A State of Misperception

Having moved from the north to the south a few years ago, I’ve noticed some definite disctinctives between the two.

Example: I was talking with a friend a couple of months ago during a long car-ride back from the beach. She had recently attended a wedding in Pittsburgh, and was commenting on how rude she perceived people from that city to be. I was a bit amazed by this, having spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh and counting it among my favorite cities, and asked her why she felt this way. She replied that everyone that she had encountered there was so abrupt and straightforward in what they said that it was offensive to her.

I laughed at this. Offensive to her southern sensibilities, perhaps, but to those of us used to that atomsphere, it’s actually very comforting. You know what everyone thinks immediately, without having to work beyond the false veneer of politeness that is the trademark of the south. Politeness takes a lot of valuable time…I’d rather just know what you think of me up front, not because I care, but because I know very quickly whether or not to waste my time with you.

And, as abrupt as I can be, my New England wife is even moreso, enough to suprise me at times.

Neither of us are abrupt because we don’t care or want to be rude. We simply recognize the value of brevity. My friend’s response? “I don’t know…they were just rude.”

This is an amusing portrait of cultural misperceptions for me. It occurs to me that our worldview, our metaphysical reality, is born from our cultural moors. Our culture is the lens through which we view everything.

It causes me to wonder if it is possible for any of us to have a completely accurate view of God. Apart from the essential facts that are clearly laid out for us in Scripture, can we truly see a God that is not contaminated by our cultural predispositions? I came from a small town, where everyone’s view of God was so culturally narrow that I had difficulty getting my childhood brain around the fact that He could even be relative to someone of another country, for example. That was the point where I began recognizing the value of relativity: if Christ looks this way to me, what does He look like to someone in Africa? Or Russia? Or Scotland? Or Chicago?

Now I wonder: are any of those accurate?

God is bigger than our perceptions. Impossibly bigger. He is also a constant, and separate. Therefore, He is who He is, regardless of how we see Him. The issue, I think, is just that: how we see Him. However well we educate ourselves, however objective we force ourselves to be, is it truly possible to step back and view God apart from our respective cultures? The more I ponder it, the more I find it to be impossibily difficult.

I don’t think that precludes those from different cultures from knowing Him…not at all. I do think, though, that it contributes to and perpetuates our intolerance and narrow-minded bigotry toward Believers of other psycho-social backgrounds. The problem isn’t with Him, it’s with us. However we want to slant our image of God, we fail to realize that He is who He is.

The irony, I think, is that it looks a bit different for different personalities. The kindness of Christ coming from me looks a bit different than when it comes from my southern friends, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is still kindness.

Catches my faith somewhere between rationalism and existentialism, so I guess I’ve defied a label again. God is who He is, but He looks a bit different in all of us.

Go figure.

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