A Bona Fide Healing

At the Saturday night tent revival the preacher announces,

"Anyone with 'needs' to be prayed over, come forward, to the front at the altar."

Leroy gets in line, and when it's his turn, the preacher asks:

"Leroy, what do you want me to pray about for you?"

Leroy replies: "Preacher, I need you to pray for help with my hearing."

The preacher puts one finger in Leroy's ear, and he places the other hand on top of Leroy's head and prays and prays and prays, he prays a blue streak for Leroy.

After a few minutes, the Preacher removes his hands, stands back and asks,

"Leroy how is your hearing now?"

Leroy says, "I don't know, Reverend, it ain't 'til next Wednesday."

The New Atheists


United to God

There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prizes which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?


Broken Tomato Cages pt II

The tomato cage parable is one that applies to many situations, but most certainly to any social movement as these tend to institutionalize.

Specifically, we are talking about the Church.


Christians are oft guilty of focusing on the external trappings of Christianity, while neglecting the life of the Spirit. We plant tomato cages instead of tending to the living plants in the garden...

What do you do when this happens?

One possible solution is to simply break the tomato cages. When the tomato cages of institutional church are broken, then we might actually start trying to grow tomato plants again, or better yet, realize that, while the garden is still full of life, it is not tomatoes in the garden, but rather God has planted other good things for us to tend!

Until the cages are broken, we will talk endlessly about perfecting the technology of the tomato cage, continuing to live in the distraction of misplaced purpose, misunderstood mission, and misdiagnosed strategy.


Looking back...

So I was just revisiting some of my blogs from days gone by and wondering am I still that woman? Do my passions still ignite around the life of Jesus, am I still living within the convictions of my youth, has life weathered the idealism out of me? I would say that I am more weathered, less sure of some things and more sure of others, and probably in need of a little refocusing!

I think that I am more weathered cause I have had a few more kids, (which weathers the body and the soul, more like refines I guess). I have partnered with the man of my dreams to pioneer something which can define beauty and ugliness, joy and pain and we love it in ways I never dreamed even in all the idealism. I have had some ups that have left me assured that there is nothing else to live my life for, and some downs that have given me glimpses of a very tender, compassionate and constant Jesus. I feel like my armor is a little more dented but not nearly dented enough to say I have completely abandoned my life for Christ's.

This path has allowed me to look into the depths of my soul and be both overjoyed at the hand of God moving there but also sad that there is still so much more work to do.

I am coming out of a season that has probably shaken my idea of who I am, and allowed me to see the weakness that I had never really seen. It has also allowed me to see God clearer and grasp his character more, and it was his strength that showed up when my failed.

I am seeing how over the past few years of "serving God" there has been challenges to my character that I have let pass instead of standing up to them. I am now seeing the fruit of serving myself at times instead of Christ, I can be more short tempered with those I love, more prideful and less humble and just plain concerned with things that don't matter.

A long time ago our Pastor challenged us to "give up the right to be right" with those around us and in our lives, so I think it is time to revisit a humbling process. Essentially Jesus is the only one who can change my heart but I can atleast practice till he does and give him room to move.

Also I see how in this last season I have been so wrapped up in my situation, that it feels like it sucked me in deeper. I feel like where true healing and restoration happens is when we are side by side with Jesus laboring for what He and the Father are doing. So I guess I don't feel like I need to take a break to refocus or rest a little but rather I guess I need to get back on the horse. Jesus longs to love Buffalo and so do I.....done refocusing!!!

I guess as we work towards redemption all around us it happens in us.....
I was thinking that the disciples became disciples working with Jesus side by side and the same it true for us....


Broken Tomato Cages pt I

A wonderful metaphor that I have had rattling around the innards of my skull lately is the tomato cage. It is a structure that is very useful. If you have ever planted a tomato plant, you know what happens as the plant grows bigger. The weight of the fruit, and of the plant itself, is too much for it to bear. Its own weight causes it to fall over, which damages the plant, and the tomatoes, which defeats the purpose of planting them! So you put a metal cage around it to help it stay upright. The cage provides support for the plant and allows it to continue its growth far beyond its self-sufficiency without the additional structure.

