"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark TwainHaving had the luxury of international travel; Central and South America for work, and once to Europe for vacation. It really is an eye-opening, perspective-changing experience. In South America in particular, one of the most obvious differences is traffic. INSANE! Insane!
"One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." - Henry Miller
The photo is from Lima, Peru, at a pretty major intersection. Is there a stoplight? No. There is a man standing in a slightly elevated platform in the median directing traffic with a whistle. If I was driving instead of riding in a cab, I would have completely driven past him without noticing.
Then there was Buenos Aires, where I had to get from the national airport to the international airport via cab. Apparently, the cab driver thought I wanted to fly from airport to airport, because I swear we caught air multiple times.
And just recently I went to Tijuana, Mexico. They've got a number of traffic circles at their major intersections; large circles with multiple lanes. It seemed to be pretty common for people to crisscross multiple lanes to get out of the loop at their desired street. In the U.S. there would be accidents galore, swears, and honks, but there wasn't. Drivers just took it slow, and let people cross as necessary.
It struck me that traffic is a lot like religion. We all buy in to the traffic laws and driving etiquette of our native countries (at least to some extent). When we see how some other country handles their traffic (like when we see how some other church handles their worship), we start to think that it's not right, it's not appropriate, or perhaps it's even crazy.
However, if you take a moment, and stand back from it all, you can learn something. You can stop focusing on the gross differences, and start to focus on the finer details of why it works for them. You begin to understand that there are several approaches which can work in determining what is wrong and what is right.
But most people do not venture outside their home church, let alone outside their own country. Or if they do change churches, they go with the one that they like the best. Their perspective is limited. Right and wrong becomes rigidly defined. Everything else is foreign, awkward, or even wrong.
Whereas traffic is a sort of a civil engineering problem with no truly ideal solution, religion is not the same way. Religion has a right way and a wrong way; mans' way and God's way. Yet if all of these different approaches to worshiping God really work, then the absolute is dissolved. Black and white becomes gray. Religion becomes a matter of social engineering; a matter of cultural norms and marketing. With that being the case, you have to wonder just how True it all is.