Christianity and Culture: Link, Respond

01Dec12

The three lenses of adapting, grafting, and transforming can help us understand the relationship between Christianity and culture. Yet, I would also suggest two additional possibilities: link and respond.

At the beginning, Christianity linked Jewish and Greek culture, and quickly expanded to include others as well. In the meeting of cultures through Christian praxis, we grow in unity and share in Christ.

Students cross over the water at a camp run by Mary Martínez, who served as a missionary in the Congo.

This intercultural intersection allows the church a vantage point a little removed from the host culture. From here, we may respond to the culture. When a church responds to culture, we listen to what the culture is saying, treating it as a serious dialogue partner- there might well be some truth in what the culture says. Having listened, we then respond with our Christian perspective.

Some examples: in Argentina, we are fond of singing the important South African hymn, “Siyahamba”, which is “We are walking in the light of God”, and in Spanish, “caminemos a la luz de Dios”. By singing this song of freedom from another country, we link cultures in a way that emphasizes solidarity and justice.

The cancionero of the church in Barranqueras.

In Paraguay, a very common expression is, “Así no más”, which means basically, “just leave it.” It’s a way of saying something isn’t worth doing or it’s not important or it doesn’t matter. To “Así no más”, the church in Paraguay is responding, “Sí se puede” – “yes we can”, or, “let’s do it!” In this way, we convey that we understand the factors that lead people to say “así no más” yet we as the church have something more to add.

Church members are imagining the layout of a new city during a leadership workshop in Ciudad del Este.

I would summarize these perspectives:

Adapt:    X  – > X   (The church takes what the culture offers)

Graft:       X – > HOLY (The church ignores, even shuns, what the culture offers)

Transform:   X – > t  (The church turns the cultural attribute into a sign of the Cross)

Link:     X – > cx    (Do you see the Jesus fish when we join the two cultures?)

Respond:         X – > in place of X, Y

What other possibilities are out there?

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