• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Are you monocultural?

By our job description, we are ‘cross cultural workers’.  In other words, we have moved from living in one culture to adapting to life in another.  Our perspective has certainly changed.  Or our perspective should have changed.  I am sometimes surprised by how easily I can move back and forth between working as a cross cultural person and acting like a monocultural worker.

monoculturalNow when I say, ‘monocultural’, I’m thinking of the idea where we look at another culture only from the perspective of our culture of origin.

The way that this often works out is by those small criticisms (seemingly justified) of the current culture in which we live.  It happens in the smallest of situations. The ‘little man’ on the pedestrian crossing signal turns from green to red, and that local pedestrian steps right into the crosswalk without even a moment of hesitation.  In my mind, I feel like shouting out: “Did you see that the little man change from green to red?  It means stop and wait to cross!

What I am doing is monoculturally criticizing the behavior of others.  I’m not trying to assess why this happens or what element of another’s worldview moves them to act in this way, I’m just reacting from my cultural norms; cultural norms which I believe are right.

Without daily nurturing a ‘multicultural’ perspective, I will have trouble applying the Gospel appropriately and accurately to my life as well as to the lives of others.  I will end up ‘speaking’ a lot more than ‘listening’.   I will end up nitpicking rather than grappling with cultural issues that might become avenues for communicating the message of Jesus Christ to my heart and to the hearts of others.


2 Responses

  1. Good observations David. And the tie back to the Gospel is important. When I notice “mono-cultural” views in myself, I recognize that I actually present a “stumbling block” to the Gospel in my sense of judgement and “self-rightness.”

    I’m currently in Lima, a Latin American culture, with a group of Chinese Canadians (also a distinct culture from mine). I find myself “off-balance” in many situations, a little unsure of how to respond. Your challenge to “listen” instead of “speak” resonates with me. As I seek to understand, rather than be understood, I grow in my appreciation of others, am able to extend grace and compassion when I feel “at odds” with their approach, and actually end up growing in the Gospel myself!


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