Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie?

Some readers of this blog might remember the 1970s television series Little House on the Prairie which ran from 1974-1983. The series told the story of a family living in the American West in the 1870s. Plotlines usually involved family struggles which included a moral element, and it was not uncommon to find the Ingalls family going to the town church, and the local minister actively involved in the affairs of the townspeople. This piece of television entertainment reflected American culture in the 1970s and early 1980s. The situation is very different in the early twenty-first century.

Various media outlets have reported on a new series out of Canada titled Little Mosque on the Prairie. As the Saskatchewan News Network reported, this comedy "focuses on the small Muslim community in the little Prairie town of Mercy. Many of the town's residents are leery of their Muslim neighbours, who are unsure how to assimilate into the community."

The article continued by quoting the writer of the series who stated, "I knew that something like this was going to get a lot of attention," said Nawaz. "It's the first Muslim comedy in North America. We're breaking new ground. When you're a pioneer, and under the current political climate, it was going to raise eyebrows."

The presence of this type of television program in North America is significant in a post-9/11 environment, not only politically, but also in other cultural ways, and provides an opportunity for evangelicals to engage in careful reflection. It provides a graphic example of religious pluralism in the West which raises important questions of theology, praxis, and cultural engagement. Christians in America are used to living as a majority faith in a Christendom culture. The presence of religious pluralism and the increasing insertion of other religions into the public square poses a challenge to evangelical conceptions of both the relationship of Christianity to national identity, religious liberty, the nitty gritty of day-to-day living among "religious others," not to mention questions related to evangelism and missions.

Thus far few segments of evangelicalism, whether traditional, contemporary or emerging church, seem prepared to consider the significance of religious pluralism. It would seem that the changing landscape of Western culture may force us to consider its implications.

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