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We need to catch up with the global South

Despite lazy assumptions, the postcolonial world is a trend-setter, suggests Peter Leithart on the First Things blog. “It’s not that the ‘global South’ has caught up with the parent countries,” says Leithart.

“In important respects, the post-colonies have surged ahead.” Economically, spiritually, culturally and politically, Africa is “home to characteristically contemporary forms of life”.

Leithart argues that the post-colonial world is also a political trendsetter: “‘Living politics’ in South Africa and elsewhere inspires direct action movements in the US and Europe,” he writes. “College activists used to wear Che T-shirts. Now it’s Mandela. Both, of course, are not northerners.”

Leithart goes on: “We need to flip the world upside down to see it right side up. And that holds massive implications for how northern Christians regard our brothers and sisters in the global South. The peculiarities of African Christianity in particular – belief in miracles and healing, a ‘sacramental’ imagination, a love of biblical story and proverb, a holistic vision of the self and the Church’s mission, new configurations of Christendom – aren’t a ‘pre-modern residue’ but cutting-edge forms of late-modern Christianity.” He concludes with a hope that the Church, like Western civilisation, is “evolving towards Africa”.

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