News for Middle of May 2006
Teaching across a cultural divide is to me an intriguing and challenging experience.
It is not always easy to share its deep fascinations, but let me
have a go by giving recent examples. (Theological) students asked:
1. Whether 'supporting' a widow in counseling or mentoring her should include having sex with her if that is clearly what she wanted?
2. Whether anyone will ever want to receive counseling if part of the arrangement does not include receipt of material aid?
3. In a debate on whether donors are good or bad for the African church, 23 out of 33 said that it would be better off without donors.
4. Students concurred that if 30 people agree to have a collection for a particular purpose, and then the treasurer uses the money for some
> other personal need, nothing should be done about it.
5. If you have any assets like building material that you are not using, then if someone asks for them (and they will) you have no
choice but to give them away.
6. While waiting for a class to begin I was told that all the spirits of the people who have died in that area are residing in the church building
that we were using. This is why the church needed to be maintained. (One wall ofthe mud church had fallen out, and was being repaired.)
7. Students suggested that theological education must be given in the mother-tongue in order to achieve true Christian orthodoxy. (Because
the meanings of English words are often too imprecise in relation to their culture.)
8. The book told us that Africa will never 'develop' of its own accord until the problem of corruption is dealt with. The general opinion amongst
the students is that - it is impossible to get rid of corruption, because it is part of the way people live.
9. In a two-hour discussion on healing in the church, no role at all was considered for so called 'modern medicine'. The difference between
good and bad healers is whether they use ancestral spirits (juogi) or the Holy Spirit in healing.
10. Of course we have to cleanse ourselves if we have any hope of God being able to accept us as his children and to give us wealth, said the
students. ('Cleansing', traditionally by shedding animal blood, and holiness, are linguistically easily confused in many African languages. So the
Holy Spirit, is like the 'cleansing' spirit.)
* It is hard to isolate and explain examples of what goes on, as behaviour can often only be understood in a context, and does not make
sense if the context changes or cannot be fully explained.
* I have chosen examples that I think will be of interest to my readers. My hope is that I will in this way help them to appreciate the nature of
cultural differences that missionaries work with.
* My readers may find the examples above to be 'negative'. I think this is natural - as people considering their own culture to be the
best, generally see that of others as 'worse'.