Since King’s is located in southeast London, the issues that surround cross-cultural ministry are very relevant for us. Input from Dave Devenish, with his wide experience in this area, has been very useful and I am always happy to follow up his recommendations for relevant reading. One of the books he suggested is Honor & Shame by Roland Muller – this series of blogs will cover some of Muller’s insights.
Roland Muller identifies three building blocks that together make up the worldview of every society/culture – fear, shame and guilt. In each case man strives for the opposite so that the dynamic becomes fear/power, shame/honour and guilt/innocence. Muller observes that most of the 10/40 window is shame based, the Western nations (N Europe, N America, Australia & New Zealand) are primarily guilt based, and primal religions and cultures (such as tribal Africa, much of Asia and South America) are mostly fear based.
Christian missions have done best at presenting the work of Christ in fear-based cultures, where the victory of Christ has been the main message. Work in shame-based cultures, such as the Muslim cultures of the Middle East, has often struggled historically.
Our Western culture is primarily guilt based – we maintain a foundational belief in right and wrong and plot everything on a continuum between guilt and innocence. The unspoken goals of our society are righteousness and innocence (as we define them!). Wars are justified on the basis of established guilt and situations that aren’t clear disturb us – e.g. the hungry child who steals.
Many Christians believe that a culture based on right and wrong is built on Judaeo-Christian principles and is therefore correct. The origin of thinking that this is the whole picture comes from the Greek and Roman cultures and continues to impact the church and our understanding of Scripture.
To be continued...