I feel the need to start processing this chapter with a good dose of caution. Living cross-culturally, of course I want to see my host culture following Jesus. But I am not in a position to say, “This part of your culture is right. That part of your culture is wrong.” This has been done by people like me for hundreds of years, and we haven’t always gotten it right. Damage has been done. Some aspects of culture that were rejected by Western Christians could have brought glory to God, had they been preserved and redeemed.
In her memoir, Unbowed, Wangari Maathai wrote, “Europeans were themselves very close to their culture: How could it be bad when Africans held on to their culture even as they embraced Christianity? This was important to me because my culture was ruthlessly destroyed under the pretense that its values and those of Christianity were in conflict. I watched in awe and admiration as Westerners embraced their culture and found no contradiction between it and their Christian heritage.”
Going a step further, Vernon Light, in Transforming the Church in Africa, wrote, “Some parts of culture may be adapted for the glory of God while other parts must be rejected…In this sense, Christ transforms culture.”
Christ is the one who does the work. As we grow in our walk with him, the Holy Spirit will reveal how our culture should be changed. My focus should be on how my own culture brings glory to God.
In this last chapter of Beyond Colorblind, Sarah Shin envisions Christians as culture re-creators. She writes: “As we talk about ethnicity, we’re not just talking about remembering cultural heritage. We’re talking about creating new culture that builds off of ethnic history and knowledge and, in Jesus’ name, helps create something new that blesses the nations and helps others come to know him.”
Living outside our home culture, we may not be in a position to affect that culture at large, but we can re-create our personal culture and our family/household culture. Probably you are already doing this, as distance (geographical and otherwise) widens your perspective of your home culture. How has your worldview and culture changed by living overseas?
Two ideas were discussed which I found especially applicable to our cross-cultural work and lives.
First, the discussion of immigrants. Though most of us don’t seek permanent status in our host countries, expats and immigrants have a lot in common. “Immigrants carry with them a time capsule impression from their parents of what it means to be their ethnicity, even though, of course, their hometowns and people change over time.” We’re different from our host culture. But the culture in our passport countries is not static. The culture we’ve brought with us may not be the culture we return to at the end of our term on the field. I like the mental image of a cultural time capsule.
Second was the discussion of biracial children. My kids are biracial with parents from 2 different nationalities. They are not TCKs, but I see a lot of their experience in discussions of TCKs. Both groups (and several others) fall under a larger heading of “cross-cultural kids.” (This is on page 31 of my copy of Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken.) Thus I don’t think it is inaccurate to see something similar to TCKs in the section on biracial children, especially this part: “These brothers and sisters hold the reality of different communities and ethnic stories living in one person.”
Thinking about my own ethnic heritage and how it affects my culture and worldview has been a bit of an intellectual exercise. It’s been good for me! What I appreciate most about Beyond Colorblind is the perspective that all of us have ethnicities and those ethnicities have beauty, sins, and scars.
I’ll close the book with just one more quote: “Our challenge is to say, ‘Look at the glory God put in you. Learn and own your story, and then teach me,’ instead of saying, ‘Well, we’re all just human anyway.’”
Join me in the comments! What did you think of this chapter or the book as a whole? What is sticking with you? What have you learned? What did you find difficult?
P.S. The Story Project mentioned toward the end of the chapter is here. http://2100.intervarsity.org/overview/story-project
In December we will be reading two Christmas short stories, and talking about our favorite books of 2020! Here’s the schedule:
December 1: No Book Club, but join us to kick off our Year-End Giving Campaign!
December 15: Reginald’s Christmas Revel
December 22: Top 5 Books of 2020
December 29: Top 5 Books of 2020