As Both Christmases Approach: Why Do Western Christians Forget The Eastern Churches Exist?

From MEI Editor's Blog Mon Dec 17 2012, 19:49:00

In a year in which both the Coptic Pope and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria have died, it may be useful to repeat a story I know I've told before. I once had a friend, a devout Palestinian Christian, who back in the day would encounter, in various American Christian communities in which he moved, well-meaning ladies and gentlemen who, on learning he was a Christian Arab, would naively ask, "which missionary group converted your people?" He would respond (knowing his sense of timing, I presume after waiting a couple of beats): "Perhaps you've heard of them: Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles."

Over the next week or so most US news organizations will have at least one clip from a city in the West Bank known as Bethlehem. They will show the Church of the Nativity, interview a few olive-wood souvenir sellers about the decline in the tourist trade due to the stalled peace process, and, because it is almost impossible to show pictures of Bethlehem without it, show how the Israeli Separation Wall cuts along the side of town. It will be the only report from Bethlehem you see until next December. There are fairly good odds it will also be the only picture of the Separation Wall you see until next December.

If it had not been for the election of the Coptic Pope, which got some limited coverage, it might be the only Western media coverage all year of Christianity in the region where the faith began.

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