Sunday, April 07, 2013

Exploring Culture With Children

I try to expose my children to lots of different cultures.  Homeschool gives me lots of opportunities for that.  Their daddy traveled the world with his family when he was a teenager, and he even lived in Beijing for a school year.  I haven’t traveled nearly as extensively as he has, but my skills in Spanish have allowed me special opportunities to explore the Latin American cultures through linguistics.  And since the woman who hung the moon (that would be Gramme- Dr. Nadine Brown) loves Asia, so does my little girl! :o)  So we love the places, the foods, the tales, the languages of the world, and that’s just ‘our thing.’
In public school, we were taught to ‘celebrate’ these other cultures.  If we went to Moundville, an American Indian burial ground, we were taught about these people’s search for God and how fantastic their culture was.  Culture was presented as amoral (unless it included human sacrifice), and something to be explored with freedom. 
In my adulthood, I have asked other questions.  What is it?  Is it amoral?  How do I understand other religions?  Are some cultures ‘better’ than others?  Should they be celebrated?  What do they tell me of God?  What does the Bible say? (The last being the most important)  I’m just going to share some conclusions I’ve come to, and how they work in parenting in cultural exposure. 
Some excerpts I pulled off Merriam-Webster online:  (Culture is) the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.
Presupposing the existence of absolute truth and morality, if something is the collective of a people’s shared values, beliefs, and actions, it MUST necessarily be ‘moral’ in nature.  And if a culture is not amoral, then some must be ‘better’ than others.  But how to rank them? 
A culture is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ as its values, beliefs and actions line up with, or stray from, God’s truth.

That means that a culture whose laws reflects God’s and whose people act morally is better (morally speaking) than one whose people do whatever is right in their own eyes. 

People of one culture are not more ‘valuable’ or ‘better’ than those of another, as every single person on the face of the earth is a precious treasure, whose soul Christ died to save.

Romans 1 describes God’s general revelation to all men, and the ways in which they have rebelled against the light.  According to Romans 1, there are no ‘innocents,’ rather all men have seen the light of His general revelation, and have purposely turned and shoved their way rebelliously into the darkness.  It even lists the consequences of such a rebellion.  That means…

The religions of the world are not man’s search for God, rather their attempts to rebel against the light they have been given.  Every person, in every time, and in every place has been given enough light to come to God, and each of us has chosen our own way.  We are without excuse.

Practically speaking, I do not allow the children to bring home any paraphernalia of other religions as souvenirs.  They are marks of rebellion against God (at best), and demonic (at worst).  That can really shrink the gift shop, if you know what I mean.

God’s laws are true, across all cultures.  

If immodesty is sinful, it is sinful in the church, in the store, and at the beach (ouch!)  It’s also sinful when it’s part of a ‘cultural costume.’  If lying is sinful, it is sinful everywhere.  If adultery is sinful, no cultural custom makes it OK.  Exposing children to the cultures of the world means that they will observe sin in action.  This is a fine line to walk, and each parent should carefully consider what they expose their child to.  We never, ever participate in any foreign language chants, dances or rituals, as they are often religious in nature.  (Turns out the devil understands all human language, even if I don’t, and I sure don’t want to be calling down some force into my life.)  If a display is sensual or very immodest, we leave.  I try to be sensitive to my kids’ consciences, and if their heart is troubled by something, I want to honor that.
I think God has chosen to reflect Himself in different ways in different people groups/cultures.  Some cultures have really strong godly values in a certain area, which I try to bring out to the kids.  

Some more examples of how these ideas play out in our homeschooling world and in other areas of life:
We read a children’s version of the Epic of Gilgamesh in history this year.  A character named Utnapishtim survives a world-wide flood, etc.  There are a lot of hints of truth found in the legends of the world.  We talked about how they’re alike, how they’re different.  The gods are annoyed with the noise level on the earth and decide to destroy it, or a goddess puts her necklace in the sky (the rainbow).   We talk about how bits of the truth persist and how they’re twisted by oral traditions.  We talk about the importance of preserving the truth.

We read a story of Mu-Lan (legendary Chinese princess)- also made into a Disney production.  Honor for parents is a big part of Chinese culture, as well as ancestor worship.  We talk about how the one reflects God’s values, and the other a rejection of the truth.  We talk about how sad it is that the devil has blinded so many to the truth, how important it is to share the gospel, how valuable each of them is.  

We watched a dance troupe of little girls doing a Balinese dance.  We talked about the beautiful fabrics, and how God has placed His love for beauty into the hearts of that culture. 
 (I encourage the children to admire the handiwork of other cultures, and point out that God is pleased with hard work, with excellence in our skills.)

We studied about the caste system of India, and how in their creation story, some people came out of the mouth, shoulders, knees and feet of the first man.  We talked about why our church runs an orphanage in India and ministers to the widows and leper colonies.  We talked about the untouchables, and how all this comes from an unbiblical view of God, Creation and the value of human beings.  

We watched a Native American demonstrating his skills with a bow and arrow.  We talked (later!  I don’t allow them to bring up their concerns in front of the people involved- love for others, love for others!) about his immodesty, and how God gave Adam and Eve clothing to COVER the body, and how much that should be based on our best biblical interpretation. 

We go to Wal-Mart.  That’s right- we live in a culture just as unique as those on stage.  There are beliefs, values, and actions played out every day that can reinforce our teaching Biblical truth to the children.  I could go on and on, but hopefully something here gave you an idea, or maybe you can give ME one.  Parenting is too important to be unintentional, and I love the opportunities cultural exposures give us to share God with our children.  Bring on the Lebanese food festival!!!  Hummus, anyone?

*pic from (this is the same group we saw yesterday)


Gaults in Lesotho said...

I enjoyed your post! It's neat that you have so many cultural opportunities in your area. I'm interested to know what curriculum you use, if you don't mind.

Gaults in Lesotho said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kathryn said...

Dear Steph,
I removed your 2nd comment- b/c the computer picked up your first one twice ;o) I love that we have so many opportunities, too. I'm sure you have some tales to tell- living in a culture so different from here! We've been using Story of the World for history supplemented by library finds...

Laura said...

It is refreshing to see/hear about intentional parenting. Blessings!