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Response to Rev. Jesse Gibson’s e-mail (Part 2) on the topic: "There Is No Partiality With God (Part V)"

Posted on December 18, 2014 at 10:32 AM Comments comments (173)

Introduction

In Part I of my response to Rev. Jesse Gibson’s concern, I argued that because God cares for man and his culture, He redeemed the saints on the Cross of Calvary.  His redemptive work included our cleansing from those demonic societies that the devil is using to keep us captive. This Journal focuses on the second part to the first question regarding marriage in Liberia. 

Second, reflecting on his Liberian culture, in which a tribal marriage is not fully embraced by the educated Liberians unless it is Western, Rev. Jesse Gibson wonders whether any culture is superior to God.

With God no human culture is superior or flawless, and every wedding performed in the presence of witnesses is legitimate within a particular culture. However, anyone who thinks that the Western style of marriage is the norm for Christian marriage is imperialistic, unbiblical, and unacceptable. This Journal will prove why.

Because Rev. Jesse Gibson hailed from Liberia, his concern is embedded in the Liberian concept of marriage. Since there are differences in the use of certain words between the West and Liberia, I would like to begin with the definition of some terms for the benefit of my Western readers:  (1) A traditional wedding in the American mindset means a different thing in Liberia. In America, a traditional wedding means, a marriage between one man and a woman.  However, in Liberia, a traditional wedding (also called tribal or customary wedding) refers to marriage among the “native people.” It means a man marrying one or more wives. The phrase “native people” is used derogatorily in Liberia by the Americo-Liberian descendants. By Americo-Liberians, I mean the emancipated slaves who were sent to Liberia in the 1920s by the American Colonization Society. They became the elite group that led the country for over 160 years.  So, when native Liberians who are civilized, that is, enculturated and educated in the Western culture, they believe that the Americo-Liberian’s style of marriage, which is Western, is the norm of marriage.  To the Americo-Liberians, the traditional/customary wedding is recognized in the customary law for the “native people,” and for an educated Liberian to be a truly “civilized person” (as they termed it), to gain respect among the elite and the bourgeoisie, one must marry, again, legally.  

The Liberian Legislature passed an Act on October 7, 2003, which was signed into law. It included a definition of some terms.  Chapter I, Section 1a defines customary marriage, thus, “Customary marriage” means marriage between a man and a woman performed according to the tribal tradition of their locality; and Section 1k says, “Christian marriage” means that marriage which is performed either in the Church, at home, or any place by a Priest, Pastor or Judge, according to statute.[1]  The Law of the land recognizes the legitimacy of these two types of marriages, but the “class system” undermines the other.  I married my wife, Esther, customarily, by paying her dowry to her family in the presence of both parents (hers and mine) and other witnesses.  To satisfy the demand of the church and the elite or class system, I had to marry her again “legally” in the church. I said legally, because the marriage was Western and the marriage certificate was bought from the government and signed by us and the officiating clergymen. So, most educated native-Liberians would do what I did: Owing to this, when an educated or enculturated couple from the native background is asked whether they were married, they would always say: “We just had a traditional wedding, but we are planning to marry soon.” Such an answer stimulated the concern of Rev Jesse to ask, “Is there any superior culture to God?   

This unbiblical and ethnocentric cultural superiority was developed in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, which, I believe, was adopted by America, and shipped to the shores of Liberia with the Americo-Liberians. Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s culture is the best and should be the standard of every culture. “Many people today think of culture in the way that it was thought of in Europe . . . . This concept of culture reflected inequalities within European societies and their colonies around the world. This understating of culture equates culture with civilization and contrasts both with nature or non-civilization.”[2]   

Conclusion 

Because of sin, no culture is superior to God.    

I’ll continue this discussion next week.    

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Special note:

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[1]http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/44868b524.pdf   accessed December 15, 2014. [2]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Introduction_to_Sociology-v3.0.pdf, page 71 accessed December 15, 2014.