Culture Death and the Great Commission

Lest you think restrictions on evangelizing the unreached are in place only in such places as mainland China under its communist regime, Brazil effectively has barriers to it too. With my longer exposure to perhaps anthropologically paternalist ideas about keeping these people groups from ever coming into human contact with any other groups, I find it more difficult than I should to say that for the love of these people and for God’s kingdom someone must reach them too for the gospel.

I like preserving diversity. I like keeping cultures intact, and even for Cantonese culture, which isn’t in great danger of extinction, I still look with displeasure at unquestioned assimilation and Asian-American angst that for most native-born Chinese-Americans seems to make a mockery of my own attempts to be a fully functional Chinese person and not just a fully functional American who can say a few things in Cantonese. Am I wrong to think this way? Though I don’t have indigenous Americans’ experiences with their culture being stifled to extinction by the mass culture, I sympathize with their loss.

It’s sad to know that often a culture is starved by another rather than redeemed for the Lord.

It is very dehumanizing to deny a people group from hearing the gospel, but it also seems bad to let cultural and linguistic extinction come quickly on the heels of the gospel changing people’s lives. I’m sure a lot of white Westerners would just polarize themselves on this issue, but I myself am just conflicted because I know it’s hard to receive the gospel with joy and also consecrate one’s own culture to God as something for Him to reform and invigorate as He will: it’s just so much easier to be swallowed by a foreign culture as well as changed for the better by the gospel or to reject the gospel to presumably keep one’s own culture.

In the end, I do decide that it’s about loving the people and loving the greatness that God has placed into their culture. At the same time, it’s not fun to think about a foreign culture being indiscriminately lumped together with the gospel’s coming and smothering an indigenous culture, and it feels as if the church is either too lazy or too parochial to think about these things. It’s sad to know that often a culture is starved by another rather than redeemed for the Lord. Forbid it, Lord, that culture should ever be merely what the American myth about it is, that it consists of food and festivals and martial arts and nothing more.

God’s reality of the church is too glorious to be just another America, except without the corruption of sin. It is something my mind cannot now fathom.

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