Thursday, September 28, 2006

When Two Worlds Collide- Part 2

My post titled, When Two Worlds Collide, generated an interesting discussion. Thank you for being open and talkative in your comments to me (and one another), I love it! I am very sorry that it took so long to answer the query that I posed.

Galant shared that at his church a guest speaker, who was from Iran and a former Muslim, had briefly mentioned Eastern countries being ‘shame based.’ He also touched on the reality that Western cultures are ‘guilt-based.’ Galant was disappointed that the man did not further explain the concept.

As you know, I am extremely passionate about spreading the message of Christ to all nations, languages, cultures and sub-cultures. There are not enough hours in the day for me to read and study the myriad worldviews that constitute humanity.

Humans are incredibly complex. There are no two people that are exactly the same. Similarly, cultures are complex and no culture is like another. Inside each group of people there are foundational beliefs and emotions which govern that culture’s general behavior. Their public actions, though, are only surface representatives for the undercurrent of their theology, philosophy, sociology and ethics.

There are three major classifications of cultures. They are the following:

1- Shame/ Honor based cultures
2- Guilt/ Innocence (or reward) based cultures
3- Fear/ Power based cultures

So I gave Galant an exercise that would declare what cultural worldview he possesses. Daniel Oh, a missionary trainer who travels around the world, taught a lecture at Perspectives on the World Christian Movement with this "quiz" as the central focus.

Have someone walk in front of you and drop something (like a pencil).
What did (or would) you say to them?

Before I share the explanation, here are some responses left in comments:

Galant answered- I'd go to pick it up and let them know they dropped it. "Excuse just dropped this" - hold it out to them. Hopefully I'd smile, and then I'd go on about my business.

Kathie responded-
If someone walked in front of me and dropped something, I would pick it up for them, or attempt to pick it up for them and say, "Excuse me, you dropped this."

The easiest way to pinpoint a person's cultural base is to see where they place blame. There is one word in both of these answers that lets me know what culture base Kathie and Galant are from. Whether or not they meant to "blame" the person for dropping the item, they both said, " dropped..." They placed the blame on the person which leads me to conclude that they are from a Guilt/ Innocence culture.

People from the Shame/ Honor based culture would never think to say to a person, "you did this." Instead, they would pick the pen up and respond, "The pen fell from your hand" or "The pen jumped to the ground." Honor is so important to people from these cultures, that lying and cheating are better, if it honors a person, than bringing shame to someone.

Western cultures, such as the United States and England, are overwhelmingly guilt focused. Think about our advertisements, evangelistic strategies, laws, news and books. Everything is centered around who is right, who is wrong, what rewards we can get for doing right and who is being punished for thier bad choices.

Eastern cultures, such as Iraq, are overwhelmingly honor focused. People watch the news, of Iraqi men burning American flags and we blame, "Look at them. That is wrong." Yet, they are not thinking about right and wrong, they are trying to shame us and bring honor to their people. An incredible article, although lengthy, on Honor and Shame is here. They want more honor for themselves, their people and their families. They seek to honor others as a way to gain honor. They shame those who have brought shame.

The third culture, fear and power, is most commonly seen among tribal nations. Tribesmen fear spirits, disease and weather. The only way to overcome the fear is to be strong. If you have studied Jim Elliot and the time he spent with the Acuas, you will understand this culture a little bit. I encourage you to watch The End of the Spear, a movie about the missionaries to Ecuador, and the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor.

The most fascinating thing for me, as I have studied different cultures, is the reality that Jesus lived among people whose mindset flowed from honor/ shame. Many times when we read the Bible we filter passages through our guilt and reward biased mind. Did you know that when you talk to a person from an honor/ shame society they might answer a question with a question? They do this to bring honor to themselves by showing you that they can have a better question. Now, think about how Jesus related to the Pharisees. They asked a question. He responded with a question. And who had the question that left the other party speechless, bringing more honor to Himself (whether THEY realized it or not)? None other than- Jesus. Who honored those who were shamed by dining with them? Jesus. Jesus took the idea of honor/ shame and completely upset the basket.

Jesus and his apostles, like Paul, after Him, challenged people to honor others above themselves. This was a new concept. Honor one another above myself, my honor, my dignity? Think of them before I think of me? You have got to be kidding. Life is all about getting me honor and shaming others, isn't it? Not if you follow Jesus.

Neither is there blame or reward. Both cultures are seeking to make themselves look better, either through guilt or honoring self. Although two different worldviews, they lead us to the same place. Pride. And pride and the gospel cannot function together. Therefore, neither perspective is right all the way. We need the only One worthy of recieving honor, Jesus, to set us free. Since we are powerless to have a right relationship with Christ outside of His death and resurrection, we cannot boast. What can we boast about? There is no amount of honor that we can earn that will pay off our debt to God. There are not enough good things we can do to get a passage to heaven.

Jesus paid it all, for all cultures, for all times, for all worldviews and for all of humanity. He made Himself the center of the crisis, erased our debt and set those who believe free. So, honor one another above yourself. Let go of your guilt. Be free.

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Ephesians 2:6-10
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."
Romans 12:10, 14-15
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-10
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1


Kathie said... I on "Distant Thunder" or "Pure and Simple"? That is so interesting. I confess when you said I "blamed" the person who dropped something I was embarrassed and felt guilty. But I can see where I come from a guilt/innocent mind set, part of my upbringing. I also see how that effects my relationship with the Lord. It was also interesting that you brought up the fact that Jesus lived in a honor/shame culture. At the beginning of August John McArthur did a sermon on the Prodigal Son. It gave me a whole new perspective on the father and how he dishonored himself for the son. I never thought about the fact that Jesus came from a different culture than me (I know that is such a "duh" thing) I'm rambling, I know, I think remembering the culture Jesus was in will help me when I read my bible now...and knowing where I'm coming from may help me in dealing with others. Thank you :)

Galant said...

A good post Jaclyn, thank you. Informative. I'd be curious to hear how it works in other cultures too, particularly Japan.

BenZ said...

Very true! I can only state that our view of honor is very dishonorable in western culture, which is why middle east cultures despise us greatly.

We don't honor...honor!
However, if we were passionate about Christ we would honor HONOR because Christ is Honor Himself! So there!

Jaclyn said...

You are right when you say that learning cultural differences will help you love people. It has definately been convicting for me. When I am frustrated at someone I can instantly see that my frustration was not their fault, but my dishonoring them. If we would seek to honor others FIRST, which God commands, so much would fall into place. This does not mean that honor/shame cultures are perfect, they are definatelt not, but we could still learn a lot from them!

I would be curious too, to see where Japan would fall, in the three types of cultures. My guess would be they would be a mix of honor/shame and fear/power. Honor/shame because they are greatly influenced by the middle east and fear/power because of the religious structure. Research it and let me know. Better yet, go to Japan, it is much more fun that way... ;-)

You are right, brother, that we do not honor honor- at least honor in the purest form. We are so guilt based that thinking about honoring BEFORE we would judge is crazy to many people. It is crazy to some Christians too... :-P