One of the greatest “selling points” of Christianity is that it has no correlating culture. Culture, as defined by clothing, music, food, or anything that gives a group of people an identity, is virtually non-existent in the Christian faith. The culture of Christians are as various as there are nations in the world, because the faith can be practiced in any cultural context. This is why Jesus’ great commission is so relevant, because He commands us to go into all the world and make disciples. You can’t accomplish this mission with the love of Christ, by assimilating the world into “our” culture; so there HAS to be some cultural tolerance as it pertains to Christian orthodoxy, or what is accepted to be correct belief.
This is a point many Christians, particularly American Christians, don’t understand. We spend so much time trying to proselytize people to our particular culture, or brand of Christianity, by ascribing our preferences to overall orthodoxy. For example:
- Being “Churchy” don’t make you a Christian –
This especially true the African-American, as well as the pentecostal/charismatic contexts. There is a certain vernacular associated with church, that may be foreign to those who haven’t spent anytime this particular church culture. For the most part, black churches (regardless of denomination) have a certain sound and even a look that is shared in many of their white pentecostal or charismatic counterparts. I tend to call the language “Christianese” and the rest of that culture “Churchy”. But just because you wear a suit to church, and know the lingo, that doesn’t make you a Christian.
- Being Patriotic don’t make you a Christian –
Recent events surrounding the observance of the American National Anthem, and the honor of the US flag, has sparked quite a controversy, and it is particularly disheartening to hear pastors and spiritual leaders speak about patriotism as if it’s a christian virtue. In the predominantly white, evangelical circles, love of country is right up there with the ten commandments. One would think that speaking out against injustice, or bad practice in our government, or protesting, demonstrating, and organizing around an issue is sin beyond forgiveness. But being a, so-called “good American”, can’t make you a Christian.
- Being Moral don’t make you a Christian –
Being a “good person” is a good thing. Kindness, politeness, and consideration of others is all well and fine, but this alone doesn’t make a person a Christian. I work with students who are behaviorally at risk, so I’ve seen my share of kids who are outwardly polite and relatively quiet, but are just as devious and delinquent as the one “cutting up”. Having decency and moral values outwardly, is not enough to make anyone a Christian.
Molding oneself to fit in a particular Christian culture, is not the same as pleasing God. These outward expressions simply appease the people around us, and gets them off our backs. These cultural expectations we impose onto people, are just simply for comfort. Our faith must challenge our comforts and preferences, as it pertains to the acceptance and inclusion of “others”. Our theology will always rest in our particular contexts, which is the beauty of this wonderful Gospel. God overcame your culture to reach you where you are, why can’t you overcome someone else’s ethnic, social or political cultures to love and respect them? The tapestry of cultures and differences creates the truest beauty of our faith: the fact that there is a place for everyone. Christ has called us to unity, not uniformity.
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27-28, New American Standard Bible.
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