Something that really bothers me lately is the Western superiority complex. Most of us are fiercely nationalist, and exclusive. We believe that our cultures, languages, dress codes, and typical religions are the only way. And because of that, we tend to not seek to understand the rest of the world. We try to police it, organize it, control it, legislate it, etc. But we don’t try to understand or respect it.
I married a man from another country, culture, and who speaks a different language. We have had to learn so much about each other’s customs, and it is a continuing process. I am continually researching other religions and cultures. I always want to be cross cultural, open minded, and above all open hearted. Many of my evangelical friends disagree with me. They say that to be good representations of Christ, we must not 1) believe in evolution, 2) delve into researching other faiths for any reason other than converting people, 3) delve into researching cultures that aren’t stereotypically Christian, 4) not support Zionism, 5) dress in any way that could be mistaken as not Christian.
Let me tackle these. First of all, evolution. In the story of Creation, which is found in Genesis chapters one and two, we are informed that God created everything that ever was or is in six days. On the seventh day, he rested. However, this word which has been translated from Hebrew as day could also be translated as “a period of time”. There is no reason we have to assume that those six days were each of equal size. There is no reason we have to assume that those days were each composed of twenty-four hours. I personally believe that God guided the process of evolution. Evolution is scientifically proven. God made humans with brains, and we shouldn’t be afraid to use said brains – within Biblical boundaries. It is OK to think outside of the traditional box!
Second, getting to know other faiths. The Bible never prohibits learning, and in fact encourages the pursuit of knowledge (see Proverbs 10:14, Proverbs 18:15, Ecclesiastes 7:12, Proverbs 1:5, 2Peter 2:15, Hosea 4:6, Proverbs 23:12). The Bible also encourages peace making (Romans 12:18, Matthew 5:9, and others). To make peace with our human brethren, we must know about them and understand them. It is also important to gain knowledge of other religions to confirm our own faith. If we don’t know the alternatives to our faith, if we don’t question it, then we will never have a depth of certainty about it.
Next, researching other cultures. Well this is just plain prejudice and has NO place in Christian culture. The stereotypically “Christian” culture is simply the Western culture. This was defined by the Catholic church and carries over into the modern day nationalist/colonialist philosophy. The truth is that Christianity is present in many cultures. It transcends culture. A proud Korean, a proud Chinese, a proud Indian, a proud Native American, a proud Arab, a proud Brit, a proud Russian, a proud African… they are all equally legitimate Christians. And exploring other cultures not only allows us to better understand our fellow man and pursue knowledge, but also better unifies the Body of Christ as a whole.
Fourth, Zionism. Ohhhhhh I could SO write an entire blog post – or better yet, a whole BOOK about this. But in short…. Zionism is a political position. Christianity is a religion. BIG difference! Antizionism is not Antisemitism. It is an objection to the existence to the state of Israel. Anti Zionism is frequently partnered with a belief that Palestine was unjustly taken from its rightful owners by European Zionists. Anti Zionism is not Anti-Jew, or racist. And it is frequently rooted in concerns for human rights and justice. These are not only Biblically permissible, but also Biblically encouraged.
Finally, difference in dress…. another area where typcial thinking is directly contradictory to the Bible. The Bible has certain standards of dress that it specifically spells out. And the way most Christians these days dress, especially Christian women, is a far cry from the Biblical standards. “Don’t dress in a way that could be seen as non-Christian” or “Don’t make your brothers in the faith stumble”… says the girl in the miniskirt. I am not saying I am better than her. I am not better. But neither am I worse, and no one should be judged for trying to obey the Bible to the best of their convictions. We should all be trying to apply our faith as we feel led by God.
In this article I addressed five limitations that Evangelical Christians like to place on others (please note that I am an Evangelical Christian myself). Or perhaps you could call these prejudices. Or misconceptions we enforce in ourselves. Call them what you like, but at the end of the day they are quite simply significant problems that will soon render the Church at large irrelevant and backwards. We must return to the essence of our faith. I leave you all with the words of Christ that describe what that is.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’
‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ – Mark 12:28-33 (NIV)