Skip to main content

Want to learn a language? Join a community.

Some people have wishlists of things they hope to get for Christmas, or places they would like to go to on vacation. As a language nut, I understandably have a long list of languages that I would like to learn. There are so many interesting languages in the world, and so little time to learn them!

Looking at the languages I have tackled, however, the thing I’ve realized is that I only become proficient in a language when I have a community of people to speak it with. Take Spanish, for instance—for the past 9 years, I have spoken Spanish on a weekly basis with Spanish-speaking Christians, and thus I have gotten pretty good at speaking it. However, I still cannot speak Greek, even though I have been studying it even longer than Spanish. And why is that? Perhaps it’s because I don’t know anyone who speaks Greek, and it is a language I only use for reading and writing.

Recently I watched some interview videos on Chickasaw.tv about Joshua Hinson, the current director of the Chickasaw Language Department. He grew up in west Texas, and dabbled in some of the Chickasaw language early on, but he didn’t become proficient in the language until he reconnected with the Chickasaw community in Oklahoma and began actively seeking out native speakers to talk with. Read More

On Ethnicity and Identity

Western Delaware Tribe flag

It’s been quite a while since I researched Native American stuff, but recently I happened to get back into some of that and discovered that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has elected a new principal chief since last I checked, Bill John Baker (he was elected in 2011, so that shows how long I’ve been out of the loop!). When I looked him up, my first thought was “He doesn’t look very Cherokee!” And come to find out, as far as his ethnic background goes, he is actually 1/32nd Cherokee.

This led me to a little more research on blood quantum requirements in Indian tribes—basically the requirement that a person have a certain percentage of ancestry from that tribe in order to have tribal citizenship. It’s certainly an interesting concept, especially since it really wouldn’t fly in other nations—just think, what if a European country introduced some blood quantum law that says you must be a certain percentage white in order to be a citizen? Cries of “Racism!” would be everywhere.

But Indian tribes are a different ballgame, or so it seems. It happens to be the case, however, that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma does not have blood quantum requirements—all that is required is that you be able to trace your family tree back to someone on the Dawes Roll, a roster of Cherokees made by the US government in the 19th century. Thus, it doesn’t matter what percentage Cherokee you are; if one of your ancestors was a registered Cherokee, then you can join the tribe. Other tribes have chosen to require a blood quantum to have citizenship—for example, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees (also in Oklahoma) requires 1/4 Cherokee blood in order to be a citizen of their nation.
Read More

Culture in Congregations

churchbuildingSeveral decades have passed since the days of segregation and integration in the United States, and as one who grew up after those troubled times had blown over, it seems very strange to look back and see how unfair and prejudiced so many Americans were back in those times. But there is a remnant of all of that which still remains: segregated churches.

You can see it all across the South: in many towns, you have your “black church” and your “white church,” and at least in my experience (which is actually quite limited), the two don’t have many dealings with each other. Is this religious segregation right? Is it good? Does it go against Jesus’ desire for unity among His people in John 17:20-23?

In my opinion, which is admittedly mere opinion, there is nothing wrong with the existence of churches as such. And the reason, I believe, is due to culture. The two cultures of black and white people have coexisted in the South for many years, and although we share a language, still there is quite a difference between us, and this difference is reflected in worship and preaching styles. Read More

Hats Off to Respect

Looking back on my growing up years, I don’t recall any time in particular when someone told me it was disrespectful to wear a hat in the house. Maybe I just noticed it from others, or heard other people talking about it. Or maybe it was from mere utilitarian motives: In my mind, the purpose of a hat is to keep sun or rain off your head, and when you’re indoors, this protection is no longer necessary. But regardless, traditionally a man is considered disrespectful if he wears his hat indoors (ladies can keep them on, because theirs are mainly decorative).

I have had some conversations of late with people my own age who informed me that this is no longer a sign of disrespect in our society. I will continue to do it, because it is part of my nature, but is this the case? Has our culture changed in this point, to where no offense will be taken when a man wears a hat indoors?

Last week I was on a mission trip in West Virginia with 14 other Christians, and while visiting a nursing home a Christian lady remarked that she really appreciated me taking off my hat when we came in—I didn’t notice whether some of my team members may have neglected to remove their caps, but that is a possibility. She then went on to cite some male figure in her family—her father, perhaps—who had stressed the point in her past.

I think what my friends have said is becoming true: among middle-aged and younger people in the United States, no one really thinks about removing their hat when entering a building. However, it is also clear to me that there still exists a generation that holds to this way of showing respect, and out of respect for them, I believe that we men should be more conscious of that aspect of culture (even if it is passing away), and observe it when in the company of older people. As for me, I’m quite content to continue in all situations even if the idea disappears completely, since I like it. But the bottom line is this: Be thoughtful, and show respect!

Thoughts on Going to Europe

In case you are not aware, I will be studying in Europe next semester, along with a group of other students from my university. The other day we had another meeting about it, and after each of these weekly meetings I always leave with much excitement and anticipation. This time I had just turned in a sheet of paper which I will receive back after we return, on which I had written the reasons why I wanted to go to Europe.

I did not put a great amount of forethought into what I wrote on that sheet of paper, but as my thoughts flowed into slanted italic letters, I noticed that each of my reasons had to do with two main ideas: people and culture. You see, my impression of the past groups who have gone to Europe is that they went, they saw, and they came home. Granted, there are many amazing things to be seen on that continent, but I want more than that. I want to get to know the people there, their languages and their cultures.

Our home base will be Verviers, Belgium, a decently sized town in Wallonia. When I get to Verviers, I want to explore. Read More