Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Melting Pot or Fruit Salad?

Reflection of “Multicultural Worship: Melting Pot or Fruit Salad?” by Pedrito Maynard-Reid. I have been told “if you work hard, you can do or be anything you want!” As great as this sounds and as true as the statement may be at times, it is not always possible to do so. Integrate and assimilation are probably two of the most difficult things to do anywhere at any time. And even then, even in talking about Worship, is full 100% integration and assimilation even possible? In early American history and even until recently Anglo-Saxon Protestantism was the way to go. And if you could melt into that then you melted. And good for you. You were assimilated. But you had to pass for the group. You had to give up your distinct culture to make it happen. So you melted in, you blended in, but at great sacrifice. However,“The Other” was not always able to melt. And most times this was just because of the color of skin. With all the troubles of the world, and being strangers in this world as Christians, we may not always be able to melt in the world, but surly we should be able to melt at the foot of the cross. But in the church I eve seen first hand that integration into a Christian community is one of the hardest things to do. Why? We are cultural beings and it is hard to integrate into the culture of churches. But, while I may not be able to fully understand someone else’s culture I can appreciate and integrate moments, essences and elements of other cultures into my social and religious life that can enhance my being. I love how Pedrito put it, “The paradigm is not a melting pot but a fruit salad.” Melting into one is not always possible but maybe melting into one isn’t what is necessary? In the salad we are always able to end up back at our roots - there is always that one chunk of fruit that may be I do love the idea of fruit salad: One thing made out of the full richness of different parts -the juices dissolving into one beautiful, enhanced celebration. How do we celebrate this way without feeling like our roots are being dumbed down or that we are just tolerating the Other. Worship is very cultural. But what is culture? Culture is a total sum of that which is passed on in society. Culture doesn’t only pertain to artistic activities. Different languages and symbols have cultural connotations and implications and are in turn continually shaped by culture. Even in the same country different symbols can mean different things. I feel this is something that I have a good grasp of - the contextualization of culture. And I love that it is getting just ingrained into my head and at such a positive academic level. However, to a point it goes against an inner voice I have saying “But there is universal truth!” But at a certain point truth is just boiled down to what we experience. This is a topic that makes me so frustrated. Most of my friends who are worship leaders lead like they are in a vacuum. Hillsong United does this so we do it. How can I move to a new state and a new denomination and expect to lead a full, comprehensive, beautiful worship experience? The depth and breadth of religious culture is too large to be taken lightly. This tossing around from one church to another, to one Christian tradition to another, is just bogus. Culture is not racial or biological, we make it up. Culture is something outside of the ontological make up on an individual in order to exists safely and comfortably. To understand culture we have to understand the word “survival.” Pedrito calls this Comfortable Survival - A system of navigating one’s way through life. Culture is what people are. We do not exist in the abstract. We exist in the context of our history, culture. Rejection of culture is rejection of self. To not understand the culture of where you are, where you came from and how you got there, especially in the world of corporate worship, is to never know the flavor of a delicious fruit salad.