culture |ˈkəl ch ər|
the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to future generations (Merriam-Webster: 5a)
the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time (Merriam-Webster: 5b)
the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization (Merriam-Webster: 5c)
the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic (Merriam-Webster: 5d)
Every now and then there will be something of significance that I contemplate. When there is something that thrills me or something that gets under my skin, it occupies more thought than I would willingly subject it to. The case of culture is one of the "somethings" that gets under my skin.
Hear me out, for this is not a rant against American culture and how that we are in desperate need of a wake up call from our selfish, moment-based lifestyles. I have many objections to the American, or more generally, the western culture; but I have a bigger issue with Christian culture.
When I was in PNG, the idea of Christianity as a culture pressed my thoughts more often than it did here in the US. To the reader who has traveled out of the US for an extended period of time (longer than two weeks), you may relate better than the reader who has not. I witnessed a few rude awakenings in my village stay in PNG. Here is one story I don't share often, but it's relevant to my point.
While on our final trek to the airstrip, arms full of "stuff," my teammate and I were chatting as we passed this puddle. The puddle would not have been unusual, save that it was reddish with what I assumed were some pieces of fruit. (There were many exotic fruits, most of which I never tasted, so seeing one that potentially had the vibrant juiciness to tint an entire puddle of rain from the previous night was not anything I thought about longer than twenty seconds.) My teammate and I continued chatting, mentioning our other teammates whom we were eagerly awaiting to hear stories from. Once we arrived at the airstrip, one of our hosts joined our side and asked if we had noticed the "red puddle." I responded affirmatively and inquired about what fruit it may have been. Come to find out, it was not an edible fruit at all, rather a piece of flesh and blood from a woman whose husband had taken his axe to her (then pregnant, now not) abdomen over a "domestic dispute." This particular man had recently paid the "bride price," so in his mind (thanks to the culture) he had every right to attack his wife. This same man had supposedly become a Christian about a year prior to the dispute.
After hearing the truth about the red puddle, my stomach was all in knots; not so much in learning that it was human flesh (there's a lot worse you see as an EMT and you know up front what it is), but over the fact that this Christian man had not abandoned his culture. Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying that he needs to adapt to the American version of Christianity! But doesn't it only make sense that once Christ is alive in you, that you should leave behind the practices that are centered around the flesh?
If Christians were to dive into the truth of God's Word as it pertains to our being "new" (2 Cor. 5:17), what it is we are to "wear" (Rom. 13:12,14; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:24, 6:11-15; Col. 3:10-14; 1 Thess. 5:8; 1 Peter 5:5), and the activities we should be "busy" about (there is a lot of Scripture I could have included, but just take a look at the red in the gospels and check out Paul's epistles especially-it's all relevant to my point), then we just may be learning how this flawless culture should look.
Christ should be known because of Christians-our thoughts, our words, our actions. There is so much I could go on about, but I hope that for my siblings out there that this at least provokes some thought about your priorities and your lifestyle. *I'm not perfect, either.*