeming to help, to “help” in quotation marks, based
on historical experiences and the history of
Christian-Christian relations, including histories
of Western imperialism for which the memories
are very strong and therefore the possibility
of danger in people that we may think we
are trying to help. And so that then becomes
an ethical issue. And that reminds
me that– so then I have a question, if I
could, for Adam, which is thinking about the importance
of the Assyrian community in Chicago. [INAUDIBLE] We’re right
in the epicenter of it. And I’m wondering if you
can also say something about them and their
history and how we represent the
unexpected linkages and the offset
presence of Syrians in the United States
and the world. ADAM BECKER: I can’t say
much about [INAUDIBLE].. Is there anyone actually
from Chicago [INAUDIBLE] as much about the
Assyrian community? Because I’m not– HEATHER SHARKEY: This isn’t
[INAUDIBLE] epicenter. ADAM BECKER: This
is a big epicenter, and there’s actually– there’s
an Assyrian [INAUDIBLE] store on the north side, which
if I had scheduled things, I’d like to go to [INAUDIBLE]. But– HEATHER SHARKEY: I
just heard about it, but I don’t know
Assyrian identity is really complex because it– [INAUDIBLE] just
put it very simply. An Assyrian can’t
convert to Islam. Like, it’s an ethnic identity. So you know, if I were, like,
Italian, I could maybe– I don’t know. I actually [INAUDIBLE]. I still might be [INAUDIBLE]. This whole– this notion
of like Assyrianness is an ethnic identity, but
it requires being Christian. And there are all types
of contradictions in this. So it hopefully is not
[INAUDIBLE] Syrian community in an interesting way in
[INAUDIBLE] is that the Syrians tended to be more of a
political problem with the Kurds in [INAUDIBLE] Iraq, which
they didn’t identify as Arabs, whereas the Chaldeans, which
are a different ethnic group but just basically Catholic–
it’s just the catholic Assyrians but with a
different [INAUDIBLE]—- identified as Arabs. And so they were
Christian Arabs. So there’s like– there’s two
different ethnic identities. Ones [INAUDIBLE]
dominance and fit in. And so the Christian
Arab people who had [INAUDIBLE]
Christian Arab tend to be [INAUDIBLE] whereas the
people who are Assyrian tend to be non [INAUDIBLE]. And it’s the same church
historically, the same people. But because of how
things [INAUDIBLE] put them in very different
political positions [INAUDIBLE] the Arab nationalism. But yeah, the Assyrian stuff– [INAUDIBLE] from Chicago. It’s Been here for a long time. But the Assyrians, the
Assyrian community, were coming in by the
late 19th century. KARIN KRAUSE: So we have
three more questions. [INAUDIBLE] was first, I think. AUDIENCE: Thank you. Thank you both for such rich
and helpful discussions. My questions [INAUDIBLE]. One [INAUDIBLE] I didn’t
hear you speak about that I’d be interested in
knowing more about [INAUDIBLE] into this history
is the phenomenon of Christian-Muslim
hybridity [INAUDIBLE] religious belonging. I’m thinking particularly
in the Ottoman context. My research is in Cyprus
where a community of people affiliated both with
Christianity and Islam [INAUDIBLE] baptized,
speaking multiple languages, engaging in local marriage
rites, et cetera, [INAUDIBLE] for hundreds of years. But thinking with you about
how Christian-Christian to Christian-Muslim relations
are important [INAUDIBLE],, I think it’s really striking
how this community comes to be increasingly
despised and marginalized by both [INAUDIBLE]
together [INAUDIBLE] marginalized, those who were
persecuting [INAUDIBLE].. So I wonder if you could
speak further to that as far as [INAUDIBLE]. HEATHER SHARKEY: So,
fascinating topic– extremely important. As you say, many hybrid
groups– sometimes you’ll see they’re called
crypto-Christians crypto-Jews. You don’t hear the
term crypto-Muslims, but I think it
should– you know, we can throw that out there too. Interestingly, in the
late 19th century, the Muslim
authorities influenced by Christian missionaries
began to decide that groups that tended to
be– that were ambiguous should be Muslim. And so they initiated a
Muslim missionary movement which attempted to bring
groups like the [INAUDIBLE] and the [INAUDIBLE]
and the [INAUDIBLE] into mainstream Islam. And then ended up stimulating
uprisings and resistance movements and so on. And we can see the
legacies of that today. So in gen– and then, of
course, by [INAUDIBLE] then we get into the 20th century,
and governments gained control over textbooks. And governments take control
