Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bias & Culture

pulling largely from a lecture given by Nestor Medina here at LTS, i think it's time to talk about Bias and Culture.

lots of talk about culture, but how best can we define it?

there's many ways, i'll attempt to define it here and then discuss what it means to COEXIST.

Culture is 1. a sum total of rules that shape belief, communication, and thinking, 2. refers to particular ways of thinking, acting, and organizing aspects of housing, technology, art, family dynamics, and science, 3. gives coherence and totality in relation to the rest of the world and is transmitted from one generation to the next.

or as my Giradian buddy Bryce would define it: culture is what keeps you from retributively killing people.

example of two cultures coming together: A Danish man and Egyptian man go to play a game of billards. When asked (by a third party) how good they are at billards the Dane replies "I've played before" and the Egyptian replies "I'm very good at this game." Both exhibit their culture... Danish culture values humility where Egyptian culture values embellishment. Imagine the surprise and potential conflict when the Dane throughly thrashes the Egyptian.

now based on these definitions and this understanding of "culture" i would say that one cannot get outside of one's cultural bias. here are some ways of thinking about culture historically in terms of one's "Holy Scriptures" according to the Medina lecture:

Acculturation: Taking a book from another culture and placing it in one's own: i.e. the Bible is Angelo (although it was written by the Hebrews amid their pressures from Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman Cultures). or as Yael pointed out, the Christians claiming the Torah as THEIRS but largely ignoring and dismissing it.

Enculturation: Our way of thinking is the best! The Qu'ran is Arabic therefore one must be Arabic to be Muslim or the Gospel is Angelo Culture, therefore one must become Angelo to be Christian. This is a false assumption and we've seen the effects on the world in missionaries and Colonial though processes.

Inculturation: Use resonate images to convert other cultures. You guys believe in charity? WE DO TOO! Here's where our scriptures are doing what y'all already are. This is apologetics and falsely thinks that the scripture can be removed from the culture.

Interculturation: Naming own culture specifically and seeing the positives and negatives. i believe this is the best way. when we talk about things, it's best to say "As a white, progressive Christian i see this issue this way" or "As an atheist woman" or "as a Muslim from Egypt" here it helps either party figure out how best to frame the interaction and the friction that occurs from both parties involved.

this is important to do as we're making assumptions about the other... what we should do is to name our assumptions from the get go, question the person we are in dialogue with, and let the "other" fill in their own blanks. for example, when coming to me and knowing that i'm a christian, don't think i'm a creationist, or think the Bible is THE word of GOD, or that i send other faiths to hell. i don't hold either belief as i believe in evolution and that the word of God is in the Bible amid the cultural bias and baggage.


freestyleroadtrip said...

"i would say that one cannot get outside of one's cultural bias"

I think that is so very true. It is what I was trying to argue over on decon a couple weeks back. Those guys think that they can eliminate a bias by realizing that they have it and then displacing themselves from it. But you can't. I was just talking with my sons tonight about a science issue at school. They mentioned that there used to be an ocean on Mars. And that very well may be true. But I explained to them that the people looking for water on mars want to find it. That desire affects how they interpret their observations. And this is the position we find ourselves in every day multiple times. The bible writers wrote their biases into it. Our interpretations of it include our individual and, as you point out, cultural biases. There is a sense in which we can never be sure that what we have in front of us calling it the truth is completely true. So I like your suggestion of how to approach each other. We almost label ourselves in order to help others understand the place from which we come. Well said, Luke.

Tit for Tat said...

Hey Luke

Im curious, have you ever thought that maybe your bias for Christianity is because of your 'culture' i.e. having no father figure?

Luke said...

thanks for the support Doug, and yeah, we're right on the same page there.

hey John! great question! you're absolutely right, it does play into my bias. i didn't have structure that i felt my father should have provided, so i looked towards the institution of the Catholic church for that. but that didn't provide it totally and so i looked for that in God, not just in the Bible, but also revealed in my present context.

it really has helped shape my life and my worldview, so much to the extent that i feel that we all have the ability to see God in our everyday lives, to be able to tune into the ever transmitting divine. so everything i view, read, touch, whatever! i have the framework of my religious experience to look through.

does that answer it?

Tit for Tat said...


Yes that answers it. So hows Kate doing?

Luke said...

she's doing great! i think the only weight she's gained has been all in the belly. she's got some aches and pains and some heart-burn, but all-n-all, she's a baby-make'n machine! :-D

how's life with y'all?!

Tit for Tat said...


Family is doing great. Just wondering when Kate is due. We may attempt a trip up your way in early April. Would you guys be available by any chance?

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
Actually, I'm due April 8, so I don't think that would work! But maybe later on in the summer or fall?

Tit for Tat said...

Hi Kate

Both our kids are Aries kids. 17th and the 19th. Im glad your pregnancy is going well. Maybe we can shoot for late summer. That would be a nice drive for us. Take care.

John & Denise

ArchangelChuck said...

What an enlightened post. Thumbs up.