What has been insightful for me to think on is this: a picture of a gardener putting tomato cages into her garden, but she has no tomato plants! Instead she is putting tomato cages around herbs, carrots, and lettuce, the cages have no point! She continues to focus on the cages themselves and neglecting the plants in the process; the cages have become their own end, they are no longer the means to other ends. She then brags to other gardeners about her marvelous cages, she begins to hold workshops on 'How to Install Tomato Cages,' and markets her own brand of cage.


New Friends

One of the people I met briefly at the Society of Vineyard Scholars conference is hosting a post-conference dialogue on his blog. His name is Jason Coker and he is the planter of a Vineyard Church in southern California. I have really enjoyed interacting with him online. Click on the title link to read my paper abstract, and a brief interview he did with me.


Yes, He Matters!

"Now, in fact Jesus and his words have never belonged to the categories of dogma or law, and to read them as if they did is simply to miss them. They are essentially subversive of established arrangements and ways of thinking. That is clear from the way they first entered the world, their initial effects, and how they are preserved in the New Testament writings and live on in his people. He himself described his words as “spirit and life” (John 6:63). They invade our “real” world with a reality even more real than it is, which explains why human beings then and now have to protect themselves against them.

He and his early associates overwhelmed the ancient world because they brought into it a stream of life at its deepest, along with the best information possible on the most important matters."

Dallas Willard


Does He Matter?

"Very few people today find Jesus interesting as a person or of vital relevance to the course of their actual lives. He is not generally regarded as a real-life personality who deals with real-life issues but is thought to be concerned with some feathery realm other than the one we must deal with, and must deal with now.

He is automatically seen as... (fitting) only within the categories of dogma and law. Dogma is what you have to believe, whether you believe it or not. And law is what you must do, whether it is good for you or not. What we have to believe or do now, by contrast, is real life, bursting with interesting, frightening and relevant things and people."

Dallas Willard

Equipping the Saints


"It was He who gave some to prepare God's people..."

I take it as my basic working assumption that this is one of the essential functions of leadership.

(I hesitate to say the essential function because I know I will get pushed back on that, but in my regular daily life, I operate on the assumption that it is in fact the essential function of Christian leadership.)


"...so that the body of Christ may be built up..."

We must learn a lesson from Barnabas. He stood up for Saul, vouched for him and his faith, invited him along to see what God was doing in Antioch, included him in his own apostolic ministry. It was Barnabas' invitation to Antioch in Acts 11 that leads to Paul's vocation in Acts 13. Barnabas' influence on the life of the Church was never more indispensable, never more valuable, than when he was less concerned with his own influence on the Church and more concerned with Paul's.

This is the relational investment of one disciple to another; a master carpenter once said to an apprentice, "the goal is for you to be a better carpenter than I am."


"...attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

We are to equip and empower others to participate in the Divine Nature, connecting to God in prayer and scripture, worship and sacraments.

"...the whole body, joined and held together..."

We are to equip and empower others to share in the common life of the People of God, connecting to each other in service, fellowship, and pastoral care.

" ...as each part does its work."

We are to equip and empower others to personify the Mission of God, connecting to the world in service, justice, and evangelism.

This is the basic day-to-day life of the people of God in terms of spiritual practices, essential character, and overarching purpose.


In my estimation there are two critiques we must take to heart in our praxis as equipping leaders. 1) We are equipping people to lead our church instead of equipping people to be like Christ. 2) Our focus on leadership development leads us to ignore the very people who need to be equipped and empowered for those who can 'get the job done' already.

