Archive for culture
Over the past weeks I have been busy with travel, meetings, and a writing project. I am expecting news to be available on the writing project soon, but it is under wraps for now. I can share that my writing has involved a good amount of research which has turned up all kinds of interesting things as usual. One of those, I wanted to go ahead and pass along. It is a video of Caesar Kalinowski, one of the planters and elders of Soma Communities. He has spent time learning from missionaries about the process of storying with pre-literates and now is advocating use of story with post-literates.
Storying has potential application in urban centers among nationals and what some may consider an emerging people group of transnationals–people that are more at home in international cities than they would be in smaller towns or villages among people that share a language and cultural background. I have used elements of storying with post-literates among multiple cultures and feel like this deserves more trial both in the U.S. and among the nations.
With the swearing in of the new Greek Prime Minister this past week, I heard multiple news pundits share that it was really strange to see such a strong religious aspect accompany a seemingly secular event. Many references were made to separation of church and state–yes, our separation of church and state. Some personalities seemed to imply that our less religious political transfers of power should be more of the norm for other western, developed countries. The commentary was often laden with ethnocentrism mixed with disbelief that others could be so different. Disbelief that others could be so elementary or even so wrong.
Just because there are religious leaders all over the place does not make Greece or other declared Orthodox countries super-religious. This is not too different for Catholic countries as well, but one peculiarity of Orthodoxy is the nationalism that it reinforces and generates. Without a centralized Pope, many Orthodox countries have their own Patriarch. There has been a multi-century symbiotic relationship between the state and the church in these lands which I would contend continues to this day. The state has relied on the church to confirm its voice or authority as the one designated by God to lead the people. As for those of the cloth, the church has relied on the state to keep its head and shoulders connected. Whether this is actually execution, state funding, and/or unique, favorable legislation, the mode changes, but the outcome is very similar. In addition to the nationalism that this codependent relationship fosters, it also often leads to a secularization of society. Everyone is aware that there are charades afoot and all are willing and expecting to play along. Once the ceremonies are over, however, all can return to normal.
So, methinks, maybe a little less ethnocentric worldview would be good in general and especially so for the sent ones. Also, methinks that there is much to learn about how another people think, worship, live, etc. Understanding culture is a never-ending incremental process that we would do well to embrace if we are to be the ones to announce and demonstrate in contextually appropriate ways that indeed, our God does reign.
With the political campaign season well under way already and only one very long year of adverts and debates to come, evangelicals are starting to make their voices be heard with recent forays into the national scene by Jeffers’ with his comments on Mormonism and Mohler’s piece about whether or not evangelicals are dangerous on CNN’s site. We can do litmus tests on these comments, wordsmith them for future conversations, or adopt them wholeheartedly. Or maybe we can take another tack.
Some time ago when reading Covey Jr.’s Speed of Trust, I came across what was almost a throw-away sentence in his book: In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing, and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll misinterpret you.
When speaking through national, secular news agencies, evangelical leaders are speaking to a majority of people that do not have a high-trust relationship with the speaker or his worldview. If in fact there is a low-trust relationship with the majority that will listen to or read these comments about what is almost always a controversial issue, then miscommunication or misunderstanding is inevitable.
For controversial issues, perhaps we can save these for situations with a little less fanfare when speaking to those that are like-minded. If drawing any national attention, we would do well to focus on a message that communicates without so much controversy but is even more profound. We follow the One who sought to bring about justice and restore relationships. These are the things that we are to be living out and speak about. This is the message that will help to create high-trust relationships on a small scale. We should be prepared to speak about this often as long as it is in keeping with our actions. Other topics may be better reserved for kitchen table conversations.
This week I stumbled upon a video that was both unsettling and powerful. I think it is fair to call it music, though it is unlike anything I have heard before (note: I would never declare myself a music maven or on the cutting edge of developments in the music world). Raw, emotional, honest, Listener’s this piece was gripping. After watching the video a few times I downloaded the group’s most recent album and continue to listen, process and appreciate the art and ideas from Listener.
In addition to Wooden Heart, I have appreciated the feel and lyrics of “You Were a House on Fire.” Here are the lyrics to the second part of that piece from Listener’s site.
We all write songs about life, we just sing them different.
you sing the words but you don’t know the song.
and you expect us all to sing along? how selfish
the lengths that we go to, to put so much distance between us is staggering
you’re burning alive with stress and life
both hands in flames trying to hold the fire inside
drop and roll …repeat line for emphasis.
I’ll repeat it and repeat it until you believe it
you’re gonna be ok! say it to me…
the answer is still silence … I’ll take it as a maybe
I can’t decide if I should knock down your door or on it
say the word and I’ll take an axe to your heart or a pin prick
cut right through the dark, let it spill out the contents
on our knees sorting through the remnants
pour out your hate in my hands, I’ll let em slip through my fingers
and this is for you, and this is for the times that we only listen long enough to know the other person we’re talking to has the same opinions we do.
for when we’re burning inside, for when we’re trying to hide that fact
this is for the scalps that we went after, to be only the best dressed
to scrape another notch on our belts, add another feather to our headress
I want to be the bigger man for you, but I can’t take this truth
In our first meeting in Prague for this JetSet we began to lay a framework for helping the Sending Church begin the process of exegeting a different culture. For the central European region, this exegesis must include attention to the deep, long-lasting scars left from the Communist era. This reality translates into a number of unique issues including a pervasive lack of trust. While cognitively, this is not difficult to comprehend, information is often not enough to grasp the intensity of the issue and the resulting severity of the impact.
