Friday, December 28, 2007
Jesus in Turkey
I was recently in my local Barnes and Noble, perusing the magazine aisle. One cover, in particular, grabbed my attention. The magazine was ChristianityToday, and the lead article was entitled Jesus in Turkey, Rebirth of a Bloodied Church. Okay, so there was no way I was going to leave the store without that magazine!
Of course, ChristianityToday is the flagship of American evangelical magazines. I have visited their website from time to time, but have never been interested enough to purchase a magazine, until now. You cannot really object to evangelical bias here. It would be like complaining that your favorite Tex-Mex joint has too many enchilada plates on the menu. It is simply who they are and what they do. And yet, I expected (foolishly, it seems) a little more historical context from this source.
The story covers eight pages. The writer notes that few nations have as rich a Christian heritage as Turkey (something of an understatement)....where Paul (known to some of us as St. Paul) founded some of the earliest churches. The writer gives a nod to the early monastic movement in Cappadocia, mentions in passing the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and then moves on to the really important date in the history of Christianity in Turkey: the beginning of Protestant mission work in 1820.
There are 2 passing references to the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey, but nothing about the perseverance of Orthodox Christianity after 1453, the exchange of populations and the massacre of 200,000 Orthodox Christians at Smyrna in 1932, the anti-Christian riots of 1955, and the continuing persecution of the Greek remnant in Istanbul. There is a side box story on the Armenian Christians, but the author is careful to not mention that they are Orthodox Christians. In fact, nothing in the story would lead you to believe they worshipped any differently than your local Bible Church.
The story largely concerns Protestant house churches, such as the Istanbul Presbyterian Church, under the dynamic leadership of a Pastor Ucal. This is just fine with me. If Turks are abandoning Allah for Jesus Christ in these evangelical house churches, then Praise God for that! But it irks me that what could have been a blockbuster story is so limited by its own evangelical presuppositions. For these writers work within a historical enclosure, that only begins with the Reformation. They occasionally peer over the wall to look back at the First Century, but the concept of a seamless 2,000 years of continuous Christian presence is lost on them, or unexplainable within their religious framework.