Sunday, November 16, 2008

Know Your Native Language

There is a certain thinking within the Russian Christian community, primarily the adult Russian conservative Christian community. This thinking is generally spread amongst the older generation, those who experienced something excellent in their native country, in their native land. The ones who have a strong connection to the Russian they grew up in, the culture they lived in. Those times, for them, were very sacred - oftentimes they suffered persecution for their faith and saw many great things happen.

Then they came to America and their kids started speaking English. Their kids started taking on this foreign culture, leaving behind the culture of their parents - taking on new ideas, learning new words, and expressing themselves differently. America had more freedom for them, and things which were outlawed for their parents became the norm for them. This was uncomfortable and foreign for the parents, so they resisted. They could not understand how something that was so real to them in Russia (their faith), could get lost in translation or could look differently.

So they recessed.

Instead of learning about the new culture, the parents rejected it and labeled it pagan. They encouraged their children to keep the Russian language and the old way of life. Anything else, was not of God.

I have heard and experienced this thinking for ages. I am Russian and grew up in a Russian Christian conservative church. I wrestled with the elders who thought the more Americanized you got, the less Christian you were. I remember when pants were shunned, and when speaking in English was as bad as saying a cuss word. Okay, so maybe the last part was a bit of exaggeration, but it may as well been that.

But I thought this thinking was quickly fading and the older generation was understanding the shifting of the times. Apparently not in all places.

The other day, David and I visited a church where the sermon was about understanding the language of God. This sermon was very intricate and had many fine details and thoughts attached to it. It started off intriguing.. It seemed like it was going to be about communicating love to God and understanding his love for us. That we need to understand His language. What it turned out to be, was that we need to understand our native language, which is Russian. If we are not understanding or reading the word in Russian, we are in grave danger of missing our salvation.

I am not joking.

I was very surprised that this was spoken from the pulpit. I have heard this philosophy for a long time, but never was it that bluntly spoken, in front of the congregation, when the youth is leading the service. They probably didn't understand it. They speak mostly English.

It was very sad, but it raises something that I am most passionate about. Church is NOT the place to learn a language or retain a culture. The gospel is not designed to be nationalistic, nor is that Christ's intention. The gospel is beyond culture and beyond any language. In fact, Christ commands us to go from our own town to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the gospel. Only speaking our native language will make it difficult to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. The church is not a place to be ethnocentric and push culture. It is a place to break free of culture and experience freedom, redemption, love, and all good things beyond what culture offers. It should be trans-national. Not nationalistic.

It just hurts me to see how many people get pushed away by this exact philosophy. The gospel isn't Russian or American, or any other language. The gospel is God's language, which is the language of love, and is powerful enough to speak to all.

So why put it in a box? I pray for change. I pray for culture walls to break down, and for the power of God to be relevant in all people, in all lives, beyond what culure dictates as holy. God is holy, and He is holy alone. There is no greek, nor jew, nor woman or man, or anything of that sort in God's eyes. We are all His children.

:) God bless everyone, Russian, American, Russian-American, American-Russian, mix of either or even soemthing else. God loves you!!


DK said...

Brilliant post!

The line about the youth leading the service and not understanding a word he was saying broke my heart. I can picture the 30-40 youthful faces sitting in front of the church so vividly.

Their parents didn't know they had a new set of burdens by coming to America.

This is what happens when the church doesn't decay and reduce back down to the Gospel and enter into the culture (this could very well mean learning English so you can teach and answer your child's questions about faith and Scripture).

The older wiser generation must bear the responsibility of this task or the Gospel will not endure.

DK said...

Also, this reminds me of my "Adults Engaging Youth" post I have been working on for awhile. These two posts go together really well. This is like an exaggerated example of what I see happening for every generation (even if the parents are the same nationality and speak the same language). A perfect study case to work with in explaining ideas and concepts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...