So it appears that my school likes to pile it on. With midterms looming over the horizon and papers due within the next couple weeks, I won’t have the time needed to write more posts. Hopefully soon, when school lets up just a little, I’ll come back to writing more.
Monthly Archives: October 2014
Here is a literal back-translation of Psalm 23 as the Khmus tribe of Laos understands it:
The Great Boss is the one who takes care of my sheep;
I don’t want to own anything
The Great Boss wants me to lie down in the field.
He wants me to go to the lake.
He makes my good spirit come back.
Even though I walk through something the missionary calls the valley of the shadow of death.
I do not care. You are with me.
You use a stick and a club to make me comfortable.
You manufacture a piece of furniture right in front of my eyes while my enemies watch.
You pour car grease on my head.
My cup has too much water in it and therefore overflows.
Goodness and kindness will walk single file behind me all my life.
And I will live in the hut of the Great Boss until I die and am forgotten by my tribe
-taken from the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien
There is a lot that can be said about this translation, but I want focus on just one thing. In English translations, the last line reads something like “and I will live in the Lord’s house for the rest of my life.” This last line is a source of great comfort for many American Christians. Charlies Spurgeon wrote that this is the “crown of all our hopes for the future.” The idea that we will one day leave this world of woe and join God in heaven comforts many American Christians. Many Christians view this as the ultimate destination, one big worship fest where we will be connected to and intimate with Jesus for all eternity. I’ll save my thoughts on this particular idea for another time. For now I’m just painting a picture of what most American Christians think about the after-life. Basically, we individually leave this earth and go to God. We leave our families and everyone behind to go to God to be with God. This is the great comfort and hope many Christians have.
But I wonder how much of this is the product of our culture. To the average Khmus individual, this idea of going to God and leaving everything behind is a terrifying thought. Richards and O’brien write that “for Khmus people, and many others in the world, their first reaction to the idea of spending eternity in heaven is, ‘What? And leave my family?'”. The thought that so comforts American Christians brings terror to the Khmus. They gravitate to what Revelation 21:3 says about God bringing his kingdom to earth. To them, it’s all about God bringing his kingdom to earth.
Let’s not forget a part of the excerpt I previously quoted from The Samurai:
The Japanese said, “I believe the Christian teachings are good. But I would be betraying my ancestors if I went to a Paradise where they cannot dwell.
Shusaku Endo writes about how the Japanese may have believed accepted Christian teachings, but did not convert because they would be betraying their ancestors. A thought that brings comfort and joy to the American is dismissed by the collectivist person or downright terrifies the collectivist person.
Why does it terrify the collectivist person? Well, as I said in “Hive Mind”, the collectivist person is tightly bound to the group. What the group thinks of the person is critical to any person within that group; so important, in fact, that the person rejects Paradise because they are betraying the group. Many collectivist cultures actually consider banishment or exile from the group to be a far worse fate than death. Faced with the option of death or exile, the majority of collectivist people would choose death. This is neither wrong nor right, just he way the collectivist person sees the world. Hmmm… that might explain why the rebellious son would have likely chosen death/execution over exile.
So what is the correct interpretation? Do we go to God as Western Christians believe or does God’s kingdom come to us as many collectivist Christians believe? Well, that’s a topic for another time. Here, I just want to show how much our culture can influence the way we feel and respond to the Bible as well as how we interpret the Bible. Examining how our cultural assumptions affect the way we read the Bible can help reduce the risk of misinterpretation. Hopefully, more Christians start taking their Christianity seriously enough to really study the Bible and not view God as some divine therapist.