1) Church or Kingdom

We must declare that we are not merely equipping for church work, but equipping for Kingdom work (of course these should be identical, but anyone who has read even a paragraph of church history is not so naive). I often fall into the ubiquitous temptation to treat the Church like my project, and so equipping leaders becomes myopically focused solely on those tasks and responsibilities that build my church organization.

I recently met with a local Christian business man, John, who is five years into a housing initiative in our neighborhood; he is the head of a para-church organization. I brought along a woman from our church, Lavern, who is an urban planner for a secular organization in the city. It was great to have all three perspectives at the same table, and we conversed for some time on the need for all three to work together. In reality, the Church already is all three, I just did't get that immediately because I am too used to thinking organizationally instead of organically.

Too few of us would be willing to get behind John's parachurch initiative, or Lavern's occupation in a secular organization, but it is exactly this that we must do! We must learn from them, and more pointedly, equip them, and others like them, to do their Kingdom work. We still label everything 'sacred or secular,' and 'ministry or regular life;' their should be no distinction, and we should equip for Urban Planning, just as we do for Church Planting or Worship Leading.

To be an equipping leader is to get behind people, instead of getting behind projects. The temptation is to get the person in front of me to leverage everything on behalf of my project, fitting the right people into the right slots in my church, instead I need to leverage everything to help the person in front of me grow into Christ; they need to be the end, not the means.

2) The Importance of Disaster

We are fearful of failure. We bore easy at mediocre performance. We abhor ugliness. This is a major impediment to the equipping process!

The discipleship process employed by Jesus looks a lot more like little kids being tossed into the deep end of the pool! Sure the life guard is there to resuscitate them, but there is a lot of yelling and splashing, coughing and hacking. But they have to splash and cough if they are going to learn to swim! Learning is a lot like doing... actually, learning is exactly like doing, except its uglier.

An individual was asked to be the worship leader of a medium sized church. This person was a talented musician, but struggled vocally. On occasions this person opened songs in one key instrumentally, and a different key vocally. Ouch! Why would the pastor do such a thing? People probably left the church over the decision!

My own sending pastor routinely gave me opportunities to 're-create' his church. Not because I had expertise, but precisely because I lacked it! Failure is necessary. If there is no failure, then we are not equipping and empowering those who need it. My pastor was keenly aware of the consumer itch that Christians have; he knew all too well that allowing myself and others to play games with his church would probably have adverse effects on the size of the congregation. He was even more keenly aware that his calling was to his fledgling disciples, even though that meant leaving that itch unscratched...



"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

C. S. Lewis


Frustration is a sign of something! For me, it is usually a symptom that I am not living the way I claim to desire to live.

Note to self:

Are you frustrated with where you are at?

Live with discipline and you will not have to live with frustration!


A Sneaking Platonism

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilization-these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously-no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner-no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses."

C. S. Lewis



"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

C. S. Lewis


More Prosperity

The only problem is, scripture actually does speak of God's Kingdom in terms of material blessing!!!

Certainly more than merely wealth and health, but definitely including health and wealth.

The prosperity preachers have that part right; God does indeed want you to 'overcome' and to erase all tears, to provide food and drink at no cost, etc.

The problem is not in the preaching of a prosperity from God but in an inaccurate eschatology (forgetting the Kingdom is both now and not yet), in an awkward theology (portraying a God who both condemns greed and rewards it), in a short sighted perspective on suffering (unaware of the fruit of God's discipline), and in a skewed understanding of discipleship and spiritual formation (our desires are not in need of transformation, and can simply be pursued 'as is')


"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."

Karl Barth


Prosperity in the Kingdom

I have to repent!

A friend of mine helped me to realize something. I am wrong to disparage the 'prosperity gospel.'

Prosperity is exactly what the Kingdom promises! Scripture prophecies:

No more pain!
No more crying!
No more weakness or corruption!
No more curse!
No more hunger!
No more war!
No more lack!
No more disease!
No more sin!

We have authority to rule over the earth!

Prosperity is too weak a word for this!


