Tuesday, March 11, 2008

clash of cultures...

Driving home from work yesterday, I heard a piece on NPR that I thought was awesome. The "article" talked about the concept of cultural superiority and brought to mind several different conversations I have had about culture; particularly the American culture. I have talked to many folk who are under the sincere and firm impression that American culture is best. Our (America's) perception of cultural superiority is embodied in our foreign policy (we can do whatever we want), our economic policy (protectionism), and even our domestic policy (can we say immigration?).

I think that part of the conservative push toward a neo-isolationism is a fear that America won't be on top of the world anymore. We will no longer be THE Superpower or even (perish the thought) A Superpower. As Americans, we are the only culture superior enough to unilaterally rule the world. Although this fear does not translate into Americans wanting to pay higher prices on goods instead of financially supporting India and China, two of the nation's biggest competitors for natural resources today. Ironic, eh? We want continued cheap labor, but we don't want the money to be used to better those who work for pennies a day. History does repeat.

Don't think this cultural nepotism is only a conservative problem, though. Liberal Americans also suffer from their own issues in this area. Some of the most closed-minded people I know profess to have the most open. Amidst the double speak of tolerance and internationalism, they still retain a paternalistic attitude toward the developing world and those of a different socio-economic class (i.e. welfare, nationalized healthcare, etc.). Giving people money may make us feel good, but it doesn't really solve the problem of poverty.

This "cultural superiority" unfortunately spills over into Christian missions, also. I think there are two ways this happens: cultural transplantation and cultural separation. The first is where the church brings the American Gospel overseas. The planted church seeks to have a building, wear suit and ties, and could look perfectly at rest dying with the majority of U.S. churches. The second is where we think missiological principles, such as house churches, are okay for internationals, but are not "biblical" enough for America (this is almost a direct quote from a couple of people I know at seminary). That's another word that gets thrown around a lot to support one's own views, but that's a post for another time.

That being said let me introduce the piece I heard on NPR. It is the freakin' incredible cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, speaking of the blend of cultures he himself has created for himself. It is an awesome piece that you can read or listen to here.

DISCLAIMER: The previous post does contain some generalizations about differing points of view. Please understand I am not trying to formulate an argument against these views at this time and thereby create straw-men with this post. It is an attempt to talk about the issue and the fuller implications of the views held.

1 comment:

Howie Luvzus said...

I look forward to future posts about this topic.

I hate to admit it, but once during a trip to Rome I met a very smart young man that spoke five languages. My first thought was...you need to move to America so that you can take advantage of all that potential!

I cringed as soon as I thought it, but it still came to mind very quickly.