When we first moved to Thailand, multiple people in Thailand told us that Thai culture is closer to Biblical culture than American culture is. It was preached that way and widely spread in the church we serve. Multiple reasons were given: first, Thailand is an agricultural society, even if Bangkok is not, most people come from small towns/ villages or have family there. Second, the Thai people are highly aware of the spiritual world and how spirits interact with this physical world. From these basic tenets, it was then assumed that Thai people would have an inherently easier time understanding the Bible and what Jesus taught.
While I love the heart of what these people said, I have to respectfully disagree with them. After living in Thailand for over 4 years, I believe that American culture, foundationally, not superficially, is closer to Biblical culture. Yes, we don’t understand farming very well, if at all. Most Americans try to ignore, or deny, the existence of spirits.
We have many problems with our culture that are not Biblical, and we need Jesus to transform. But the foundation of our culture is built from the same foundation that made up the world Jesus lived in. Today we call it a Judeo-Christian worldview. On the other hand, Thai culture is built on a Buddhist worldview and it effects all parts of life and how people interact with each other.
Let me example this for you with a story. In America we have an axiom, do to others what you would want them to do to you. It is a Biblical principle, but it is a pervasive idea. People think of others and how they might feel or think when they interact with them. I know it’s not every time, but Americans tend to think about other people’s feelings and reactions. In Thailand, that is not so. I recently rode the bus to visit some friends up north with Ellie. On the way back, the lady in front of me decided she wanted to take a nap so she laid her chair as far back as it would go. She never turned around to see if someone was behind her or how much space I had. Well, I was so squished that I couldn’t even move my legs or get out of the chair. People will regularly come up to Ellie and get in her face or grab her, even if she’s trying to say no or stop. They’re not thinking of her feelings, but what they want.
Ultimately, we God to transform us from whatever culture we are in to be Biblical in the way we live.