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God’s Mission Matters
Check your bags
CULTURAL BAGGAGE: WHAT WE BRING WITH US AS WE ENGAGE IN MISSION
By Sherron George
“There is no longer Jew or Greek.” (Galatians 3:28)
Every human being and country has a “culture” or many “subcultures.” Culture is the way we grow up doing and understanding things. It includes our language, thought processes, emotions, art, food, values, principles, sports, economy and social organization. We grow up with “culture” without realizing it. The Protestant work ethic and Puritan morality profoundly influenced American culture in the United States. Likewise, our cultural values and attitudes continue to impact our religion.
One of the early pillars of American Protestant culture was that America was a “light on the hill” with a responsibility to “enlighten” the whole world. This noble idea with religious roots led to an attitude of cultural superiority. We began to believe that the “American way of life,” the American values of freedom and democracy made us more “civilized” than other countries. Our government began to intervene in other countries with “the big stick.”
When missionaries from the United States went to other parts of the world, they took the only kind of Christianity they knew, the American way of being a Christian, the American way of worship, of Puritan morality, of interpreting Scripture, of building and organizing churches. Unconsciously, this American Christianity was “imposed” on Christians around the world.
Today the majority of Christians live in Africa, Asia, and Latin American. Christianity has African, Asian, and Latin American faces. When we go to other countries, we must respect, adapt to, and learn from their way of being Christian. We can share our culture, but never impose it on others. We must empty ourselves of all attitudes of superiority and control.
Listen to this month’s episode of “God’s Mission Matters”and hear stories by Tracey King Ortega, mission co-worker in Nicaragua since 1999, and by Charity Thompson, a Young Adult Volunteer in Guatemala from 2003-2004.
Check your bags episode toolkit
Use these resources to equip your congregation, network, youth group and other groups in your church for mission involvement. You may use any of these for activities in the context of Bible studies, Sunday Bible class, Sunday worship service and committee or session meetings.
God’s Mission Matters: Check your bags
Prefer printed? Download and read this ready-to-print booklet including the text of the podcast, a study guide for group leaders and a reflection on popular culture. This is a great tool for a learning session in your congregation or mission group context.
Cultural Baggage Claim Handout — a supplemental worksheet of the study guide designed to help the students evaluate different areas of their lives where they may have cultural baggage.
Matters from Pop Culture: Outsourced and Wicked
Reflections on the movie Outsourced by Shadowcatcher Entertainment. Todd Anderson is relocated by his company to India where he deals with culture shock.
Reflections on the Broadway musical Wicked. By examining the story of the Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch’s perspective, we can examine our own preconceived notions and misconceptions about other cultures.
My Story Matters
Video — Veronica Njoki Muchiri: Veronica, the National Women’s Guild Organizer for the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, describes how Americans and Kenyans have different perspectives on how a project should be completed.
Audio — Hunter Farrell: Hunter, Director of Presbyterian World Mission, tells about a time he brought a friend home from college and how both he and his friend learned about cultural differences in church.
Audio — David Hudson: Hudson, Area Coordinator for Asia in Presbyterian World Mission, tells how when his family packed their bags for Pakistan, it became a metaphor for leaving our cultural baggage behind.
Matters of Worship
Closing prayer statement
Hymn suggestions from the Presbyterian Hymnal:
“Help Us Accept Each Other”, page 358
“Blest Be the Tie That Binds”, page 438
Tell us how YOU learned to “check your cultural baggage.” Post your story in the “Check your bags” forum. You may also share your reactions to the podcast and related articles (note: you must be a member of the Mission Crossroads interactive community to participate in the forum. We invite you to join the community today!).
WHAT IS MISSION CROSSROADS?
Mission Crossroads is a web-based wisdom community which facilitates networking among mission participants, aids communication among members of mission-related groups, and provides a forum in which those engaged in mission may share ideas and experiences, both good and bad, so that future mission endeavors can be more effective.
WHAT IS MISSION CROSSROADS MAGAZINE?
Mission Crossroads magazine is a free, three-times-a-year periodical focused on the worldwide work of the PC(USA). It offers news and feature stories about mission personnel, international partners and grassroots Presbyterians involved in God’s mission in the world.
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