How Our Culture Shapes Our View of God

2008 Feb Rome_P1090712I was born and raised in Australia, but always believed I was Italian. My dad was Italian, my best friend was Italian. I started working in an Italian restaurant in Sydney at the age of 12. It didn't matter that I was born and raised in Australia. I was Italian. That is, until I moved to Italy when I was 17 and realised I wasn't Italian! 

Culture is a funny thing. It shapes us absolutely and completely! 

If any of you have had the experience of living in a foreign country, you'll know the struggles you face having to, in a sense, re-learn life! When I moved to Rome, that was definitely the case. Let me share with you some things I had to learn while living there:

  • You might have some cops here who drive around in V8s but in Rome the police have a unit that drive around in V12 Lamborghinis
  • They don’t pull you over to give you a speeding ticket, they just take a photo and send it to you with a fine!
  • Road rage does not apply to people who are not overtaking in the overtaking lane!
  • If someone flashes their car lights from behind you, get out of the way so they can pass.
  • You don’t eat in the car!
  • The number 13 is a lucky number. The unlucky number is 17.
  • Lines don’t exist. If you are standing in a line you’ll never get served!
  • Nutella is pronounced Newtella not Naatella
  • Chicken Parmigiana is not Italian (not the way you know it here anyway!)
  • Neither are pepperoni pizzas
  • The only meat that is appropriate on pizza is pork.
  • Absolutely no fruit on pizza
  • And yes, tomatoes are not a fruit.
  • You don’t mix cheese and fish!
  • Dinner is never before 8pm
  • You don't have Cappuccinos following a meal!
  • No such thing as coffee to go…
  • Restaurants don’t have a “to go” option. You eat it all in the restaurant or you leave it!
  • It’s not socially acceptable to get drunk
  • The mother is the boss
  • No really, the mother is really the boss
  • The father just works and gives the paycheck to mum
  • Mothers are blunt, rude and straight up. Just means they love you!
  • Men kiss and hug and hold hands, it is a sign of friendship not homosexuality.
  • Speedos are worn by most men at beaches and no one laughs about it!
  • There is no such thing as personal bubble space! People will invade it quite frequently.
  • People will judge you by the way you dress
  • You’ll be kicked out of a wedding if you are wearing purple!
  • Never give anyone Chrysanthemums as a flower gift to anyone. They are reserved only for graves!

Walking into a new culture can be a daunting experience. You don’t understand why they do things the way they do. It's foreign. Alienating. By understanding the culture though, you become effective at engaging it, right?

When I came to New Zealand, I did what most probably many Aussies before me did, I acted like I knew exactly what to do and I expected people to act the way I would! What do you think the reaction was? It’s the same thing with God. Why do we impose our culture on him?

Much of our view of God is shaped by our culture, but if there is one thing we need to learn is not to impose on God what we think He should be and how He should act. We read the Bible with our western eyes, expecting God to fit our western frames! 

He wants the real you, but if you want to approach Him, He wants you to understand the real Him.