Posts Tagged: Culture
This is a question around the world: Should a woman take the
name of her husband when she gets married? It is argued that when a woman takes
her husband’s name, she gives up her own identity. It is also argued that the
tradition reflects a hierarchical society in which women have few rights, and
that there is really no biblical foundation for a woman to take her husband’s
name. Is that true?Is there any reasonable biblical argument for a wife to
take her husband’s name?
In Genesis 2:18-23, we note the following: God declared that
it was not good for the man to be alone. Until that point in creation, God said
it was good/very good. Only here does he say “it is not good” (v. 18a). He
resolved to make “a helper fit for him” (v. 18b). The word helper here does not
mean one who serves, but one who complements the man and completes him. After
this observation, God brought the created animals and birds to Adam to see what
he would name them (2:19). As Adam was in the process of naming the animals and
birds, the words, “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him,”
(going back to 2:18b) are repeated. It would appear that when God saw that it
was not good for Adam to be alone, Adam did not even know that he had a need.
In the naming process, Adam came to see his lack of a “helper fit for him.” The
animals had corresponding counterparts but Adam did not. Adam came to see his
loneliness. God created a situation to show Adam his need for a helper.
Then, God proceeded to create exactly the right helper out
of Adam’s own rib. Just as God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would
name them, he brought the woman to Adam, probably to see how he would respond
and what he would name her (v. 22). Following are the first human words in the
Bible. We read in verse 23,
“Then the man said, ‘This at last
is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman (Isha), because she was taken out of Man
There is a word play in the naming of the woman by Adam. In
naming her, he imbedded his own name in her name. This is significant in
several ways: 1) Adam was joyful in the presence of the woman, for he saw that
she was the helper fit for him, one who would meet his need for a companion,
one who was like him but different. 2) Verse 23 shows that Adam saw equality
with the woman. She was his own flesh. 3) By including his own name in the name
of the woman, he was anticipating a relationship of deepest intimacy. It is no
wonder that immediately following in 2:24-25, we see what amounts to an
institution of marriage.
By naming his wife, Adam communicated the deepest intimate
feeling he had for her.
So, what is there in the name? As believers, if we agree
that the woman is a helper fit for the man, that the two are equal, that there
is joy in this union of marriage, that the two are indeed one flesh, we most
certainly should complete the thought, and capture that intimacy in the name
that results from the union. The issue is not whether one should avoid male
control or whether a woman will lose her identity The issue is what is involved
in the name. That is worth preserving.
From Erin Meyer:
It was my first dinner party in France and I was chatting with a Parisian couple. All was well until I asked what I thought was a perfectly innocent question: “How did the two of you meet?” My husband Eric (who is French) shot me a look of horror. When we got home he explained: “We don’t ask that type of question to strangers in France. It’s like asking them the color of their underpants.”
Read the whole thing here.
David Livermore has a helpful post on how to navigate giving
culturally intelligent compliments.
I think many of us assume or take for granted how compliments and
feedback are received in different cultures. The next time you want to offer
some feedback, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the nature of your relationship? (e.g.
your history together, your roles within the organization, etc.)
- Should the compliment be
directed to the individual or to a group? (if this is a “typical” Chinese
person, a compliment directed more toward the person’s ‘in- group’ would likely
be better received than just directing it toward the individual).
- How explicit should the
compliment be? (again, if this individual fits Chinese norms, an indirect
approach will likely be better).
- What are you affirming?
(character, performance, reputation, etc.)
- What is the ideal context for
sharing the compliment? (private vs. public, written vs. verbal, etc.)
- Do the cultural norms for
compliments apply to this individual? (Don’t assume that all things said about
Chinese preferences apply to this individual. You have to get to know him/her
as a person.)
I’d like to reflect on language learning, culture, and
effectiveness on the mission field. This is intended not for short-term mission
teams, but for long-term commitments that require preparatory language
Every missionary making a long-term commitment to
cross-cultural missions will say that he or she wants to be effective in the
target people group. There is no objection to wanting to fit in, identify with
the people and their needs, and understand their culture, and thus minister in
a way that will impact lives. There is no disagreement on these matters. The
challenge comes in the area of methodology. What is the most effective way to
prepare, in order to be practically effective?
Mission organizations, upon sending missionaries to an area
that speaks a different language, send them first to language school. For
example, missionaries going to French-speaking African countries are sent
either to France or Canada for a year of French studies. The rationale for this
approach is that they want their missionaries to arrive in their new setting
ready to go and ready to communicate with the people, thus finding it easy to
fit in, adapt, and be more effective in ministry. Yet, this could be misleading
for several reasons. Two questions come
- Location. Where is the best place
to do the language learning? Interestingly, French in France comes with
the French culture and accent attached. It is the same with learning
French in Canada. How does that affect the work of a missionary in a
francophone African country, which has its own accent and culture attached
to the use of the French language?
- Duration. Is one year adequate for
effective grasp of the language? At the most, one year gives one the
basics. The missionary needs to
grow in the use of the language, as well as understanding the local
I want to affirm the wisdom of learning a language in
preparation for ministry in a particular location. The importance of this
approach cannot be overstated. It is very helpful to arrive at a location
knowing how to address people and express yourself to them. So, this is good.
At the same time, I do propose the following:
While language learning is critical, the place of learning
the language should be chosen with careful thought. If one is going to work in
an African context, it would be best to seek to learn the language on site.
(There are benefits to this that will be stated later). So, rather than going
to Canada or France to study French prior to working in Congo or Burundi or
Cameroon, it would be preferable to spend that language learning time on site.
Why? Reasons abound. It’s cost effective, it helps local
teachers economically etc. but I want to expand on just a few:
- Language learning on
location will help the missionary make a quicker and more effective
adaptation to the culture. The fact is that when one is learning a
language, included is the culture of the country in which the language is
being studied. Culture-specific stories, touristic sites, entertainment
places, names of stores and other illustrative examples will be culture
specific. A person learning how to order from a menu in a restaurant in
Paris will be at a loss in an African village where there are no menus and
where you have to bargain in the open market place. But, if the language
learning occurred in the area of ministry, the culturally specific issues
needing to be addressed and gotten used to in ministry would be treated in
the course of language learning. This is beneficial.
- To be understood properly,
you need to speak in a way that is very close to the way the nationals
speak. This is true even with the English language. If you speak American English in a
former British colony, it is difficult to be understood. As an
international student studying in the USA, my pronunciation was often
corrected. It wasn’t easy, but I needed to learn how Americans pronounce
words, and adapt. Learning language on location helps remove this possible
hindrance by fine tuning the dialect.
- Cultural effectiveness.
Studying French in France will not prepare a missionary for the local
customs of the people he will be serving. As a result, one ends up
spending time in language studies and then more time on location adjusting
the language and learning the local customs. For example, it is improper
for a young person to cross the legs or wear a baseball cap in the
presence of older persons in some Cameroonian villages. Since crossing the
legs is a common American habit, the missionary has to unlearn it. When
learning language in the Cameroonian context, these customs become a
natural part of the lesson as you interact with people and practice the
- In terms of duration of
language studies, one year cannot possibly be adequate, but for a long
period of time will disrupt the vision for mission work. Rather than
giving a year for language studies, why not make it a life long process?
The first year of ministry can be specifically for language learning. The
second year continue language learning 50% of the time and then begin to
get your feet wet in the ministry context. By the third year, 30% language
learning and more ministry work. This provides more benefits than learning
the language at a remote location.
Language learning is a must for mission work. Yet, the
location matters and duration matters as well.