Does There Need To Be a Culture Clash?
IT seems pretty obvious to say that the world would be a happier place if peoples of different backgrounds would get along better. Yet destructive wars and debilitating trade disputes seem to boast of the inevitability of cultures clashing with one another. It doesn't have to be that way.
In my job at one time I was distressed by the work habits of a new team member from a background quite different from my own. As a student of Christian Science used to dealing with problems in prayer, I prayed to be more loving and understanding toward this individual. Such prayerful effort did help calm my thinking, but it didn't immediately cure the problem. Each time I found some uncompleted work that I felt this individual should have done, I got upset all over again!
I kept praying, though, and finally my prayer brought to light something very specific. There was a larger problem needing to be dealt with. The underlying challenge was really the expectation that two cultural backgrounds, two ways of doing things, could be so different that they would inevitably clash. As I realized this, it dawned on me that my prayerful attempts to love the individual-- though sincere--weren't sufficient. I literally had to bring the same unconditional spiritual love that I had been striving to feel for her to the culture from which she came.
Including an appreciation for her culture in my prayer had immediate effects. The first--and most important effect--was that it smoothed out the ups and downs of my relationship with this individual. I no longer had to struggle back from anger to love each time our priorities differed. The second effect was that it righted the work situation. Though my workmate never conducted the work in the way I thought it should be conducted, I discovered that her willingness to carry her share of the workload was sincere. As I dropped my willfulness and let her proceed according to her own method, she deliberately chose to work in a way that considerably lightened my workload. The year or so that we worked together was harmonious and happy.
It is important for the peace of humanity, and essential for our own individual spiritual growth, that we each break free from even a subtle sense of aversion to peoples of different backgrounds from ourselves. The Bible tells us that the one God, divine Love, has created man in His image and likeness. Since God is Spirit, man is spirit-ually created and defined. Finding our own place in this true, universal, spiritual family gives us an expansive sense of belonging, and of being willing to include others in our family embrace.
In his own time the Saviour, Christ Jesus, illustrated this expansive inclusion of diverse peoples by reaching beyond the confines of the Jewish culture in which he was raised. He talked to a woman of Samaria. He healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman. And he illustrated the idea of a God-commended, unselfed love by the parable of the good Samaritan, when the Samaritans were considered anything but good by the prejudiced thoughts of most of his audience. The Master was impartial in his willingness to love.
It was the Christ--the spiritual understanding of man's true, God-given identity--that enabled Jesus to know and prove clearly that man is created spiritual and that this fact supersedes merely material diversity. The prejudiced mind, by contrast, evidences the carnality and sensuality that are ignorant of God's infinite love. It oppresses its possessor as much as it does any object of its loathing, by denying him access to the all-important consciousness of God's affection, warmth, and care. Such a state of thought distinctly needs to be cured by Christ. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, underlines the unity of God's crea-tion in a poem, ``The New Century.'' She writes, `` 'Tis writ on earth, on leaf and flower: / Love hath one race, one realm, one power'' (Poems, p. 22).
Recognizing the unity and oneness of God, divine Love, and His ``one race,'' spiritual man, leads us into a greater love for all by enabling us to look for higher and more holy reasons to love the rich diversity of cultures and their traditions.
If we are willing to view the world with this kind of spiritual discernment, we'll increasingly find that all cultures have something to offer that gives specific evidence of God's love. True history--individually and collectively--is more than culture-defined. It is spiritual, not material. It is the history of God's revelation to man, and of man's realization of his relationship to God. True destiny is one all-embracing unfoldment of God's infinite goodness, and we're all included in it!
As we're willing prayerfully to perceive this spiritual basis of all being, there will be fewer and fewer elements left in our thought to clash with people on the basis of their belonging to another culture. What unfolds instead is an increasing recognition of the peaceful and joyous brotherliness of spiritual man indicated by the Bible. The book of Job speaks of the eternal reality of such universal accord, describing it as ``when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy'' (38:7). Isn't that a beautiful picture of relationships free from strife? That is the spiritual truth of how things are! It is a portrait of the genuine, uninterrupted unity of God and man, where all is in perfect harmony, incapable of clashes or even friction. That is where we all in reality do belong, together!