American Culture II – White Christian is Right Christian

Continuing from my previous post on America as the un-culture, I will venture to offer some small comment about what it means to be a good Christian in this context. 

In a phone discussion with Dpark, I mentioned to him that as I am delving into understanding this intersection of culture and faith, I wonder if the critiques of “ethnic church” and ministry are really just the un-culture at work.  After all, the un-culture requires a rejection of cultural constraints and ethnic people quite simply have too much of it.  The un-culture doesn’t mind some small cultural idiosyncrasies like taking off your shoes indoors, eating with chopsticks, singing gospel music, or even offering the occasional bow.  Those things are okay. 

What isn’t okay are more deeply embedded things, like hierarchy or deference, or placing ones’ family or group responsibilities and expectations above ones’ own desires.  These things are simply wrong, and many a preacher / teacher / book  will tell you that to really be a Christian, you should reject those cultural things and embrace a liberating model.  It is for freedom, after all, that Christ made us free.  So why should a “adult” subject their relationship, career, and lifestyle decisions to the scrutiny and input of family members.  Such behavior cannot be Christian; it certainly isn’t American. 

It is not that I believe non-American cultures are more holy or righteous than American culture.  All human societies and cultures are fallen and are in need of redemption.  Rather I believe that it is far too easy for me, as an ethnic minority to assume that the White way of being a Christian is the right way. White men write the books, give the lectures, plant the churches, do the ministry that set the tone for what it means to be Christian.  And if Asians or Blacks or Latinos are participants it is because they have learned to write it, lecture it, plant it, and minister it like White men. 

When we compare ourselves with ourselves we are not wise (2 Corinthians 10.12), but how many Asian women have I heard complain about how bad Asian men are, and likewise with Black women.  I do not doubt that the complaints of these godly women had validity, but the real question is, “compared to what.”  Compared to what standard are Asian fathers failing, are Black men inadequate, are Latino men below par?  By what standard do we evaluate what is really a good Christian?  My fear, nay my experience, is that the standard is not often enough the perfect mirror of the Word of God, but rather the flimsy and fleeting allure of the un-culture.

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2 thoughts on “American Culture II – White Christian is Right Christian

  1. Great post. There’s a book called ‘Working Towards Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: the Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs” that talks about how America’s ‘white ethnics’, i.e., Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Polish-Americans, etc. became part of the mainstream. The Asian-American experience is, indeed, a very different one from the early 20th century immigrants, but I think the Asian-American community is trying to follow a very similar path in ‘working towards whiteness’ in America. It’s really troubling and, also, a little confusing to see this happening….

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