God's Mission Matters March 2010 podcast - Check your bags
Cultural baggage: what we bring with us as we engage in mission
March 15, 2010
By Sherron George
“There is no longer Jew or Greek” (Galatians 3:28)
Every human being and country has a “culture” or many “subcultures.” Culture is the way we grow up doing and understanding things. It includes our language, thought processes, emotions, art, food, values, principles, sports, economy and social organization. We grow up with “culture” without realizing it. The Protestant work ethic and Puritan morality profoundly influenced American culture in the United States. Likewise, our cultural values and attitudes continue to impact our religion.
One of the early pillars of American Protestant culture was that America was a “light on the hill” with a responsibility to “enlighten” the whole world. This noble idea with religious roots led to an attitude of cultural superiority. We began to believe that the “American way of life” and the American values of freedom and democracy made us more “civilized” than other countries. Our government began to intervene in other countries with “the big stick.”
When missionaries from the United States went to other parts of the world, they took the only kind of Christianity they knew, the American way of being a Christian, the American way of worship, of Puritan morality, of interpreting Scripture, of building and organizing churches. Unconsciously, this American Christianity was “imposed” on Christians around the world.
Today the majority of Christians live in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Christianity has African, Asian and Latin American faces. When we go to other countries, we must respect, adapt to and learn from their way of being Christian. We can share our culture, but never impose it on others. We must empty ourselves of all attitudes of superiority and control.