I view the wealth of the USA (even in its currently dilapidated state) as a world anomaly. I remember at age 24/25 (2007), it set in on me as a hard and unshakable reality that American life is not the norm in the vast majority of the world. When I started to think in those terms, I also started to interpret my circumstances and even the Bible differently. And, while I love America, I hope that we will see a revival of authentic Christianity sooner than the preservation of our standards of living.
Yes, people are altered by their situation of life. For example, in Indonesia, where I ate with royalty as well as with paupers on dirt floors, the majority of the populace is 3rd world and undeveloped. When you’ve got nothing (materially), respect and relationship are everything, so much that one’s sense of time is secondary to these. I think Americans miss that element these days. We have sacrificed our elderly, our faith, our critical & analytical thinking and our subsequent generations on the altars of selfish prosperity and success and busyness and entertainment.
In another instance, Germans are also affected by their situation of life and national history. In 2000, I stayed with a man whose father was a sergeant at Dachau during the Nazi era. In 2008, I toured Dachau with the son of said Nazi officer, and his denial led him to say there was no holocaust–those held at Dachau were enemies of state just like Guantanamo holds US prisoners. It does come down to how a nation constitutes an enemy of state. But, we all know that race never should make such a constitution. I didn’t press the matter.
Germany (as a people, not government or leaders) suffers from religious fatigues due to their tiresome history, which is full of debating rationalism, 30 yrs. war, the Reformation, the Prussian wars (Protestantism), Holy Roman Empire, etc. They also suffer national frustration from those same religious battles, which kept their lands divided, and so, from obtaining national identity when other European countries were in empire status. Thus, when one understands German history, he understands why Germans wanted national identity in the early 1900s. They were simply being driven by visions of empire in a time when others had already established their empires by much the same force. I am not dismissing the demonic nature of the Third Reich. But I am pointing out that, sadly, the people needed a scapegoat for explaining their hindrances till then; and given Adolf Hitler’s strained theology (which men like Bonhoeffer resisted, & which was much like British Israelism in its ends), the Jews became the scapegoats along with other non-Aryan minorities.
All this being said, the modern German despises both violence and religion, especially after enduring a communist eastern Germany in the mid-to-upper 1900s. Thus, there is a deep-seated weariness and skepticism in the common German heart, even if they can’t explain why. It is a result of what “leaders” have done. The people just don’t want religion. They view it as unintelligent and divisive and the cause of wars. While these are wrong conclusions, they have come by them honestly. Moreover, they don’t want militaristic empire. Nowadays, they just want a technological and monetary empire. Get it?
So, yes, culture does alter everyone in significant ways, especially in predispositions toward matters of faith. If Christian and non-Christian alike will become honest with their respective biases and presuppositions, then we will have attained a more nearly rational approach to matters such as the existence of God, the possibility of miracles, Intelligent Design and/or Creation, the veracity of the Bible, and the Deity of Jesus Christ.
To all Christians: as Christians, let’s be cultural anomalies, having our citizenship and affections set above not on earthy things. Let’s interpret the Bible not in light of our circumstance and culture but according to how the Bible presents itself (a.k.a. biblical theology) and according to a normal, literary, historical-grammatical approach.