Your Beliefs and Practices are Cultural

“When I went to seminary to prepare for the ministry, I met an African-American student, Elward Ellis, who befriended both my future wife, Kathy Kristy, and me. He gave us gracious but bare-knuckled mentoring about the realities of injustice in American culture. “You’re a racist, you know,” he once said at our kitchen table. “Oh, you don’t mean to be, and you don’t want to be, but you are. You can’t really help it.” He said, for example, “When black people do things in a certain way, you say, ‘Well, that’s your culture.’ But when white people do things in a certain way, you say, ‘That’s just the right way to do things.’ You don’t realize you really have a culture. You are blind to how many of your beliefs and practices are cultural.” We began to see how, in so many ways, we made our cultural biases into moral principles and then judged people of other races as being inferior. His case was so strong and fair that, to our surprise, we agreed with him.”

— Tim Keller

Agreed. But also, this isn’t just a race thing but a larger cultural phenomena. In my experience, we Americans think that our way is the right way. When we go out to other countries, we are so quick to judge their behaviors, rituals, architecture, values, etc. In college I took an anthropology class about nonprofit organizations. We studied American humanitarian organizations that would go oversees to help develop third world countries. When they built systems, even things like washrooms, they would build them in a way that only makes sense to the Western man. The people these systems were intended to serve ended up not utilizing the services at all, because it did not fit culturally. This showcased how we believe our way is the only and right way. Instead of meeting people where they are, we are inclined to “help” people meet us where we are.

Just some food for thought.

Now Jesus was a man. He was human. He was not a white man! He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa, and Asia, and Europe, and he probably had a brown skin.

— Billy Graham in South Africa in 1973

“Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world.”


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