Our Cultural & Faith Experiences Are Not Broken

“If you want to move away from your home culture, one thing you have to be ready for is sobbing when it makes no sense.” (Kristy Carlson)

We get the message. It seems to be covered very well  in most books or orientation chats. When we travel internationally we fully expect to encounter new customs, world views, ways of belonging, habits, ways of organizing community, to do marriages or meals, raise children etc.

I would add to Kristy’s statement;

“If you move away from your home culture, there are things in our home culture that no longer make sense, and will cause sobbing.

Not much talk or writing about this. I think it is because there is no easy five step plan to fix this.  But i think I’ve put my finger on an insight (I’m so slow).

There is nothing to fix. We, and our experiences are not broken. Our cross-cultural views, adaptions, quirks and quarks are now part of who we are. 

I love the east coast, and strangely the re-orientation back from French West Africa has not been nearly as frustrating this time around.

Something has changed.

I think I’ve accepted there are things I may never understand about the east coast, and things the east coast may never understand about me. But, it’s  ok.

I don’t need to fix them, and they don’t need to fix me.

I still have a head swimming full of sights and experiences I’m trying to fit, file, and process. But doing much better than usual.  Still not at the place where I want to talk much, and large crowds are still difficult as things move a little faster than i can process at this stage of re-entry. But this will change after a few months.

Had someone “chat” to me (more like chatted “AT” me?) about church when I got home. How I need the box, should consider attending their box.

Eastern Canadian culture has a churchy box, and to not fit into that EXACT cultural expression of faith has got to be a “sin” of some sort.

Truth is this person has no idea where I am spiritually. Because we don’t ever actually have a conversation. These folks have a message for me. Some truth, needed words containing prearranged judgment they feel convicted needs saying to me. They have me all figured out.

The starting foundation I am hearing is this;

Since your Jesus faith is not lived out and expressed in my kind of Christian community, you must not be in community, or the wrong kind of community, burned, bad, angry, liberal, or backsliding from your Jesus faith. Heck you probably have no faith at all now, as no one can survive, let alone thrive, without attending all these box programs. So you better get your ass back to church.

The dripping assumptions… wow!

I get it, that used to be me. I understand their motive is caring for me, to save me from harm. But, goosh, i see how arrogant I was  (am?), in them.

If you show up and sit in a church, and even if we be nothing more than that, church colonizers seem very happy with that. Little will be said, as long as you “go to church”. You could love God and one hundred people in dozens of practical ways outside that box… gather as a spiritual family with a few others, pray daily,  and it registers as nothing to that box religious cultures thinking. They have no clue what it is I am about, or what I am doing, but if I am not attending a church building on Sunday it is simply no good, PERIOD!

I find it stunning that the invitation is to attend their box, some church event or program. Rarely, is it an invitation to get to know them better, or to spend time with them, or them with me. Really, you want to invite me to your church box, but not into a friendship we both  might enjoy, benefit from, and where we will certainly have some great conversations about faith, even the box stuff you want to obligate me to?

This is a cross cultural challenge for me. Why? Because my faith is important to me.  I am a Jesus follower,  and “church” is important to me. However, I am one who no longer fits this expression of western colonial faith culture, and I do find your dismissive ways, and insistence on conformity, alarming, both theologically and practically.

I wish Christian Church people would spend less time colonizing people to their cultural forms of Christianity, and talk more about Jesus Christ, and loving other people.

Read an interesting quote…

“Pastors (Priests) also need to take courage and share boldly and tenderly. People need the truth. It does them no good to remain ignorant. They need the freedom that comes through the grace of simplicity.” (Richard Foster. Freedom of Simplicity)

True, yet the essential matters are what we need to hear, not the proselytizing cultural colonization to western Christian expressions.  And this is exactly where I am….. Needing the freedom that comes through the grace of simplicity. 

The author goes on to write…

“We can no longer allow people to engage in pious exercises that are divorced from the hard social realities of life. Nor can we tolerate a radical social witness that is devoid of inward spiritual vitality.”

We can strive for both. But, like it or not, we can, and do “allow” people to engage in pious exercises, if that is their choice. We don’t get to chose how people express their faith. We can inform, but allow, or not allow? That is some dangerous language.

What is so “intolerable” about a radical social witness, from a barely visible and small mustard seed of a faith? I can “tolerate” a massive volume of awesomely good social work from very shitty Christians, like myself. Not hard to tolerate at all. We do have to tolerate it, as it will be how the Faith moves forward now.

It is ironic that the New Testament actually says that God does not dwell in temples (various translations use the word Temples, Houses, sanctuaries or buildings) built by human hands. Yet church colonizers sure talk to us like God dwells in their church buildings, and imply that you can find God in no other place, serve him from no other platform,  grow in spiritual vitality by no other “program”, worship with no other people other than the people gathering in a sanctuary, nor at any other time other than 11AM Sunday morning. The winskin is the predominate conversation, not the wine. I grew weary with those conversations a very long time ago. 

Folks I can not shake off my faith culture,  journey, experiences, beliefs, or expressions. They are part of who I am, and if you dismiss them, you dismiss me. Please stop talking to fellow family like we are broken. I don’t accept your assumption that my spiritual journey is broken because it does not conform to yours.

Spiritually, I’m in a foreign land and culture here.

I can’t speak Bankagooma, Duungooma, or Ganadougou language in Africa. Here at home it seems like I can’t even speak English, church, christian, or colonization. I don’t understand the dialects anymore.

“Everybody is doing somebody else. Franchise faith, franchise church is killing faith and killing church. Will everybody stop doing somebody else? Do you. Do Jesus! Do you in Jesus. Do Jesus in you.”  Leonard Sweet post today….

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