over religious instruction in schools. And it’s at that
moment when people have to really definitively
say what they are– you know, if they’re Christian or Muslim. And then, of course, the Jews
end up leaving from the area as well. So that that tolerance
for religious [INAUDIBLE] on the official level because– it starts to disappear
in the 20th century and create more polarization. AUDIENCE: Also related
to these hybrid groups, there’s also just even
non-hybrid shared spaces, which disappear. That is, there’s all
these shrines where Jews, Christians, Muslims– various types of Jews,
Christians, and Muslims all [INAUDIBLE] are gone. [INAUDIBLE] replaced with
minarets, [INAUDIBLE],, shrines that we [INAUDIBLE] world
history about [INAUDIBLE] go to a place in [INAUDIBLE]
instruction [INAUDIBLE].. HEATHER SHARKEY: But then, of
course this is all different form the much later emergence
of groups like Muslim believers in Christ. Some of them in the
late 20th century start to call themselves
that because they need to emphasize their
Muslim identification in order to avoid or try unsuccessfully
to avoid [INAUDIBLE] state persecution. And then anthropologists,
especially in the early 21st century, have
studied the Muslim practice. It’s not a reciprocal
Christian practice of going to Muslim
spaces as much but become a Muslim
practice of going to Christian sites in
places like Istanbul and Muslims visiting
Christian shrines. But actually, there are others. [INAUDIBLE] speak
to that in Egypt. KARIN KRAUSE:
There’s one question. AUDIENCE: This is a question
for Professor Sharkey. How do you see the
situation in the future for Palestinian Christian? HEATHER SHARKEY: I didn’t raise
an example in the case study– I mean, in the discussion. But it follows this
general pattern, a steep decline in the
numbers of Christians whether they were living under– living as religious minorities,
whether in Muslim states or in the Jewish
state like Israel. It’s just not as
congenial to the living as a religious minority
in a different religious majoritarian state. So the numbers are set to
continue to decline through– not through conflict
or forced expulsion but just through steady
low-grade emigration where opportunities
present themselves. KARIN KRAUSE: [INAUDIBLE] JACOB OLUPONA: Thank you
for this presentation. I’m kind of thinking
about [INAUDIBLE] lecture. It is possible for me to
[INAUDIBLE] exactly everything you have said. And unfortunately, Nigerian
institutional [INAUDIBLE] to that. So for me, I will need to raise
issues related to [INAUDIBLE].. And I [INAUDIBLE] to see why
as a Nigerian or as an African, I’m beginning to take
[INAUDIBLE] on the state of Christianity in the world. That is related
to my scholarship. But I’ve said that it is not. So the question
for me is that what is the responsibility
of the scholar, particularly a scholar
who defines himself as a Christian in the
context of the crisis that we are going through. First of all, to
American and [INAUDIBLE].. It is not difficult [INAUDIBLE]
to raise a lot of money from the Middle East to
[INAUDIBLE] to call our [INAUDIBLE]. There are six of them. I [INAUDIBLE]
hearing one from them from the school of
[INAUDIBLE] for Christianity and for Islam in Africa. If a Christian philanthropist
comes with [INAUDIBLE] money, then you know what? [INAUDIBLE] Christianity
in a non-European context [INAUDIBLE]. And so what does
that mean to us? So as an [INAUDIBLE] of
these kinds of things we’re talking about
the activities relating to the study of Islam,
it’s virtually so much that [INAUDIBLE] campus. So [INAUDIBLE]
happily as a Nigerian, as an African, who is
in this [INAUDIBLE] watching this type of
[INAUDIBLE] to be very biased. So the question
[INAUDIBLE] is that what is our responsibility as
scholars to the community we belong to. And I am not a member
[INAUDIBLE] Christian. I’m pretty liberal. [INAUDIBLE] as well. I am very liberal. So how do [INAUDIBLE] to make
sure I would [INAUDIBLE]?? HEATHER SHARKEY: So really
difficult question– I have a couple of thoughts. So first, part of
the money that is– large part of the
money that has gone into the expansion
of the study of Islam in American universities
has connections to histories of Orientalism
and American defense interests. There’s sort of a sinister
Islamophobic impulse in some ways behind support for
Islamic studies– some of them, some of them. And Dana Robert has discussed
the decline and discrediting of mission studies and