Let us be clear, the real problem with the prosperity gospel as we see it today is not in the promise of prosperity!

...rather, it is in the failure to realize where we are in the story.

The Kingdom is both now, and not yet. Life in the Kingdom will be prosperous! But that prosperity is still future. We taste the first fruits now, but the fullness of times is yet to come.

The problem is not in the claim to abundance!

...rather it is in the failure to kiss the Cross.

The Resurrection comes after the Crucifixion. Scripture is clear; we must die in order to live. We must suffer first, and then prosper.


What Would It Take?

"Give me one hundred men who love only God with all their heart and hate only sin with all their heart, and we will shake the gates of hell and bring in the kingdom of God in one generation."

John Wesley


Philip Yancey

A story is told about a group of English theologians discussing the Gospel.

They were trying to define what it was about Christianity that was different than all other religions. To begin they talked about resurrection but other religions also deal with this, they brought up the death of God but other religions have within them a god who dies, they were in the midst of trying to determine the attribute that made Christianity unique when C. S. Lewis entered the room. He asked what the discussion was about, they told him. Lewis answered, “That’s easy, it’s grace.”

Philip Yancey



I would love to see real dialogue take place, but it will never happen if people (on both sides) will not stop fighting straw men. You will never have a real dialogue if you try and make your opponent look as stupid as possible. Instead try and make him look as smart as possible, give him every benefit of the doubt, interpret his words in the best possible light, and then do battle with those ideas!

Culture pt IX

We may talk about individualism, but we never question it. There is an 'I' that is distinct from what others perceive or desire. I may choose to conform, but this is still an expression of my will. This is a fundamental, unstated, tenet of Western culture that is unquestioned by us.

We filter everything through the grid of justice, this is intricately bound to our individualism. The all important 'I' must not be violated; this bends our mind toward questions of right and wrong. We feel the injustice when we are transgressed against, and we feel the guilt when we transgress. This is so ingrained in us that we are largely incapable of framing things outside of the scope of right and wrong.

Some of the fascinating questions I have been pondering:

What does this signify for theology crafted in Western culture?

What would a theology crafted in another cultural framework look like?

Clearly our notions of sin, salvation, atonement, righteousness, and more, are deeply colored by this aspect of our culture! Our gospel is largely portrayed against the backdrop of individual transgression against the 'right-and-wrong' of God's Law, and becomes a salvation that is largely about setting individuals right with God.

What theological missteps has our culture pushed us into?

What theological insights does our culture lead us to see more clearly?

What theological insights could the Church in other cultures offer us?

Clearly this only deepens the need for a global theology. Dialogue with other cultures are a mirror that allow us to see our own more clearly. We have a great need to interact with the Church in other cultures, and in other eras...


Culture pt VIII

While I am clearly less qualified (and so will say less about it) to talk about the intricacies of a culture I am largely unfamiliar with, it seems clear that an Honor/Shame culture also has both strengths and weaknesses.

What I see as the strength is the deep awareness of community. There seems to be a communal identity that is hard for a Westerner to grasp. This leads to a belonging to, and an honoring of, others that is second nature (or rather first nature). This leads to a willingness to serve and sacrifice on behalf of others that truly rises to the scriptural mandate to 'view others as better than yourself.'

It is this sense of belonging, however, that causes the deep sense of resentment and shame directed towards other groups, individuals within your own group, or even ones own self. This is the weakness, an emotional (and sometimes physical) violence directed at people who have done something undesirable (but not necessarily wrong).

For both cultures it seems as though the strength and the weakness are two sides of the same coin...


Culture pt VII

There are strengths of each culture and there are weaknesses of each culture.

Our Western emphasis on justice is a strength. It is a genuine insight into the Kingdom of God. Some things cause God to burn with anger. Some things cause God to rejoice in delight. There is an absolute morality. Some things are simply evil while other things are simply good, and it is right to suffer shame, defeat, pain, and even death rather than do evil.

