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“Missions destroys cultures”

August 18, 2010

“Missions destroys cultures”

On several occasions I’ve heard these words and discussed how cultures change, and are lost when new people enter into this society. I’ve wondered myself about this – knowing that your culture and who you are is really important. But simultaneously knowing that God loves everyone, a fact that we as Christians are called to share. So can people really in good conscience be a missionary, while potentially destroying a people’s identity and culture?

Or is your identity and culture really all that important? Just think about the Acadians (French-speaking Canadians) for a moment. They proudly display their flag, usually will only speak English when it is absolutely necessary (and sometimes not even then). despite the fact that New Brunswick is a bilingual province, their culture – and therefore identity – is being threatened on a daily basis! It’s not too hard to see that Acadian culture plays an important role in their identity….

So what about these “missions destroys cultures” statements? What are we to do with them? Especially seeing as I’m embarking on a journey to become a missionary AND inviting you to come alongside me financially and prayerfully.

What I’ve learned:

Wycliffe translates the Bible into the people’s own language – they will not lose their ability to speak their language as they can read in their own language (many of these people groups never had a written language before, making it EASIER for their culture and traditions to be forgotten with new generations).

Wycliffe doesn’t “copy and paste” Jesus Loves You into their language for them to learn and sing: Rather, Wycliffe missionaries who are musically gifted work alongside the national speakers to create culturally relevant worship music.  They do this by studying the people, their culture and musical styles and incorporating these factors into songs as they are written. Worship is central to what we believe, making culturally relevant worship music a very key part of Bible Translation and any other missions work.

Jesus loves and cares for every culture for who they are: “And there before me was  a great multitude that no one would count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb….Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, not any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  (Rev. 7:9, 16-17)

Timothy Keller’s thoughts on Christianity and Culture:

In “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller (p. 45 – 46) ” Historian Andrew Walls writes: ‘Cultural diversity was built into the Christian faith…in Acts 15, which declared that the new gentile Christians didn’t have to enter Jewish culture..The converts had to work out…a Hellenistic way of being a Christian. [So} no one owns the Christian faith. There is no “Christians culture” the way there is an “Islamic culture” which you can recognize from Pakistan to Tunisia to Morocco…

“Biblical texts such as Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21-22 depict a renewed, perfect, future world in which we retain our cultural differences (“every tongue, tribe, people, nation”). This means every human culture has (from God) distinct goods and strengths for the enrichment of the human race.  As Walls indicates, while every culture has distortions and elements that will be critiqued and revised by the Christian message, each culture will also have good and unique elements to which Christianity connects and adapts.

“Contrary to popular opinion, then, Christianity is not a Western religion that destroys local cultures. Rather, Christianity has taken more culturally diverse forms than other faiths.”

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