the historical reasons for why Christianity
became less acceptable. We were talking about that
last night before dinner. When I worked on my second book,
my former PhD advisor told me that writing about evangelicals
might destroy my career, might ruin my
credibility as a scholar by writing about Christians. So there’s that
impulse behind it. But then in terms of
your question about what is the responsibility
of the scholar, I don’t have any answers about
the responsibility of scholars towards the Middle East. But I have lots
of responsibility of scholars towards the United
States because this is my home. And my responsibility,
as I try to live it, is to teach in a
way that respects the diversity of my students
and that considers them like numbers of one
family, one community, and therefore to respect
the plurality and diversity of backgrounds and cultures and
traditions that they come from and to reach a
point where we can study a history like the
history of the middle east, which can be so fraught,
and to try and do it in a mutually respectful,
caring, and productive way that enables us at the same time not
to avoid difficult questions but to confront and try
to talk through them. So my official responsibility, I
don’t know for the middle east. But for here, I think we can
try to model the kind of society that we want to have in our own
ways through the university. AUDIENCE: Something
in response to what you just said would be this. [INAUDIBLE] say,
peace be upon you. To promote the diversity
of everyone in– whatever people believe. The problem is if someone
believes wrongly, there’s a real hell, there’s a real
judgment day coming, OK? And we know that
by the fact that we see injustices in this world. People are vandalized. They’re killed, right? And so by the fact
that we see injustices, that of itself, if we hold
to God being a just God, is evidence that there
is a judgment day coming. So to promote that, well,
you could just continue on with what you’re doing and
you do what you’re doing and you do what you’re doing,
while I agree we shouldn’t force people into
what is truth, we should not, if we know
something is wrong, encourage them
into what’s wrong. HEATHER SHARKEY: I don’t– I’m not from a
theological seminary. I’m from a history department. And so my role is
to teach history. And my role is not
to correct people or to lead them to
religious truth. AUDIENCE: I had a
question for Dr. Becker. You left a question hanging
out at the very end that was really intriguing to me. And so I didn’t know if you
had any speculations on it given that you raised it in
the question of the connection between this kind of
growth of secularity and growth of this some
sort of understanding of global Christianity. I don’t know if you have any
initial thoughts on that. I find that intriguing. ADAM BECKER: I have too many
thoughts, but I [INAUDIBLE].. I probably [INAUDIBLE] in a
way what [INAUDIBLE] saying. But I think if you– and this relates to
the question that I think I asked Professor
Kwok this morning. Like, is there
something in the term global that identifies
that this is the state [INAUDIBLE] we talked
about Christianity today? As opposed to a
[INAUDIBLE] global, Christianity is
all over the place. It’s always been of the place. So what? Then Christianity has
always been global. Why call it global? Just call it Christianity. That there is something
distinctive in the modern period in the way religion
unfolds and the way that it exists within vis-a-vis
various [INAUDIBLE] say call secularities– that is, the decline of religion
or the [INAUDIBLE] religion, politics, or economics that’s at
least imagined by some people– and that people
actually talk about it. Put it most simply, people talk
about religion as religion. And as Christianity
is labeled a religion and then there’s world
religions and then people identify as a religious person
or a non-religious person, all those issues which then are
personal issues about ourselves are then also political issues
and institutional issues because governments
and everything else and the international
legal order. And so all these things
are different about– and impact on Christianity
and its limits. And then also, there’s
contestations around that, right? Some people would say that, OK,
Christianity is more than just a private thing. And then there’s
[INAUDIBLE] on that. So that whole fight
around the binary of the religious and the
secular may say something about this modern phenomenon
of global Christianity. And then you can see
