Burmese Nationalism and Christianity in Myanmar: Christian Identity and Witness in Myanmar Today
The dissertation first considers the historical and cultural settings of a rising Burmese nationalism that embraces Buddhism as an essential component and seeks to enforce a cultural homogenization known as “Burmanization” on all citizens of Myanmar. For the minority Christian church in Myanmar, this ardent and pervasive nationalism presents a serious challenge, for which the church has yet to present an adequate response. After evaluating the few efforts made by Christians to address the problems confronting the church in the context of a culture of aggressive Buddhist nationalism, the study offers a way forward. Drawing on the resources of Reformation theology, especially the biblical teaching of the two kingdoms or realms as articulated by Martin Luther, the dissertation proposes thinking in terms of God’s two distinct spheres as an effective theological framework for Christians in Myanmar who must interact with the world around them. The two realms paradigm which includes the distinction between the two kinds of righteousness is explained, evaluated, and then applied to the practical context of the church in Myanmar. Particular attention is focused on the potential usefulness of the teaching for ordinary Burmese Christians who will be equipped to engage their immediate culture with a winsome Gospel witness, active service through vocations, submission to authority, and patience in the face of persecution.