This is a question on the intersection of Christian praxis and culture specifically directed to my European brothers and sisters in Christ. I am quite curious what Christian expression looks like outside of my own American context and specifically how it differs from Christianity in a European context. It’s one thing to jump from one culture to another that is wildly different, like, say, from American to Nigerian culture, but actually I have difficulty understanding what being a more conservative Christian would be like even in other Western cultures such as a European culture. For example I just watched this video on what Dutch perceptions of Americans are.
The US is seen as very individualistic (Americans don’t want to compromise or be seen as “average” – have too much ambition perhaps), everything is “big” and/or spread out (big cars, big cities, big homes), very religious, overly polite (or “fake” as they say), everyone wants their own car (vs. say just biking), and they eat too much, and they are “loud”. 🙂 Haha.
I learned a lot of these differences while preparing for my first trip to Germany by watching interviews like these. The interviewer here made two more videos with the exact same people: a sequel video on how the Dutch view themselves, and a third video on whether the Dutch prefer more of a socialistic or capitalistic society. Those who answered that they preferred more socialistic society critiqued America for their individualism, not wanting shared health care, and not wanting to share much of anything (like, say, living space, such as apartments, instead having your own home). The video on how the Dutch view themselves (Dutch vs. Dutch) had some interesting observations, like that it is generally encouraged to be “average” and not to stick out too much, though one woman (in the Dutch vs. Dutch interview) made an interesting comment that the Dutch can be quite judgmental and “Calvinistic” if they see something deviating from the norm.
In any case, this isn’t so much about the Dutch in particular as it is that citizens in other countries such as Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, etc. also have many of same sentiments and live similarly, from what I have been able to tell. And this isn’t so much about politics as it is cultural expression and how that shapes Christian expression in those respective countries.
I have grown up in a culture that often associates religious liberty with the American kind of individualism (freedom of speech, worship, and even combined occasionally with patriotism), what communal expression we do have is in the form of church potlucks and picnics 🙂 (culturally speaking – even for nominal Christians – though real church communion runs deeper), and socialism is seen as a kind of a mindless conformity and attempt to discourage sticking your neck out. This is possibly why Americans are also seen as “religious” and “loud” because we don’t mind speaking our opinions aloud to others whereas it seems like this would be discouraged in European countries. Nonetheless modern Europe yet has the legacy of those like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who defy that perception.
And I realize that at least for Protestantism its very roots are in Europe, and American Christianity is only a more recent expression of Western Christianity in a particular culture, so I’m wondering comparatively what being a Christian in Europe is like on issues of individualism, speaking your thoughts or religious convictions aloud, whether people should be more similar (denser cities, bikes or public transportation, less individualistic, not sticking your neck out, being economically average), etc.
So I guess this can be converted into a question of how European Christians view American Christians and their way of life an cultural expression of their faith and how they conduct themselves as witnesses in society. Should Christians be less boisterous for example? How do European Christians deal with the ‘tolerance’ issue? I would enjoy your insights on some of those things.