“Coconut water in a Coca Cola bottle” in search of an identity: a New Zealand-born Samoan Christian in a globalized world

Group identity Religion Cultural assimilation Christianity Pasifika New Zealand Samoa

‘Coconut water in a Coca Cola bottle’ symbolizes a human reality, that is, the search for identity of a New Zealand-born Samoan in the Congregational Christian Church Samoa (CCCS). The context of our investigation is the diaspora Samoan church in New Zealand. In the investigation of the concept of teu le vā, which simply means preserving harmony within the traditional, intra-cultural understandings of relational spaces; my contention is that traditional understandings of teu le vā mask the concrete reality that certain spaces and relationships within the Congregational Christian Church Samoa (CCCS) are suppressed. As reflected in the title of the thesis ‘Coconut water in a Coca Cola bottle,’ this thesis identifies one of the predicaments illustrated by the image, that is, the New Zealand-born generations being caught in between two socio-cultural worlds, namely, the Samoan and the Western world. By utilizing the research methodology ‘teu le vā intra-cultural hermeneutics,’ I will investigate the different responses of New Zealand-born generations to the socio-cultural dilemma of being suppressed between the vā, or spaces within the CCCS. This thesis also addresses how the integration of sacred relationships associated with the Samoan cultural beliefs have been integrated into a Samoan theology that has influenced church practices and belief systems. My teu le vā intra-cultural hermeneutic investigates how the preserving and perpetuating of key elements associated with the Samoan church in New Zealand, contributes to social, economic injustice within teu le vā relationships. This research also examines the impact of globalization in enforcing global concepts of culture on local cultures and contextual theologies, more specifically with respect to the CCCS. My contention is that identities associated with the local theologies are becoming increasingly ambiguous as a result of intensified intercultural interactions with the global world. This thesis is an initial exploration of the question, ‘Should the coconut water, which symbolizes the Samoan Christian identity, be preserved?’ This connects with another question: ‘Should the CCCS in New Zealand adopt a new perspective in order to be an authentic Christian witness in the global world?’ The task of seeking possible solutions to these questions leads into critical conversations for the Christian mission of the CCCS, as she strives to make the gospel message a living reality in an increasingly complex world.

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