27.9.06

How to do Jesus culture - Jesus Army Life, Day 432

I'm reading a book on the behaviour of the English (Dad, no anti-imperialism comments please). It's called 'Watching the English - the hidden rules of English behaviour' and it's by Kate Fox, an anthropologist.

Aside from the seeming irony of the English now being under the scrutiny of their own anthropologists (I always thought their gaze was intended for mud huts and the noble savage - hm, my turn to shut up) this book does offer a delightful opportunity for me to laugh at myself and others as I see reflected in its pages the quirks and oddities of those around me, my own habits included. I haven't yet turned a page without laughing out loud at the peculiar idiosyncracies revealed in the book.

For example, we all know that the English love talking about the weather (this apparently has nothing to do with the weather but is about inviting conversation instead) but did you know that the English are the only nation in the world to form a queue - even if there is no one waiting! In other countries it seems the person waiting for a bus will go sit and read somewhere and turn up when the bus arrives but in our country we will begin standing in an orderly line of all of one person in the sure certainty that this is the proper way to behave in such a situation.

I find this interesting because in my church (a very very English church) we talk not of having an English culture but a 'Jesus culture'. Now, before you laugh out loud, this does make theological sense: we are told in scripture that we are a 'new creation' and that we are not of the 'first Adam' but the 'last Adam', Jesus says 'do not be like them' and it says elsewhere 'come out from them and be seperate'. And so we believe the Church should have a different culture to the world, a culture influenced by the powerful love and grace of Jesus, instead of the cheating corruption and hypocrisy of the world.

Yet while principles such as brotherly love and spiritual authority may well dictate how we are supposed to act as a church they still never completely iron out the peculiar wrinkles of character that makes one people group different from another. Cultural differences are not to be ignored, hence Paul writes that Cretans are lazy and promotes healthy competition between the Corinthians and Macedonians.

In our church some of the things we do are curious and some are still very English. Two examples I would pick are welcoming people and greeting people. I don't know where this tradition began but we have a very strange way of all clapping to welcome someone when they are introduced to the congregation for the first time. It seems like the decent thing to do and I can't suggest many alternatives (it's embarrassing enough to be introduced!) but it also seems silly to be applauding someone you've never even seen before and probably will never ever applaud again.

Hugging is also quite funny because it's very 'Jesus culture' but not very English. It's lovely to have someone express their affection for you (even if again, you don't know them very well) but it's comical to seem some of the embarrassed positions men get into when they receive a hug from some burly character they'd normally run away from.

As I go on (I'll try not to leave it so long next time) I'll try to write down some other observations about Jesus culture - oooh there's lots that could be said...