But our strong sense of personal injustice is a weakness. It lends itself so easily to an entitlement mentality. Which is so easily manipulated into outright evil. The root cause of so much of our sexual perversion (including sex trafficking, child porn, etc.) is the cultural mandate that "I have a right to do what I want." Our unwillingness to sacrifice for the sake of global issues like poverty and environmental degradation is rooted in this same enshrining of individual desire. It is, of course, the underlying cause of the impotence and sloth of the Western Church; we have swallowed the cultural kool-aid, and we have embraced the narcissism and unquestioned self-gratification of our host. We truly believe, even after being 'bought by the blood,' that we still have rights and that God somehow is honored by this.

A Western cultural framework causes us to emphasize our own rights which can lead to arrogance and greed, fragmentation and isolation, and ultimately a life enslaved to desire. It also causes us to recognize the rights of others which can lead to advocacy and sacrifice, service and partnership, and ultimately a life poured out for others.

Wrestling God....

So this is a once a year appearance of Tamy to the blog...but here I am for a few thoughts...

I truly feel as if I have wrestled God lately, he has been bringing me through something that at first I just wanted to run away from or be healed of. However through God's grace I am seeing the beauty of this struggle and even slightly thankful for the experience. I am not sure if it is over yet either as I am finding only he really knows, and sometimes that is a comfort and sometimes that is for me terribly frightening.
I am a passionate woman who has surely tasted of the goodness of God and I would love to report that I don't often forget that but in times of hardship I am someone who has seen the mighty hand of GOd only to doubt it when in the wilderness. I too like the Isarelites have seen the Red Seas in my life parted and then grumble and complain about no food or water in the desert and have often thought I would be better in my previous situation than in the current. The wrestling I have done as of lately is primarily due to my own desire for control and tendency to worry instead of trust. At one clear moment in this trial I remember thinking that I just did not want to do what God was asking and I just didn't want to trust but...to whom else can I go cause He has the words of eternal life. I felt stuck cause I desperately wanted out of my situation but I could not turn my back on my Lord cause I have seen the things he does and the beauty that follows His purposes. I also could not pretend that I am surrendered when in fact I am not, that false living would be even worse that turning my back on him. So it was in this time that I called in the big Guns ( those spirit embodied friends of mine that at scattered to the four corners of the world) to please pray and for insight, and I do not know that it was in those conversations that I heard from God. Those conversations instead provided the safe place to wrestle, those friends love me and point me back to the fact that God to loves me, and anything that he is doing will be for his beautiful purposes. God has been showing me his beautiful purposes in this trial, and I am seeing that sometimes the thing that we hate and try to rid ourselves of is the very thing that God uses to reveal himself in. My paradigm for viewing life and more importantly God in this life is changing. I am being liberated from control and worry, (the lenses that I often view things from) but it is deeper cause in my desire for control and when I worry I have seen God as desiring to be in control and wanting things his way. So there was this sense of God as task-master instead of father, lover, friend. He is faithfully showing me His love and most often this happens through my kids. They are so assured of my love and their importance to me, they are confident when they approach me and ask for whatever they want, they have no problem interrupting me or climbing all over me while I am talking or doing something. This for me is a small illustration of the Fathers desire for us to approach him, and in my response to my children, the way that I love them and can't stop it no matter what they do, I just love them. This reveals His heart towards us...

I can not really explain all that I feel Him doing, I truly feel like chains are being broken in my heart, I taste of the coming freedom from all that would seek to capture my soul. The way that I see God, my service to him, my life lived with friends and strangers is all changing somehow that I can't explain. The glasses that I am used to wearing I am taking off and I am in the period of time where my eyes are learning to adjust but if I patiently wait I will see clearly again.


Culture pt VI

It is easy for us Westerners to see how a culture of shame or fear is under demonic influence, it is almost impossible for us to see, however, how our sense of injustice is also a demonic stronghold in our culture.

