Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Seventh Book of Christmas: "Peace Child" and "Lords of the Earth"

Twelve Books that show how Christmas changed the world.

On the seventh day of Christmas, our True Love gave the world: life to the tribes.

"Peace Child" and "Lords of the Earth," Don Richardson

How do you preach a Gospel of peace to a people who idealize betrayal? Cannibals and headhunters, the Sawi of New Guinea little fit the old image of "noble savages." At the same time, Richardson describes them not merely as savages, noble or otherwise, but as individuals whom he invites us to know and recognize as fellow human beings. He gives a picture of them not only as headhunters, but also as naturalists, linguists, and myth-makers.

Richardson is an excellent story-teller. In this story, he is also one of the protagonists. He and his wife believed themselves called to bring the Gospel to the Sawi people. Richardson is an actor in this drama, potential recipient of the action of crocodiles, tropical disease, and natives, and also (he believes) an agent of God's grace. No second-hand outline of history, here we can read the spiritual story of one of the thousands of tongues and tribes and races of man, as it happens.

One of the central questions of our time is how universal truth relates to the heritage of each culture. No evangelical has done more to help Christians understand the Biblical answer than Don Richardson. Richardson introduces the concept of "redemptive analogies" in this book. This is the idea that God has prepared the cultures of the world for the Gospel by planting seeds of truth in them. (A concept developed by John and Paul, Clement, Augustine, G.K.Chesterton, and C.S.Lewis.) He tells the story of how the Gospel changed the Sawi culture from within. Peace Child is thus both a wonderful true story, and also introduces a paradigm-shifting mind-blowing concept of the first order. This is a great "missions" book, but I also recommend it to non-Christians who are trying to understand how the Christian revelation relates to other cultures. (And also those who just want to understand tribal cultures.)

What did change bring to the Sawi people?  The hope that men might be able to trust one another.  Less warfare.  Less murder.  Fishing hooks.  Education.  A connection to the outside world.  The hope of living as equal citizens in an Indonesia that was going to swallow them, anyway.  (Don talks about this in an interview in our upcoming book, Faith Seeking Understanding.) 

Other books: Don Richardson discusses redemptive analogies in passing again in his even more thrilling story, Lords of the Earth. That book also tells how the work of gutsy missionaries like Stan Dale utterly transformed, and immeasurably improved, the lives of the fierce Yali people in the highlands of New Guinea.  Then he extends his argument, and story, to the redemptive work God does from within cultures around the world, by means of the transformative message of Jesus, in Eternity in Their Hearts.

Another fascinating book that covers some of the same ground, only in South America, among the famously violent Yanomamo Indians, is Spirit of the Rainforest.  Warning: it's even more graphic than Peace Child.   

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