Cultural blindness is stunting. It is an art killer, a block to maturity. It is a certain kind of arrogance and it can damage relationships and generations. See below for what I think we can do about it.
Consider that I am writing this primarily to people in English-speaking Western societies. You might likely be involved in Christianity in some way, and odds are you are in engaged in the arts or in ministry. Thus, we have a common language and mindset that the above things largely influence. But there are so many other ways of thinking, of living, of walking in LIFE!
Consider that much of British culture tends to emphasize a core value of not getting ahead of the crowd. Sometimes accomplishments are derided, originality is discouraged, and most are soft spoken, in contrast to their American counterparts where success is lauded, individuality is celebrated, and Americans seem like they are loud, a bit arrogant, oftentimes comparatively rude in interrupting. Neither is right or wrong, but the cultural lens we see through can cause much misunderstand and disconnection.
Consider when white missionaries first went to Native American peoples. Pushing white cultural norms and values in the name of spiritual purity caused so much pain and strife in Indian hearts, that many today associate Christianity with dishonor and insensitivity at best, and the American Holocaust done in the name of Jesus at worst.
Consider when a composer of classical symphonies who spends hours each day crafting incredibly detailed nuances on a large scale interacts with a jazz musician, or even more— a church musician from the camp that “just flows”. On the classical composer side, she could despise the lack of sophisticated expressions, the sloppiness and lack of musicianship, etc. And on the “just flow” musician side, they might ridicule the use of written notated music, decide that the other is less spiritual and doesn’t get it, and see little or no use for the composer’s way of thinking to inform church or worship or even the Kingdom.
Consider that both of these musicians suffer from the pride of cultural blindness, for when the classical composer can move into improvising and conscious spontaneous worship, this will not only give her a new outlet of expression but will also inform and grow her composing side. And when the ‘just flow’ musician can learn to read music, tune his ear into more advanced harmonic and rhythmic ideas and so forth, suddenly the “just flow” expressions become deeper and more sophisticated, and perhaps a composed song might emerge out of the process.
Consider that cultural blindness affects everything – we value gathering together as a corporate Body to worship but forget that living a solitary monk’s quiet existence is just as valuable. We tend to save singing only for those that “have a good voice” when other tribal cultures don’t even have a concept for the word ‘singing’ because in their culture everybody sings constantly all the time, in the way they interact and in day-to-day life. The word ‘life’ and the word ‘singing’ would be interchangeable in their culture.
Consider even our cultural approach to prayer, when we gather together or alone. Mother Teresa was asked “You pray so much; what do you say to God?” Her reply was, “not much really, I mostly listen.” Then she was asked “So then, what does God say when you pray?” And she said “not much really, He mostly listens.” This quiet focus and attention without words is almost anathema to our current Christian culture.
Consider that when you read the above examples, it might strike you as interesting for a moment, but ultimately it becomes novelty – a thought not quite formulated that says “Oh, wow! How different people are!” But I would submit to you that CONSCIOUSLY seeking out other mindsets, trying to see things through their eyes would not only be fun and novel, but would GREATLY enrich our own lives and expressions.
Consider seeking out the unfamiliar, wallow in the mindset and core values of the OTHER, look for where your thinking has fallen into a rut, and look for ways to engage another cultural mindset for the purpose of learning something, not just being entertained by the novelty.