the boundaries shifting. So for example, the
Pentecostalization of the church, at least the
little I’ve read about it, is there’s also
political effects. There’s like questions
about political theology and its relationship
to the state. So all that, you don’t have
any of that complexity, I think, in the
pre-modern period. There’s different complexities,
but it’s just not that complex. Once religion is named
religion and it’s spoken about as this
thing, it changes religion. And that is what
I was suggesting throughout [INAUDIBLE]. KARIN KRAUSE: Yes,
Professor Kwok. KWOK PUI LAN: I want to
engage with Dr. Becker because the topic is of
interest to all of us– the pre-global [INAUDIBLE]. Because we mentioned that
Christianity has always had this global imagination– Matthew 25, OK? Make disciples of all nations. And then so many of us
grew up thinking that Jews is an ethnic division. Christianity [INAUDIBLE]
because the [INAUDIBLE] is confines of the Jews
and then to the Gentiles. And our political [INAUDIBLE]. Why this new race [INAUDIBLE]? Now look at the
[INAUDIBLE] fathers. In fact, they had to
construct a new race– Christians, visa vi the Jews,
the Romans, and the Greeks– to define who they are. So it is not that they
are [INAUDIBLE],, which you mentioned [INAUDIBLE]. So i was wondering whether
in Assyrian Christianity or in [INAUDIBLE]
Christianity, there was [INAUDIBLE] imagination
about the [INAUDIBLE].. The Assyrian missionaries
were the first, went to China [INAUDIBLE]. So did they envisage
a [INAUDIBLE] that’s quite different from
the Greeks or the Romans? ADAM BECKER: With regard
to Denise [INAUDIBLE] book, I think– and what she’s doing there is
saying Christians are looking for a way to talk about social
groupings and metaphorize the social genera to talk, like,
so [INAUDIBLE] Christians are like the third
race is what she– she’s taken this
from a [INAUDIBLE].. I think I’m going to
answer this circuitously. That is that something I thought
about from Professor Roberts’ talk the other day, the issue
of the imagination of the global and how the development
academic [INAUDIBLE] there were maps and
certain statistics. But I was thinking about when
you spoke about the [INAUDIBLE] the missionary work done,
in the mid-19th century, they had a globe. And they brought
this globe to Iran, and they were
showing the locals. And [INAUDIBLE] globes
and they had maps. The color coded maps reminded
me of like my childhood, like, you know, Cold War
maps with like [INAUDIBLE] there was red and
there was green or whatever the
distinctions were. But I was thinking
about on the one hand, yes, Christianity
is always global. It says go to the
ends of the earth and go forth and convert people. But on the other hand, there
may be different notions of the global, different
imaginings of the global in different mission settings. So I was thinking about
how this [INAUDIBLE] on the globe and maps
and getting together the whole community
[INAUDIBLE] doing missionary work on as
having everyone once a month engage in a concert
of prayer where you’re praying for the
conversion of all the nations. And they thought, at least, that
everyone else around the world on that same day– I think the first of
the month or something like that– everyone
around the world is praying at the same time. And they’re praying at the same
time for the various nations– so the people [INAUDIBLE]
mission in Iran are all there as Assyrians–
thinking of themselves as, we’re a nation. We’re praying for
these other nations. And they have a globe there, and
they’re looking at the globe. That’s a really different
object of mission than what we have in,
say, the [INAUDIBLE] missions [INAUDIBLE]
and [INAUDIBLE] thinking the four corners of the earth. They’re thinking the
Earth’s flat, actually. It’s a very different globe. So it’s an issue of
continuity and discontinuity. Christians are obviously
fulfilling a certain mission. But if you look at
it really closely, what is it that they
see themselves as doing? And there’s something
very secular, modern, materialistic
about this 19th century onward mission where they’re
objectifying the world and imagining it
from above in ways that it was rather,
let’s go over there when these Assyrians are
traveling across Asia and converting people. I started [INAUDIBLE] answer. KARIN KRAUSE: So we have arrived
at the end of this session. I would like to thank
both speakers again for their thought
provoking papers.


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