Christianity and Parochialism

Posted: June 15, 2021 in General

The Cambridge Dictionary defines parochialism as: “the quality of showing interest only in a narrow range of matters, especially those that directly affect yourself, your town, or your country.” The term originates from the idea of parish (Latin ‘parochia’), one of the smaller divisions within many Christian churches.[1] Parochialism originates when someone ignores the cultural and social impacts, professional aspects and policies, and procedures and programs. It happens when “one’s own concepts are perceived as culture-free and the only and universal way of thinking and acting.”[2] A person who fosters parochialism can be “exclusive” in attitude and “delimiting” in her/his deliberations.

Biblical interpreters and preachers often behave like “type-personalities” with their closed mind-set. Often we brainstorm, exegete, exposit, and theologize the Biblical ideas within a closed framework detached from the circumstantial and evidential aspects, socio-religious and politico-cultural realities, and logical and universal truth. Our myopic worldviews delimit us to self-centeredness. By seeing “I,” “mine” and “myself,” we weigh down the collective ideals like “We,” “our,” and “ourselves.” At least during the pandemic, we need to put aside all sorts of parochial attitudes when we express our views, interact with the divine and the rest of humanity, and live our life out in the public square. Often we abnegate the suffering neighbourhood while we erect mansions, neglect the needy-poor on the pretext of their sinful natures and attitudes, and hide ourselves behind the huge physical and ideological walls built around us. We have a claim like ‘God has given me everything’; but, unfortunate it is to affirm that we/you are steeped into parochialism. 

When we use the expressions like “my identity,” “my family,” “my church,” “my mission,” and “my community” without thinking of the rest of the world-order, we are at the verge of parochialism. Rather than understanding our faith and practices within the framework of the world outside and the existential struggles of the larger human society, we often look at the world outside exclusively from the vantage point of our own parochialism. We need to affirm the fact that our first identity is worldly and it is an added privilege that we are transformed by the death of Jesus on the cross.

We need to help our Christian community to overcome parochialism by acquainting them with values, customs and institutions that differ from our own. Selfish pettiness or narrowness (as of interests, opinions or views) might be a hindrance to our Christian living in the world. Sometimes, parochialism is the state of mind, whereby people focus on small sections of an issue rather than considering its wider context. In that sense, parochialism is almost identical to Pharisaism. As Jesus, the Gospel writers, and Paul the apostle par-excellence interacted with the world outside in a broader outlook, we are required to interpret the truths of the Gospel within the canvas of the world outside.




Johnson Thomaskutty

Dean of Biblical Studies

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

  1. Shirly Jones. A says:

    Dear Sir,
    Wow, what a word parochialism , in simple and straight sir, selfishness and narrow mindedness.
    We need to live and preach so that all are free from this bug.
    Praise God Jesus is for all.

  2. Thank you so much for your response.

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