CHRISTIANITY AND CULTURE
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The Cambridge Dictionary describes culture as a way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs of a particular group of people at a particular time. Culture, as a word, is said to encompass the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.
According to Wikipedia, a cultural norm codifies acceptable conduct in society; it serves as a guideline for behavior, dress, language, and demeanor in a situation, which serves as a template for expectations in a social group.
Every group of people has its own informal code that spells out the conduct of its members. While some aspects of culture might be acceptable across a number of communities, some can only apply to individual communities.
The introduction of Christianity in Africa by Western missionaries was embraced in part and resisted in part by the indigenous communities. For example, those who converted to Christianity found it easy to accept water baptism following conversion, which was completely alien to African culture. But when it came to, for example, circumcision of girls among a number of Kenyan communities, the instruction not to circumcise was fiercely resisted.
Most traditional forms of worship involved sacrifices that were understood to appease the spirits of the ancestors. Nearly all of those sacrifices required the shedding of blood. This also proved contentious, because Christianity required the converts to recognize the death of Christ as the last sacrifice that God required from humanity, for the forgiveness of sins. The new converts were required to put away their traditional ways of worship and exclusively worship God in the manner prescribed by the Bible.
It is important to point out that the missionaries were not the originators of the gospel message; they too were recipients of the same. Having embraced the gospel, they took it upon themselves to spread it to other parts of the world.
The matter that concerned me and a few other believers who came together to form a team whose work led to the writing of this book, is that communities that had walked away from traditional forms of worship were embracing them all over again. Christians, some even serving as elders, pastors, and bishops, are going back to blood sacrifices and other customs that are contrary to biblical instruction.
This book offers an evaluation of those customs and identifies three categories of customs. One category comprises customs that have no place whatsoever in Christendom. Another category comprises customs that can be described as neutral. These can be practiced without breaking any of the commandments stipulated in the Bible. The third category comprises customs that have valuable elements that are beneficial to the community, but because they also have elements that are opposed to the Christian faith, they need to be redeemed, before they can be practiced.
Recalling the immense sacrifices of the early missionaries, one can only recall the words of Paul to believers in Galatia: “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (Galatians 4:11).
I call on every reader to carefully weigh the issues in this book. If we don’t act, in five to ten years, we might have some form of Christianity in some parts of this country that is no Christianity at all. The current trend of engaging in traditional customs that are contrary to the Word of God, while still claiming allegiance to Christ, is a negation of everything Christianity stands for.
It’s time to take a stand. It might cost you friends, or even family ties. But it’s worth it all.
Stand up, stand up, for Jesus.