IS CULTURE UNCHANGEABLE?

Many times, we justify certain ideas with the line “it is our culture” and we allow maltreatments, abuses and so many negativities to thrive just because this was how people lived in the past. Racism and gender discriminations can be said to be culture because these are ideas, customs and social behaviours that have thrived over the years and have even found a way into the present age. Let’s understand what culture is: cultures are ideas, customs and social behaviour of certain people while tradition is the passing of culture down from one generation to another.

I was arguing with someone about these things and he said: “We are imperfect people and therefore we need culture as a guide.” But, is that supposed to be so? Is culture truly meant to guide us as humans? Who sets up the cultures exactly? Perfect people? I admit people develop culture overtime with how they had lived and in what they find comfort and ease of life. However, these cultures can also be formed on the wrong perception of life, on human weaknesses and on what people thought was working but truly never working. A culture may be relevant today and lose relevance tomorrow and this is because our minds are evolving and we can’t stick to the patterns of yesterday if we must forge ahead.

“Cultures can also be formed on the wrong perception of life, on human weaknesses and on what people thought was working but truly never working. “

I was in a firm previously, sitting at the reception and waiting for my job to be delivered and I noticed a man who walked in and headed straight to the attendant who was already attending to a young lady. He demanded that he gets attended to immediately as he was in a hurry. The young lady turned, looked at him and said: “at least if you want them to leave me and attend to you, you should have pleaded with me first…”

Guess what?

This man got full of rage! He started vibrating and making noise as he walked around the hall calling for attention. He threatened that he was going to beat up the young lady, that in our culture, a woman (especially young ladies) aren’t supposed to talk when “men” are talking. Isn’t that a stupid culture?

“Who gave her the right to talk while I am talking? Does she know who I am?” He raged

I got so angry but my consolation was that I noticed some group of men setting up formations to take turns on him if he ever lays his rusty hands on the young lady.  Well, in the end, we had a heroine!

Why did I tell this story? In parts of the world, women are seen as unimportant people, they are seen as weak genders whose only role is to be married to their husbands and live for their husbands alone. If the man had beat her in some environments, she will be asked to bear it because she is a woman but in developed countries like America, he would be arrested and charged for abuse.

I was in a bank some years ago when a man slapped a woman because they were arguing about who came first. To my utmost surprise, this man was not arrested by the forces around until the woman called her husband who called the police. These things exist as cultures all around the world and the question remains, should we keep entertaining such irresponsibility in the name of culture? Who set the rules? Are we made for culture or is culture made for us? Is it wrong to question the imperfections we see in what happens to be culture or traditions?

I heard people say that a man who accepts to be wed in the Church of the woman is not “man enough” and the idea of what it takes to be man enough in the part of the world where I came from is to be arrogant and “women domineering” in which a woman doesn’t have a voice! Is there not a problem with these cultures? Cultures are imperfect just like the people who adapted to those customs over time and we must be willing to be dynamic and flexible so that we can always adapt to a better lifestyle that is more human-friendly. A lot of people are scared to question the norms because the culture seems to them as something that cannot be changed but if men decided to be eating with hands in the past, we can decide to eat with spoons today!

“we must be willing to be dynamic and flexible so that we can always adapt to a better lifestyle that is more human-friendly.”

Another instance is the idea that men came to this world to lead while women came to be led! These things became cultures over time but it is absurd to still believe that crap at this age! We are in an age where a lot of things must be questioned, we are in an age where we must question what makes the right hand, the only right hand! In many parts of the world, using the left hand to greet people is seen as an insult but some people make use of their left hands because that is how their brain conditioned them to act and trying to get them to switch is very dangerous to the brain. Do you see? The cultures of the past were established without certain facts and truths they knew existed. Some cultures were based on flat earth instead of a spherical earth, some cultures were based on the moon as the source of its light instead of a moon that gets light from the sun. As we make more discoveries and understand humanity perfectly, we should question and do away with cultures that are no longer relevant.

Culture shouldn’t be in control of you, you should be in control of culture. Cultures are subject to personal review and we should know when it doesn’t count and what to write off from it! If we must lean on culture simply because this is the prevailing ideas and customs from the past and the foundation on which our traditions were built, then it is a matter of the blind leading the blind. It will leave us retrogressive in life. We gradually change cultures when we begin to change our collective thinking. One person doesn’t change culture but one person can initiate it by raising the red flags of a certain culture and speaking out even when others find him or her odd!

“Culture shouldn’t be in control of you, you should be in control of culture. Cultures are subject to personal review and we should know when it doesn’t count…”

The advent of Christianity in various parts of the world changed a lot of things about people’s culture! For some, their cultures took a different turn, their cultures changed entirely! Globalization is also changing cultures and as long as these changes make us better and put everyone on equal opportunities, the changes are relevant.

Speaking from a Christian perspective, God doesn’t want us to stick to unchanging cultures, He wants us to be dynamic and flexible with culture in the sense that we should be ever ready to write off what we find irrelevant in cultures without minding what people around us think. The Bible says in Romans 12:2

Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

A culture like we saw earlier is behaviours and customs and tradition is the handing down of these things to other generations. Culture isn’t what brings transformation to the minds of people, culture is the futile approach of imperfect men to deal with their imperfections but many times it proves abortive and counterproductive. Why are we not to copy the customs of this world and in what context is the Bible giving us this encouragement? I will explain.

“The customs of this world is deeply rooted in racism, discriminations, abuse, selfishness, wickedness and so on!”

The customs of this world is deeply rooted in racism, discriminations, abuse, selfishness, wickedness and so on! These customs are rooted in lies, fear and insecurities but God’s word (revealed in Jesus) is what brings transformation! How? Jesus didn’t discriminate against gender, therefore we shouldn’t discriminate against gender! Jesus didn’t discriminate against race and therefore we shouldn’t discriminate against race. Jesus loved people regardless of who they are and therefore we should do the same.

When people credit gender discrimination to Jesus, I know they are simply trying to mix their customs with Bible verses quoted out of context. What is God’s word that brings transformation? Is it Genesis to Revelations? No! Let me show you something in the Bible. Concerning Jesus, the Bible says in John 1:14

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”

Jesus is referred to as God’s word, God’s word isn’t the totality of the Bible, Jesus is God’s word which became human! The Bible says He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness! He is the one who brings transformation to our hearts when we learn of Him and conforms to Him, letting what we learn of His character create a new way of life for us.

“Cultures aren’t unchangeable because humans who created cultures aren’t unchangeable either”

So, if Jesus didn’t treat people based on their gender, age, colour, religion and so on, I should follow Him in that regard too. Culture can be changed when you change the way you think and influence others with it. It may take time, you may be persecuted or even mocked but as long as you keep at it, you’ll influence others with it. Cultures aren’t unchangeable because humans who created cultures aren’t unchangeable either.

We change our culture by changing the way we think!

We change traditions by changing the culture that we pass down to our children.