The Ways Local Culture Has Shaped Christian Thought and Practice
Table of Contents
Local culture has greatly shaped Christian thoughts and church practices. It has influenced the language used for evangelization, as well as forms of worship and praise. From the onset of the church to the present, all Christians have argued on how they should relate to the world and culture, interpreting the Bible and other Christian religious texts in their own way. Christian thoughts are rooted in the New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ. The latter are considered holy as they proclaim the sacred history and good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. These teachings also define the rules following which Christians are supposed to live. Initial attempts to evangelize the Gospel were met with great resistance due to a difficulty in communication between missionaries and native communities. It was a result of communication barriers and the complexity of Christian beliefs. Nowadays, the translation of the Bible to local languages has made it easier to preach to local people. Thus, different local cultures have shaped Christianity in several ways, contributing to new rituals, practices and views.
The Influence of Local Culture on Christian Thoughts and Practice
The local Mexican culture revolves around Christian religious values, which relate to the church concepts of family. According to statistics, approximately eighty percent of Mexicans are Catholics (Foster 35). However, a smaller percentage has incorporated the local Hispanic Mayan culture as a component of their faith. Some of the celebrations such as the feast of the lady of Guadalupe is one of the important holidays as local people celebrate the advent of virgin Mary to an Indian gentleman during the Spanish rule. In addition, they also celebrate the day of the dead in honor of those who died (Miller and Miller 139). The representation of death rituals plays a vital role in the popular culture. It relates to indigenous Mexican beliefs originating from the pre-Colombian times. In this occasion, the members of the community arrange alters for the dead and prepare food and other objects to welcome dead relatives back to the earth. Religious practitioners, such as Catholic priests, officiate at events regarded crucial by the Mexicans such as celebrations of birth, wedding and even funerals. Priests also participate in other activities such as blessing of cars, properties and houses. They are actively involved in the social life of the surrounding communities exerting their influence even beyond religious matters. Therefore, local Mexican culture has influenced Christian practices, especially funeral ceremonies.
The African culture has played a big role in influencing the thought of Christianity. Most local African cultures use drums, dances and clapping hands during ceremonies. Drums in the African society were a useful means of communication, restoring the lost equilibrium between the ancestors and the living ones. The introduction of this instrument in church brings about the concept of communication with a superior being. The Book of Psalms justifies clapping and applauding in church since they are believed to be directed to God. It serves to express gratitude for the entire God saving actions. In this case, most Christian services have introduced an element of dance into the church (Foster 36).
In addition, the local Indian culture has also influenced Christian church practices. To teach the Bible, most missionaries had to understand the culture of the surrounding communities. For instance, Catholic missionaries evangelizing in India faced language barriers that hindered communication with the local people. One of the most outstanding cultural features is the incorporation of the combination of pre-Columbian and Catholic practices into the ceremonies and rituals of the community (Kraft and Kraft 85). Since the Indians were accustomed to lengthy ceremonies, Christian missionaries had to introduce lengthy processions during solemn masses.
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Different cultures have also shaped church imagery, decorations and songs. For example, the Oakhurst Presbyterian church has incorporated a new adaptive look, and after a heated discussion, members of the congregation decided to darken the image of Jesus and only leave His white image at the balcony. The fundamental western European structure of the window remains, but darkening effects of the portrait conforms to cultural and racial politics of congregations attending the church. Furthermore, adapting church practices has varied the way Christians from different ethnic groups sing some church hymns. For example, the song “Amazing Grace” is sung differently depending on the culture (Foster 35). African descendants sing African American rhythms with harmony, while the Europeans tend to perform using European-American musical styles. It reveals that local culture plays a vital role in shaping Christianity and influencing church rituals.
The church is one of the sources of current social amenities and leisure activities in the local community, similar to schools and hospitals. Culture has a positive influence on Christianity, since most teachings in the New Testament are based on daily lives. For example, Jesus taught in parables using stories about the lives and culture of believers. Thus, culture has been intertwined with the Christian faith closely.
Modern culture finds leisure, travel and sports one of the undeniable aspects of daily life. Work is a response to the ever-changing need for the satisfaction of daily human needs. Furthermore, the church considers sports one of the main aspects, through which physical health and interpersonal relationships can be cultivated. Although sports can be taken over by other commercial interests or even occasionally act as vehicles of rivalry, the world of sports determines culture and a way of life. In this case, Christian society finds educational values in the celebration of human nature, which is shaped in the image of God (Graham 25).
In the world with the ever-changing pursuit of possessions, beauty and fascination, Christianity faces challenges of fitting into this society. Churches are decorated with flowers and beautiful artifacts provided by the local communities. The church understands the importance of art as a form of religious experience. Therefore, recognizing its significance means appreciating the beauty of divine mysteries. The church also considers a great potential of Christian artists who develop new symbols through brilliant liturgical creativity that stems down from early catholic imagery.