Yesterday, I heard a Christian missionary speak about the challenges he’s facing in Japan. One of the big ones is that, apparently, in Japan to become Christian is to become un-Japanese.
It’s seen as a massive betrayal. Giving up on what’s most essential and distinctive to the Japanese culture and way of life.
And from what I hear this is a fairly common theme — especially in non-Western cultures.
But it’s got me thinking…
Why don’t we assume something similar about becoming Christian in Australia?
If it’s big in Japan, why isn’t it so big here?
Or, rather, why don’t we expect it to be so big here? (I’m less interested in a historical or sociological account of how Australian culture and Christian ‘values’ have become intwined. And more interested in why Christians in Australia are likely to find the thought that being Christian means becoming un-Australian in some essential sense.)
Is it perhaps that we’re too engaged — too deeply embedded in and complicit with the Australian way of life? Too uncritically accepting and unable to imagine any other possibility than being here, fitting in, belonging?
Are we too unprepared to own the kind of identity the Apostle Peter hails his readers with: “elect exiles of the dispersion”, “temporary residents”, “strangers”?
And if I’m onto something with these hunches, then I’d want to know what it is that’s got us here. Even if all I’ve got is questions. Questions like:
How helpful is our popular evangelical emphasis on ‘just praying the prayer’ and not standing on ceremony?
Not that calling people to conversion is a bad thing. But I worry about what happened to urging people to count the cost. Or to baptising people into the radical new identity and life-course Jesus launches us on — where we’re summoned to observe everything our Lord teaches…
Please don’t misread me. It’s not that I’m looking to place (or avoid) blame here. But I do think it’s worth trying to tease apart the matted ball of contributing threads.
Otherwise I doubt we’ll never disentangle ourselves from our culture long enough to meaningfully engage it with the gospel.