Seminary

Who’s Culture is it Anyway?

Reading about culture and how our own culture effects mission was enlightening.  Discovering the different cultural layers of values, beliefs and worldview and how these work together affecting our behaviors as enlightening (Winter, 2009).  Some of the most empowering information was that we hide or are unaware of our own culture and often what it reveals when we are in another culture. Additionally, it was insightful to hear that what we learn most while living in another culture will be what we learn about our own (Hall, 1959; Lederleitner, 2010).

While living in another culture currently, I found Lederleitner’s (2010) chapter on Paternalism extremely helpful in mission.   Many of the pitfalls expressed throughout this chapter I have experienced and have personally made almost all of the mistakes listed. Right out the gate in this chapter the contrasting views of what paternalism is was engaging. Paternalism is a system under which an authority treats those under its control by regulating their conduct and supplying their needs (Merriam-Webster).  Contrast this with a received Native American’s view of paternalism being, “acting for the good of another person without the persons consent,” or “paternalists advance peoples interest at the expense of their [own] liberty.”

These two contrasting definitions of paternalism made me think of our Father and which definition He fits more.  Is He the father who regulates conduct and supplies our needs or does He give up His liberties to supply our needs and act for our good regardless of ourselves?  I can tell you the latter speaks to me more and is more beneficial in working in intercultural relationships.  I loved how he used our own qualified dictionary to explain the countercultural “ness” of our Father through paternalism.

Pulling the idea of being more aware of our own culture and the countercultural “ness” of our Father helps me realize that we will never full understand another culture, our own or ourselves, but our Father understands all three completely.  In Karen Kupperman’s (1984) article she described how settlers were uncomfortable in other parts of the world and tried numerous remedies over generations.  The vast majority of issues and discomfort was never fully removed by living in distinctly new climates until an entire generation had grown up there and started to call it home.  It was only by living somewhere for their entire lives, when things no longer seemed foreign and exotic.  This speaks to me in that by spending time in other cultures we can learn a little about their culture, a little more about ours, and lot about ourselves and the diversity and love of God. This requires spending time reflecting with God, because He is the only one that truly understands our culture and us.

One Comment

  • Andy

    My belief is that it is impossible to escape completely the influance of ones own cultural upbringing and as a result the manor with how one views other cultuars. I agree, the place we all come together is in our Father who made us all and loves us all.

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