“How odd, people actually eat fried tarantulas and fried termites?”
“No rice, you can’t have a meal without rice!”
“You mean the family sleeps together in one room.”
“Each child has their own bedroom, how can they afford that.”
“What do you mean that person is a Christian and has more than one wife?”
“They’re Christians and they let their elderly parents be put in a nursing home!”
“Dancing in the aisles during a church service is uncalled for!””
“You call that worshipping God; they don’t even raise their hands to the Lord when singing!”
Culture – a powerful phenomenon that defines our everyday living, our perspective of the world and even how we interpret passages in the bible. Culture shapes our patterns of behavior and helps make us unique and interesting women.
We now live in a global society; via satellite we have instant access to what is happening to women around the world and the cultures in which they live. I find it very interesting to observe women in their cultural settings, and when I do questions begin to percolate in my mind. What are they doing and why? How are they different than me? Would I ever be able to understand and connect with them?
If I find out they are Christians I begin to watch their behavior even more closely. Undoubtedly if I start feeling critical of their behavior, a niggling question worms its way into my mind, how do they see me? Do they see a Christian woman who has shaped her worldview based upon God’s word or her own culture? Do they see a woman who shows the compassion of Christ or a judgmental Pharisee, who keeps a checklist to make sure that they are behaving according to my cultural understandings?
As Christian women, we may disagree sometimes about how we should live out our Christianity, but God’s word is a mighty sword that can cut through our cultural differences and flood our lives with Truth. In the New Testament we read of people from all different cultures coming together to form the body of Christ. We also read of clashes among these first century Christians. For example in Galatians 2:11-16, Paul chastises Peter for falling back to his old cultural beliefs and treating Jewish believers differently than the gentiles. The good news is that the apostles overcame their differences to work together in unity and to glorify God’s name.
No Women Is an Island
As I write this post the quotation, “No man (or woman) is an island,” continues to float through my mind. Perhaps the clergyman, John Donne, in his 1624 devotional writings says it best when he pens about the interconnection of God’s people and how He calls us to be one. (In the phrase below, catholic means diverse or all encompassing.)
…The church is catholic, universal, so are all heractions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and in grafted into the body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness… No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (http://isu.indstate.edu/ilnprof/ENG451/ISLAND/text.html)
Donne eloquently expresses that as part of the larger Church we are not isolated individuals, but we are connected. As Christian women living in this fallen world, our bonds need to be strong because we are sisters and coworkers in the family of God. Yes, we may have cultural differences, but we are one in Christ and are called to reach out to one another (Galatians 5:13-14, Hebrews 10:14).
Over the next couple of months I will be blogging about some of the cultural differences I have experienced and that have challenged my Christian perspective. I can hardly wait to read your responses to these experiences. I also will be sharing updates from Liberia.
Let the discussion begin.