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Friday, January 14, 2005

Cultural Pollution or Cultural Infiltration?

Over the past week, I have been reflecting on the issue about Culture, Morality, the role of the Church and the place of the Christian in society. It all started with some controversial conversations started when I responded to a couple of posts at another site and over here. Messy Christian joined in the chorus and that created a whole thread of discussion that became heated at times. I also tried to summarize some of the issues both here and over at Messy's blog.

Tonight, I was looking at some of my old posts, and realized that I have actually blogged about this before. I have also questioned the whole concept about East and West. As I recently alluded to, albeit partly facetiously, the descriptor "Western culture" probably encompasses more than just the traditionally "Western nations".

Thanks to modern communications and the media, Western culture and Westernism have encroached to every corner of the globe. It is the dominant culture in the world today. Every corner of the word is influenced (some might say, tainted) to some degree by aspects of Western ethics, politics, philosophy, economics and systems. Everywhere that modernism has impacted, it has come with it, Westernisms, to some degree. Yet, Westernism is expressed differently within different cultures, so that Australian Westernism is different from American Westernism for instance.

Politically and religiously, there are vast differences between say, the Socialism of the Scandinavian countries or the former Soviet bloc, or the African hinterland or the Middle East with America. Therefore, it is easy to assume that there are a lot of differences between the cultures. Yet, the twenty-first century America is probably closer in culture to twenty-first Century Indonesia than to sixteenth century England for instance.

In light of the pervasiveness of the cultural influences in our different societies, what I would like to raise are several related questions: What is the role of the Church in modern culture? What is the place of the Christian as a Christian in a modern country? In defending our country as a patriot, how far can we go in supporting the aims, goals and mission of the country without affecting our responsibility as citizens of God's kingdom?

How are we to represent Christ in the world and how are we to represent our country before the nations? What are our priorities as citizens and what are our priorities as followers of Christ? Do we identify ourselves so fondly with our culture or do we be salt and light in the culture, so that we are truly "in the world" (full-fledge participation) but "not of the world" (non-entanglement with culture).

We often talk about the Church being counter-cultural. I blogged about this briefly before and I would like to reiterate that most likely when the New Testament Church was accused of "turning the world upset down," the reference weren't to the world at large, but it was really a turning upside-down the established religious world. In other words, if we want to be authentic followers of Christ, we have to think hard how we can turn the established religious world of ours in this era upside-down.