In every culture there are significant blind spots – accepted cultural norms that are actually contrary to Scriptural teaching but are so embedded in our daily lives that we cannot see them.
In the context of the Chinese-Indonesian Church, for example, sins of a more external character often get the bulk of the attention from the pulpit and from bible study discussions. One can perceive a Christian by their external actions: do they have tattoos, do they drink or smoke, do they maintain pre-marital holiness, are they hard-working in their jobs? Whether some of these criteria are actually biblically sound, and whether some of these emphases are actually carried over from typical cultural taboos form, of course, another question.
A significant blind spot is that of casual racism. Some examples come to mind. Chinese-Indonesians can easily testify to the number of friends they know who are feeling the cultural pressure to only marry one who is of the same race: marrying a member of a different race is considered potentially harmful to the societal standing of the family. The ramifications are obvious and serious: one is automatically disqualified to receive the favor of one’s family simply because one is not a member of the same Chinese race. This tendency trickles down to the children in the family: they begin to prefer friendships or relationships with those who are exclusively Chinese, and incipiently (if not explicitly) avoid even beginning one with a member of a different race. Nevermind that one’s whole family attend church every Sunday – bringing shame to the family is to be avoided at all costs, even if the Scriptures testify otherwise.
Of course the matter is double-sided. Those of Chinese descent and those of Indonesian descent have always had a tense relationship in Indonesia throughout its history. It is one thing to lament this fact, it is another to advocate, strengthen, and endorse it. Racial stereotypes are not only accepted in the form of casual chit-chat between friends and family members, they become physically visible. Just a few days ago I drove past two Presbyterian Indonesian Churches – from two different denominations, with their buildings side by side. Why would anyone plant a church right next to a pre-existing church when they both supposedly teach identical theology? The answer was alarming yet simple: one of the Churches only cater to Chinese families.
Worse, churches begin to teach that Chinese culture is the highest pinnacle of pre-Christian common grace. Racism becomes such a cultural norm that a form of imperialism is actually being propelled from the pulpit, and significant issues that plague the church are wholly ignored or can even go unnoticed. Parents who bring up their children in Sunday school resist their children’s appeal to the Scriptures to forego racism, or, in the opposite cases, children pay lip service to their Christian parent’s advice to see every race as equal (because every individual is made in the image of God).
This is a dangerous and significant blind spot. While it is clear that racism is an on-going problem that is still hotly discussed elsewhere in the world, I fear that the conversation has not even started in the ecclesial level here.