Why we should dare to visit the holy ground of other cultures


In the background of many western Christian traditions and churches, are some interesting cultural postures, whichare suspicious, if not overtly critical, of other cultures.

Max Warren, in his introduction to the Christian Presence series, speaks of the holy ground of other cultures:

When we approach the man of another faith than our own it will be in a spirit of expectancy to find how God has been speaking to him and what new understandings of the grace and love of God we may ourselves discover in this encounter. Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we may find ourselves treading on men's dreams. More serious still, we may forget that God was here before our arrival. We have, then, to ask what is the authentic religious content in the experience of the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, or whoever they may be.

I first read this when I was joining with some other pioneers to take part at a new age or mind, body, spirit fair in London. My background by way of faith tradition would have led me to avoid or even pray against such practice. But to think that God might be present and that in running a stand there and I might conceivably be on holy ground seeking where God was present, was quite a switch in my mind. In reality, what I found was people seeking and open to prayer for healing, and in many ways more open than those I encountered in church.

The evangelism that proceeds by listening and learning, entering into another man's vision in order to see Christ in it, does not start with assertions about sin but waits to be told about it. And usually the truth about sin is almost the last truth to be told.

I have found that if I wait, people will often raise the issue themselves, opening up the subject up in a more helpful way.

In John Taylor's book, The Primal Vision, he suggests that if you are not tempted to join another religion (or culture) then you haven't been listening carefully enough because there is clearly something about it that has drawn others into it.

We should never call another's light, darkness. Every culture has a redemptive gift. We know the face of Christ more fully as we see the many faces of Christ represented in cultures around the world.

onny Baker is director of mission education for the Church Mission Society. He will be speaking at the Pioneer Conversation's on 7 November, at the Church Mission Society in Oxford. Click here for more information.