Thursday, 24 May 2007

Authentic Christianity – Like Chinese Food.

I was eating some Chinese food for lunch the other day, one of the dishes that was being served was ‘Crunchy Chicken’. I didn’t get it (choosing a freshly cooked soup over the pre heated dishes out the front), but noticed that the majority of customers were ordering the Crunchy Chicken.

I wonder exactly what ties Crunchy Chicken has to authentic Chinese dishes, and if the dish is more produced for an Australian audience, and that’s created the high demand.

I like Chinese food, but the distinct thing I remember when I went to China back in 1995 was how different the food is over there. My favourite dish was Gou lao ruo, which was pork pieces wok tossed in a sweet sticky BBQ sauce with some sour (or more savoury) herbs and chilli flavours… (Gou lao ruo translates into English as sweet and sour pork). Now if you order Sweet and Sour Pork in most Chinese Restaurants in Australia you get deep fried pork balls with a sweet and sour sauce, which is runny, not BBQ flavoured and has pineapple in it.

There was no pineapple in the authentic Chinese dish I loved in Beijing!

See most Chinese Restaurants in Oz cater for an Australian customer base. They also have access to different cooking styles. In both cases this has altered the traditional style of the food to be modelled on an Australian ‘flavoured’ dish. The desire to be a successful restaurant usually overpowers the traditional cooking styles so that they compromise on the authenticity to give the consumer what they want. Over a long period of years we all in Australia have come to accept this is Chinese food, many restaurants advertise ‘authentic’ dishes, but are serving the Australianised version of authentic Chinese food.

To the point where we now expect Sweet and Sour Pork to be a serve of deep fried pork balls with a runny sauce (with pineapples) to pour over them. In some cases places that don’t serve it this way may be questioned as to why they’ve changed…

Are we a bit like that in the Church? To appeal to the society around us, or because of some of the ‘access to different styles and mediums’ we have at our disposal, do we change slightly from our authentic beliefs? Has this been going on so long that now the general population just assumes that’s what authentic Christianity is? Has it been going on so long that we believe that’s what authentic Christianity is? Do we compromise on our authenticity to give the 'customer' what they want?

Has the culture of music, entertainment, risky thrills, wanting to fit in, wanting to be uncontroversial, consumerism and materialism added ‘pineapple’ to our faith? Does this compromise the core biblical basis the church was founded on?

Like the Crunchy Chicken that was the obvious favourite for most of Brisbane’s CBD, are people outside the Church drawn into churches that offer a culturally acclimatised experience? Is that because they haven’t seen how good the authentic stuff is?

All I know is that if I had the choice of pork balls or traditional Gou lao ruo I’d be going the original and the best! I just pray that I’m also seeking an authentic faith of the same kind.


Melinda said...

Now that is something to chew on! I'm forever saddened that the church often looks no different than society. It really challenges me in my own life. I pray that the Lord will set His people apart through true discipleship and surrender. Regenerated creatures should "look" different. We should be different; we are a new creation. This reminds me of something that I'm often challenged by--Paul's exhortation in Romans 12:2a when he says no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This is the key, nonconformity to the world by focusing our mind, will, heart, etc. on Christ and His lead. (And that renewing of the mind can only be done with Jesus' help and it's a daily process of surrendering to and walking with Him.) Just like you, the more you were around real Chinese food, the more you knew it, recognized it and loved it--and realized the counterfeit when you tasted it. Your Aussie brothers are convinced in their minds that Crunchy Chicken is true Chinese food. A renewing of their minds in this area by actually tasting real Chinese cuisine would transform their perceptions and they would no longer be happy to settle for Crunchy Chicken as representing true Chinese cuisine. Thank you for making a poignant point and for giving me something to ponder this dull morning in Kansas, USA. I think I'm hungry...

Jarrol said...


But I feel my point also moves and looks at Christian society as we know it today. Is the society that we belong to as a 'Christian community' tainted by the fact we're trying to appeal to the world.

We may still be different from the world, but have we let go of little things that take away from that orginial authenticity of our faith.

Are there things there so subtle that we just miss them entirely, and how can we find out what they are, and remove them from the community as a whole???

Anonymous said...

Nice blog as always deano :) good thinking material and another challenge to see the deeper side of life rather than just looking at crispy chicken.

Being the spelling nazi that I am I must pull you up on something...I believe that "meat" in chinese pinyin is actually spelt "rou", not "ruo" ;) I'm not sure about the other words but i think "Gou" is meant to be spelt "zhu" which means pig - "zhu rou" means pork....anyways i'll stop being annoying now :P


Anonymous said...

Ok i take it back, just found out that "gou" means pot...which is fair enough....i'll stop trying to be smart cos i obviously didnt pay enough attention in grade 8 chinese hehe

Jarrol said...

yeh well see at least i did it to grade 12. i did think it was ruo though, i had rou initially and changed it.

Craig S. said...

Great observation Deano!

For me the issue arises if the Chinese restaurant is trying to pass of Sweet & Sour Pork as Gou lao rou. Or have they taken the essence of Gou lao rou and used it to create an authentic Australian dished with local ingredients.

It is important as Christians that we are continually asking the questions you raise to ensure that we are indeed authentic as we live out and share the freedom message of the Gospel. Not simply adhering to either our own religious traditions or the strong themes of our own culture eg consumerism.

Still trying to work out what the Gospel looks like in an Australian context.

melinda said...

Yeah, I think you are right on on that. Maybe we are making a mistake in trying to "appeal" to the world rather than just showing them what Christ has to offer. We by no means should be watering down the Gospel for the sake of trying to reach out to anyone. Christ never did it and we should never either. That is a troubling thought. Seems that we still want to "fit in" but at the same time share our message.

Here's something further. I have been interested of late in a concept I have seen running through Kings and Chronicles--the issue that even the good kings (excepting Hezekiah) left in place the high places (of worship to pagen gods); therefore, the people never fully turned in their hearts to Jehovah. They often incorporated that evil--which had become integrated into their society--into their worship of the true God, and it kept them separated from Him. Worshipping idols and all that went with it had become a part of the fabric of the society rather than just a religious practice--to the point that the people were oblivious to the harm--because it had become multi-generational--and many of the people had grown up with the practice. (Also, one thing a pastor once said has stuck with me: the things we do in moderation, our children will do in excess.)

We could also be doing that. Accepting and practicing things that have been integrated into our society that are harmful to us spiritually. That's where we have to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us "clean house." He sees those "little things." He desires to prune us (individually and as a body of believers) so that we may remain in the True Vine. When we committ ourselves fully to Him (again as individuals and as a body) and let Him start His cleansing work, He will bring things to the surface that we need to deal with. He is still the great convictor. He so desires our righteousness to the point that we can believe what the Word says...He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it.

But you are right, it is the small, subtle things that move us further from the truth. Because often the enemy cannot just attack us full out without us being wise to it. However, the subtle erosion of our morals and spiritual base may not be noticed until there is much damage done. And it is easier to just go with the flow, minister, go to church, read the Bible and pray as a habit and then not really be authentic and yearning and craving and seeking after righteousness.

I think that in order to remove these things from the community as a whole, it is going to take believers coming together in prayer, earnestly seeking the Lord's will and a fresh outpouring of His Spirit in order to take us from lukewarm to HOT. That may mean two or three people or it may mean thousands. And that will take a willingness on our parts to maybe not fit in or to let others view us as radical for the sake of the Gospel.

(sorry this takes many directions--and is long!)

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