OH there's so much I want to write about! I've been holding off on some subjects because I didn't feel wise enough, but thankfully I'm realizing that I'll never be wise enough.
I'd rather just take a stab at it; hopefully I'll hit at something worthwhile. Although it will sure to be like stabbing a rhinoceros with a toothpick. hehehe. God WHERE did you get my mind? It's so wacky.
This past Sunday I went to the Chinese fellowship after church. The Chinese church meets at 11:00 and has homemade lunch afterwards. This is really typical of Chinese churches; it's a great time of fellowship and delicious fan (rice... food). I've always kind of wanted to go to the service, but was intimidated and knew that my Chinese wasn't good enough to understand everything.
BUT through another friend who teaches English to a few Chinese tai tai's (older married ladies), and also learns Chinese from them, I was invited to the lunch. So I went!
It was so good to be in that culture again. *sigh* SO good. And the Pastor Rachel (yes, the pastor of the church is a woman.. that's cool, too) came over and welcomed me and found me a place to sit (very Chinese). We talked in Chinese, and she said that I was very good (which was very ke qi (kind, polite... also has the connotations of being flattering, but this is positive, not negative in this culture).
I of course denied this, partly because I knew it wasn't true, and partly because I knew what to do when given a compliment. Which is so refreshing; in English, sometimes it's keqi not to accept, sometimes it's keqi to accept them.
Then I had rice and hong dou tang (red bean soup--hadn't had that in AGES!) and cha ye dan (boiled eggs soaked in tea. marvelous) and glass noodles... delicious.
And I chatted with a few ai yi's (aunties; what you respectfully call any older woman. Rachel mu shi (pastor) introduced ME as ai yi to a middle-schooler! yikes). I understood and pieced together more than I thought I would, and did the smile-and-nod routine the rest of the time. They had moved from China, and thought that Americans were friendly, greeting people on the street, and also that the air/weather was very nice here. But they would also like to go back to China. They had been Christians there... I had tried to tell them about Jesus in Beijing but forgot how to say the title of a book.
Anyhow, one ai yi wanted to invite me to her house and cook for me, so we exchanged phone numbers. And I got to write my Chinese name a few times! To people that could read it! One person said it was very beautiful; I love my Chinese name. It means 'rhyming poetry,' and has old romantic and musical connotations. (shi yun)
This actually brings me to what I wanted to blog about regarding the whole experience: truth.
In the culture in which I grew up, truth is delicately wrapped in circumstance and connotation.
In the West, truth is black and white, and if the dress looks awful you should let the person know. If a store is out of tuna, there will be a sign about it.
In the East, truth is found in guan xi (relationship--but that word is pathetically lacking. guan xi is one of the driving forces of the culture. Think of connections). Truth is an art, not a dividing line.
Indirect answers are given because the truth is, the truth is complicated. Many details are needed for complete understanding, for a round full truth.
If the dress looks awful, they may say nothing or compliment you on it because the truth is, this relationship is important, and matters more than what you're wearing.
If a store is out of something they will not tell you, even if you ask for it several times (this happened several times in Taiwan).
Because the truth is... we will have it eventually, this is a reliable store and we want you to come back. (Although sometimes the only 'real' truth is--we want you to come back! :) )
Of course, this is the truth that they want to project. But I think it's rather pompous to think that what we think of as 'truth' in the West is absolute, and not also the truth that we want to project.
Now--there is absolute truth. You get into dire straights if you apply this to theology. The Bible offends and challenges every culture. That's why we need EVERY culture and tribe to be redeemed and come together for the richest, fullest TRUTH of the gospel.
While the Western church loves those verses about freedom and honesty, the call to leave worldly riches and die to self is preached, if at all, with lumps in the throat.
The Eastern church glories in dying to self and sacrifice to the point of idolatry while the message of grace and lavish love is meagerly expressed.
Obviously, all of these observations are just that; and I'm trading in gross generalizations here. I had to add that part because I'm Asian. :> do you understand?
Oh I think I am just scratching the rhino now. Maybe I should try again on this later.
But to summarize-- JESUS is the TRUTH.
He's the truth behind the Western black-and-white, clear (sometimes garish) statements. e.g. "I am the bread of life... you must eat my flesh and drink my blood."
Couldn't you have COUCHED that or something, Jesus?!
He's ALSO the truth behind the guan xi and keqi of Eastern culture, in the way that he lived out truth in love and tightly wove the truth of the kingdom in layers of stories.
God draws near, God waits to be sought after. God rises up shouting and breathes in the wind.
Just a LAST thought:
What if the gospel had spread SOUTHEAST instead of NORTHWEST? I know it did spread SE to a certain extent, but it has generally spread up to Europe, West to the Americas, then West to Asia and West/South to Africa, and now the world is awaiting the final movement West, back to jerusalem.
But... if it had spread East to Asia and South to Africa--what would current Christian culture be like?