Saturday, 21 January 2012

Clash of Cultures?

Now you might be forgiven for thinking I am a little addicted to the Guardian facebook app, given that my last blog was on an article from there and this one will be too.......! What can I say, it interested me!
Did I experience a clash of cultures at Durham? I have to say that it probably really depended on what college you found yourself in and who you found yourself living next door to. On the hill, my college was a real mixture of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Although some of us came from grammar school backgrounds, at least 1/3(in my estimation) did not! While the first few days were perhaps a bit of a shock to my system (formal dinners were nowhere near as formal at Trevs!) I soon found some kind of equilibrium and ways to avoid the drinking games I didn't fancy playing.

In my opinion part of the fun of university is the mix of cultures, not just in terms of class - but counties and countries (perhaps less countries represented than I might have expected!) There are very few places where people from different backgrounds mix - let alone live and study side by side. No doubt cliches do arise - generally around clubs, but there is nothing to stop anyone else joining these groups - nothing except ones own feeling of discomfort or inferiority.

I never had wood pidgeon at any meal, certainly not formal. I never met anyone who told me how to eat my food or who made statements about grammar schools. I did meet a whole load of people from different backgrounds and with different opinions. I did discuss and debate with them on a whole range of issues. I was enriched from meeting people who were different to me -although no doubt they found some of my foibles strange and me theirs.

It is funny that however much government and we try to erase class and race from being issues, they still continue to arise. However much we try to legalise and teach and train to create equality, there will always be things that divide us. We naturally gravitate towards people who have same backgrounds and interests as us, whatever walk of life we are in. It is easy and it is comfortable. Wherever there are places where people from different groups meet (school, university, football matches etc) there are clashes - it seems like it cannot be avoided.

Being part of a Christian community should truely be a place where there is a mixture of people from a multitude of different classes, races and ages gathered together in unity in Jesus Christ. It should be a place where those things don't matter any more, where we don't feel discomfort because others behave in a different way, where we don't feel inferior because of how much education we have or how good our table manners are. Jesus was snubbed by the 'upper class' of society because he associated with people that were outcasts from society (lepers, prostitutes, thieves) - but He pointed out that despite where we come from we are all in need of forgiveness. Jesus levels out our differences by pointing out that we all don't come up to scratch - that we all need Him. Perhaps in our churches we need to think more about the kind of group we've become - is it a place where only a certain person will feel comfortable? Or will everyone be welcomed and accepted? Are we radical communities growing together in Jesus, reaching out to everyone around us? Or have we become comfortable clubs with unwritten rules of how to behave?

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