Culture in Changing Times

How do you relate culture to a changing time? How much do you change? What do you keep the same? It is an interesting question, and one I haven’t had to struggle with a lot personally, yet something worth thinking about none the less.

I watched “Whale Rider” last night and it got me thinking. It is a story about a Maori girl living in a very traditional setting. She and a twin brother were born into a line of Maori chiefs, she survives, her brother doesn’t. This causes her grandfather to resent her presence as her brother would have succeeded him as chief. The girl, however, is convinced that she is the one destined for leadership.

This brings up the question, how do we adapt culture to the “times” while at the same time keeping some traditions important. How do we decide which of the traditions should be kept and which ones can be changed? This has never affected me as it does for many. I grew up aware of my heritage, but it wasn’t really a part of my life beyond rice pudding on holidays! I know that there are lots of people struggling with this though. People from other countries struggle to maintain their own traditions living in a new country. Do you continue to speak the language of your birth? Or totally adopt English? What about your children? Grandchildren?

I think at the same time, this is the conversation we are having within the church. What part of our Christian heritage do we need to maintain and what part can we change and adapt to the times. The problem is no one can seem to agree. I would say that things like the existence of the historical person of Jesus who lived and died for our sins should be kept. And the kind of music we use in our church is something we can change. But there are many people who will disagree with both of these. I think the key is to keep the dialogue open. We need to continue to discuss these issues with our brothers and sisters and do our best to live in two worlds at once, the Kingdom of God and this world.

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