Is culture right, wrong, or neither?

We hear about the culture wars… the PC police warn us to be “tolerant” (accepting?) of people’s cultures and values… missiologists (experts in all things missions) challenge us to be sensitive to other people’s cultures. But is culture right or wrong?

I’m reflecting on these questions on a plane leaving Phoenix where instructions were given in English and Spanish… on my way to Washington DC (that culture may have to wait for a blog of another day)… before taking off to London… stopping in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) …visiting India for 6 days …enjoying a couple more hours in Dubai (hope I can get a new stamp in my passport while I’m there) …then visiting South Africa for 6 more days …before returning through Chicago (okay, another culture that will have to wait) …and finally being “home” again.

(By the way, I think I spilled coffee on the passenger next to me while I was typing that last paragraph. Oops! This is why Becki dressed me in all dark colors this morning. But then, that’s a marital culture issue, and one we also don’t need to explore today.)

So with all we will see in the next several days, how do we know how to respond?

My view from 40,000 feet? Culture is neither right, nor wrong, when culture is referring to personal preference. It doesn’t matter whether you like a European hard-boiled egg and cold meat for breakfast or a bowl of Wheaties with skim milk in Kansas. So when we are in India, we’ll eat with our hands (oops, hand – only the right one) and in South Africa, we’ll not comment on how they drive on the wrong side of the road (oops, there I go again, the “other side” of the road). And, of course, we will remember that we ALL have accents!

But when culture defines values…that’s another matter. In our affluent American culture, many things are “acceptable,” but not permissible according to God’s standards. Of course, there are easy ones to point to (you can fill in the blanks), but what about the subtle ones? Consumerism, greed, lack of love, self-centeredness…

It’s time for us all to live according to “kingdom culture,” don’t you think? “Thy kingdom come…Thy will be done…on earth as it is in heaven.”


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