Monday, March 17, 2014

Cultural Diagnoses

Written by Ty

Much of what I do is try to diagnose culture—both the Kuria culture as well as my own.  The contrast between the two helps me see each one more clearly.  The disparity casts light on the blindspots in each culture.

I have many criticisms of both cultures.  Unfortunately I suffer from the negativity of the diagnostician.  Being trained in Western medical diagnostics, it is far too easy for me to dwell on disease, forgetting to attend to the strengths.  I am a casualty of my indoctrination.

Readily I see my own culture as opulently materialistic, narcissistic, and nihilistic.  We are Vanity made flesh.

On the other hand, while I am here in Kurialand, I recognize and mourn that the Kuria are often ruthless, selfish, and fatalistic.  A Kurian could have written Job’s lament of the victimized in Job 19 and 20.  

Are you not astounded that God described both of these cultural diagnoses in Scripture over 3000 years ago?  Read Ecclesiastes.  Think of America in 2014.  Read Job 19 and 20.  That's here.

Both cultures are obsessed with power—the West mostly via technology, the Kuria by way of technology, witchcraft, or anything else that comes to a desperate hand.  Both must repent of their cultural sins and turn to a Biblical understanding of reality.

How must I respond to these diagnoses?  Fortunately, it is not up to me to heal these ills—that massive responsibility lies with a much greater Physician.  My role is simply to refer both cultures to Him.  But along the way, I must avoid becoming cynical about either culture—or both.  It is far too easy to dwell on the corrupt—in each locale, to condemn the faults and rant over the evil, rather than grieve over the sin while looking toward a horizon of hope.

Lord, help me see the good aspects too: the orderliness, the chivalry, and above all the mutual and inherent trust in the West.  And remind me to point out these good things to my children.  Help me to see the relationality, sanity of pace, family-centeredness, and spiritual mindedness of the Kurians, and to point these strengths out to my children and students.

My son (who just turned 6) is beginning to notice the contrasts between the cultures.  Just yesterday he pointed out to me a woman whom he lauded for her attention to the safety of her toddler.  But my son is much more critical of Kurian culture than he is of American culture.  He doesn’t like the food, the speech, the greetings, or much of anything about the people—they scare him.  (Let me here admit that I don’t blame him for preferring pizza over ugali.)  But I must point out to him the good things in the culture here—and the good ways we can see God changing the culture.  I dearly wish I could point out similar glimmers of hope for the West.

It’s 530AM.  Dawn has yet to color the eastern sky.  But 80 boys in the children’s home are awake and praising God, asking His blessing on their day.  They are singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” in Kiswahili.  (Talk about cultural contrast!)  They’re hearts are in it.  It is beautiful.  It is a gift.  The gospel transcends culture.  Everyone needs and wants to move from death to life--to be resurrected.

Lord, give me your eyes to see, you patience to endure, and you heart to love—on both sides of the ocean.

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