So now that this first trip is completely over, I have a few more thoughts and what they mean for us as believers.
It is a well-known fact that the US is a huge superpower of the modern world. Though we may not be doing so well economically by first world standards, we know that we still have a big cultural impact around the globe. The trouble is I think we sometimes forget the impact we have. The world watches what we put out in popular media, movie theaters, television, and news. It is amazing what some of the natives on our trip knew about our culture.
I first noticed this on one of the first days when Benjy allowed us to ask his middle school students questions. Interested to see what kind of movies they watched, Western or otherwise, I asked then to name their favorite film. Now, I was expecting some western movies, but mostly on the PG/PG-13 level, like some singing princesses (or ice queens) and maybe some vampire-werewolf love triangles. However, the replies shocked me:
Texas Chainsaw, Silence of the Lambs, Silent Hill, among other horror movies.
Now, do not think in any way that I’m condemning those who watch horror/thriller film, I like to watch a good screamer flick myself every now and then. What worries me is that these were apparently the only western movies that they were watching, with one or two superhero and actions flicks thrown in the mix.
A few days later we went to another middle school, where it was basically a karaoke concert, anyone who could somewhat sing was “gently encouraged” to pipe out any song of their choosing (if any of you vocal majors plan on traveling, be ready to become the next village pop star!). There were many pop songs that came up: Imagine Dragons, Rihanna, Adele. Even I made the unwise decision of singing “Some Nights” by fun. when put on the spot.
Now, you may ask what my point is in noting all these things. I asked myself that same question at first. I mean why would it matter how they view our country? It’s our life right? We do what we want!
I used to hold that view as a young adolescent rebellious at heart, even as I lived in a moderately free Central American country. The problem comes when a lot of them get the notion that all those from the United States are Christians. They see what people do in some of our movies and hear what artists say in some of our songs, they are thinking that those people are supposed to be Christians…a bit scary isn’t it?
Now, their accessibility to these things may be due to the fact that they do not have Christian material, this of course is no fault to anyone but authorities who reject the truth, but it is still a bit saddening that they think that all the people in our western media are Christians, no wonder they are so closed to the truth!
Do not take this to mean that I am suggesting some sort of culture war on our media, we cannot win others over by hate and criticism (we can’t win others over to God by ourselves period, but that is a different discussion). What I am saying is that it seems that a lot of cultures around the world are a bit disillusioned to what a “Christian” really is (of course it can be true the other way as well). The question is what are we to do about it?
1. A War Against Our Culture Is NOT the Answer
To be honest, in regards to trying to fix our own nation as a whole, I don’t think there really is anything we can do. People will sin, it has been that way since the fall and will always be that way. America is not and will not be the next “Israel” as I feel a lot of Americans believe. Yes, the United States is a great nation, but it is not God’s new chosen people as a nation.
Trying to conform our 21st century American culture and media to our way of life is not going to happen, in my opinion it’s not even what the Followers life is about. I have a lot more to say on that subject, but for the fear of rabbit trails, which I am sure I have chased enough already, I will leave it there.
I did find some more verses though that may explain what we must do as children of the Father. There are probably other verses out there that better convey my point, but I am no great Bible scholar in all honesty. I do read it…a lot, but I’m horrible that remembering where certain verses are, what fits into what context, etc, so bear with me:
2. Don’t Conform, But Do Respect
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
It’s a simple verse that everyone uses for their coffee mugs or pillows, but it is much easier said than done. Nonetheless it is a command we must follow. Wherever we are, whether in a Muslim country, big city USA, or a remote village in Asia, we should not give in to what the people tell us we should believe. At the same time, we should respect their customs.
One way I had to do this on my trip is through my dress. Though I try to be modest for my culture’s standards, even some of what I wear is seen as indecent clothing for the culture I was visiting. In this country, the general thought is that if a man lusts after a woman, it is the woman’s fault, either through her actions or dress. I certainly did not believe this, but I wanted to appear as a decent, moral girl for their culture so as to gain respect and possible openness to what I had to say. Therefore I put away my tank tops for three weeks and opted for long loose tops.
Now, was I conforming to the thought process of this “world”? No. But was I respecting the culture? I certainly hope I did. We need to respect for further openness to the truth.
The difference between conformation and respect can be difficult for some to see. This struggle between their differences can even be seen in our own culture on certain issues. But it needs to be grasped whenever anyone ventures to a culture to spread the good news. I advise this to be done even if we might live in our own nation.
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ ” Matthew 9:37-38
The main thing we need to do, as Followers, as a church, is pray. Pray for the people that do go over to those countries. Pray for the natives, that they wouldn’t be deceived by their predisposed notions of who we really are. Pray for the men I talked with on my trip, Pray for the children that I sang “The Cup Song” to a million times, pray for the people who’s faces we may never see.
It may seem like a small thing, but it absolutely is not. In my time in this country I saw how truly powerful prayer is. Prayer can open up hearts, it can heal, and it can give strength when others are weary. If our trip was even somewhat successful, it was through the power of the Lord primarily, but also through the power of your prayers.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19
Am I saying that believers should simply drop their lives here in the US (or whatever country they live in) to go live in another country? Of course not. As it says in Matthew 28:19, we are to go to ALL NATIONS, and that might even be our own. Wherever there is sin, there is spiritual need.
But, this does not mean that we should stay in our cozy little hobbit holes, wherever we are. We need to go out, preach the Word, even if for a short time like my team did. Show all those preconceived notions toward true Followers for what they really are: fake (theses false beliefs based on bad representation are everywhere, even in the United States). Respect the culture, but don’t conform to what they believe. Love the people with the love of our father, even when it’s hard. Pray for the people and for every follower everywhere engaging other lost worlds.
This can be done anywhere, whether in a remote village across the world or in your very own town. We are all commanded to be workers for him, so let us fulfill that duty, wherever we are.