Richard Wong

When Cultural Identity Meets Jesus

by Richard Wong

What is the place of culture and cultural identity in Jesus’ mission today?

A recent article[1] in the Honi Soit student newspaper explored the phenomenon of mono-cultural communities within evangelical Christian circles and made some insightful observations as to why these communities have been growing in significance. One of the observations raised by the article was that these mono-cultural communities provide an enclave for people to develop and express their individual and corporate cultural identity in the midst of Anglo-dominant Australia. Relating to those with shared experiences provides a sense of comfort and meaning for people who struggle with feeling different in a predominantly Anglo-centric society.

The article resonated with my own experiences as someone who attends a mono-cultural church, was involved with the ACES (Asian-Australian) faculty of the EU as a student, and who ended up in a workplace friendship group that was predominantly second generation Asian-Australian. In each of these communities I appreciated the unspoken understanding we had of each other’s shared experiences growing up in two cultures.

Yet this desire to be understood on a deeper identity level is something that resonates with more than just those from a non-Anglo ethnic background in Australia. The EU’s faculty communities are an example of this. There’s a camaraderie between law students over their shared experience of civil and criminal procedure. The Conservatorium of Music students all shudder in unison at the mention of the words “Aural Perception”.

There’s a real longing for people today to find others with similar shared experiences. At the heart of it I think is a desire for people to be understood and their identity acknowledged by others. And this longing provides a wonderful opportunity for us to proclaim a gospel that says your identity is found not in finding others with shared experiences, but in being known and understood by God himself.

Mono-cultural communities have a unique opportunity to proclaim this gospel to those who, like me, share the experience of growing up with a different culture to the usual Anglo-Australian context.



[1] Cai, R. (2018, 27 March). Take me to church. Honi Soit. Retrieved from http://honisoit.com/2018/03/take-me-to-church/

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