Cultural letter #3 What’s offensive?
Now for another cultural letter...what's offensive, what's not? Let me explore this idea with you all a little bit, but first, more of my background...
During my elementary years I
attended a Christian school in
A very personal example... When we moved to FL and after a year down there, dad became principal of a Christian school with Hyles' leanings. Dad told us girls that we could no longer wear pants off our property. Since I was afraid to say what I thought to my dad, I seethed only inwardly-- but eventually I got used to the idea. I know that among most of our churches, this isn't even an issue, but at that time, in the BBF and among Hyles' churches, it was an issue, and dad felt, that being in his position of leadership, whether or not we personally believed that way, that we should not offend. I understood why, but it didn't make giving up this particular item of clothing any easier for me. God began to show me that NOTHING must be so precious that I can't give it up.
Later, as we came here to
However, in what other ways have we/Americans been known to offend/break cultural code?
1. Not standing always when we
pray. Here, at least, in the churches,
they always stand when they pray, even for prayer meeting. In the
2. We've been told men aren't to cross their legs, ankles to knees, but have to cross their legs "lady style" with their knees together. (We've been offered no explanation of this one.)
3. You can't whistle in public. (I've no idea why.)
So, what does this have to do
with us? Well, for all of your
missionaries ministering around the globe--and esp. for Mike, as he travels to
different groups, please pray for wisdom. We are not only crossing some basic
theological differences (one big one--Mike has faced the issue of eternal
security numerous times as many over in this part of the world don't believe in
it), we cross cultural viewpoints/attitudes that are different. Since with men
(as opposed to women) there are fewer variables, and fewer opportunities to
offend, it is good that he can travel by himself in this part of the world. I
would like to travel with Mike some time, but I realize that somehow I might
cut off opportunity to minister inadvertently, by some totally innocent
transgression. (If a man wears a conservative haircut, long dark pants, white
shirt and takes a tie/sport coat, he probably won't offend in his dress. There
have been some in
We must try to learn what is "offense" and try to steer clear of those things at least when we are around those who would be offended. This calls for grace and wisdom (and a good memory)! :)
Some of the other things that are "different" are.
*Here, at least in most of the
churches we are in, you bring your own hymn book. Buy one and then bring it back and forth with
you to church. There seems to be one main one here in
*You don't greet strangers on the street, even if you look at them right in the eye. HOWEVER, if you go into a doctor's office, or other small store, you make a general "good day" as you come in and again as you leave. (I laughed at that one, since the same person you might never even nod to on the street, you will speak to in a small enclosed place.) It's just the way it's done.
*So far the stores are just learning the principle of "the customer is always right" and that if you are a rude salesperson, you may lose a customer. In times past, with a shortage of goods for sale, it made sense that they could treat the customer however they wanted, and if you as the customer wanted the product, you endured it. However, with competition, this is changing.
*If it is a cold day and your child isn't bundled up like an eskimo, you will hear about it by total strangers! Standard dress is gloves, scarf, hat, tights, boots, etc. Even if you are only walking from the house to the car, and from the car to the store, and then to the house. There have been times we (Americans) have been irritated by some Polish lady's need to tell us how to dress our children. (OK, I know it isn't very spiritual to get irritated, but it's true, and it's one area that we've been surprised, as we wouldn't think of telling a stranger how to dress her kids unless something were absolutely unbelievable--like one time Mike was standing in line at the bank and a little girl had a very suggestive saying on her shirt (in English) and Mike asked the mother if she knew what it meant.)
This letter has been much more personal. When I write a letter such as this, I struggle over it in order to give you an accurate picture of what it's like--trying not to either overly dramatize and yet to share some of the struggles that we (at least I, Becky) face. We aren't somehow "super Christians" just because we live over here. Thanks so much for your prayers on our behalf.
What we covet is God's grace, wisdom and mercy. We want to do what is right before Him, knowing that ultimately we will answer to Him for all that we do and say.
(If I get feedback that some of these observations are incorrect, I'll let you know!)
P.S. I wrote this 3 weeks ago and have let it sit, well before the issue with BJU/Bush came up. Mike and I are BJU alumni 5 times (together) over and we thank God for BJU.