St Paul speaking at the Aereopagus in Athens. By Raphael – Royal Collection of the United Kingdom, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Admittedly it is a crowded field but cultural appropriation is probably the most bat guano crazy, insane nonsense yet perpetrated by the snowflake generation. This matters to Christians because Christians are big time cultural appropriators. We have done much more than pinch a few pagan festivals and Christianise them.
The apostle Paul may have been the greatest Christian to walk the earth but, according to today’s temperamental seekers of safe spaces, he not only got it all wrong, he was a wicked man. If we were to follow our sensitive compatriots he is clearly a hegemonic, imperialist Zionist/Christian cultural appropriator.
In I Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul boasts, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.' To the ever sensitive this is nothing less than a deliberate attempt to appropriate the culture of others in order to gain control of their minds and manipulate them. A vicious plot to destroy centuries-old indigenous belief systems and replace them with the beliefs of the powerful. Cultural appropriation of the very worst kind.
Cultural appropriation has been defined as:
‘Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else's culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.’
Why has cultural appropriation become an issue? It is the frantic, last-ditch defence of the failed and discredited concept of multiculturalism, a belief intent on building walls between cultures and divisions between peoples, and downgrading Western culture. Even its most high profile supporters are abandoning it. Angela Merkel has said, ‘This multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side by side and live happily ever after has failed, utterly failed’. Cultural appropriation is a sign of the abject failure of one of progressivism’s most cherished dogmas.
Marxists split the world into the oppressed and the oppressors. The oppressed class can never be wrong, the oppressing class can never be right. Cultural appropriation, which is a sin which only whites can commit, is seen as a tool the powerful use to exploit the powerless.
This ludicrous concept has led to:
- A 12-year-old white girl being abused online as a racist for braiding her hair.
- White women being told not to wear hoop earrings as it appropriates Latin American culture.
- The BBC being concerned about food bloggers ‘fuelling racial stereotypes’ by portraying chopsticks in non-Chinese foods.
- A Mexican restaurant being criticised by the University of East Anglia SU for handing out sombreros at a freshers fair.
- An advert for Canadian gin being pulled because it depicted young women wearing parkas, seemingly Inuit-only clothing.
Cultural appropriation as a moral crime exists only in the over-heated imaginations of infantile, perpetual offence-seekers trying desperately to demonstrate their own righteousness. Cultures are not solid entities with hard-edged demarcation lines and boundaries. They are what we have collectively constructed, learned from others, handed down and shared.
We are told that cultural appropriation is about the powerful taking from the weak. The ludicrously correct earnestly assure us that when we eat Indian food adapted for European palates we behave like our colonial forebears.What can be even remotely imperialist about a working-class Brit eating a curry produced by a company owned by second-generation Indian millionaires?
In the midst of the ludicrous situations arising from cultural appropriation we can become so intent on mocking the idea we forget the more important objection to the dangerous concept. One of the greatest things we human beings have to offer each other is the better products of our respective cultures. Culture is synthesis, culture is interchange and the surest way of showing you value something from another culture is to copy it.
Language, our most important cultural artefact, is not static. Languages exist and develop by borrowing and adapting. Strip the English language of words originating in Greek, Roman, French and other languages and we would be reduced to little more than grunts. And this is true of every natural language. When you have a glut of tomatoes making chutney, an Indian food and word, does not make you an imperialist hankering for the days of the Raj, it makes you someone who has found a good way of using a glut of tomatoes.
For a moment try to imagine music without cultural appropriation. No jazz. No blues. No country. No Porgy and Bess by Gershwin. No Scottish Fantasy by Bruch. No ‘That’s all right’ by Elvis. No Carmen by Bizet. The list is endless. Without cultural interchange music would be stifled.
Japan during the period of Sakoku (1633-1853) attempted to be culturally isolated. Some parts of Japanese culture such as the tea ceremony developed in a highly ritualised fashion. When finally the West forced the doors open the Japanese gladly grabbed and adapted anything from the West which they thought would make their lives better. This was not cultural appropriation, it was common sense cultural interchange. They still kept the tea ceremony.
We cannot understand each other and exchange ideas unless we can experience and taste the culture of the other. The great missionary Hudson Taylor showed the way. When he first went to China he caused a scandal among the Westerners by not stopping at learning to speak Chinese but going much further; he appropriated Chinese clothes, eating habits, living quarters and general demeanour. He deliberately appropriated Chinese culture to exchange with them the greatest truth of all, the gospel of Christ.
Free cultural interchange is good for all of us.
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire and blogs at A Grain of Sand where he looks at the Church and the world and wonders where it all went wrong.