It is our sense of injustice that impels us to 'stand up for our rights.' It is precisely this intense need to maintain an inviolable sense of self, an identity defined over against everything and everyone else, that leads us to shallow materialism and consumerism, shameful disavowing of our responsibility to the people and the world around us, and even outright perpetrations of evil in the name of self-gratification.

The two essential pieces of our culture that come to the forefront in all of this are individualism and injustice.

These are major aspects of our framework for understanding that are very difficult to hold before our mind as such. It is not that we are unaware of them, but that we have difficulty realizing they are artifacts of culture, not artifacts of reality, and as such are in some sense arbitrary. We are incapable of seeing in a different way, but even more problematic is the fact that we are unaware that our way of seeing is merely our way...


Culture pt V

Human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism are horrific to our 'justice-based' mindset, but they are products of 'power' culture. Eating the flesh of your vanquished foes is 'wrong' but what if you don't care? This is not a matter of individual misdeeds. In fact the individuals within a culture are not really accountable for their actions. This doesn't mean that what they are doing is right, but merely that the individual simply doesn't have a choice. It's like telling a fish to stop breathing water. It is at this point that I began to see the language of St. Paul applied: 'principalities and powers' are at work here. Culture is being distorted and twisted in demonic ways. Shame becomes a tool to subject entire peoples to suicidal resentment and homicidal revenge. Fear becomes a way of prompting people to engage in brutalities.

It was at precisely this point in the thought process that it dawned on me. Those same principalities and powers are probably at work in our culture as well... After all, it is not as though Western culture is somehow godly. Now I would certainly have offered critiques of Western culture, but I don't know that I would frame those critiques in the same light. But that, now, is my contention:

The revulsion we have at the injustices produced by fear or honor cultures (typified by honor-killing) should be directed at the evils in our own culture as well. We should feel just as repulsed by our Western unwillingness to care for the elderly. We should see demonic influence standing behind our individualism and the commodification of individuals.

Redeeming the Trades

"People say, 'The Church ought to give us a lead.' That is true if they mean it in the right way, but false if they mean it in the wrong way. By the Church they ought to mean the whole body of practising Christians. And when they say that the Church should give us a lead, they ought to mean that some Christians - those who happen to have the right talents - should be economists and statesmen, and that all economists and statesmen should be Christians, and that their whole efforts in politics and economics should be directed to putting 'Do as you would be done by' into action. If that happened, and if we others were really ready to take it, then we should find the Christian solution for our own social problems pretty quickly. But, of course, when they ask for a lead from the Church most people mean they want the clergy to put out a political programme. That is silly. The clergy are those particular people within the whole Church who have been specially trained and set aside to look after what concerns us as creatures who are going to live for ever: and we are asking them to do quite a different job for which they have not been trained. The job is really on us, on the laymen. The application of Christian principles, say, to trade unionism or education, must come from Christian trade unionists and Christian schoolmasters: just as Christian literature comes from Christian novelists and dramatists - not from the bench of bishops getting together and trying to write plays and novels in their spare time."

C. S. Lewis



Culture pt IV

Things could easily get disturbing. Honor killings and ritual suicides are both incomprehensible from our 'right and wrong' grid. However, in a culture that places the same emphasis on shame that we place on guilt and the same emphasis on honor that we place on innocence, then we must begin to realize that these acts actually do make sense. They are not merely 'trying to get away with murder' and so concealing it behind talk of honor and shame, rather, honor and shame indeed do demand such actions.

It is at precisely this point that the Western mind screams, 'are you trying to tell me that you are justifying this? Do you really believe it is right for the rape victim to be imprisoned!? Do you really think it is right for people to commit suicide because they failed a test?' Here is where the rubber meets the road: they wouldn't say it was right! They don't care if it is right or wrong! They aren't even asking that question! And what is more, our cries on behalf of the oppressed are not to our credit, the fact that we are fixated on the question of justice is simply a product of our cultural heritage.


