Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mapping the Faith

The world is shrinking and information is expanding. Fifty years ago, few people had extensive knowledge of other regions and denominations, let alone other countries and religions. Thanks to the explosion of travel, job transfers, cable and satellite television and the "information superhighway," a more simple existence has been replaced with the responsibility of navigating vast, competing and complicated ideas, attitudes and customs.

This is true of the world in general, but it becomes a special burden for a "professional" Christian reader, writer and speaker (or one-in-training). What is the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? A pentecostal and a charismatic? How do Lutherans and Calvinists differ? What does it mean to be non-denominational? a "pietist"? What is the distinction between a sect and a cult? What is "four-square"?

What are the primary religions of India? England? Somalia? What do Catholics believe? What is the root cause of poverty in central Africa? in Peru? How do economics and politics intersect with issues of hunger? violence? evangelism? OVERWHELMED???

Might be time to bring out some maps. All this information needs some kind of organizational system. (Like a closet or a file.) The more you know, the more you can learn. The more you structure the swirl of information around you, the more you have a place to put it, instead of being sucked down a black hole of intellectual chaos and randomness.