To aid in better understanding the events that have shaped the Czech and Hungarian people, we spent a couple hours in the House of Terror in Budapest which recounted some of the horror that came through the Nazi and Soviet occupations. To give insight into some of the unbridled evil that men inflicted on others, we shot a brief interview with some immediate responses from a couple of trip participants.
Many of the stories that came through were difficult for me personally. I may share some of that in the months ahead as it may seem helpful. But in this post in addition to pointing to the video and putting it in context, I will share a portion of the museum’s provided information in the room that chronicled what occurred during this era between the state and the church:
“Both Nazism–promoting racial war–and Communism–advocating class-war–regarded religion as their enemy. Whilst the totalitarian dictatorships persecuted and murdered their victims based on collective criteria, religion looks upon sin and practices forgiveness on the basis of individual responsibility. Both the Nazis and the Communists replaced God with their own leaders, whom they presented as infallible and omniscient. They swore allegiance to their leader, went into battle in his name, and surrounded his person with rituals befitting an idol.”
The church in Hungary was squelched during the Communist era. Several of her leaders sought to carry on to be a people of forgiveness and justice but the persecution and purges proved to take out many of the leaders. With the state so concerned about the power of this humility and others-focus that is to be characteristic of those identified with the name of Christ, the church’s response remains an example for us today. Even a post-Christian world will take notice and have to determine what to do with a church that will seek to be revolutionaries willing to return good for when evil is meted out by others and to be a voice and advocate for those that are without.
“I hope you can make it.” The youngest son of one of our neighbors had just invited us–excluding kids–to his first play at a local community college. The content would be, he assured me, inappropriate for children. “Yeah!?!? We’ll definitely be there…maybe.”
For us this began a brief discussion of what to do. We arrived at the decision that for a Savior that spent time with sinners and tax collectors with the former category including prostitutes, that our going to the performance was probably the thing to do. Of course it didn’t hurt to know that it was at a community college; how bad could it be? I was reminded of a time when an acquaintance told me of his invitation to an avant garde theater overseas by the lead actress of the production. While she had some clothes on during the performance, the rest of the cast proved to be a lot more free-spirited. Surely that wouldn’t be the case here…at least I hoped not.
Upon arriving at the theater, we encountered bold yellow signage warning that the production was “M for mature” and that the content was not appropriate for children. While this is an interesting commentary on our society, we continued in our theater going. Cautiously.
Yes it was uncomfortable at a few points along the way. But, we made it through and didn’t even have to run to scrub our eyes and ears after it was over. Upon leaving the auditorium, our neighbor was shocked to see us as we chatted for a bit, congratulated him and hugged him on the way out.
Not going to offer a moral to this post. That’s for you to work through if you choose. I will share that the play had a strong point. The main character was pretty pathetic until he learned that a better story existed and he could play a key role. Moving from being the heroine in a worthless story to being the hero in a life-like drama was reason to believe in something better and to live differently. Changed.
This week my family has enjoyed some of these cover tunes from Mercy Me. As for the art, some of them are pretty good. Most of them are quite humorous. You and your family may enjoy laughing and singing along to some of these over the weekend. Below is a Beatles cover that was my introduction to the Cover Tune Grab Bag. Hope you enjoy.
Here is an English band that has grown significantly in popularity over the last 2 years. Though not claiming to be followers of Christ, the band’s lyrics often, according to one friend, “drip with the gospel.” This is a great way to see into the thoughts, emotions and philosophy of those that are not followers but are searching for meaning.
Thanks to Shane England, who is starting resonatechurch in Madison just outside Nashville for pointing this out in his developing blog. He is seeing some good stories unfolding already in his journey there.
A few days ago I returned from almost two weeks of travel in the beautiful and often rugged Balkan peninsula where I was privileged to meet with many nationals and expats. It was a time for encouragement and challenge as well as being encouraged and challenged. Thank you to each of you who were a blessing to me along the way!
Through my time, explorations and many conversations there, the vast Balkan history that is at times sublime and at other times horrifying, became both clearer and more complex. While a number of things about the area merit discussion, two things stood out to me.
First, there seems to be a pervasive hatred that runs throughout the land and countries that comprise the area. I think it may be possible to find out what country a person is in or what ethnic group one may be communicating with by asking the question, “Who do you hate?” Surprising enough, the question may not even have to be asked. Upon leaving Greece I shared with the national TSA equivalent that I had traveled in Macedonia which seemingly played a part in me being questioned repeatedly by two different agents as well as dual pat downs and triple examination of my baggage.
Second, the need for the hope of Christ is as pervasive as the hatred. While I had the privilege of meeting with many national and expat church planters as well as purposed NGOs, there were so many cities and towns where the Good News is not being proclaimed. At a time when economic, political and ethnic unrest are challenging the stability of the area, there is enormous need for the Kingdom of God to be proclaimed in the land of the Balkans. I am thankful for those who are about this task now and am praying for you!
May God bless these wonderfully diverse peoples. (BTW – I’ll be posting a few pics from some highlights there soon on my FB account.)