Culture pt III

It is at precisely this point that some of the most confusing, frustrating, or even abhorrent practices of other cultures begin to be drawn into the conversation.

A common Western complaint that I came across about Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures is the ease with which people would tell lies and half-truths. One American put it like this, "it took me years to realize that when they said, 'maybe' they meant 'no' and when they said 'tomorrow' they meant 'never.'" To our justice-based culture, this seems to be a clear cut case of someone doing something wrong! But the 'right-and-wrong' grid through which we push all of our information is merely our grid, there are other grids.

What if we pushed the same scenario through a 'shame-and-honor' grid? The individual who is speaking is more interested in protecting the honor of their family, or even the person they are speaking to, than in telling the truth. In fact, they may be shocked at the way we dishonor them, or ourselves. They would never dream of exposing someone else the way we do! In the example of our American friend, to tell someone 'no' to their face is to shame them, to publicly slap their hand, so instead they are told, 'maybe.'


Thanks Aunt Phyllis

Culture pt II

After reading this paper I read others. The more I read, the more fascinated I was. It was a foray into completely alien territory. It was like learning to read a map of a familiar place where you were looking up from underneath instead of from above (A 'mole's-eye-view' map instead of a bird's-eye-view) or something equally disorienting. All of the places and streets are there, but they just don't relate to each other in the ways that I am used to. I know I should turn here, but do I turn right or left, wait a minute! ...which way is left?!? Second guessing every move...

Essentially I began to realize that some of the fundamental patterns of thought, behavior, and human interaction that I assume in all of the aspects of my daily life are not absolute. Rather they are cultural constructs.

We are not talking about surface things like shaking hands versus bowing, or even more significant differences like gender roles in society, or even something as radical as moral differences like polygamy versus monogamy.

We are talking about the very framing of the alternatives set out above. What if the very act of asking which is right and which is wrong (monogamy versus polygamy) is a cultural lens? What if the world isn't actually built in terms of right and wrong? What if there is another way of looking at things? Like Fear and Power, or Shame and Honor, not merely Right and Wrong?


He picked me up and He turned me around!

Culture pt I

I came across this article (linked in the title) recently and it really got me thinking about culture.

In it the author describes three fundamental types of culture:

Power Cultures - where people are driven by fear and a desire to control the world around them. Predominantly in ancient peoples, and animistic tribal peoples today.

Justice Cultures - where people are driven by a sense of guilt and a desire to discern right from wrong; to promote good and punish bad. This is Western culture in the Greco-Roman tradition.

Honor Cultures - where people are driven by a sense of shame and a desire to cover shame; to promote the honor of their family. This is Middle Eastern and East Asian culture.

The paper spent more time dealing with the last two. In large part the paper seemed to be attempting to explain honor cultures to a Western audience, while simultaneously making Westerners aware of how our own culture shades our understanding.

I won't rehash the paper, it is longer but well worth the read.

But here are some reflections:

I have had cross-cultural experiences, but these could be expressed as 'learning different answers to the questions.'

For example, what is a proper greeting? Shaking hands?

What is normal personal space?

How do you express thanks?

But this paper made me realize that all of my cross-cultural experience has been with other 'justice-cultures' and that crossing into an 'honor' context would require, not merely learning different answers to the same questions, but rather learning different questions altogether.



What do you do with people who have dedicated themselves to the overthrow of the established order? They propose an alternative way of living that is based around loving service instead of power and control. Their lives are so beautiful and attractive that they (by simply being who they are) are inviting people to ignore the status-quo and shift into their paradigm... But they aren't approaching the city with swords or threatening to nail people to crosses, nor are they attacking with diatribes; they don't wish to leave and start an alternate community but proclaim, rather, their intention to subvert this one from the inside, and they are unwilling to compromise, they won't bow to threats of death, nor cave in to promises of reward... such a people must be eradicated, or else they will be the cause of the greatest political/social/economic/spiritual upheaval in world history.



"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’"

C. S. Lewis