I grew up as a Pakistani in Kuwait and studied in a private Indian school. So needless to say I’m used to different cultures and sub cultures and their customs and norms. But that did not prepare me for the Evangelical Christian culture. Don’t get me wrong – I like it, I’m a part of it. But there are a lot of things in it that discourage me. Let me explain. Several years ago I was speaking at a Fellowship of Christians Athlete event. This particular one was at Clemson University amphitheatre and there were over a thousand students there, a lot of energy – a great night.
When the service ended and after I spoke with a few students individually, a Pakistani guy walked up to me. Being that I was a former Muslim and now a Christian pastor, I never know what to expect when that happens. Well, he started talking and told me that he was taking a smoke break when saw all these students in the amphitheatre and thought there was some kind of party going on. When he asked, he was told about an ex Muslim Pakistani guy (me) and he was so intrigued that he had to meet me. But I was so impressed by him. Why? Because he was very comfortable finding his way to me in the middle of a thousand of Christian students in a very ‘Christian’ event.
The conversation went so well that we decided to take it to Waffle House (the awful waffle). It was there that I experienced something that still hasn’t left me. We walked into the restaurant; it was filled with students from the event. It’s only when he lit up a cigarette that I noticed what was happening. Almost every student looked over at us. Now, I don’t know what they were looking at but what I know what I saw.
It was surreal, there seemed to be divide between people who were ‘insiders’, ‘we’, Christians’ and him, a Muslim, an outsider. At that moment I also noticed, He was more comfortable in our culture than we would be in his. If I could read the thoughts of the Christian students I think they would have been “why are you hanging out with that guy, he is not one of us. Come sit with us”. Or “get him, get him on our side” . you might think I’m been rash, but sadly I seen and felt this kind of divide in a lot of other occasions.
Why is that? What should that tell us about the culture we are creating as Christians?