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On self-satisfied fakery

May 10, 2016

WHEN we show up on a mission trip to Ghana, or Kenya, or Haiti, we don’t expect the people there to hand us a deviled egg or a cucumber sandwich. We are made to feel welcome by the warm extension of whatever the local tradition has to offer us, and we are glad to be shown something that is beautiful and meaningful for the people who offer it.

If this is more than primitivism, or more than our romancing the “savage,” if we are truly moved by this show of hospitality and not merely condescending to humor “quaintness,” then why do we imagine that our appropriation of other cultural traditions in the church is how best to show welcome? Why do we believe that white Episcopalians’ singing Gospel music, or Zulu music, or Cherokee music, to white congregations is somehow a sign of hospitality rather than a sign of self-indulgent, self-satisfied fakery?

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