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Posts Tagged: Culture

Should a Woman Take the Name of Her Husband?

Aug. 26, 2015By: Philemon YongAuthor Bio

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 (Ish).

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.

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How Do You Distinguish Americans?

Jun. 22, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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One Reason Cross-Cultural Small Talk Is So Tricky

Jun. 19, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio


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.

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Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Give a Compliment

May. 27, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

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: 

  1. Livermore_pic_c8cdd975daWhat’s the nature of your relationship? (e.g. your history together, your roles within the organization, etc.)
  2. 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).
  3. How explicit should the compliment be? (again, if this individual fits Chinese norms, an indirect approach will likely be better).
  4. What are you affirming? (character, performance, reputation, etc.)
  5. What is the ideal context for sharing the compliment? (private vs. public, written vs. verbal, etc.)
  6. 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.)
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Language Learning and Mission Work

Jan. 13, 2015By: Philemon YongAuthor Bio

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 learning.

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? learnsecondlanguage

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 to mind.

  1. 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?
  2. 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 idioms.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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 language.
  4. 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. 

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