This month’s synchroblog topic is Faith and Ethnicity and I’m feeling decidedly unqualified to write on this topic. Australia, where I live, is referred to as a multi-cultural society, however this is really only true of the major cities. I have lived in country towns which have been predominately Anglo-Saxon so I have had little experience of expressing faith in any other settings. Nevertheless from my limited experience I would like to share three things, which are probably more cultural observations than anything else, but still, here they are:

Firstly in the area of women in ministry:
Some years ago the conservative church I was attending did not agree with women in any upfront or leadership role. When a young boy reached his teenage years he was added to the roster to do the Bible reading, helping with communion, and the like. The teenage girls were added to the cleaning roster! This church was very supportive of missionaries and one of the missionaries they supported was a single lady who they knew personally. Now here’s the point, this lady was allowed to preach, teach, pastor in a foreign culture but they would not let her do any of this in our church. What were they thinking? (Just as an interesting aside, while at this church I wrote my devotional thoughts for their church paper. It seems that because it was written and not spoken, this wasn’t deemed to be a woman teaching!) It is culture that turns God into a domineering male.

Secondly in the area of work and recreation:
Another church I attended had several people with various addictions. Internet addictions, smoking, alcohol and also some who were addicted to their work. The ones who were addicted to their work were held in high esteem as hard working, valuable citizens. Yet they were often unable to attend church activities or spend time with family and friends because they were working. Their thinking was that God would be pleased with hard work, yet the Biblical pattern is for work and rest. In the Bible rest is seen as valuable and necessary and so are times of celebration. It is culture that turns God into a slave driver.

Thirdly in the area of family:
Every church I have attended has made faith to be a very individual thing. This too, is a Western trend and while personal commitment is important it isn’t exclusive. In other parts of the world faith is modeled in families and communities. Families, whatever part of the world they are in, have tensions yet it seems other cultures are better able to handle this than Western culture. We excuse our lack of tolerance by making our faith personal and individual. Yet throughout the Bible we see community, we are given word pictures of sheep, of a body, of a wedding, of a building. God works through people groups. It is culture that turns God into my Father (instead of Our Father).

So these are my scattered thoughts on the topic of Faith and Ethnicity. Following is a list of links to other bloggers who have posted on this topic:

Phil Wyman on Seeing the Middle East from a Jewish Perspective
Susan Barnes on Just a God of the West
K.W. Leslie on Why I went to an all-white church
Adam Gonnerman on Multicultural experience (and inexperience)
Matt Stone on Is the church ready for a multiethnic future?
Beth Patterson on Viva la particularities
Steve Hayes on Christianity and ethnicity”
Matthew Snyder asks What’s Your Nation?
Jeff Goins on Gypsies in Spain

Plus a couple of late additions:
Joshua Jinno the Antechurch
Raffi Shahinian on Faith and Ethnicity: A True Story