American culture through eyes of an African

Podcast related to this post:
Being Light Even On Dark Days
Greg Taylor, Garnett Church of Christ

American culture seen through the eyes of others is interesting. People in other countries see issues, life, family, politics, religion so much differently than we do. And an opportunity to see life through the eyes of a person from another culture, particularly during certain celebrations such as funerals, weddings, holidays, and other rituals, allows us to interact with the person, ask questions, challenge our assumptions about what’s real, true, right.

It was my family’s pleasure to host a Ugandan friend recently. His name is James Okumu. He was with us four days, and one of those was Halloween. Of course he was fascinated by the event of Halloween. I didn’t tell him that Americans spend 6.9 billion dollars on Halloween. It’s the second largest commercial holiday of the year. I did explain Halloween’s roots to James as I did in earlier posts. He was gracious and decided he’d see for himself and then give his opinion.

We did two things together with our children and James. First, Oct 30 we went to a Fall Festival at Garnett Church of Christ. We had 700 at the event, with more than half of those people who were from the community, not members of our church. James saw a chaotic mass of people playing games, begging candy, decorations that were all foreign to him, but his observation was that this is a great way to invite the community and begin sharing our lives and Christ with them. James ate an American hot dog. He was doing here what I’d done in his village years ago: observing, eating, listening, participating.

Second, we went trick or treating. James asked about a plastic witch that had run into a tree, ghost figurines in someone’s yard. I told him they are done humorously, that these are not intended to be witches who curse, etc. I did tell him, however, that there is a presence in America of darker, more Satanic practices, but much of this children’s part of the holiday is not connected directly to that. Instead, the community opens their doors, and we enjoy laughs and scares. James enjoyed seeing the children run up to the doors, observed that homes and people in America are very private but that it’s good we are opening up our doors on this night. He’s right: we are very isolated, so why not be out meeting our neighbors on this night? My kids ribbed me, but I was keeping a list of neighbors I met during the evening. I met and have names of a dozen new neighbors.

James was very kind and positive overall. But seeing the event through his eyes helped me further think through the sermon I preached the Sunday James was here, October 30, 2005. How do we determine whether to participate in cultural events such as Halloween that are questionable? How do we discern biblical principles? What are practical ways we can participate?

Download and hear this Podcast:
Being Light Even On Dark Days
Greg Taylor, Garnett Church of Christ

Then tell me what you think and what you did for Halloween.