Category Archives: Cultural

Third Culture Kids

What’s a third culture kid? I’d never heard the term until I began teaching in Hong Kong international school. A third culture kid is a young person who has spent some part of their childhood living in a culture other than that of their parent’s home culture. They don’t have full ownership in either culture so they create a kind of unique or ‘third’ culture which is a combination of their home culture and the cultures of the other countries in which they have lived.

Third culture kids can be the children of military personnel, refugees, diplomats, business people, missionaries or professionals who accept jobs overseas.

I was vividly reminded that my students are third culture kids after a class party at an ice rink located in a huge shopping mall near our school. Twenty of my students showed up. After we’d finished skating we went to a restaurant for refreshments. When it was time to leave the kids whipped out their mobile phones to call home so their parents could come and pick them up. I listened while the children all around me chatted with their parents in Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Mandarin, English, Italian, Tagalog, Malay and Taiwanese. At school the children always speak English. Hearing them talk to their mothers and fathers in their native tongue reminded me of how culturally diverse a group they really were. Nobody at the tables around us seemed the least bit surprised to hear all those children speaking in different languages. Hong Kong is full of third culture kids. A local magazine ran a feature story recently about young people from a dozen different countries that have come to live in Hong Kong because of their parents’ job relocation. Hong Kong issues 80,000 new work visas to foreigners each year. If even half of those people bring at least one child along when they move to Hong Kong you can imagine how quickly the population of third culture kids is growing here.

Psychologists fascinated with these young global citizens are establishing a growing body of research about them. They’ve discovered advantages and disadvantages to being a third culture kid.

Sometimes they feel rootless. They wonder where they really belong. Some find it hard to establish long term relationships because they have moved so frequently. On the other hand many tend to be much more outgoing and sociable and can easily get to know new people. Most speak more than one language and tend to have a much wider variety of friends. They are more flexible and ready for change. They have a broader world view and are less inclined to be prejudiced towards those of other nationalities, races and religions.

In a time when international travel is easy and globalization means businesses are sending their employees to live all over the world, the population of third culture kids is bound to continue to rise. If the wonderful students I have the privilege to work with are typical of third culture kids than I have no doubt that our world will be a better place because of them.

The Martyrdom of Telemachus Still Inspires the Christian to Engage the Culture

Do you have a wall that you need to climb over? What is meant by that question? Are you familiar with the story of Telemachus the monk, whose martyrdom ended the Roman games?

According to church historian, Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, in his Ecclesiastical History, when Telemachus was in Rome he went to the stadium when the Roman games were in progress. Appalled by the spectacle, he jumped the wall and tried to “stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another. The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the triad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death.” The Emperor Honorius, impressed by the courage of Telemachus, named him among the “victorious martyrs,” and put an end to that impious spectacle.

Telemachus could have stayed secluded in the monastery. When he entered Rome he could have just gone about his business. When he did go see the spectacle in the coliseum he could have silently slipped out during or after the games were over. Instead, Telemachus climbed over the wall and was martyred for his courageous stand.

In America, it is unlikely that a Christian will be martyred for standing against the culture, for truth. You may be persecuted for your stand, you may suffer material loss or emotional pain, but you will probably not be martyred. The sad fact is that some of your worst persecution could come from those who call themselves brothers in Christ, but are not willing to risk being ostracized or losing any of their earthly goods. Some of your Christian friends, out of guilt, are as likely to lash out at you rather than fulfill the call to engage the culture themselves.

Do you have a wall that you need to climb over? Has God given you a heart for ending one of the gross evils that are marking the American culture? Christian, to engage this culture may not even require that you involve yourself in a great controversy. The state has overreached its scriptural authority and taken on responsibilities that rightly belong to the realm of the family and/or the church. Maybe you have a burden to help offer scholarships to help Christian children pay for a Christian education, or maybe you are burdened to help the widow or the orphan, so they do not have to bow at the altar of Caesar for food, heat or other necessities.

Telemachus illustrates that one man can make a difference. Every time one more Christian engages the culture in another arena, or coliseum, America will be one step closer to the righteousness that God calls the nations to. Go ahead Christian, it’s up to you, climb over a wall, maybe your courage will be the inspiration necessary to end a spectacle in your culture.