Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday and cultural influence

I am not an anthropologist, but I've always been fascinated with things to do with the human race and their cultures. As I sat in church, participating in the Good Friday celebration today, the various reactions of people during the veneration of the cross continued to amazed me. Some people lightly kissed the crucifix, some bowed, and some even kneeled, bowed and kissed it with great reverance. Yet some refused to do the act, although later I saw them went to receive the communion. It could be culture or choice that drives people to this celebration then, I said to myself.

I might not understand fully the significant of the act, but I understand enough to know that one kisses the crucifix to show gratefulness and respect toJesus' who died on the cross to bear the sins of sinners (am I not one?). I've done it perhaps 20 times, that's equal more than half of my life, and while I questioned the very act before I came to be comfortable with my faith, I've never really been made to feel that I was worshipping an object, contrary to popular belief. Now that must be acceptance of one's faith, or it could also be due to cultural influence.

It's strange that I've never really had the chance to practice my own culture when I was growing up. Must have been due to modernization or 'mainsreamization' of minor societies like mine. But one thing for sure, I hold a healthy respect toward my culture. When my grandfather or grandmother performed one of their cultural rituals (bless their souls), I always felt overwhelmed with pride and pleasure, of feeling of belonging to something solid and traditional. Now my grandparents, before they embraced Catholic, used to be 'traditionalists'. And yet they didn't have any problem converting. Apart from having had been approached by missionaries who lived a simple and honest life, I can think of another reason why they did it.

It must be the 'fit' factor. In some way, Christianity fits with my people's cultural beliefs. Someone long ago told me that the concept of sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is nothing alien to my people. In our story of creation, a young lady was sacrificed during famine to save the people of her land. From her blood grew rice and other food plants. And so I think that is the 'fit' concept. Furthermore, our people believed (and some still do) that once the soul leaves the body, it went up to this special place on top of the Kinabalu Mountain, which was thought to be the highest place on earth (our earth obviously). In a way, that resembles 'going up to heaven'.

Traditional cultures might or might not influence one's religious belief. In my case, it might have. And that is another reason why I feel comfortable with my faith, regardless of whether or not I am truly religious.



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