I recently came out of a meeting and saw a large group of men parading down the street. They had completely taken over the road and were blowing whistles, horns and singing all kinds of songs. It was a traditional Bagisu circumcision parade. For the past two months it has been the season of these celebrations, and they mark when a young boy becomes a man in the cultural society. Yes, they do involve circumcision. They also involve heavy drinking by everyone involved, several elements to pagan worship, and witchcraft. The people celebrating will drink all day and then perform the circumcision (dangerous, right?) in front of everyone. While doing all of this, the elders and leaders of the village are making offerings to and saying spells for the gods and spirits they worship.
These rituals are a part of the culture here; they are engrained into life. And even as people come to Christ, they struggle to break free from rituals such as this. Many of these practices are steeped in darkness and pagan worship, but people hold onto them long after they have committed to following Jesus because of the strong pull and influence that their upbringing and CULTURE has on their lives. Don’t get me wrong, there are many elements of culture that are not sinful, some even are God-glorifying (such as community and family). But many elements are in direct opposition to our faith in Jesus and a lifestyle of being made into His image.
But let’s not pretend this is an African problem. This is a human problem. It has been this way since the beginning of man. I recently spoke at our National Conference here in Uganda and I focused on the history of culture invading God’s people. The Old Testament is filled with examples of God’s people adapting to their culture and sacrificing their own holiness. We see in Acts 15 how the early Christians were being invaded by legalistic Jewish culture AND by pagan Gentile culture. And we can see throughout church history similar stories.
So as I watched this parade, my first thought was about how they were letting culture dictate their lives in ways directly disobeying the Word of God. But my second thought was much more personal: How do I do the same thing?
- How do I let my culture (both from the USA and now our new culture) trump the culture of the cross?
- Do I allow the American individualistic spirit shape my theology more than the Word?
- How do I allow consumerism to shape my experience within the body of Christ or how I view other people?
- Am I concerned more about America than God’s Kingdom?
- Do I let the “rebel spirit of Texas” influence my obedience to God’s call?
I’m hoping you also think a little bit about these questions: How do we try to hang onto our culture in a way that contradicts our Christian faith? What types of things do you need to let go of from your culture so that your faith in Christ shines more brightly? How do we live as an “exile and stranger in this world” (1 Peter 2:11)?