This week’s blog entries are by guest blogger, Jean-Luc Krieg, whom I met during my time in Mexico City earlier this summer. After you read this entry, see the reflection question I’ve put at the end to help us process the ideas and their implications for our own ministries.
Due to the fact that I had spent most of my life in different cultural contexts, and given the events mentioned earlier, I was sensitive to the notion of cultural bias, and hence began to ask myself in what ways culture and social class identity influenced the way in which people of a particular socioeconomic background viewed their Christian faith and read their Bibles. Since most members of my church were Swiss middleclass, wasn’t their theology, in part, a product of their largely suburban and bourgeois way of seeing the world?
Could it even be possible that some biblical truths were not taught at all, simply because there was no room for them in their middleclass life experience? Were perhaps even the biblical commentaries they used culturally biased? It had become clear to me by age 18 that my calling in life was to live and serve with and among urban poor people. Yet, I realized that the theological framework I had been taught wouldn’t allow me to deal with the many complexities that I would be confronted with. It was too rural, one-sided, dualistic and simplistic a theology.
The urban reality I had encountered – particularly during my first 3-month stint in Mexico in 1993 and a follow-up immersion for five months in a slum community in Mexico City in 1995/96 – made me appreciate the comprehensive reality of failure and brokenness and I realized the importance of having a theology that saw failure not as an impediment but as a means to growth. I needed a theology that would be holistic enough to deal with the suffering and oppression that I saw around me, not just in an individualistic fashion but relevant enough to address broad societal issues. And indeed, the closer I read my Bible, from the prophets to the missionary teams in Acts, the more I found an encompassing kingdom-theology that went beyond the evangelical emphasis on individual salvation in order to establish a vertical relationship with God and earn the right to eternal life.
To what degree are parts of your faith byproducts of your culture and upbringing? Spend some time reflecting and come up with a few specific examples.